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EMMA’S BOOK OF COLOURS

An arachnologist turned full-time illustrator and teacher, Barcelona-based Emma Roulette guides us through her colour-by-the-numbers drawing style and ponders the meaning of borders and recent, newly-made rifts.

Emma’s road to illustration was as unusual as they get. Some years ago, she was pursuing the career of an arachnologist at the University of Florida, studying biology and working in different entomology labs studying spiders, bees, wasps or butterflies, when a colleague asked her to dissect and illustrate the genitalia of a certain moth species. That was her first paid job as an illustrator. Not content with drawing just such a specific niche content, she abandoned arachnology for good and moved to Spain to teach English. On her journey, she met “so many profoundly creative people in the span of just a couple days,” and then felt like she had something to contribute to this world, “and that it was actually possible and realistic for me to do it,” she says of her decision to finally pick up illustration as a livelihood.

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WORDS BY THE AUTHOR / Regarding the comics with pumas: I made this comic for Fron//tera magazine. I had the idea before the pandemic started. It’s about how state borders and other kinds of borders (geographical, cultural, ecological, etc.) don’t always follow the same logic, and the lives that are impacted by that. It seemed relevant at the time, as families were getting ripped apart at the Mexico-US border, India and Pakistan fought over the Kashmir region, and the Israel/Palestine conflict raged on. My boyfriend (from Spain) and I (from the US) tried to figure out how we could legally live in the same country while paying the least in immigration-related fees. But now this comic seems very irrelevant with all that’s going on. Of course, borders are still very real, but they’re impacting our lives now in totally different ways. If it’s not irrelevant, then it’s just been recontextualized to mean something completely different now – and maybe that’s not the kind of response I want to have when I am feeling so much grief, uncertainty, fear, and anger at what’s going on in the world.

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Everything has changed. There’s no going back to a time when this comic would be interpreted in the same way. I’m sure this has been said before, but any art that’s made now is going to be always in conversation with this new world. And if it doesn’t respond explicitly, it’s still responding by refusing to respond to it. Like if I see a movie where people are at a party, or traveling to a different country, or simply walking around outside, all I can think of is how all of that is impossible now. It’s like there’s some border now that defines pre-pandemic art and post-pandemic art.

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BIO / Emma Roulette is an illustrator from south Florida, USA. She’s been living in Barcelona for the past 3 years. She has a background in scientific illustration, having previously worked at the Florida Museum of Natural History illustrating moths in the genus Philodoria. She still occasionally makes scientific illustrations for field guides and nature reserves. Now, Emma mainly makes comics and illustrations for magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Her current work reflects her interest in environmental justice and architecture. She draws mainly in black pen on paper, and then adds colour and texture in Photoshop.

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Artworks / Emma Roulette @emma_roulette

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