Accordions and Doodles: The Illustrations of Emily Dumas
The accordion music that dances throughout the metro. The museums whose infinite corridors whisper the secrets, scandals, and stories of art from long ago. The chefs who masterfully paint the plate like a blank canvas, every meal its own trendy exhibit. The cobblestones. The monuments. The street signs. The fashion. The baguettes. The baguettes. The. Baguettes.
Paris, I love you.
While no doubt a shared sentiment among the masses, it is especially felt by Massachusetts artist, Emily Dumas. Dumas, a North Shore gal, was initially astonished during her first plunge into the city of lights. She recalls feeling awestruck, describing Paris as a more romantic version of New York City, swelling with extravagant esthetic. Firmly declaring it, ‘the most beautiful city’ she recounts all her favorite iconic details in her print titled, as you might guess, Paris, I love you.
In this best-selling piece, sure to make the francophiles salivate, Emily playfully narrates her beloved Parisian experience, spellbound by the city’s grandiose history, lavish charm, and penchant for style. Though the accordion alone in this piece begs the nostalgia. Personally, this slight detail transports me back to Paris’ fifth arrondisement one morning during the summer of 2005. I was late for French class. Horrifically late. As I flustered and scurried past herds of fashionable and leisurely Parisians in the Metro, a burly accordion player, slumped against the wall, heaved a hearty snort and started playing Flight of the Bumblebees. I chuckled at his subtle nod to my American instinct of rushing everywhere. That’s the success here. Emily tells us so much about Paris in her collage without actually telling us much at all. With the strategic inclusion of key cultural elements, our imaginations tell the story- even those who have never been to Paris can imagine themselves whipping along the Seine in that moped. Culture is the subject. Culture is the story. Period.
Emily’s creative awakening arrived before her Parisian adventure. While she’s always felt the artistic twitch, the realization that art would be her passion became clear during a graphic design course in college. The attraction was palpable. Nowadays Emily and her brand, Flowers in May, have gained much success across the artistic community. Not only has she exhibited nationally, but she’s collaborated on projects involving notable figures, such as film director Wes Anderson.
Emily’s process is no nonsense. For her piece, Amelie (below), which is based on the award-winning French film, Emily describes a painstaking marathon of repeatedly watching the movie more than ten times, pausing, sketching, and pausing again so she could accurately capture iconic snippets. She describes the difficulty in recreating the motorcycle accurately, and the research involved to ensure the integrity of the film is preserved. “These take anywhere between six to twelve hours to draw and plot. Tribute pieces are harder. You have to get it exactly right,” she reflects. Granted, there’s nothing painful about watching Amelie. Emily even admits that it was her first time seeing the classic, but it instantly became one of her favorites.
One more thing you need to know about Emily Dumas- she doodles on everything. Everything. During our conversation, Emily admits that she does not own a sketchbook. For many artists, the sketchbook is sacred. While making this reveal, she looks down at our table with the faintest look of embarrassment at the confession. Intrigued, I ask her how she possibly creates these complex pieces without such a seemingly necessary piece of equipment. Instead of a verbal explanation, she simply opens her smartphone’s photo album, gently places it at the center of the table, and slowly scrolls past a community of happy sketches drawn on random pieces of graph paper or note pad. I’m fairly certain one doodle is on the back of a receipt. I feel like an intruder looking at her sketches, as though they are her own circle of friends, and I’ve invited myself to the party.
Emily’s world is shape-driven and colorful. The style is distinct. She loves the small details- the charming vignettes that perhaps we forget in our daily lives of rush and run. The curvature on a pair of scissors. The intricate pattern of an apron. The thread of a sewing kit. The keys on a Parisian accordion. What’s not small is her talent for visual narrative, which never fails to leave me eagerly anticipating Emily’s next endeavor!
Now I am going to share a little secret… Emily will be launching a series exclusively for À La Prochaine. Francophiles, you will be dazzled! Stay tuned!
Want to see more of Emily work or, even better, buy it? Find her on the internet:
À la prochaine!