An illustrator reveals to Charlotte Pearson how her mum’s words of wisdom led her to a career she loves.
When bad things occur the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’ is probably the last thing you want to hear.
Yet, although at the time it may feel like your world is ending, days, months or even years later you may realise it has led you down a different, and sometimes better, path.
For Brighton’s Emily Dupen, when she started to lose her hearing it meant she couldn’t study a degree in music, leaving her unsure what to do.
“My mum told me I couldn’t sit around being depressed, and suggested I apply to do an art foundation degree,” she recalls.
“I got on and really enjoyed it. One of my tutors did illustration at Brighton uni and encouraged me to do the degree.”
Despite this newfound interest, Emily still harboured hopes she could be a singer – a dream that was shattered when her hearing deteriorated even further and she could not hear herself sing clearly.
“I was reminded by my mum the other day about the time she asked me what I would do if I couldn’t be a singer,” she begins, “apparently I said ‘well if I can’t be a famous singer, I’ll be a famous illustrator’.”
With this in mind Emily, who has since had a cochlear and digital implant, ventured into the world of interior decoration for her final project at university.
“We had to do work relating to telephone boxes so I made a wallpaper of call girls,” she explains. “This is when I started to research into wallpaper.
“I graduated in 2004 but it wasn’t until 2008/2009 that I created my first wallpaper design – the 1950s housewife – that is still really popular today.”
During her research Emily found most wallpaper designs featured floral prints or were very traditional.
“Since I launched in September 2009 it has changed a lot,” she reveals. “When I launched people would comment about how risqué my designs were, and that no one would want that on their walls.
“Before if you Googled ‘burlesque wallpaper’ it would just be me, but now there are loads of people doing it.
“I think people are being braver with their interior choices now. Since the recession they are home more and want their space to be a bit more personalised and reflect them.”
Although the burlesque and pin up illustrations are regarded as Emily’s signature style, she has produced a range of different pieces to appeal to everyone.
“I know not everyone would want those kinds of designs so I have the peacocks, English country garden and potions, which are a bit more mainstream,” comments Emily.
“Although potions does have a twist. I have included recipes of actual Victorian ingredients, which includes things like cocaine, opium and whale’s vomit.”
Looking at her designs it is clear where her inspiration lies.
“I love cheeky pin up style, in particular artists like Gil Elvgren,” she smiles. “I wanted to include a bit of that with the 1950s housewife with her skirt caught up in her chores.
“I see my wallpaper as my art, and the commissions are my bread and butter.”
In the past the illustrator has been asked to design wallpapers, create portraits and wedding invites.
“I get a lot of people sending me photos from their wedding and asking for that as a portrait – it is a really personal thing to be involved with.”
Looking ahead Emily is quick to admit she has many ideas for designs but she ‘doesn’t have the time to do them all’.
“I am the only one running everything,” she adds. “I do have a tendency to not always finish designs I have started, especially if I have loads of commissions on. But this year I am aiming to finish one a month.”
Alongside her passion for illustration her heart also belongs to the city she calls home.
“I love Brighton,” she smiles. “When I came to look around the university I knew I wanted to stay here. It is a really accepting city, and there is also a great supporting artistic community.”
It would seem that for Emily, although her dreams of being a singer couldn’t be realised, at least it led her to the wonderful world of wallpaper.
The name – Dupenny
“The name of my French ancestors is Dupenny,” explains Emily. “My dad always called my mum Dupenny as well.
“At first it was just something to have while I thought of something else but I think it works really well.”
1950s housewives wallpaper Picture: retrophotostudio.co.uk
February 28, 2016 Business and Investments