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Erin is one of our newest crew members but it feels as though she’s been laughing alongside us for so much longer. She not only helps Sarah keep on top of wholesale orders (and latest news about Stranger Things) but also, and more importantly, shares an affinity for children’s books, Newsies, and Christmastime. Outside of Smudge Ink, Erin is a marvelous illustrator and maker of Chubbikins. She kindly agreed to share a little bit more about herself and her creative work, including a peek inside her sketchbook …

Erin A. Ellis Illustration(image: Erin!)

When did you know you would be an illustrator?

My mom always says that I started drawing the first time I picked up a crayon, so she at least knew pretty early on that I would be an illustrator! It took me a little longer. I always liked to draw and create art in a variety of mediums, but for some reason it took me until sophomore year at college to figure it out. I went in undecided because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and when it came time to pick a major it seemed so obvious that I should choose illustration!

Squirrel with Balloons | Erin A. Ellis Illustration(image: squirrel with balloons illustration by Erin)

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work?

I'd have to say that my mom has been a major influence on me and my work. She is an illustrator herself, so I grew up in a very artistic household. My sister and I were lucky enough to have parents who always encouraged to us be creative.

Hand Sewn Chubbikins | Erin A. Ellis Illustration(image: stuffed Chubbikins)

You also hand sew chubbikins. What is the story behind these creatures?

After I graduated from the Pratt Institute, I was at a bit of a loss as to what I should do with myself. One day I was feeling crafty, and designed a very simple stuffed animal. I went to a nearby fabric store and loaded up on fabric, embroidery thread, and polyester fiberfill stuffing. After a few very rough first attempts, I figured out a method that worked and started selling them on Etsy. The name "Chubbikin" was inspired by my cat Russell, who, as the name implies, is a bit of a chubster.

Frilled Lizard | Erin A. Ellis Illustration(image: frilled lizard illustration by Erin)

What are your favorite media for illustrating? What about them particularly appeals to you?

It depends on the project! I most often work in pen and ink, which is the method I use when designing greeting cards. I tend to go a little cross-hatching crazy, but it allows me to get a lot of fine detail work in that way. I also enjoy using watercolors when I'm feeling painterly and Copic markers and colored pencils when making paper dolls.

Sketchbook | Erin A. Ellis Illustration(image: page of Erin’s sketchbook)

Do you keep a sketchbook of ideas and drawings? Can we see a page from it?

I keep a very basic notebook that I use to jot down ideas and quick sketches. I think people are surprised when they see my thumbnails because they are so simple (and blobby) compared to my final work. They're really just for me to figure out the composition, and then I go straight in to the drawing.

If you could have lunch with any anyone (living or historical), who would it be?

Jim Henson and Frank Oz! I grew up watching the Muppets and other Jim Henson shows/movies. I think it would be so fun and inspiring to chat with them about how they got started and get a peek in to their creative minds. I would of course ask them to bring along some sketches and a few puppets, including Fozzie so that I can realize my lifelong dream of giving him a hug.

SciFi Heroes Paper Doll | Erin A. Ellis Illustration(image: SciFi Hero paper doll illustration by Erin)

Which illustrator or artists have inspired you the most?

There are so many! Children's book illustrators influenced me a lot growing up, and I have a very long list of favorites that I will not subject you to! I love Edward Gorey. His wonderful pen and ink drawings are comical and unsettling at the same time. My sister and I would receive books of paper dolls for every birthday and Christmas, and the best ones were always done by Tom Tierney. We own almost every single book he made! Whether I knew it at the time or not, seeing the way he drew people helped me with my figure drawing.

Thanks, Erin! If you’re eyeing one of Erin’s illustrations or would like to adopt a Chubbekin of your own, check out her Etsy shop! You can also follow her here and here!