Artists We Love: Emma Philip

WORDS Cheri Morris IMAGES courtesy of Emma Philip


Lisbon-based graphic designer and illustrator Emma Philip, who is originally from Cape Town, creates playful and uplifting artworks.

VISI chats to Emma about what inspires her, what she’s learned through her work for the empowering @recipesforselflove project and what she’s most looking forward to working on next.

Image credit: Tyla Mason

When did you know you wanted to be an artist and graphic designer?

Graphic design and illustration have never felt like work to me. I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) but can get immersed in my work for hours. Choosing to do it for a living was an easy decision!

What’s your earliest memory of creating something that made you proud/joyful?

When I was about six-years-old, my great-aunt Ann, an artist, took me on an adventure to the market in Greyton to choose a second-hand book to use as inspiration for an artwork. I was so excited about the whole process – choosing the book and then painting together with her. I found it really energising. I chose a book about birds and decided to paint an African Grey parrot. Ann kept praising it – she made me sign it and she showed it to everyone. I clearly remember feeling so proud that I had created something that brought joy to me, as well as the people around me.

Good Boy

Tell us a bit about the powerful Recipes For Self Love project and how the themes/stories resonate with you in your own life.

It was such a privilege doing the CI for Alison Rachel Stewart, the founder. It’s an amazing platform full of empowering messages and educational nuggets and it confronts the oppressive view we have towards women and their bodies. It has really taught me how important it is to keep questioning and dismantling the images we have been brainwashed into thinking are the right ones.

Recipes For Self Love CI

Who/what/where inspires your work?

It’s the little in-between bits that keep me motivated and full of creative energy. Going camping, taking long walks, meditating, watching a good movie, journaling, getting enough sleep, playing with a puppy, sitting in a library, etc.

Describe the space in which you are most creative.

If I get enough of the little-in-between bits mentioned above, then it doesn’t really matter where I am. However, I do enjoy a quiet room with a big table to work on, lots of plants, no one around me and access to homely drinks like hot chocolate, interesting teas and good coffee.

What is your proudest career moment?

Probably when I went full-time freelance. I am a very scattered person that has the concentration span of a chicken, so I never thought I would be able to work for myself – I’m proud I made it work.

A Few of My Favourite Things

If you could collaborate with any artist/designer on a project, who would it be and what would you create?

I would be over-the-moon-happy to be part of something like a title sequence for a movie or series made by Greta Gerwig or a book cover for Sally Rooney. I would also love to collaborate with a brand like SELFI; having my illustrations printed on beautifully-made sustainable clothing would be amazing.

What cool projects are you working on/dreaming of working on?

I crave the presence of animals and because I live in an apartment in a city, that craving is mostly left unfulfilled, so I draw them instead. A dream project would probably be to draw a whole bunch of animals for a company like National Geographic or an animal welfare organisation – that would make me the happiest. Or maybe create a book with the fashion icon Boobie (@boobie_billie).

What’s next for you?

I only recently started dipping my toes into the illustration world professionally so that is going to be my focus, and hopefully it will lead me to getting paid to draw a whole bunch of animals!

Love Emma’s work? Keep an eye on @emmacapetown on Instagram for the latest news and see more of her work at emmaphilip.com.