The Early Hours Presents: Emma Wasielke

To wrap up January, we're bringing you our fourth interview in the new series! I can't believe this year is already moving so fast, and I'm glad that we've been able to stay on schedule with these.  This week is our first interview with a woman, but it certainly won't be our last. I'm honored to know Emma Wasielke from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, where I was in an undergrad program at the same time she was there. Her charcoal, graphite, and marker drawings are some of my favorite illustrations I've encountered, and I'm obsessed with her style and process. She documents her life and those around her in an incredibly compelling way, showing quiet moments with friends and strangers in an effortless fashion.  Seeing her work has taught me a lot, not only about illustration and drawing, but about patience and perspective as well. I'm happy to have had her work on several designs for The Early Hours, which are still some of my favorite designs we've put out.  Emma is a New Yorker born and bred, and is currently living in the city and working toward her Masters degree while working full time.  A special thanks to Emma for taking the time to answer these questions for us! You can find more of her work at her website and on instagram. Now, onto the good stuff...

Photo by Justin Bernard 

1. Time is the most valuable resource. Do you agree or disagree, and why? 

Ugh agree! I have this post-it I wrote on when I was like 18 or 19 that says "the aging process is real" because I think I'd gone into shock about how my childhood and teenage years had pretty much passed by. I'm 29 now and I just wrote the same thing in my sketchbook, like where did my twenties go? I also noticed over the past couple of years that I'm finally old enough to start having actual regrets, like about who I am and what I've become and what I have to show for myself. Most of the feelings I have that border on regret have to do with time, and what I did or didn't do with it. That and insecurity, I think being insecure about myself has caused me to waste a lot of time and also waste my talents at times.

2. How DO you spend your time? 

Lots of ways! For one I work a regular full time job. Outside of that I have been in graduate school for the past 2.5 years. The classes have been at night and on weekends so just physically being at work, in class, and on the subway getting back and forth from both of those takes up the majority of my awake time. Last year I spent a lot of time writing my thesis paper, which was on Riot Grrrl zines from the nineties. I felt like I was going crazy trying to write it in the hours between work, class, completing my regular art and coursework, and sleeping, but it taught me a lot about time management. I don't find school or my job to be too challenging independently of each other, but I have definitely found it personally challenging to make both happen and still maintain my relationships with all the people I care about. For the first year of doing grad school while working I also squeezed in volunteering as a camp counselor at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and as a clinic escort at a women's health clinic in NYC that gets surrounded heavily by protesters. I think I got too burned out after the first year of trying to go to my job, school, AND volunteer, that sadly I've scaled back my volunteering to pretty much none.
I also have hobbies and interests I like to think of as "time maximizers". For example, I'm really into knitting, so if I want to Netflix binge for a day I at least will have a sweater or some beanies I made to show for it. I have also had a personal language learning initiative going for a while now that I think of as another time maximizer. On Tuesdays I listen to learn Spanish podcasts, Thursdays are French, and on Friday's I listen to Korean lessons. I also usually average reading one to two books a month, sometimes more, and most of my reading happens while riding the subway. I try to draw the people on the subway too, but I think I usually only end up doing it about once a week or once every two weeks. I'd like to step that up. 

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Photo by Justin Bernard

3. Ideally, how WOULD you spend your time, if money were not an issue? 

As someone who has pretty much been somewhere in the middle economically since birth, and only now at 29 is experiencing strong feelings of financial stress from paying tuition the past couple of years and stupidly high rent (sometimes stupidly high by my own poor choice) I have been giving this a lot of thought. I know that I sometimes create better art if I give myself some conceptual parameters, or even just physically draw a border on my paper. I feel kind of similarly about money, like if it was just endless, or if time was too, I'm not sure I’d be more creative with that wide of an open space. I think I'd feel a pressure from all that possibility and probably freeze up. That's not to say that I wouldn't like more money. I think my fears about money hold me back. I'm always a little too afraid to go low to go high and can be cautious to a fault. I definitely know people who are living much more creatively fulfilling lives and they're doing it on even less money than I have in my bank account right now. If money weren't an issue, as soon as I finish school I might consider moving to France, or Korea, or both. Maybe stay a few months in each one trying to learn the language and draw and see if I could get anyone to let me paint some murals. I'd take guitar or piano lessons and I'd spend time learning to skateboard better. I'd also like to think I'd do a lot more activist activities than I have going on now, and if I had a ton of money, and higher self esteem, maybe I'd even want to run for office on a local level.

4. How do you plan to get from where you are, to where you want to be? 

Not sure, that is what I am trying to figure out! As soon as I start asking myself that question I try to tell myself to not jump ahead and enjoy my last semester of grad school and stay focused on finishing that challenge up. Right now I really need to prioritize my art and drawing as much as possible. Drawing is my biggest passion but curiously I procrastinate doing it more than anything else. So I guess I'm just hoping and trying to trust that if I do my best right now, the next step is going to appear to me.

5. What is the one biggest time wasting habit or thing you endure in your life? Could you reduce the impact of this if you wanted to spend the time doing something productive instead?

My iPhone!!! Biggest time waster. Conversely, I think Instagram and other social media are really crucial, so I'm always struggling to find a balance. I am actually trying to be more visible on the internet lately, but hopefully not at the expense of my limited time. While platforms like Instagram have negatively affected my productivity, I also see their value in terms of connecting to a larger audience. I also worry social media puts me at risk of self-censorship. I'm concerned that with such a fast way to receive feedback and reinforcement with "likes" that I am going to mask more of myself, and that my artwork is going to become less raw. Anytime I post anything I am always worrying about what my friends are going to think, especially ones that don’t share my views. I guess I am a little off topic, but I think concerns around social media regarding time and authenticity is relevant to a lot of artists right now. To answer the last part of your question, yes, I am constantly trying to reduce the impact of time wasters by doing things like reading, knitting, trying to write Hangeul, calling a friend, really anything to stop myself from just mindlessly reloading an Instagram feed…which I am very prone to do. If I post a drawing or animation on Instagram I find myself impulsively checking in to see how many likes it has. Those minutes add up, and in the time I have spent doing that I probably should have been trying to create more art instead.

6. What one thing do you indulge in that takes significant amounts of time that others might see as a waste, but you see as a blessing or integral part of your life?  

I'm not sure if this fits but it was something I was thinking about the other day. When I was growing up there were a few people in particular who really worried about me, and I think that caused a lot of suspicion around my interests. I think they saw certain clothes I would wear and the type of music I was listening to as symptomatic of other struggles I was having at the time. So I think my punk/alternative interests were probably seen as a waste.  For example, these pins I had that had skulls on them were put in the garbage. Fifteen years later I have written an 80 page paper on the history of those interests and now that paper is how I am about to obtain a Masters degree. I think that's a great example of how there may be things that someone I love doesn't get or understand about me, but if something really means something to me, and I believe in it's value, then eventually what it’s worth to me is going to show through to everyone else too.
I’d also like to add Feminism to my list of things I indulge in that others have historically seen as a waste, but I see as a blessing and an integral part of my life. I have had friends, boyfriends, and strangers challenge me on it, but without Feminism I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I don’t just mean with the ability to vote and other rights/liberties, but Feminism has allowed me to see where relationships in my life, with others and with myself, were totally messed up. Without Feminism I would not have had the language to articulate these kinds of injustices, and I would have never had the courage to try to dismantle them. The freedoms I enjoy today were not just handed over, they exist because people got in the streets and they fought for them. I’m going to end this as a giant shout out to everyone who has been on their grind lately, fighting for anyone and everyone who has ever been marginalized or pushed to the side. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s a waste of time.

Thank y'all again for reading these - if you like them let us know here or on instagram and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter at the top of the page!! New interviews coming weekly...if you have an idea for someone you'd like us to interview, let us know - we're open to ideas :)

Never Hesitate, Never Surrender