Equine science and management is no laughing matter. Despite our best efforts to understand every aspect of our hirsute companions’ behavior, when something seems awry, we can still be left scratching our heads. Therefore we are eternally grateful to the many experts (vets, chiropractors, coughanimalcommunicatorscough) on which we rely to help keep our horses healthy and happy.
Still, we find that sometimes laughter is the best medicine, and because of that, we are especially grateful for the witty horse folk in our social media feeds who keep things light when we are in need of a chuckle.
With this in mind, we looked to the talented architect-turned-cartoonist Emily Cole. Emily details the nuances of barn life with a relatable humor that reminds us we are not alone in our equestrian quest. We all encounter lunge line skiing, the blanket destroyer, or the horse show runaway at some point or another, and Emily adds a bit of levity to these scenarios with her colorful cartoons. Below, we get to know her better as she explains how she made horses and art into her day job. #goals And below that we provide details on a raffle for some of our favorite Emily Cole merch, exclusive to OR subscribers, of course!
Do you draw inspiration from your everyday experiences riding? If so, please tell us about your horses/animals!
I do not have a horse of my own but I like to ride as often as I can. I have some very generous friends and my mother has horses. As well as riding I find that just by observing horses I can get a lot of ideas.
Has illustrating become your full-time career?
It is now. But it did not start out that way. I wanted to be an architect, and after studying, I landed a great job, but I was always drawing on the side. It kind of took off, and I would be working all day, and then up all night drawing. My father finally pulled me aside and said I should make a decision, because the hours I was devoting to my career and also my passion were just not sustainable, nor was it healthy. I finally mustered up the courage to talk to my boss and quit my job. They were exceptionally supportive!
We are so curious about a day in the life of an illustrator … Do you draw as the mood strikes?
It is very difficult to be ‘creative on demand.’ I often work best under a bit of pressure so I make a conscious effort to set myself deadlines so that I have something to work towards.
What would you like to illustrate, that you’ve just never found the time to do?
I’d love to draw more Western scenarios. I am not as familiar with Western disciplines so perhaps I will need to book myself some lessons!
What type of paper and pens do you use?
I draw digitally using a Wacom Graphics Tablet; it is essentially a big tablet that responds to pen pressure, so it works like a piece of paper. And I can undo it and redo it! Otherwise I’d have a lot of wasted material using conventional methods. On actual paper, I’ve started using Copic markers, which are felt pens that work almost like water color ink so they blend. I’m debating about selling some proper originals!
What do you have in your office to help motivate you and keep you focused (for example, do you listen to music)?
I usually have a cat in my office! We have been moving, so absolutely everything is everywhere, it is not pretty! I have samples of products, like my coffee mugs! We have double windows for lots of light. It’s a really pretty building. But with all of our products it is a bit cramped in here. And we are upstairs, so trying to move pallets of things around gets quite tiring.
Do you work with any brands or accept commissioned requests?
I’ve worked with feed companies, magazines, and at the beginning I worked a lot with British Show Jumping. Over the last couple of years I made the difficult choice to stop taking commissions and focus on my own projects. It just wasn’t sustainable because of how long the drawings take me – ironically I take longer to finish a drawing now than when I started. I don’t want to say never, but I’ve got a waiting list that I’ve had to close! At the moment I’ve had to concentrate on building up the other side of the business. It’s a growing pain at the moment, because I feel awful [not taking commissions] and want to do it!
Do you have a favorite illustrator of your own?
I love Norman Thelwell who is a big one and is very famous here in the UK. And Jean Abernethy who does “Fergus” the horse is a wonderful artist and she’s also such a lovely person to know.
Do you have any other talents you can share with us? Please teach us something we don’t know!
I can bake! I’m not too bad at baking. I’ve also taught my cat to sit and give paw! I kind of just sort of do my own thing, and I don’t know if it is considered talented or not—perhaps I am a Jack of all trades, and a master at none.
Have you ever thought of opening up a physical shop/store? A sort of shopping destination for horse lovers to experience in England?
I’ve done some trade stands, almost like pop up shops. I don’t know whether it is too niche a market at the moment with just equestrian drawings to warrant a physical store like on a high street. I might have to do some open days to see if people show interest. I never want to say never!
What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
My friend Jess who comes and works for me was really thoughtful a while back (for my birthday!) and she knows I’m always losing things, so she bought me a gadget that helps me find my keys. I love the things that are really thought out. Once my husband bought me a camera because he knew I had an interest in photography, and it was such a surprise. When it is something you don’t think you’ll actually one day have the opportunity to own, it’s really special.
Do you have Instagram accounts you like to follow?
For a variety of reasons I follow different people. I like:
Geoffry the Conqueror … a little strawberry roan Shetland who lives in New Zealand and Rachael who owns him documents her adventures around the gorgeous countryside with her horses and little donkey. You can’t help but smile!
The free rider Alycia Burton.
Abi Lyle Dressage. She is an incredible Dressage rider with the most beautiful horses. Her Instagram stories are hilarious!
Have you thought about publishing a book?
I have! It is not a project I would like to rush so I am quietly working on something when I have the time—it might be a long term project.
Very special thanks to Emily for her time on Zoom, and allowing us to publish select pieces from her collection!
For a quick look at Emily in action, click the video below.
Win An Emily Cole Illustrations
2021 Calendar Bundle!
Here’s hoping 2021 will be a bit more organized (and humorous) than this past year! To help you out, we are giving away a nifty set of Emily’s work in the form of a desk calendar, wall calendar, and diary pictured below. Subscribe to our weekly dispatch via the button below to be entered into our members-only drawing. In the meantime, spend some time on @emilycoleillustrations, where “horses do silly things.”