Vagabond City Interviews Emma Ensley

In a word, Emma Ensley’s work is magical.

It sparkles and lives and mixes mediums in a way that complicates each piece. As soon as we saw it, we were moved to send a rambling email about how stunning stunning stunning it was, and would she be interested in being featured?

A total sweetheart, Emma was rad as hell to work with, and we’re so happy to have the chance to introduce you to her work.


VAGABOND CITY: How did you get your start as an artist?

I drew all the time when I was little. I really wanted to be an animator so I was always drawing people and little characters.

VAGABOND CITY: So then once you knew you were an artist, how did you get started as a designer and make the transition to design?

I was an art major in college and took a design course as an elective. I don’t think I was aware of what graphic design really was until then. I was drawn to the problem solving aspect of it. It’s much different than the way I approach painting. To me, design is more solution­based and more about control but with painting I can be more experimental ­ although there are definitely exceptions.


VAGABOND CITY: Who are your favorite artists?

I have several, but Van Gogh is my all time favorite. It’s interesting to me to see how his personal life and struggles changed his work over time.

VAGABOND CITY: What inspires your art?

I paint a lot of people so just being out and people­ watching can inspire me. I also get inspired by books I’m reading, movies I’ve watched or music I’m listening to.


VAGABOND CITY: Your gifs are truly magical. What was the process of learning how to turn your paintings into gifs like?

Thank you! It was mostly the result of random experiments. I liked the idea of taking my physical paintings into a digital space and manipulating them in a way only a computer could.

I was excited by the contrast between the two mediums and how they worked together to create something totally new.


VAGABOND CITY: What is it like to collaborate with writers to produce art alongside their work?

Most of the time when my work has been chosen for a publication it’s paired with writing by the editors of that publication. It’s fun to see what connections they drew from my work and the writer’s work. When I have gotten the chance to create work for a specific story or article I usually try to approach it as more of a response to what I’ve just read and less of a literal depiction of the events.

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VAGABOND CITY: We were totally pumped when we saw the rise of Babe Soda, your super cool lit/music publication. What is the goal of Babe Soda?

With Babe Soda I was really just looking for a way to give the talented people I knew a platform to continue to make work and feel supported. I had submitted a few things to magazines in the past and loved getting to know people through those connections.

I had also just graduated art school and knew how hard it was to continue making art without the pressure of deadlines and professors. I wanted to give other people a reason and a space to showcase what they’re doing and making.

VAGABOND CITY: I love that music is a part of Babe Soda. We include playlists made by our staff on the blog, but never thought to allow submissions of playlists. What drove you to include it?

I want Babe Soda to include all types of creative work. So many submissions are interdisciplinary and I like that there isn’t clear categories for writing, art and music etc. Everything gets it’s own space to be whatever it is. Including songs and music videos into the mix just seemed to make sense.


VAGABOND CITY: Where do you see Babe Soda in 2 years?

I want to create printed editions soon. Though I like that Babe Soda features a lot of work that could only live in a digital space, like videos and gifs, I think an accompanying printed edition would be really nice to have and fun to make.

VAGABOND CITY: How do you balance managing Babe Soda with your life as an artist?

I do often feel guilty that I can’t give Babe Soda my full attention with a full time design job and painting commissions on the side, but ultimately if it’s important to me I make time for it…so I make time for it.



Emma Ensley is a Graphic Designer and Artist who lives in Chicago by way of North Georgia. She graduated from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and has worked at the Chattanooga design firm Widgets & Stone as well as the Chicago branding agency, Health Brand Group.


Additionally, she has had artwork published in Shabby Dollhouse, Library of the Printed Web and Pop Culture Puke. She recently started her own arts and literary magazine, Babe Soda. Interested in working together or commissioning artwork? Email

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.