Spotlight Interview: Emma Hungsinger

Emma Hungsinger: Artist

New York City

Freelance Cartoonist
WFU Class of 2013
Double Major :Studio Art & Communication

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Emma Hunsinger is a dynamo: ambitious, wickedly funny, and mega talented in the artistic department. While at Wake, Hunsinger was a member of the Lilting Banshees and a selected member of the 2013 Student Union Art Acquisition trip. We caught up with her recently to learn what it's like to be a freelance cartoonist in NYC. The resulting conversation is as informative as it is hilarious.

DeacLink: What are you up to these days, Emma?

Emma Hunsinger: Currently, I’m a freelance cartoonist making work such as gag cartoons, comics, and cards. At the moment, I have been mainly working on online comics to pitch to different websites.

DL: How did your path unfold since WFU?

EH: After I graduated I moved back home for 6 months just job hunting. I was working in retail when I was offered a position at The New Yorker in the business department. After working there for 2 years and holding 3 positions, I left to pursue art. Which brings me to wear I am now: freelancing in art & doing some small self publishing. To subsidize my art, I also work as a cook at a local restaurant. 

DL: What was the main draw at the New Yorker, and how was your experience there?

EH: My primary goal after leaving college was not to pursue art, rather it was to become financially independent. It was important for me to get experience living on my own and get a taste of what my life budget would be like. The position I was offered at the New Yorker was an assistant position to ad sales-people. The job was entry level and I learned a lot of about office life & business decorum which is great knowledge to have when it comes to selling yourself. I was promoted 2 times while at the company, and decided it was time to leave when I felt like I had gone as far as I wanted to go in the advertising world and had a good sense of what it took to live in the city and accumulated some savings. While at the New Yorker I had met some people in the cartoons department and had gone in for some critiques and felt I had a plan to improve my art.

DL:  How much did your studies or Wake in general inform or drive your career path?

EH: I knew I wanted to something creative after school, but when I graduated I was mostly focused on earning a living. Thus, I ended up taking an office job after school as in assistant. However, the encouragement and attention I got at Wake from my professors definitely helped me understand what skills I should nurture for a creative career post-grad. 

DL: What do you think Wake arts could have done to have better prepared students for life after graduation?

EH: I think more information on a freelancer's lifestyle would’ve helped me a lot before graduation. I didn’t really learn about how to balance work and art outside of a traditional “career” setting. Learning about the sort of entrepreneurial side of being an artist would have emboldened me to try my hand at an art career right after I got out of school. 

DL:  Prior to going freelance, how were you locating and applying to job opportunities?

EH: With the New Yorker job, it went like this: In June 2013 my dad set me up with an HR person in Conde Nast, and for the following 6 months I interviewed for 2 positions at CN (for one job they picked someone who had interned there over me and the second I didn’t have the right experience). Then in February 2014 I interviewed for the position at The New Yorker and was offered the position. 

I know you hate hearing it, but the best way to get the job you want is meeting people who can get you closer to it. I have ZERO success with applying to stuff online. Sometime Craigslist works, but you're not going to get your dream job on Craigslist. 

DL: What’s the hardest part about breaking into your field?

EH: Being patient! When I left my office job I expected to be making a living off of art right away, but the truth is it doesn’t happen so fast for anyone. It has been almost a year since I left my job and I still spend most of my time practicing instead of creating finalized artworks. 

DL: How did you like living and working in NYC? Do you find it conducive to your larger goals?

EH: I think this answer is … Too depressing…

DL: What has surprised you the most about the art scene in NYC? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move there?

EH: I’m more in the indie comics/media scene than the fine art scene to be honest. The indie comics people are amazing: people are very supportive of each other. I think the community is mostly on social media but also at events like TCAF, MOCCA, CAKE, MICE, SPX, and CAB (all are independent comics festivals). Editors of publications are usually very receptive and giving if they’re interested in your work which is great.

I cannot speak to the fine arts scene but I do know it involves a lot of looking cool & hot on Thursday in Chelsea. 

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on, or currently go by?

EH: Read and look at as much work but other artist as you can. Always keep tabs of what kind of thing inspires you. For example, one of the things that gets me most excited to work on something is watching cartoons like Adventure Time or Clarence. If you have a favorite artist, learn as much as you can about their process; a good way to figure this info out is by following the artist on social media. Piggy-backing off of that, don’t be freaked out by how other people do things; just focus on what is the best way for you to do it. It always helps me to see what materials another artist uses and how they get textures that I like. Practice as much as you can! 

DL: What and where is next for you? 

EH: As for now, I think I’ll keep going at in the Big Apple. That is, of course, if the apocalypse doesn’t hit. 

If the end of the world IS nigh, then my plan is to briefly move back to my hometown, learn from the pastor’s wife how to keep bees, then move into the woods in upstate NY and keep many, many bees. My plan is two pronged: in a post-apocalyptic world in which current currency has no meaning and the economy has failed and all trade along with it, the world will be devoid of sweetness except for my bee’s honey. I will cheer the depressed world with the gift my beloved bees create. The second prong is I will love my bees so much and make them so happy that they will repopulate the Earth and solve our current bee crisis.