Emmeline Webb recently joined the artists at the Fenners Studios in Letchworth, and is in her first year as a Fellow with Digswell Arts.
How would you describe your current practice (e.g. materials, techniques, themes, key questions, approach)?
My focus has always been influenced by a love of surface and textile design. This has stayed with me throughout my practice and is still very current today. I’m inspired by the decorative arts and my work is always highly embellished as a result. Rich in colour and ever so slightly heading towards abstraction, which is a move away from a more illustrative way of working for me. I use a variety of media, but when painting on canvas I favour a mixed media approach, my love of collage is yet to wain. Acrylics work best for me as I can speedily layer up colours. I work in many layers and so this quick drying medium suits me. I also use gold or metal leaf to embellish along with both detailed and rapid acrylic ink sketches directly onto the finished surface.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working towards an exhibition this autumn. The theme of the show is Mindfulness, and I’m working collaboratively on canvas with my (adult) daughter. The paintings are inspired by our holiday photographs over the years, memories, places and our joint love of flora, fauna, travel and nature. Her painting style is quite different to mine, yet she is working on the canvas first and then I am creating more representative drawings from her abstract beginnings of colour and form. Difficult to explain, but really enjoyable to work on and its a joy to work with her on this project.
What is the question you get asked about your work and how do you answer it?
Two questions seem to repeatedly come up:
1. How long does it take:
Obviously this questions varies hugely from each project, but sticking to painting I’m pretty honest about the time it takes. My training as an illustrator taught me you have to be able to give a realistic price in advance to clients on projects, so I keep a record of the hours spent working on any particular project, this means I can usually be quite accurate too. People are always surprised by the length of time I will spend working on one painting – the minimum wage is something I would love to achieve one day!!
2. What is your inspiration:
I may have already covered this but my work is usually inspired by nature, particularly plants, woodlands, flora, fauna and textiles. Also colour, patterns, printmaking and other artists works all feed in.
What or who inspired you to be an artist and why?
I think I was always going to be an artist of some kind. I’ve always loved the arts, both visual and performing. As a child I was encouraged to draw, paint and dance and spent many hours doing just that. I originally wanted to be a graphic designer and started college after school, but I left after just a few months for a paid position as a trainee draughtsman at an engineering company. The lure of an income at the tender age of 17 seemed much more appealing at the time! However I learnt a lot in my years there, particularly attention to detail.
Marriage and children came along shortly after and I became a full time mum, working in non creative part time positions that fitted around my children was the focus then. It was possibly the time I spent doing those jobs that encouraged me to work in a field I enjoyed. I had so much fun with my children playing on all our creative projects over the years, we pushed the school art projects, fancy dress costumes, birthday cakes and party themes to another level. I made sure they always had art materials around the home and really enjoyed encouraging them to use them. Once my youngest started school I decided the time was right to return to college to explore my own creativity again. One course led to another, enthusiastic tutors and a real passion to succeed as a role model for my own children, and here we are more than 15 years later.
Which artist do you most admire and why?
Peter Doig, Joan Eardley & Friedensreich Hundertwasser – Choosing just one artist would be impossible for me. I love and have been influenced by far too many. However the resounding impact of these three is their use of colour and in its most simplest terms it is colour that attracts me more than anything to an artwork. I love the impactful, mood changing effects colour can have on any viewer. I guess if my arm was twisted Hundertwasser would win from my top 3. He accomplished so much in his career from painting to amazing architecture, a real pioneer for a more greener sustainable living. I feel he was ahead of his time with his desire to live a greener life and brighten up a landscape by bringing art to the masses. His artwork and buildings certainly accomplished that.
How has your relationship with Digswell Arts Trust strengthened your practice as an artist?
A relative newby to The Digswell Arts Trust, I only joined last September, I feel I’m still finding my feet and settling in at Fenners. I was thrilled to become a fellow and my studio space in invaluable to my art practice. Quite simply without it I would struggle to produce any artwork. As an artist you need space to explore and experiment, a studio shouldn’t be somewhere to just go to produce finished works of art, but somewhere you evolve. I didn’t feel I evolved much during my degree course, but I believe you never finish learning, your art should change with time and being in a creative community with other artists to collaborate, learn from and communicate with is a very healthy part of that journey.