As the launch party for our new paper pounds approaches, we want to take the time to celebrate the wealth of local artistic talent that will be proudly displayed on the new money. This is the first in a series of nine interviews exploring the stories and artistic process behind the beautiful images that were judged the winners in our recent competition.
First up, Emma Burleigh, whose watercolour image of Ashley Vale allotments was entered in the wildlife and nature category.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
I am an artist, illustrator and teacher who is passionate about the vibrant and mercurial qualities of watercolour. I’m interested in everyday life and the inner life.
I’m currently developing an ‘autobiofictional’ graphic novel which recently won The Laydeez do Comics Women’s Prize for Unpublished Graphic Novels in Progress. I’m also working on a few other personal projects including a collaboration with the poet River Wolton and a Mindful Art Course Book.
Stories and myths often inform my work, and I’ve studied traditional narrative based paintings such as Mughal miniatures and medieval Books of Hours for their inventive compositions, jewel like colours and quirky details. Much of my work is inspired by the beauty of the natural world, and some of my work has to do with letting the dark stuff out!
I teach workshops in mindful and intuitive art-making and am a tutor at The Royal West Academy in Bristol.
Why did you enter the competition to design a Bristol Pound?
I’m a big supporter of any venture that encourages people to spend their money at local, independent businesses in Bristol, so it seemed like a worthwhile competition to put some of my energy into. I’m proud to have contributed to it.
What’s the story behind the image you created?
A while ago I set myself a project to make some images of “Green Bristol”. Being in nature is really essential to my wellbeing so when I moved to Bristol 3 years ago I spent time seeking out all the green oases I could walk to, and Ashley Vale allotments caught my eye. I loved the way it looked like a patchwork quilt of vegetable plots rolled out across the hill. I used watercolour and took some inspiration for the design from looking at patterns in traditional Persian miniatures.
What artists inspire you?
Yes, too many to mention! But in particular contemporary artists who use watercolour from Tracy Emin to Anna Lovely to Ann Blockley… early 20th century watercolourists such as Edmund Dulac and Emil Nolde. Graphic novelists such as Brecht Evens, Paula Knight (a Bristolian), Nicola Streeten and so many more: I recommend the Bristol Comic and Zine fair to meet a great selection of artists who use visual narrative.
What are your artistic career highlights so far?
It would have to be winning The Laydeez do Comics Women’s Prize for Unpublished Graphic Novels in Progress at the end of March this year. And winning the Bristol pound competition of course.
I was also thrilled to have an illustration published in Resurgence and Ecologist magazine this May: it’s my favourite publication not least because I love so much of the illustration and artwork they feature.
What are your aims for the future?
The really big one is to finish my graphic novel and find a publisher for it!
I’d also like to be able to contribute my illustrations and paintings towards more great things that I believe in. I’m keen to see my images support local, ethical, environmentally sound projects and publications that are helping to create positive change in the world. And I’m happy to already have my artwork selling in some brilliant ethical shops and local galleries where the Bristol Pound can be spent!
I also have a few courses in Mindful Art making, imaginative watercolour painting and Graphic Short Story Creation in the pipeline for the autumn. I’m looking forward to teaching those at the RWA and at Hamilton House, and I’ll be offering more workshops on similar themes in the future.
Where can we find you online?
Thank you Emma!