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Artist story: Emma Brownjohn


Emma Brownjohn, illustrator-turned-painter, has a deft use of colour and harmonious composition. Brownjohn finds inspiration in personal experiences, whether a line of a poem or a glimpse of a fluorescent jacket in a grey city. Beautiful and charming, the works capture fleeting moments in time. We catch up with the artist to discuss her inspiration and share her experience of life as an artist.

Have you always been creative since childhood, or did you discover your talent later?

I have always painted and drawn ever since I can remember. Sitting at the kitchen table while mum was ironing. And being excited by delicious new sets of felt-tip pens set out in a rainbow of colours.

Is anyone else in your family creative?

My brother is a 3D artist, 2 of my cousins are also artists, one who teaches art therapy and the other who designs video games, and my grandmother was an artist in her own right.

Where did you grow up - and has this had a bearing on your work?

I grew up in Dorset. I suppose it has had some bearing on my work as the glory of nature’s colours and the changing of the seasons are key to my colour palette and subject matter.

Did you go to art college?

I went to Camberwell College of Arts obtaining a 1st class BA Hons Degree in ‘fine art illustration’.  A key moment was winning a travel bursary from designing a series of British stamps. I used it to travel to Indonesia before it had become a true tourist destination and it lit a fire inside to travel far and wide and to document and paint the amazing colours and experiences.

Describe a working day - what time do you get up, any daily rituals?

Strong coffee x3, get up 10am ish but if I’ve been working late the night before I sleep in. Sometimes I work all night. Take Gypsy my dog for a walk and then begin and keep going non stop for about 7 hours.

When is your most productive time of day?

First thing or when I have had a break from looking at the painting for some hours. A fresh perspective.

Where are you working - studio, home?

Right now I am in between studios, so am working from home in the current circumstances. My view is of neighbours waving as they walk past.

Do you have music on in the studio or silence?

I always listen to music. Radio six is best or Spotify and now I am going to start listening to audio books.

What are the current themes to your work?

Colour play, seasons changing. Interaction. I’ve made a start and am currently working on a series of large abstracts paintings.  I have been using a local church as a studio space - but sadly I am unable to access them at the moment but cannot wait to resume work.

What materials do you use?

Lots of different materials, collage paper, stencils, oil pastels, acrylics, oils etc. It depends on what piece I am working on.

What piece of equipment or other can’t you do without?

A wall.

Do you have a current favourite painting?

Yes. Pink Clouds.

What other artists inspire you?  Who are you art heroes?

Rothko, Hockney, Dufy, Basquiat.

What was the last art exhibition you went to see? 

My own! However I only like my work in retrospect so it was just satisfactory.

Are there any contemporary artists who’s work you follow?

Jason Craighead. Igor Moritz , Tom Hammick and more.

How would you describe the life of an artist in less than 5 words.

Feast or famine.

Do you believe the arts should be funded and why are they important?

I do believe the arts should be funded. Sharing diverse visions feed the soul, give inspiration, joy, escapism and comfort.

What have been your career highlights so far?

There are many. Though painting murals around the world which are still there on buildings 20 years later….. writing and illustrating a series of 3 children books called “Yes I Can help save the planet” -the animals, be healthy…..And having buyers who have bought paintings from me, lived with them for years and come back for more and more.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Painting and selling large abstracts.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?

‘The world doesn’t owe you any favours’ - my Mum!

Social Media - do you have any accounts? 

I do. Facebook which I should use more but don’t because it is very useful. And instagram which is great as a advertising platform and also inspiring. My website www.emmabrownjohn.com which is super important.

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