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Featured Artist – Emma Allard Smith

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I think the key is to realise that all artists are on a journey of constant self-improvement. The more time you devote to art the better you will become, it’s as simple as that. If it’s important to you, make time for it”

Emma is an artist living in Hampshire, inspired by the coast and the countryside. Here she talks about how she got started in making art and how she successfully combines motherhood with creativity

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How long have you been making art and what inspired you to get started?

I have been painting and creating ever since I can remember! It hasn’t always had the prominence in my life that it has now though. I studied astrophysics at university and then trained as an accountant (it’s a myth that creative people can’t do numbers!)

A few years ago my partner and I decided we’d had enough of the 9-5 and quit our jobs, sold our house, moved into a campervan for six months, toured the coast and national parks of the UK, then emigrated to Australia where our son was born. During all that, my love for art was re-ignited and I began painting all the places we had visited and coming up with idea after idea for new patterns and designs.

We are back in the UK living a more traditional life in a house (for now), but art and design has become a major part of that life.

Your design style of repeat pattern is very distinctive. How did you develop this?

Creating repeating patterns from my paintings is a relatively recent development. I used to do a lot of freestyle sketches and designs on paper using watercolour and acrylic but never really knew what to do with them. It was through social media really that I discovered surface pattern design as a concept. I downloaded some free design software and began scanning my artwork and learning how to create repeats. From my very first pattern I was hooked and it’s become my main focus now!

One of my favourite designs is ‘Little Hedges’. Can you tell me a little more about this design?

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‘Little Hedges’ is the name of the cottage where I live! The design is inspired by sketches I made of the plants and flowers in the garden during our first week there. We had just moved back to the UK from Australia and I was captivated by the English flora. At the back of the garden is a lovely old flint wall and so I wanted to incorporate this into the design too.

You use lots of pastel colours in your work. What is your favourite medium of choice and why?

Watercolour is my favourite medium by far. I fell in love with the medium while living in the campervan for six months – they were the only art supplies I had space for! I love the accidental effects it creates and the translucency of the colours. I occasionally mix in bit of gouache too for vibrancy.

A lot of your designs are inspired by nature. Is that where much of your inspiration comes from?

I’m a definite outdoors lover so I’m very much inspired by nature in all its many facets and as a family we get out and about a lot. All our travelling has taken us from coast, to bushland, to mountain to forest so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas.

What other Artists have inspired you?

So many! I love the seaside watercolours of Emma Ball, the detailed beautiful sketches of Flora Waycott, and I’m also hugely inspired by artists who have successfully combined motherhood with their art; Moira Court, Katie Vernon, Alisa Burke and Laura Blythman all do amazing work while raising little ones.

Which pieces are you most proud of any why?

Such a hard question as I depends on what mood I’m in!  I love the colours in my campervans design and I’m really pleased with how the origami cranes design turned out.

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What can’t you live without in your studio?

As long as I’ve got a desk and good light I’m usually happy. My studio is probably unusual though in that I welcome and encourage my two year old to join me – he has his own paints, desk and toys in their so we can create together!

What have you learnt whilst establishing yourself as an artist? Can you offer any advice to others starting out?

I’ve got a while to go before I would call myself established, but since I have been focusing on my art for the past couple of years I have learnt so much about design, social media, trends and photography. I think the key is to realise that all artists are on a journey of constant self-improvement. The more time you devote to art the better you will become, it’s as simple as that. If it’s important to you, make time for it. Now I’ve got a two year old it can be tricky to find enough hours in the day, but I make it work. I get a lot done while he naps and I often neglect the housework in favour of painting!

How do you promote your art and what part has social media played in your self-promotion?

Social media is the best and worst thing to happen to artists! On the one hand, it enables you to share your work far and wide, to gain exposure freely and easily that was never possible before. On the other hand, there are so many artists out there it is hard to get noticed by the right people and so tempting to compare yourself to others negatively.

Instagram is my favourite platform, because it’s so visual. It’s such a great tool for sharing art via use of hashtags and you can get instant feedback on what designs people love the most. There are also some lovely communities to get involved in.Where do you see yourself as an artist in the future?

I’m hoping in the next few years to gradually build up a more commercial portfolio of work and perhaps take some courses in design and pattern to hone my skills further as I’m mostly self-taught. Eventually I’d like to explore licensing opportunities to see my designs reach a wider market.

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