Artist Emma Hill shares hope and happiness through her colorful paintings

Emma Hill artist
Wonderlust by Emma Hill

I met artist Emma Hill thanks to ArtCan and I was quickly under the charm of her colorful and positive artworks and sunny personnality. Emma is UK based with English-Norwegian roots. She says that she is “inspired by (her) Norwegian heritage, of nature and childhood memories of folklore, telling stories under the midnight sun, of trolls and the spirits of sea and mountains”.

Her paintings are “purely intuitive, guided by feeling” and her aim is to “share inspiration, hope and happiness”. That positive attitude certainly convinced Liberty to select her for their open call and her painting ‘Graffiti Summer’ was transformed into a repeat patterned print for a collection of their iconic Liberty fabrics.

Emma does not stop at creating artworks, she’s also an art instructor for ARTHOUSE Unlimited, a charity that celebrates the artistic talents of adults living with learning and physical difficulties and she’s behind the art blog and upcoming podcast ART SEEKER STORIES.

Her artwork has been featured on the BBC and Create! Magazine among many other publications and she genuinely shares about ups and downs and what success means: “I have learnt that the most important part of my art focus towards success is knowing my purpose and being part of an artist community. There is no rhyme or reason on applications, I go through stages of being accepted into everything and then it flips, and I’m rejected from it all. I enjoy the moments of acceptance, but the rejection doesn’t define me. There is a bigger picture, and I think it is up to us as artists to carve find our own ways, without needing to be dependent on those who are doing the choosing.”

Thanks Emma for openly sharing about your work!

What sparked your interest for the arts and to become an artist?

I have always been interested in art and wanted to be an artist from a very young age, I wasn’t very academic and certainly wasn’t sporty, art was a way I could escape, dream and express myself.  I didn’t get into art college, which was a terrible blow for me, so I became very insecure about my art for many years later. My degree was in art history and Scandinavian studies, I thought if I wasn’t able to paint, I might as well learn what I could about the art I was interested in. However, it was my years as cabin crew for British Airways that reignited the spark. I sought art worldwide and then when I left to have children, everything I experienced found its way to me, creatively painting pictures.

How do you describe your art practice?

My art practice is purely intuitive, I’m guided only by feeling. I’ll paint the base layer which I quite like because its raw and fresh, urgent and immediate. Then I start to work into it and somehow some of that beautiful raw expression created in five minutes gets lost. It becomes a little over controlled and that’s not necessarily a good thing. If I have an urge to try something, I take the risk and go for it. By now I’ve learnt to trust my instinct as I know that it will push me forward and take me somewhere even better, maybe not in the painting I’m creating then, but definitely in what is to come.  It’s like a conversation, I get in the flow, everything starts falling apart and at some point, usually when it can’t get any worse, I find my come back, I then hit the magic where it becomes whole, everything fits together and just feels right. 

What is your message through your artwork?

My paintings explore my memories and experiences of nature: of the sea, the sky and the landscape. Rather than following the traditional sense of recording by recognition, my use of colour and texture instead documents my senses. The energy of my mark-making expresses my emotions and remembrance of a time and place, creating a visual dreamscape to convey the true essence. I create paintings to dream into, based on my intuition. My aim as an artist is to share inspiration, hope and happiness through my art. 

In 2019 you were one of Liberty’s Open Call Winners. Can you share about how this happened?

I had my mind set on the Liberty open call 6 years prior to winning.  I took 2 years to create a scarf collection of 20 designs, based on my Mimi in Itchycoo painting series, an enchanted wonderland, inspired by Scandinavian folklore and stories I told, my then, young daughters. Each scarf featured; a heart, a tiny motif of Mimi, a child in a red dress who featured in my Itchycoo stories; and flowers – a daisy and an iris – the names of my daughters. But somehow, I never made it to London to pitch. 

In September of 2019 I saw a sponsored ad on Instagram that Liberty had a new competition for  their #libertyopencall , all that was required was to add a hashtag  -#libertyopencall to a picture or design and post it onto Instagram. The winners would have their artwork transformed into an iconic Liberty fabric and their designs will be held within their historical archives. 

I hashtagged my painting ‘Graffiti Summer’ which I’d finished the day before I saw the competition. If I had thought about it, I would never have chosen it, it just happened to be the painting I had just completed. The journey of this painting gave me a real rollercoaster of highs and lows, love and hate, and at the end I was just relieved to have got it finished. Of course, now I ‘ve grown to love it and I’m pleased that this painting found it’s way because it has its own story, rich in the layers of mistakes, but fundamentally it was inspired by a day out taking photos of graffiti with my daughter on her 14th birthday.

How did it impact your path?

After winning the Liberty Open Call and having my artist journey featured in the BBC documentary, ‘A Moment that Changed My Life’, (which certainly didn’t), it somehow became very difficult because I couldn’t get my art out there seen anywhere else. Everything I applied to I got rejected, I almost gave up. 

I think it was more because 10 years previously I had, had it very easy. I sold a lot of artwork on the UK Art fair scene. Now of course everything is different, most artists have to carve their own way and do everything themselves and maybe I wasn’t ready. Also there was a shift in how I was feeling in my work. I spent a year building up a body of work to find my new style and it was an amazingly liberating time. I could explore, express myself and just have fun. In winning Liberty, a year after starting out in this new style, I felt it was about time I made a start to focus on showing my art and try to sell it, I felt that pressure and with it  came insecurity due to the continuous rejection. 

Now I look back with fond memories, I was very lucky to have had such a great experience to see behind the scenes of Liberty and learn about its fascinating history first-hand. I worked with them in their studio and got to visit their factory in Italy, it was fantastic.

I have also learnt that the most important part of my art focus towards success is knowing my purpose and being part of an artist community. There is no rhyme or reason on applications, I go through stages of being accepted into everything and then it flips, and I’m rejected from it all. I enjoy the moments of acceptance, but the rejection doesn’t define me. There is a bigger picture, and I think it is up to us as artists to carve find our own ways, without needing to be dependent on those who are doing the choosing.

What would be your dream project?

My dream project would be with Medicom Toy, a Japanese toy company who have made Bric Bear and Kaws Companion toys . I’d love to see my abstract art inside of either of these iconic artwork / toys. I’d also like to take that a step further, as it would be a dream to get my Art Seeker Stories mascot Lufi, made into a real toy. 

While I’ve had a taster of seeing  my artwork created into Liberty fabric, I’d also love to see my artwork created into fashion statements within fashion design,  for example by , Chanel, Dior, or scarves by Louis Vuitton, or Alexander McQueen. 

What are your current / upcoming projects?

I’m looking forward to starting a painting project which I am calling 100 days of Hope. I’ve just had a couple of my artworks transformed into design for leggings with Bombette UK. I love that my artwork can be used in a different format to relay the same message,  promoting well-being through art, to feel good and confident, being bold to express yourself. For 10 years I have been working as an art instructor for ARTHOUSE Unlimited, a charity that celebrates the artistic talents of adults living with learning and physical difficulties. I continue to deliver classes either in their studio or remotely, focusing on art and inclusion. 

Most recently I’m very excited about a podcast I’m currently working on, called ART SEEKER STORIES. This puts everything I have together: my experiences, my writing and art on a platform where I can share my own and other artist and creative’s stories. In 2020 after 8 years in storage I re-read my diary from 2000-02, during my days as worldwide cabin crew. What interested me back in my travelling days was how I saw art become a universal language, communicating cultural diversity and differences without the barriers of speech and geographical borders. Art united people while sharing new, rich perspectives, I’d be in Thailand and they’d be promoting art from Finland, or I’d be in Brazil looking at art about the arctic, as completely different cultures promoted each other, educating and sharing an insight into their world, it felt like a network of people communicating and understanding each other’s cultures, and it was all through art.

Right there, I have  found my purpose, in simply continuing this conversation, bringing into it all I’ve learnt since. In sharing stories, I aim to inspire others, to give a sense of unity, belonging and community, expressing individuality, diversity and inclusion. Sharing Love With HeArt.  

Emma Hill

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