Artist Interview - Emma Copley

Second heat winner of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2015 Emma Copley has been generous enough to answer a few of my burning questions.

1. How did you get started?

I studied painting at Rhode Island School of Design a 4 year BFA, and specialised in painting for three years there taking full advantage of the amazing facilities learning printmaking, chemical photography, art history in addition to developing my own artist practice. I spent my final year in RISD's European Honour Program in Rome, Italy, where I had a small studio of my own in the old centre, down the road from the pantheon! And learned from my peers and studied art history.

2. What are your favourite subjects to paint and why?

I paint what surrounds me. I try to express my emotions through my paintings and use everyday subjects as starting points. I adore painting portraits and my favourite people are my children and close friends and family, because they will sit for me for ages! In fact I am doing a new portrait next week of BBC Bake off Finalist Ian Cummings, so keep a look out for that one on my blog.

3. I noticed that you sell via Etsy. I do the same. What made you use Etsy as your main selling platform?

Sorry I no longer will be selling with Etsy as I now have a gallery that will represent me. Happily!

4. If someone was starting new – what tips would you give them to help them be successful?

Painting is hard work, making a living painting is even harder. I think every artist subsidies their painting with a day job. Teaching is a great job to have that will support you and allow for time to paint. I have always had to work in addition to paint-work to get by. It is an illusion that you can make a living from your art straight out of art school. My best advice to art students, beside the practical, would be paint as fast as you can, painting is thinking, paint what you love and continue to write about your work even if it only makes sense to you.

5. What’s the best way for people to contact you?

The best way for people to contact me is by email, or through my Facebook page, Instagram feed or Twitter account all of which you can connect to through my website


I’m intrigued by this artist, Emma has a unique style. I’m also fascinated by her background studying at Rhode Island and then spending time in Italy – how artsy! I love it!

She has really been able to discover herself as an artist and use her emotions to express every day subjects. Making the common, uncommonly good!

Her style is quite deceptively simple; areas are painted in block colours next to each other, almost graphic in style, in such iconic shapes and colours that they work in harmony to create the whole. We don’t need to look for detail; we can get a feel for the picture and movement by allowing the mix of colours to blend and contrast through the picture.

I was particularly interested to see the tip from Emma with regards to paint as fast as you can. Now I can relate to that, we aren’t talking about rushing a painting here, but there is nothing quite as exhilarating as get at least a large chunk of a painting done in one sitting. Taking into account drying times I still find that my best work is done in a shorter amount of time. I believe it’s to do with that initial burst of inspiration that you feel when you start and know what you want to achieve. I’ve had a few paintings which have been sitting around for a while unfinished. Sometimes I get inspired and can complete the painting but a lot of the time I find that I struggle to recreate that initial flush that I had when I started my blank canvas.

I’m also intrigued by the tip of writing about your work, trying to put into words what you have painted. It’s a level of analysis that I struggle with, but it’s a great tip. It allows you to look at your work more objectively, consider what worked and what didn’t. Did you achieve what you set out to achieve or did you end up creating something entirely different? Were you testing out a new medium or technique, how did that go? This might be stuff that you do subconsciously but when you try to write it down it forces you to think a lot more carefully about it – and this, I believe, will lead to greater self-development.

Thanks to Emma for taking time out of her busy schedule and providing us with some great tips and an insight into her work. Please take a few minutes to check out her website and her latest paintings – it will be worth it!
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