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AccessAbility Arts interview (Emily Catherine)

Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I'm delighted to be able to shine a light on the fantastic work being done by inspiring women, multicultural groups, LGBTQIA+ community members and disabilities in the sphere of art and accessibility. I spoke to the wonderful artist, Emily Catherine for this one. She is a freelance artist and illustrator living and working in Nottingham. Over the past few years, through hard work and dedication she has become a stalwart member of the artistic community in her hometown and has established herself firmly in the “One to watch” category.

She has had her works published worldwide, exhibited in The Design Museum, London and New Art Exchange, Nottingham along with winning awards for her recent Psychopomps series at the NAE Open.

Emily’s work is heavily influenced by Hip-Hop and urban culture, observations of everyday life and art for social justice.

She has been commissioned to create album artwork for Your Old Droog and Micall Parknsun. Other clients include Pharoahe Monch, Penguin Books, FerArts and Sway Dasafo.


If you're on social media, give her a follow. Instagram: @emilycatherineillustration


Here is the interview


DK: What inspired you to become an artist and illustrator?


Emily: I have always expressed myself visually as a first instinct, but through college and higher education was given the impression that art or illustration wasn't for me as a career, so I initially trained to be a film and television archivist, until the recession cut those jobs. I started my business very late, when I turned 30!


DK: How did you establish yourself in the artistic community in Nottingham?


Emily: I don't think anyone really establishes themselves, it's really just being interested in others artistic and creative endeavours and being curious about the community we have. Make friends, lament the bad stuff and celebrate the wins!


DK: What was your experience like exhibiting your works in The Design Museum in London and New Art Exchange in Nottingham?


Emily: Exhibiting my Goldie painting at the Design Museum was wonderful because I was raising money for Grenfell afffected with the sale of that painting and I was exhibiting with Grenfell artists and agents, as well as iD magazine who were doing a special feature, so it was triple rewarding. Winning an Open Prize and exhibiting my two paintings at New Art Exchange was a huge honour for me because New Art Exchange had been my creative home when I started my career, so to go from learning to exhibiting for me, was a real watershed moment for me. I am so grateful for all the opportunities and support I have ever received.


DK: Can you tell us about your recent Psychopomps series and the inspiration behind it?


Emily: Well actually my Psychopomps series is old now. However, it was series of paintings in response to the death of my mother. I looked at how we as human beings deal with death and grief globally. Myth, Religions, Tribal beliefs and other cultural practices had incredible reactions to honouring, understanding or celebrating the dead. I took those stories and wanted to reimagine the characters or Psychopomps and how we might meet them today, with normal clothes, holding icons or symbols we would translate today.


DK: We all know how important it is to look after our mental health, so tell us, do you have any strategies you use to maintain positive mental health in your daily life?


Emily: I use meditation and mindfulness techniques to quieten my mind when I am anxious. For this I use grounding techniques of bare feet on the ground and the peanut butter meditation technique. I am a work in progress, I regularly have to remind myself to put in more boundaries with people, prioritise time off over working all the time, and forgiving myself. We are all a work in progress 🙂


DK: How does Hip-Hop and urban culture influence your work?


Emily: I love all music, but particularly music with breaks and beats. Realising young that most of my favourite music belonged to a culture called Hip Hop which aligned a lot of it's ideals to ones I agreed with meant I wanted to explore more and I was welcomed. Urban culture (tricky term) really reflects that I have been brought up in a city really. I really love authenticity on all levels, and I think perhaps Hip Hop and city life supports that.


DK: Can you describe the process of creating album artwork for artists like Your Old Droog and Micall Parknsun?


Emily: I hand draw and paint all my artworks, so the process is always a bit longer than a lot of digital artists, but in general we have a consultation, I go away and sketch up my interpretation, then upon agreement I start painting!


DK: What was it like working with clients like Pharoahe Monch, Penguin Books, FerArts, and Sway Dasafo?


Emily: I am very lucky and will never not get excited to work with behemoth creatives a million times my better. I am amazed and delighted they like my work and want to work with me. It never gets old.


DK: What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?


Emily: People. I get to work for and with the funniest, most inspiring, refreshing people on a daily basis. And the variety. I get to work with people helping charities and changing lives, to decorating huge cool spaces with street art, to painting personal commissions or interesting concepts for music. It's never a dull moment.


DK: What are some of the challenges you face as a freelance artist and how do you overcome them?


Emily: Expectation to work for free, to work for a small amount, or not paying you at all. The assumption that it is a hobby. The time management and the unbelievable amount of work it is running every aspect of your business, sometimes with little opportunity to be seen.


DK: What are your future goals and projects as an artist and illustrator?


Emily: I am currently working for a year self funded to concentrate on a series I've wanted to do but not had the time, and to re-shuffle my business a little. Next year I hope to return with an exhibition and some cool things to show you..... hopefully!


DK: Poetry and art can be a great tool for society and looking back at history. What do you think is the power of poetry - or any art - and what role do you believe artists have in modern society?


Emily: I think all creative industries are here to reflect the conversations of the time they live in, but, to also break down some of the colonial, patriarchal, fascist ideas about division which our creative practice is also subject to. Creativity can be profound comment on the world around us, it can change viewers or listeners lives and it can also be bold protest about how we are treated.


DK: How has your artwork evolved over time and in what ways do you see it continuing to evolve?


Emily: I have found with predominantly working on commissions that I have lost a sense of what makes me tick personally through my artwork. Whilst I've certainly sharpened my skills, I haven't stretched my voice into my work enough. That is what I'm hoping to do with the new work I'm creating.


DK: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?


Emily: I relax with two walks a day, seeing friends, listening to music, home made spa days in my bathroom and turning my phone off! Thanks for the opportunity to speak on your platform 🙂


If you have liked this interview and would like to see more interviews, please feel free to contact and share your thoughts. Also, if you know anyone who fits the category, and you think they'd be interested, let me know 🏳️‍🌈

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