Tuesday, 7 November 2017

I'm published! Thank you all!

Well this morning I just want to say a huge thank you.

Thank you all for following over the years, for sharing and buying my work, for being there and egging me on.

Today sees the fulfilment of a dream, today my first children's book is published. Written by US author Jessica Reino, Symphony Hollow tells a tale of friendship, music, team work and a wonderful competition. It has been a joy to work with Callie my publisher and Jess too. I have learnt so much (the 'to do's and not to do's) and I'm sure I have been a pain with my questions and quest for the best quality, so thanks to Callie and Jess too.

The journey as illustrator has been a long one, I liken it to a game of snakes and ladders, the snakes are the rejections and there have been many, but you grow tough and move forward (with the hide of a rhino otherwise it can scupper a dream), but then there are the ladders... There have been a few this year, from being one of the finalists in the Stratford Literary Festival picture book competition to this...

Back in January of this year, I followed an agency in the US on Twitter, with view to submitting my work for representation, saying as I did so to my daughter ‘what have I got to lose?’ The next day I had a message from them saying that they wanted to introduce me to a new publisher, who were interested in my illustrations, was I interested?

Of course I said yes, introductions were made and a copy of the picture book story was emailed for me to read and make a decision. I fell in love with the characters in the story instantly and pictures soon formed in my head of how they would look, so that was it, I agreed to illustrate ‘Symphony Hollow’ written by Jessica Reino. I have been working closely with Jessica and Callie from Spork Publishing on developing the characters and page layouts.

I’m lucky, I love my job, it has taken many years to get to this point, many of which I had a ‘day job’ too, to make ends meet. But I have stuck at it, taken advice from many, changed and improved my style, always striving to be better, learning from those that have made a mark in the industry, studied how those great illustrators work, and putting my work out there. Rejection is hard, but learn from it, improve and then one day it won’t be a rejection.

Symphony Hollow is out today (7th November 2017) and available from Amazon (US) http://a.co/g8ryIgC          
Amazon (UK) http://amzn.eu/6ZjvwTO          
Barnes & Nobel https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/symphony-hollow-jessica-reino/1127079758?ean=9781946101471
and Clear Fork publishing https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/store/p98/SymphonyHollow

Follow Emma on facebook.com/emmagrahampics or view her work at www.egrahamillustrations.co.uk

Spork is the children's book imprint of Clear Fork Publishing. In business since 2009, Clear Fork's missions is to provide children's books that are unique and make children think. To find out more about Spork, Emma, Jessica and the book just take a look at Spork’s website https://www.clearforkpublishing.com

Friday, 2 September 2016

So what do you want to know?

I have nearly 1.5k followers on my facebook page, which is amazing, so many comment and like as I add new work. For me it's a quick platform to show what I'm working on as I'm creating them. Finished pieces get added to my website.
I read recently that art is not about the work but about the artist themselves, this got me thinking, yes maybe that is partly true. Ask 'Joe Blogs' in the street to name an artist and most likely they can, but can they name a piece of that artists' work...hmm not always so easy.

So I asked my 'followers' to post questions to get to know more about me as an illustrator/artist... so here we are, tried to put them in some logical order...

How old were you when you realised you had artistic talent?
That's an easy one. I came from a very creative family. Mum was an art teacher and artist and sold her work in Libertys and Harrods. Dad was a photographer. Nana a self taught artist. So it was inevitable I'd follow there somewhere. I always had art pads, pencils, crayons etc. And Mum, being a typical mum kept so many. I think at age 5 I did a small picture that Nana and Mum hung in an exhibition along side their work, it sold and yes at that age £5 for my little picture was a huge deal!

What artists inspired you?
So, so many! Family obviously, but they collected old childrens book and I grew up entranced by illustrators like Rackham, Nielson, Clarke. A family friend Victor Wood was a friend of Harry Clarke, always scared me, (he had a glass eye), but one day this amazing man took me to his back room studio, sat me down and taught me to draw folds of fabric. He was patient and kind and encouraging, and I still think of him when I draw fabric.
Modern day illustrators like Shaun Tan, Catherine Rayner, Anita Jeram, Mick Inkpen, and Nick Butterworth are just a few that inspire me, there are so many and yes despite my own children being in their 20's, I do still buy picture books. (this is just a very small selection!)

What's your most memorable moment as an artist?
Ah, one that was a huge turning point in my self confidence... a few years ago I was asked to exhibit in an exhibition to celebrate local children's book illustrators. I politely explained that I wasn't published, but they insisted that I show anyway. Along came preview day, some amazing illustrators were showing including Helen Oxenbury (We're going on a bear hunt), Margaret Tempest (Little grey rabbit, another big childhood influence) and the amazing Nick Butterworth. Wow I thought, there with such names, I expected my work tucked away from such greats, but no, to my huge honour my work was hanging alongside Nick's Percy the Park keeper! Yes I had a 'moment' totally amazed to be considered worthy enough, but like I say, it made me realise that yes maybe I was, am good enough.

What is your favourite/most treasured tool of your talent?
My old drawing board, my home made light box, sable brushes and my imagination...boy that sounds cheesy, but I'd be lost without it! oh and sketchbooks, always keep a sketchbook, I often refer back to old ones for ideas.

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
Inks. good quality inks, light fast ones. there are some out there that are not, see below as an example of poor light fastness (strips of colour were painted and half covered and left in daylight for a couple of months...scary hey? that could be your most prized piece of work faded!)

Inks are great for vibrancy of colour, transparent to build layers, which is what gives my work depth. I use them in a similar manner to watercolour but find the inks don't 'muddy' with over working.

Where do you find your inspiration from please?
Authors get "writers block" - do you ever have days when you just can't paint?
Random places for inspiration. A friend a while back posted a photo of her new old writing desk and it sparked an idea for a story (which I started to write) but the images of the mouse that lived secretly at the back of the drawer were so bold in my head. But it can be from snippets of news, nature, my local beach, comments from children, pretty much anywhere. And yes sometime I do get artist's block, those are turned into long walks in woods or the beach or sketching days, just sketch anything, and yes those days are frustrating but thankfully few. More often than not my head is too full of ideas.

What one thing would you like to accomplish before you die?
Ah that's easy, a picture book (many if possible) that is loved by children and parents, one that is read over and over and is dog eared and well loved. To be able to walk in to book shops and see my books on their shelves. I'm not bothered by making a fortune from it (good job as it's unlikely) just enough to pay the bills and be comfy but mainly the knowledge that my books are loved.
I working on it, Mouse's Star is coming on and I'm determined to get it published, it may take many rejections and heartache, but one day I hope to see my work in print.
Hey a girl can dream, working on fulfilling the dream isn't an easy path, but one I'm enjoying as I sit here in the peace of my studio and do what my heart screams to do. I have limited edition prints of some of my work for sale, along with originals. I take commissions and yes if you are an interested agent or publisher I'd love to hear from you!

twitter @bluebutterfly48

Friday, 24 June 2016

Pigs Go Wild!

Wow yet again I have been so head down with work, that I haven't blogged for ages, woops!
Well here I am with news of what I have been doing and how you can get involved too.
Towards the end of 2015 a call went out via local press and radio for local artists to get involved in a fabulous opportunity.

St Elizabeth Hospice has teamed up with Wild in Art to stage Suffolk’s biggest ever mass-participation, public art event – Pigs Gone Wild.

The interactive sculpture trail will feature 39 large pigs across Ipswich. This summer, from 27 June to 2 September, you will be able to follow the trail, collect points with our Pigs Gone Wild app and to try to see as many of the sculptures as possible.

The pigs, beautifully decorated by artists and generously sponsored by local businesses, will be on show for 10 weeks this summer. They will be joined by a sounder of junior pig sculptures designed by local school children and teachers, which will appear in litters across the town.

So not having ever done anything like this before (comfortable working 2d hand drawing at my trusty old fashioned drawing board) I decided to enter. I did 3 designs using my usual 'play on words' theme and entered 'Hamlet of Ipswich', 'Porkman Road' and 'Piggyback', then the long wait for Pigs Gone Wild to shortlist all the final submitted designs. A long wait, but worth it as my designs were selected and then in March (I think, it's all a blur!) these were then put forward for sponsors to select.

I was so chuffed when I got a call form the lovely Norman at PGW saying that Suffolk County Council wanted to commission me to design their own pig. 'Making a pig's year of it' was designed to celebrate the year of walking. This character pig is wearing seasonal footwear on his trotters and has a backpack filled with the things walkers should need and take on walks.

Well then a dear friend with a van (thank you Ruthy, something we will forever giggle about) and I went to collect the blank pig, it was like the Chuckle Brothers getting him in and out and into my not very big studio, but very funny to watch and painting of 'Wilbur' as we nicknamed him commenced. About half way through painting him Norman called again to tell me I had a sponsor for Hamlet, great I thought he will be fun to do too, so said yes of course.

So 'Wilbur' was finished and collected by Pippa and Jack only to be replaced with another blank pig. Hamlet was a challenge converting a simple 2d drawing of an Elizabethan ruff onto a 2m long 3d pig was with quotes and flowers and intricate detail, but I was so pleased with the result, but alas poor Yorick didn't make it on to the final design as we didn't want to upset any visitors.

Pretty much no sooner had I daubed my first dollop of paint on to him, did I get another call from Norman 'You have another pig!' he says excited down the phone, 'Ipswich Town football club want Porkman Road' (for those not footy fans ITFC's ground is down Portman Road... see what I did there?)
So like a weird case of deja vu, Hamlet left the building and blank 'porky' arrived, Pippa and Jack having got the hang of my narrow doorways!
'Porky' probably looked the simplest to create but painting I think is was 13 tiny Adidas logos on tiny trainers on pigs trotters possibly has to be the weirdest thing I have ever painted. Tiny fiddly hand drawn logos and matching the ITFC blue and the 2016/17 kit, 40 hours of painting later he was ready for collection.
So the three big pigs were done, normality resumed in the studio (sty as my hubby renamed it)
Time for normal artwork to resume I thought, then along trotted a mini pig. Holbrook Primary school children submitted their designs to school and I was asked to help with a final design and paint him. We took elements form many of the designs to wrap up in to Mr Hog (named after one of their teachers), he was then painted in 2 days at the Suffolk show with the help of some of the children. His design celebrates landmarks of this year and the Holbrook community.
So now here we are at the end of June and the pigs are varnished and ready to trot on to the streets of Ipswich on the 27th of June through to the 2nd September.
This is a wonderful opportunity to see amazing art on the streets of Ipswich over the summer.

There is a fantastic prize that everyone who completes the trail will be entered in to. It is a luxury family holiday break at Woodfarm Barns. For more information on this amazing prize just go to https://woodfarmbarns.com/pigs-gone-wild-suffolk

After you have enjoyed Pigs Gone Wild during its 10-week extravaganza, the large pig sculptures will be auctioned to raise funds for St Elizabeth Hospice.

So please come along during those few weeks in the summer and enjoy the wonders of this trail and the amazing hard work that has gone into the decoration of the pigs and the organization of this great event, and help support your local hospice.

For further details go to www.pigsgonewild.co.uk and keep watching out in the local press too.

And if you want to see the photos of the pigs I have painted and the time lapse films of their creations, check in to https://www.facebook.com/3ipswichpigsbyemma and please do share your selfies there of you and my pigs! Hope you all enjoy the trail, it will be wonderful.

The Pigs Gone Wild app will be available to download from both Apple and Android stores, from next week. The trail map is being distributed to a long list of locations today and the beginning of next week and is available to down load here...


Pigs Gone Wild Official Sticker books will also be available to buy in all local East of England Co-op stores.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

House of Illustration fair

All super busy here in the studio in the run up to Christmas. Leading on from opening my studio in June with Suffolk Open Studios, many of my visitors asked to come back near Christmas, so this Sunday 22nd November and again on 6th December I will again be opening my studio door for visitors, from 10am to 4pm. It's a great chance for people who follow me and my work to come and take a look around my small studio, browse through sketchbooks, see my folios of work, and have a chance to buy my work. It also is a great opportunity for me to meet those wonderful people who support me, either through their kind comments or by buying my work and commissioning pieces.
There will be originals, prints, cards, mugs, hand painted decorations and gifts to buy, so hopefully you will find an ideal unusual pressie.

But it is still head down and on with work, as I have been accepted (along with my daughter Lizzy, 3rd year illustration BA at NUA) to have an exhibit/stall at the wonderful House of Illustration Christmas illustrators fair at kings Cross in London on 12th December. We are so excited to be part of this, a great opportunity to showcase what we do to likeminded art lovers. It sounds like it's going to be a big event, over 100 illustrators plus workshops too. I will of course have various things for sale, plus a sketchbook on the go, as I always do at fairs (people do love to see work in progress) a couple of folios too. Lizzy will be showing and selling her stunning floral prints and colouring in books (yes she's on the band wagon so to speak, but her floral line work really suits these mini books). But mainly for her it will be the experience to be in a hub for her future industry, you never know who may pick up a business card and I know her work will blow your socks off! I will be so proud to have her with me. Lizzy is the 4th generation to be arty, My mum Liz Hubbard, did machine embroidery and sold at Libertys and Harrods, and her mum Mary Robertson was a renowned oil painter and highly collected especially in North Norfolk. Our work is so very different to each other, but Lizzy has an eye for botanical art like my mum did. So do excuse me at the fair if I'm doing the proud mum thing!
the fair is free entry, so do pop by and take a look and support the creative arts, buy something individual, hand crafted, or limited edition.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

An illustrators admiration of others

 It's been a long time since writing again.
When I heard about this I knew that the good part of me should ask for it for Christmas, but the eager impatient child in me knew there was simply no way I could wait and I'm am just so glad I ordered it.

Oh how I wish I'd been at the House of Illustration the other night for the launch of the fully illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, illustrated by Jim Kay. However I got tucked up early last night and devoured the book, the story we all know and love (I'm busy working on a new project and listening to them all on audio book, wonderful to work to), but Jim's re-imaginings are superb. The detail, colour, mark making and for me his superb use of theatrical light and darkness are just breath taking. 'Snape' made me gasp when I got to him, and 'Fluffy' well those noses are just perfect! He has simply woven his own illustrational magic into every image. It's a masterpiece. Very inspiring and there's a part of me that wishes I was a child again so I could read it under the covers. Spine tinglingly beautiful!

So duly inspired and in awe of such creations, I head back to my studio to paint.

I'm not going to post any pics, a copyright thing, but mainly a 'go out and buy it' thing, really you won't regret it!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Getting ready...where do I start?

Again it has been too long since I was last here. However I have been planning and creating, reading, more planning and just a teeny bit of panicking too!
I have signed up for the Suffolk Open Studios and will join nine other talented locals on the Shotley Peninsula Trail. We are eclectic bunch of creatives, producing a wide range of beautiful things.

This has lead to a revamp of a much under used dining room into a smart and welcoming extended studio space, a space to hang and display work. The walls got a splash of bright white, a nice new carpet and good lighting. That's the easy bit. I'm now frantically painting pieces to sell and reproduce as prints (large order placed with a fantastic print maker). This is one that I have sent to print, that will be hand finished with elements of gold... 'Dragon's Hoard'

I am juggling these pieces in with commissioned work, reading new novels for which I will be illustrating the covers, planning fairs to attend, making items, using my illustrations, to sell and all the while new book images and ideas are popping into my head and saying 'paint me!'

Well by the end of a day my brain is frazzled and I'm managing all this is with post it notes, planning on my calender and squeezing in the sketching between waiting for 'yays or nays' from customers and getting on with artwork, but as ever I'm feeling that I need more time to create all the things that are lurking in my head and longing to be on paper

I love this image used by Mecedes it just sums up a creative mind.
There are sketchbooks on the go, filling up with characters, notebooks of story ideas, big projects, little projects. And then, don't you just know it, the sun comes out, and the garden calls too, and the beach and the woods, all that places that inspire.

How to balance it all? I wish I knew! But one thing I do know, going full time freelance was the best decision I have made with my career, I'm now asking 'why didn't I bit the bullet years ago and listen to my creative heart?' OK so it doesn't pay big bucks, but for me it is all about doing what I love, as long as I earn enough to pay the bills, then I'm happy.

Now then....where's that paint brush?.....

Check out the artists on the local Open Studio trail and hope to see some of you on the first two weekends on June.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


As artists we expected to have our own 'style' something that is recognisably ours. I look about my fellow creatives and see that yes, each and every one is very individual and very talented.

My own style is something that if I'm honest, I struggle with. My brain is so full of pictures I want to paint, many many characters to create and bring to life and places I want to capture in my own way. But I just simply cannot keep to one style, it would bore me. I continue to experiment with media and styles and find still that some things work for one image and yet not for another.

As you will see from the following, my work varies considerably from fine tiny detail in my 'Small Worlds' to highly detailed works for classic stories and poems, to simpler that fit well with characters.
Southwold World - Ink on Bockingford paper

The Owl and the Pussycat -  inks, acrylics and colour pencil on Bockingford paper

There's not mush-room under here - ink on Bockingford paper

See they are all so different, I think they are obviously mine from the use of bright colours, but style wise so diverse. My question is, should I be sticking to just one style? Am I wrong to be so varied? I have had various opinions on this and recently found this article about artists styles, but it left me with more questions than answers.


So what do I do to get my work seen and used in the highly competitive market? My heart says carry on, style and taste are so personal to the artists and the viewer. I don't want to 'specialise' in one style, I want to continue to be vibrant and varied and to cater for many tastes. But does this narrow or broaden my market? For publishing, probably one looks better, but for my customers, well they seem to like a bit of variety.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments, I am interested in seeing your opinions.