Emma Brown caught our attention when she tweeted a video of her drawing project in Warrington for the First World War Centenary. We found out a bit more about the project and her art practice.
Tell us about the idea your project in Warrington for the First World War Centenary?
The idea for the project came last year after I completed a window mural at Pyramid & Parr Hall in Warrington. This mural was also focused on the First World War with over 150 hand-drawn illustrations capturing scenes from all over the world. The idea to take the project further and produce another two murals and an exhibition came about from the encouragement of the Cultural Engagement Team at Culture Warrington – they backed the idea from the start and encouraged me to apply for financial support through Arts Council England. The first window was a success and it seemed like a natural move to continue with the ‘live art’ format; the idea for the exhibition of animated work stemmed from my passion for animation; I wanted to use ‘My Subject is War’ as an opportunity to further my animation skills and experiment.
For the content I wanted to keep the focus local, Warrington made significant contributions to the war effort through industry and a number of Red Cross hospitals were set up in the area taking in thousands of patients during the war period. I wanted to celebrate this effort and encourage the people of Warrington to think about their local and family history and how this has impacted on their lives. I carried out workshop sessions with local groups at the beginning of the project providing residents with an opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas on the subject.
The input of Culture Warrington and Warrington Borough Council has been integral to ‘My Subject is War’ and the project has been supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Where have you been drawing so far?
In March I carried out a one day ‘live art’ session at Contact Warrington in the town centre; these drawings were part of an installation combining printed vinyl with hand-drawn illustrations.
What have you been drawing?
So far I’ve been drawing scenes of nurses and patients from Red Cross hospital Raddon Court and the decorated Broadbent Sisters who ran the hospital, land girls from Hatton, the workers from Rylands and Whitecross Wireworks, drill sessions taking place in front of the town hall. The drawings are all from photographs collated by Culture Warrington’s Heritage and Archive Team and contributed by Bewsey Local History Society.
What can people expect from the live art events taking place in April and May?
The ‘live art’ events in April and May will provide an opportunity to see inside the creative process. I’ll be starting with two completely blank panes of glass which I’ll be completing over four sessions (24 and 25 April and 8 and 9 May). The public will gain an insight into the way that I work on glass, how I’ll be planning out the layout and the way that I build up the drawings using line and tone. During the creation of the first mural at Pyramid & Parr Hall a lot of the public were surprised that the work was actually being hand-drawn by a real person and this interest was something that stuck with me while I was planning ‘My Subject is War’. I think it’s really important for the public to see the process from start to end – it’s more engaging when you can see the artist at work.
What materials have you used for the project and how did you find using them?
For the ‘live art’ I’ve been using Posca pens which are great for working on glass – there’s quite a wide range of colours however I’ve stuck to a limited palette to keep the illustrations simple. I find them really comfortable to work with as I usually draw in pen at home so it’s not too much of a change.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Outside of ‘My Subject is War’ I’m inspired by collections of objects or creatures, landscapes and food however my biggest influence comes from storytelling. I enjoy starting a project with a narrative and working out how to transform the words into a visual output. I think this is why I enjoyed looking into Warrington’s First World War history; there are so many interesting stories about ordinary people and it’s really exciting for me to be able to interpret those stories through the illustrations and animation.
Which artists and illustrators do you admire?
Charles Keeping, Eric Carle, Graham Sutherland, Lotte Reiniger, Joseph Cornell and Judith Kerr are all favourites of mine.
Which illustration that you have made are you most proud of?
I think I’d have to choose the window mural at Pyramid & Parr Hall (‘The First World War: 100 Years) and the ‘My Subject is War’ vinyl installation at Contact Warrington. Both of these pieces stand out to me because they were so challenging. Both are large scale pieces of work – sizes that I never imagined being able to work to when I was starting out and for both illustrations I learnt new skills and working methods that have been invaluable.
Do you have any advice for illustrators starting out?
Be very patient! Work hard, persevere, stick to deadlines and be flexible. One commission leads to the next if you put in the time and effort but it does take a long time to build up momentum.
What’s next for you?
The next step is completing ‘My Subject is War’ so in addition to the two ‘live art’ sessions taking place at Golden Square I’ll be creating an animation recognising the efforts made by Warrington in the First World War. This will be exhibited from 18 July to 29 August at Pyramid & Parr Hall.
Where can people see your work?
‘The First World War: 100 Years’ window mural is on display at Pyramid & Parr Hall, Palmyra Square South, Warrington.
‘My Subject is War’ installation is at Contact Warrington, Horsemarket Street, Warrington.
‘Live art’ sessions taking place on 24 and 25 April and 8 and 9 May will be at Golden Square, Warrington and the artwork will remain on display after completion.
‘My Subject is War’ animation exhibition at Pyramid & Parr Hall will run from 18 July – 29 August.
My work is also available to view online at emmabrownowl.com
Image Credit: Tony Culpin