When did you first travel to Africa?
In 2004 – when we took the children to South Africa and spent a few days in Cape Town, followed by a game reserve, then three days at Rorke’s Drift. My husband was born in Zambia, previously Northern Rhodesia, and he was very keen that the family should experience it for themselves. Besides, we brought up our children on a diet of David Attenborough documentaries so a visit was inevitable.
When did you realise that you wanted to be an artist?
I started painting late in life, about 10 years ago as a sort of ‘therapy’ for myself as we had a sick child and I needed to find something creative in which I could lose myself for a few hours each week. I joined an adult education art class and was given lots of encouragement by my teacher. I hadn’t painted at school so didn’t know how I would get on or if there was any talent lying dormant! The feedback from friends and connections in the industry was very positive so I held my first exhibition in 2012 and another last year in London. It has now taken over my life!
What is it about Africa that inspires you?
Those who have been to the African bush know what I mean when I say that it gets under one’s skin. The smells, sounds, skies, daybreaks and sunsets are breathtaking and in the midst of it all there are these glorious and majestic, yet supremely vulnerable, animals. The African people also inspire me; my interactions with them are always filled with delight, welcome and laughter.
Why has wildlife been the focus of your art? And what are some of the challenges you have faced in using animals as your models?
I have focused on African wildlife because that is what I feel most passionate about and interested in. So many of these creatures are under such tremendous threat and it is such a privilege to go out into the bush and record them. I do not have the luxury of time to sketch or paint but I have always been a very keen photographer and so try to capture as many as I can while on family holiday. There is only so much time I am allowed to spend on each shot before the family start getting restless! It can be very frustrating when the light on the animal is at the wrong angle and time is not on my side.
What is your favourite animal to paint?
The elephant for it’s sheer scale. Each part of it has such tremendous power. Last year I touched and ‘held’ a trunk for the first time and although I know that an elephant can knock down a tree with its trunk, it was, nevertheless, staggering to feel the strength in it. I love those magnificent ears that give off so many signals and the intelligent, all-knowing eyes.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
The process. The total immersion and concentration required. The overcoming of massive hurdles which always crop up but when I find a way through: that is particularly satisfying. As I mentioned earlier, it is also the removal of oneself from the hurly-burly of all the other strands of one’s life. The hours race away but I always come out of the studio feeling a lot more calm than when I entered.
Have you had any involvement with any African charities?
My husband and I support CAFOD, which is a major Catholic charity that does wonderful work in some of the poorest parts of Africa. They help build sustainable communities, provide education and medical aid. We also support ZANE, which helps people and projects in Zimbabwe. I have also supported the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundatoin and other conservation projects such as Tusk.
What are your interests outside of your art?
I thoroughly enjoy theatre and art galleries. We are spoilt for choice in London. I also play tennis and walk my dogs, the eldest of which is 17, so the walks are getting shorter!
Is your art available to buy?
My next exhibition will be in 2018. I also do commissions and have a studio in London; all the art is available to buy.
To see more of Emma’s art, visit www.emmapawleartist.com.