Welcome Emma-Leone Palmer

The world may feel increasingly overwhelming right now but Spring is officially in the air and that is always worth a little celebration. So to lighten the mood and give us a much needed break from the news here are a few insights into the world of the wonderful Emma-Leone Palmer. 

After graduating with a fine art degree Emma moved to Umbria in Italy, where her love of figurative painting blossomed at a studio once used by the High Renaissance painter Raphael. (Raphael (Raffaello Santi) was born in Urbino where his father, Giovanni Santi, was court painter.

Emma went on to hold many successful solo exhibitions and appear as a contestant on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, where she painted British film star Richard E. Grant. Her work and commissions are held in collections around the world. 

H: What was your first ever experience of ‘art’?
Emma: Not sure… so I called my mum, and here’s what she said:
Mum...... At 2.5 years I was taken to Arundel festival and there was an art exhibition. From that moment, I started saying I was going to be a painter and that was that. Shortly after I started school, my parents were called by the school psychologist to arrange a meeting and were completely freaked out. Apprehensively they went and when they arrived, they were told not to worry but just to nurture my creativity. Apparently I refused to draw stick men! 

H: What inspires you?
Emma: People – in their raw emotional, wild, playful, desperate, crazy, real element. Colour, light, those elusive ‘real’ moments in time, connection, energy, grungy beauty, a colour combination, a twinkle in an eye… The alchemy of paint in itself inspires me – slick and soft, lush and vibrant between your fingers, the way the colours blend and dribble and merge. Getting the image in my head on that canvas, the urge to create, the pleasure of getting that highlight that makes it ‘pop’, the challenge of getting an emotion down. It’s freaking tops when you stand back and look at a painting... and it looks straight back at you!

Gold Paint Play - Emma-Leone Palmer

H: What does your work aim to say? 
Emma:  It aims to capture these passages. Like a magpie, I collect the twinkly bits – the shiny highlights, the light reflections, flickers, feathers... Like a child, imagination just wants to play. I cherish sensation.. So, for me it seems quite natural to put together these ‘ingredients’ in Paint Play. I like to say I paint ‘expressions’ – large-scale portraits with a twist. Not just what is on the aesthetic surface but a dialogue about what’s underneath. We all have an infinite number of individual interactions between our inner dialogue and our outward portrayal. I shy away from being pigeon-holed as a ‘portrait artist’, not least as it conjures up images of stuffy busts (not what I’m about). The ‘Paint Play’ series uses paint, lube, glitter and water, amongst other things, which are smeared, dripped, flicked and splashed onto the face as a prop to trigger honest reactions. LET IT OUT... for me there is simply no interest in painting ‘bowls of fruit’ but living, breathing, characterful human beings… Give me gutsy, give me energy, show me your different sides.

Which current art world trends are you following? 
Emma: Can I say I look at how rife the market is with recycled pop art and fake graffiti with a kind of morbid fascination…? 

Paint Play Lips - Emma-Leone Palmer

 Tell us about your process.
Emma: When finding imagery to paint, I instigate a ‘scenario’ for my models, quite organically allowing them to explore the texture, feel and sensations of the chosen medium, using it as a prop, to trigger these vulnerabilities and expressions, regardless of whether it’s in a serious, sensual, crazy, sexy, playful, spiritual, childlike fabulous manner. It has not been exclusive to paint either: glitter, ice-cream, chocolate, mud and petals have been added to the mix. In documenting the session with a photoshoot, I find that the end result is not predetermined but discovered. After days of editing and reflection, eventually a few images gel with me – much like falling in love. In my studio, I make and stretch all my own canvases and my paintings are created using, where possible, English paint and mediums. The energy of the Paint Play session comes through in the marks I make using brushes, rags and fingers. 

Below: Violet Yellow Paint Play Framed Limited Edition.
Violet Yellow Paint Play - Emma-Leone Palmer

H: What would be your dream commission?
Emma: If the solar system is the limit... I would have my work on the side of a spaceship! 

H: Where does your interest in art come from? 
Emma: My earliest memories are of me with a paintbrush in my hands or drawing on my bedroom wall… simple… I paint because that is who I am. It’s less of an interest and more of an innate obsession. My grandfather was a cabinet maker and silversmith and my father, a surveyor, liked to draw delicate miniatures, so maybe I partially inherited it, not that there is anything miniature about my large canvases!

Dioxazine Purple Paint Play - 170cm x 120cm
Dioxazine Purple Paint Play | Emma-Leone Palmer

H: How do you deal with creative block?
Emma: One of the major challenges I have, like any creative mind, is that it is hard to pull it out of the bag every day. It is a Sisyphean journey. It takes discipline to continue exploring and pushing yourself. Music in large doses is like vitamins for the flow-state. Even though you need to ride these waves, you also need to know when to sit still with a piece and just breathe. When the pesky ‘block’ shows its teeth, all else failing, it’s time to take myself away from the studio and do something totally different… before I start ruining canvases (yes some have been slashed and burnt (I know, I know… *shameful head shake*). Ideas come when the mind wanders. My favourite space to daydream is in an indulgent sauna.  

H: If you could make a list of your favourite contemporary artists, who would you pick?
Emma: Hard question, as it changes daily. Often it is not just about the voice, subject matter or techniques of others but how they live their reality. Currently a few faves are: Tishk Barzanji, Faith XLVII, Marilyn Minter, Justin Mortimer, Jenny Morgan, Tom French (may his work live on)

H: What are you working on next?
Emma: My new series is a large-scale figurative canvases exploring our personal relationship to energy, darkness and light, both physically and allegorically.

Outside of art what makes you the happiest?
Emma: Listening to music and dancing like I don’t care.

Below: Red Right Hand Inspired by the song of the same name by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Red Right Hand - Emma-Leone Palmer

H: Do you have a creative hero? & Who are your biggest influences?
Emma: My creative hero and biggest influence will always be an artist called Chris Lovell. I inherited his easel and his paint brushes will forever stand in a pot in my studio, reminding me to live and love and paint my heart out. 

H: How would your friends describe you?
FRIEND: ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’
Emma:: Lame get-out answer Ellie!
FRIEND: Emma is loyal, kind and clever… but that’s the sort of thing you could say about any good friend. Emma stands out because she is imbued with a white-hot and crackling sort of energy that draws you in from the moment you meet her. You can literally see the inspiration not just for art, but for life, radiating from her. She can always come up with the best ideas for something a bit out of the ordinary to do. But you need to watch out, because she is a terrible and incurable food thief – she will literally grab things off your plate while you’re eating them, so guard your chips!!!

H: We are bombarded everyday by bad news, what one thing would you change in the world if you could?
Emma: More good news! We are surrounded by so much beauty on this planet; it is everywhere, so let’s look after it, revel in it and encourage it to grow. Get off your digital devices, stop constantly comparing yourself to others and grumbling – look in the eyes of the people you meet and create your own GOOD news: good stories of happiness and humility … and let it be perpetuated: real time; here and now.

Emma's Original and Limited Editions are available to purchase here 

1 comment

  • I have been friends with Emma for over a decade, she is an amazing artist who never stops moving me , her art is from her heart which shows in all her work , the light , the movement and the soul , you feel the emotion , plus I love her dearly

    Val Goddard

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