Interview with an Artist: Emma Carter

Emma Carter, an artist with long connections to Burgh Island in Devon who specialises in acrylics and oils, discusses her inspirations, her artistic past, and how the variety of the Devon landscape fuels her work.

Johanna Mason-Laurence: How did we meet?

Emma Carter: You came to a private view a few years ago for an exhibition I had curated for the old gallery at Dartington Hall.

JM-L I remember that and thinking, yes we definitely should stay in touch! So, what brought you to Devon?

EC I was born in London but we have a family home on Burgh Island and I have been going there for 43 years. It’s a very special place to me. It’s home.

J M-L So this is why you are known as the ‘Island Artist’?

EC Absolutely! I wanted to be by the sea permanently after travelling the world twice alone.  I wanted to put down proper roots after five years out of bags. So I came to live here.  

M-L How has living in Devon changed or developed your style?

EC Well originally I specialised in photography and installation art, really quite conceptual stuff.  I love the variety of landscape in Devon. I appreciate the local beaches, secluded coves, wide sweeping sands, the moors, the streams and rivers; It all goes in, like a constant flow of stimulation, eventually it comes tumbling out in a creative way.

J M-L How long do you spend creating in a typical day?

EC Every day a few hours, sometimes for much longer if I am caught up in a creative whirl.

J M-L What inspires you?

EC The sea, the elements, the tide, fields, wildlife, good food, little pubs, beach huts, boats, people’s stories, films, philosophy, psychology, kindness.

J M-L Who inspires you?

EC Most people. Artistically, Titian, Rembrandt, Monet, Whistler, Van Gogh, Hepworth and Turner.

J M-L Tell me why you like to work in your particular medium.

EC I love to use acrylics and oils. They are messy, fluid, mesmerising and adaptable which perfectly suits the spontaneity of my style and the sheer energy of the sea and sky.

J M-L Tell me about your subject matter.

EC It’s all about the forces of nature, capturing the feeling of being completely enveloped on a windy beach, Burgh island, the South West.

J M-L How would you describe your approach to your art?

EC Being an artist isn’t just about being a painter for me. It’s being lucky enough to be able to visually represent a feeling of a place. Being out there amongst it all. It takes time, I need to soak it all up and immerse myself in it. I have to feel it to paint it, if I don’t the paintings would feel like a fake, a fraud. My paintings might not be that realistic, a true representation of a place, in fact there is more and more abstraction in my seascapes than ever, but they are true to an essence of a place.

JM-L So Devon really has got in to your soul!

EC Although a wiser person could intellectually decipher far better than me, I do know what I am today. I’m a watcher of tides, of seasons, of the change of light throughout the year. I’m a watcher of the cycle of trees, the flight of birds, the plight of men harnessing the power of the wind in a small sailboat. All these bring me joy and a deep satisfaction and I hope that shows in my pieces.

J M-L Silly question….where do you go to think?

EC  Burgh Island.

J M-L Of course! Do you see yourself living in Devon forever?

EC  Well, we all yearn to be free spirits and carefree, a little wild from time to time. Devon is great for this.  Artists by their nature have intrigue and natural curiosity. I have wanderlust in my veins for sure but for now Devon is still a treasure trove to be explored. The call of new wild places may come in the future, who knows?

J M-L Tell me something about yourself that has nothing to do with art.

EC Last year I was invited to Berlin to present a workshop at The World Congress for Transactional Analysis.  I work as a trainer at BMW inspiring others to think creatively, helping them to express themselves through art and transactional analysis and to find their creative mojo. I love it! It’s so rewarding and stimulating and goes hand in hand with my painting as I show people the power of art.

I have the best job in the world!

J M-L Well, I didn’t expect that!