by Emma Kerridge
A selection of work used to raise money for the wildlife garden
I have drawn for as long as I can remember. I have also always loved stationary and can remember promising my Mum that I really needed that extra pencil or pen because I didn’t have one exactly like that in my ever-growing collection. Well, we’ve all been there right? It wasn’t until taking my GCSE Art at 15 that I found professional colored pencils and it was down to my art teacher Moya Quinn. I am still friends with Moya, and I asked her why she put that first box of pencils in front of me. She said, ‘You dithered so badly with a paintbrush that I just couldn’t bear it any longer,’ so colored pencils were chosen and I have never looked back.
Fast-forward 6 years, I found myself volunteering at a local wildlife garden. This was after fighting with my college to let me do art and them declaring me far too academic to do an arts subject, thus advising me to follow a solely scientific route. This progressed onto a Masters degree in Biology and Geology where I only completed scientific illustrations whilst studying. At the garden, I met a fabulous lady called Pam, and we discovered we both liked art, so we decided to use our love of creating art to raise money for the garden. This got me back into drawing regularly. I created the art name ‘Elkie Wild Art’ - from my initials E.L.K, and my passion for the natural world.
The break through piece: Pinkenba – The Place of Turtles
I spent a few years trying to draw wildlife realistically, striving for that photorealism that colored pencil art has become known for. I found each piece a disappointment and the process of drawing stressful as I felt it was never quite good enough. I wasn’t drawing what I was observing in the reference, instead I was adding in what I saw in my mind. This was probably the first clue that striving for perfect photorealism wasn’t for me, I mean what does perfect really mean anyway? This is not to say that I do not admire those that can do it, I mean wow, what some people can do with a pencil is phenomenal, it just didn’t get my art juices flowing! I found myself losing the love for creating art and felt something had to change.
During this time I started my business, the Coloured Pencil Shop. It began with just one brand: Prismacolor. The first box of pencils that Moya put in front of me, was in fact Karisma made by Berol Sanford in the U.K. Just after I started using them, they went out of production, and became Prismacolor, manufactured in the U.S. My first box of Prismacolor came back to the U.K in a friend’s suitcase, because at the time you couldn’t get them in this country. In 2014, I decided to import them into to the U.K., and this began a business that supplies all the major brands all over the world. I now have a ‘Pencil Room,’ so I am surrounded by colored pencils every day.
Examples of Dotilism, Islamic Geometry and my latest piece ‘Not Just A Drop In The Ocean’ completed for the Sketch for Survival campaign
In June 2016, I joined the executive committee of the UK Coloured Pencil Society and helped with their design work of printed media. I am still involved to this day and have now become the Chair. Their annual exhibition in 2017 was in the Menier Gallery in London and I decided I wanted to enter. I knew that if I tried to do something realistic, I just wouldn’t be able to compete with the really high standard the other artists could produce. This wasn’t in a beat myself down defeatist kind of way, I just wanted to do something different. So I decided to do something completely creative, and I think that was my break-through piece. Called ‘Pinkenba – The Place of Turtles’ it was mainly pattern work, with a modern aboriginal vibe but still focusing on my love for the natural world. The piece actually sold and went all the way to Japan. I couldn’t believe it! And the crux of the matter was, I enjoyed the process of creating it. This was far more ‘me’ than any piece I’d created before, and it came completely from my mind. I was so genuinely over-joyed by the thought that I didn’t have to keep striving for realism to create art, that it opened a whole new world of possibilities. I started to look at things differently, see patterns rather than the reality. Everything became so much more colourful and much more interesting. It was like the shackles had been blown off and I could do anything I wanted to do. This might not seem like a revelation for many of you that creative art is possible, but coming from a scientific background where everything must be drawn accurately and to scale, it was my ‘eureka’ moment.
I have now completely embraced pattern work and have been looking at Islamic Geometry and the art of Dotilism recently. I mentioned this to Moya, and she said ‘this was what you were interested in at school, you have come full circle,’ and I realized she was indeed correct!
I suppose my message is, there is actually no right and wrong in art – it took me so long to realize that. Don’t put pressure on yourself that every piece is your next greatest masterpiece - I was guilty of that too. Trying to be completely creative means that not every piece goes exactly to plan or how you first envisage it, the piece evolves, so if you do decide to embrace the creative, enjoy the process and who knows what you could produce.
Emma Kerridge is the owner of the Coloured Pencil Shop and Elkie Wild Art. She specializes in wildlife art, influenced by pattern. She is the current Chair of the UK Coloured Pencil Society.