Emma Butcher is an artist and illustrator who works on book and editorial projects, alongside her personal practice of painting. She is interested in visual storytelling, atmosphere, psychology and place. Mysterious and evocative, much of her work is set during the nocturnal hours and occupies liminal spaces such as shore and coastlines, windows and caves. Her work is poetic and ambiguous, a play with what is seen and unseen. She graduated from MA Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth University in 2018.
What degree or MA did you do, where and when did you complete? Tell us a bit about your story so far…
I graduated from MA Illustration: Authorial Practice in 2018 from Falmouth University. My return to Cornwall and MA study was to reconnect with myself and my creative practice after a few years of working in arts education. I loved my time on the MA, it was an unique, immersive course with wonderful tutors. My work has rapidly developed and I began to work smaller in scale and discovered a love for sequential, visual-narrative and the book form. Since starting the course my work has been published by the National Trust, Atlantic Press, independent magazines and recently the audiobook app Audrey.
Tell us about your art practice
I’m an illustrator who makes narrative, painterly artwork for books and editorial illustrations. My personal art practice of painting and drawing runs alongside my commercial work and they both feed into and inspire one another. Psychological and atmospheric, much of my work is set during the nocturnal hours and occupies liminal spaces such as shore and coastlines, windows and caves. My imagery is poetic, ambiguous and mysterious; playing with what is seen and unseen.
Tell us about the studio where you work
My studio is at Gray’s Wharf, an arts venue in Penryn which houses exhibitions, creative workshop space and studios. I share a studio with 5 other creatives. It’s wonderful to be able to work in a studio environment again, which is an aspect from my MA that I really missed.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a series of paintings and a new graphic novel set in Kent. I’m also working on my commercial work and portfolio for editorial and book projects.
What help have you had through Cultivator so far?
Cultivator’s support has been fundamental to help me expand my business, push past self-inflicted boundaries and grow as an artist. I have been awarded a place on the Graduate Peer Network, which included funding for a studio and a 9 month program with 9 other recent graduates, filled with creative workshops, networking events, exhibition planning and conversation. I also have been funded to have mentoring sessions with the fantastic Eleanor Taylor, who is one of my favourite illustrators. Ellie is providing guidance on how to run a freelance illustration business, work with art directors and respond to editorial and commercial illustration briefs. I have also attended regular workshops facilitated by Cultivator, such as developing business skills, articulation of our work, confidence and mindset sessions, how to approach galleries, and marketing and social media. My favourite has been a workshop with poet Ella Frears, who guided us in writing poetry and incorporating creative writing into our practice.
What would you say about the Cultivator support so far?
Cultivator support has been fantastic, especially in my time returning to work after maternity leave and connecting back to my practice and the creative community. My Creative Business Advisor Olivia Berwick has been a great support and we meet monthly, which is brilliant for accountability, advice and networking. I would not have met so many of the brilliant people here locally and been able to set myself up in a studio so quickly. The networking and support has helped me feel more rooted in Cornwall and connected to the creative community.
What drives you?
A love of painting and visual storytelling, and a deep-rooted desire to create. My love of atmospheric landscapes and a fascination with the night.
What is next?
I’d love to participate in a residency somewhere wild and remote, to collect/record imagery for a new book, and to keep working on more editorial and book projects.