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Artist in Residence: Emma Carlisle

Award-nominated children’s book illustrator, large-scale printmaker, abstract painter, lecturer and sketchbook enthusiast – giving one artistic title to all-round creative Emma Carlisle is selling her skills short. 

Her art hangs on the walls in The Living Space and in May she is our next Artist in Residence. We caught up to talk about her ever-evolving practice, nature as a tonic and what she’s bringing to the Lakes.

Emma Carlisle

Your work takes many creative forms, from children’s books to abstract landscapes, how would you describe your style?

I’m looking at my desk and it’s just really chaotic, there isn’t one stand-alone practice. My work is always evolving – and it’s definitely evolved since I created the large-scale prints for Another Place almost five years ago. Although the colours, shapes, textures and the experimentation with mark making you see in that work have never left my art. 

Can you tell us more about those pieces at Another Place? 

At the end of 2019, I created these big swooping landscapes inspired by Devon and Cornwall. Then I went to New Zealand to visit my brother, and that's when I started to see colour everywhere. I loved how the landscapes stretched right up into the sky – like the ones you'll see on the walls of The Living Space. All the work came together in these new abstract paintings, which combined my sketchbook drawings on the coast path in Devon and the influence from New Zealand; observing the colours, the shapes and my surroundings led to those pieces, which are really abstract.

Emma Carlisle's work in The Living Space

"A sketchbook feels safe because you can just close the book or turn the page"

Sketchbooks seem to be a key tenet of your practice. What is it that draws you to them?

I love that the sketchbook can mean a quick drawing on location or a long drawing you carry on afterwards. A sketchbook drawing can be a final piece of artwork that goes into a book or gets made into a print – there's so much versatility. Creating work in a sketchbook also feels really safe because you can just close the book or turn the page. All the artwork in my first book, What Do You See When You Look At A Tree, was created in a sketchbook.

Emma Carlisle on location drawing
Emma's sketchbook drawing on location

“The mix of walking and drawing outside healed me.

Your work seems to be deeply influenced by the outdoors. What is it about being surrounded by the elements that helps your creativity flow? 

I went through a difficult stretch in 2018, where nothing about my practice was making me happy. So I asked myself, “When was I last creatively content?” I remembered a project at university, where we had to go out drawing on location for six weeks. So I thought, why not try that?

I’d pack a lunch box, rucksack and sketchbook and hit the coast path. The mix of walking and drawing outside just healed me. By the end of six weeks, I was so much healthier, mentally and physically, and I thought, “let's just keep going”. It sounds clichéd, but there’s almost a spiritual connection between physically being somewhere and interpreting that experience on the page. I’m fascinated by it.

You have a really popular following on the Patreon platform. What is it about helping other people to find their creative side that you enjoy? 

When I'm teaching, the question I love asking people is, ‘What if?’ It helps people get over the barrier of being scared to ruin something, which creatively holds you back. Also, as an artist and a creative, you sometimes crave connection with others. You can make art in a bubble, but something special happens when you put all of those bubbles together – sharing knowledge, sharing things you enjoy, giving feedback….

“I’m going to treat this residency as a four-day artistic escape and I can’t wait.”

Your residency is coming up in May, what are you hoping to create during your stay? 

I'm really interested in how the grounds around Another Place and the Lakeland landscapes will inspire image-making – and how I’ll react to it. I don't have a strict set output, although we are talking about turning the work I make into a woven tapestry, which is something I’ve been experimenting with recently – I'm not just a printmaker, or a painter or an illustrator - and I’m trusting myself and the process that I will know what it’ll be when I get there. 

Selfishly, I'm excited about having time dedicated to drawing without interruptions. I spend lots of time teaching others, which I love, but, for instance, on the retreats I run, I often see lots of beautiful landscapes and I don’t have a chance to draw them. I have to sneak my sketchbook into meal times and draw people there. So I’m going to treat this as a four-day artistic escape and I can’t wait. I just want to sit outside and work.


Emma Carlisle drawing outside
Drawing materials
Emma Carlisle, drawing in nature

“I’ll be bringing a suitcase of stuff for people to play with – paints, markers, crayons and pastels.”

You’ll be putting on a workshop for people when you’re here. What can people expect from it?

Yes, we’re going to be doing an abstracted landscape workshop, held in The Glasshouse. We'll look at ways we can take what we can see around us and translate it into art. People will be able to take away two landscapes. All the materials will be provided, but I’ll also be bringing a suitcase of arty bits for people to play around with – paints, markers, crayons, pastels. You can get such a different result from each of those things. It'll be a nice chance for people to explore

The Glasshouse

Have you got any exciting projects in the pipeline?

I've got a picture book coming out in June called Time Runs Like a River. Making a children’s book is a huge project, they take so long – years, in fact. I’ve got another one on the go too, which will come out next year. Two years ago, I released What Do You See When You Look At A Tree, which was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize, and my new book sits alongside that. It's very much about mindfulness and connecting to nature. So it brings everything that I do in my location work back into my book work. 

Emma Carlisle

Emma Carlisle is the next creative to join us as Artist in Residence this May, where she’ll be drinking in the essence of Ullswater, chatting to guests and bringing her talents along for the trip. Keep an eye out for what Emma gets up to.

Images by Headcake Photo

From the blog

We caught up with large-scale printmaker, abstract painter, lecturer and sketchbook enthusiast, Emma Carlisle to talk about her recent residency at Another Place, The Lake
We caught up with Emma Carlisle before here Artist’s Residency here at Another Place, The Lake, this May, to talk about her ever-evolving practice, nature as a tonic and what she’s bringing to the Lakes.