Emma Carlisle is the latest artist to join the Byre Gallery's 'stable' and her stunning coastal inspired work has won her many fans this winter. We're very much looking forward to having a new collection from Emma later in 2022, but for now she is sharing some of the pages from her sketch books - and her favourite spots in the south west.
Based in Plymouth, Emma lectures at the University as well working as an artist and illustrator. Her work is primarily concerned with the landscape she encounters in Devon and Cornwall, a subject that allows her to revel in colour and expressive marks in pencil, watercolour, gouache and acrylic. A burst of abstract, dynamic marks often becomes the land on which a small cottage or tree sits upon. A dedicated user of social media, Emma has garnered a very impressive 44k Instagram followers thanks to her frank disclosures about her creative thoughts and processes.
Favourite destination in the south west?
I love the south coast of Devon, it changes so dramatically - Beer's white cliff edges, Brixham's brightly coloured fishing boats, the curves of the coast line around Dartmouth and the rocky outcrops just outside of Salcombe, it's my favourite spot and can’t wait to explore more of it this year!
We swam a lot during the summer from Dawlish. My boyfriend lives just outside Exeter so every time we had a sunny evening we’d pack a bag with sketchbooks, towels and snacks and stay on the beach until the red cliffy rocks cast a shadow across us. Although its not the most beautiful beach its a lovely spot to swim from, especially for someone like me who feels a little nervous in the water.
Favourite place to go for a walk?
We picked up a couple of circular route walking books recently and even when we’re flicking through them I’m always drawn to the South West Coast Path. I’d love to walk more of it this year and have already been on one stretch of it around Dartmouth. Theres something really special about walking a path which connects up to the whole of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. Ask me in a few months and I’m sure my answer will have changed! (Especially as we’ve just ordered another circular routes book which also includes pubs!)
Most inspiring place to visit as an artist?
I took my friend Frances Ives to Lands End when she came to visit last summer. We stopped at Penzance on the way down to visit some friends and it meant we arrived at the hotel very late but it meant we were greeted with the most insane sunset which I’ve thought about often since then, the memory of it looks and feels like candy floss. Although the hotel itself is surrounded by touristy bits we managed to squeeze in some early morning drawing just after breakfast and before the crowds arrived. Then we drove up the coast and perched next to Pendeen Lighthouse and finished the day with a sunset drawing at Gwithian. The trip has inspired lots fo work since and even scrolling through my phone just now to make sure I got the locations right made me realise how important those inspirational trips are.
Where would you take a visitor to?
In the summer when Frances came to stay we headed straight to the beach with our sketchbooks for a draw and a sea swim. Later on in the week we visited Brentor and drew from the top by the Church, we didn’t realise it at the time but were drawing during a service and its the first time I’ve ever drawn whilst listening to bells ringing and a choir singing, beautiful. When my Mum and Dad visited last Christmas we picked up sandwiches from The Ginger Cat Deli in Exminster and then drove out to Meldon Reservoir to do the circular route across Meldon Viaduct - well wort a trip if you have people visiting.
Where do you go to get away from it all?
When I used to need a break I’d walk the coast path from Plymouth to Kingsand / Cawsand (catching the Cremyll Ferry to cross the Tamar) It's such a lovely walk which gives you a little bit of everything, you can hear waves crashing, birds singing and, if you’re lucky, you might spot a deer or two if you walk back across the park.
Best spot for a picnic and what would you take to eat?
We recently invested in a thermos flask and have spent this Christmas break going on really blustery cold walks with our sketchbooks and then rushing back to the car to get warmed up with a sandwich and a mug of tea, there’s nothing better! Oh and my mum made me some vegan fudge for Christmas and I’m going to have to convince her to make some more because it was a perfect snack for during and after a walk.
Favourite cafe or pub?
We sometimes like to combine a nice walk with a pub visit (see previous question where I mentioned the book which is on the way about the circular pub walks!) Before Christmas we did a walk around Lydford Gorge but stopped at The Castle Inn first which did the best vegan curry. We got a voucher to spend there for Christmas so we’ve already thinking about another trip, possibly to stay so we can do some longer walks around the area and then sit by the fire and enjoy a couple of drinks!
Favourite place to go for a celebration night out?
We took my mum and dad to The Bull Inn in Totnes a few weeks ago as they were visiting Devon for a long weekend. I love how much veg is on the menu and it was such great atmosphere. Again we were lucky enough to get a voucher for Christmas so we’re hoping to get back really soon.
What do you miss most about the south west when you’re away?
The sea! I grew up in Malvern in Worcestershire (which couldn’t get more landlocked) and spent two years in Cambridge when I was studying an MA and I missed the sea so much. I think its why I can’t seem to be too far away from it and why it features in my work regularly. I love watching a wave as far as I can see it until it crashes on the shore, so relaxing.
Devon or Cornwall? Go on, nail your colours to the mast!
I used to love Cornwall, if you’d asked me a few years ago I would have said Cornwall without even thinking about it. But over the last few years I’ve been staying closer to home and exploring what’s on my doorstep, Devon is so beautiful and has amazing hidden places to explore. I can’t ever imagine living anywhere else now so for me its got to be Devon.
Did you have a Christmas walk, where was it to and did you take your sketchbook?
I try and always take a sketchbook and a range of materials with me on a walk, even though it makes my rucksack twice as heavy as everyone else's. I took my mum and dad away to Gara Rock for Christmas, a treat I’d booked in the summer but had managed to keep a secret for my mum for almost six months! It's beautifully located right on the coast path so we had planned a really long Christmas Day walk but the weather had other plans!! We managed to get out on Boxing Day and it was stunning, possibly my new favourite spot and I am so inspired and ready to get back into the studio next week.