This month’s cover artist, Emma West, cares a lot about caring. “Not just in terms of caring for people, but for the environment too. Most of my work focuses on nature, particularly local wildlife, and plants. My aim is to reflect on how beautiful, strange, yet so fragile the natural world is. And most importantly, how vital it is.”
Emma takes a lot of her inspiration from beloved children’s illustrators such as Raymond Briggs, Beatrix Potter, Judith Kerr, and Tove Jansson, as well as from the illustrations in RSPB bird spotter guides. She enjoys watching videos of David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, and has written and illustrated her own book, Mother Nature Has A Cold, with a view to hopefully changing some hearts and minds herself.
“I had this idea of a character – Mother Nature – wandering across the world. She helps plants grow; she makes sure animals are thriving. One day she starts to feel ill and gets cold symptoms, due to climate change: fossil fuels being burned, trees getting cut down... It’s only through humans acting to protect the planet that she starts to feel better. She’s completely green at first, but as she gets sick she starts to go grey, kind of like a plant wilting.”
Emma graduated with a degree in illustration from the University of Portsmouth in 2019, and has been “plucking up the courage” to send her book to publishers. (So any interested parties should get in touch!) She grew up in Seaford and took part in last year’s Artwave as part of the Onneke Studio & Shop on the High Street, where she used to work.
She picked up the nickname (Emma the Llama) that she uses for her website and social media channels while attending Lewes Old Grammar School. “It was partly because I had really long, ringlety hair that got a bit fuzzy and frizzy sometimes. Me and a friend joked that it was like a llama coat. I latched onto it and grew very fond of it, and haven’t changed it since!”
The cover was created on Procreate for the iPad, which includes a convincing, digital watercolour brush that Emma’s used for the background. “The idea was to combine people doing things in their day-to-day life that benefit local wildlife, with people who help others such as nurses and lollipop ladies.”
I recognise the box of plants in the centre of the illustration. Much like her Mother Nature character, Emma seems to draw nourishment from the natural world. “Whenever I go through Lewes on the train, I always see someone tending to the plants in the community gardens. It’s my favourite bit of the station.”
Emma is available for illustration commissions, specialising in animal portraiture.