CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Kingsley Common artist Emma Dunbar

PUBLISHED: 11:05 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:05 10 October 2017

Emma Dunbar

Emma Dunbar

Archant

Art is a passion and a business for Emma Dunbar, whose colourful and vibrant work is in demand from private clients and galleries. As Sandra Smith discovers, this is an artist who really delivers the goods

From crockery to table napkins, scales and a submarine, the items Emma Dunbar is asked to include in her commissions are as individual to the buyer as they are surprising to the artist. Not that such requests faze her.

“Commissions are twice as difficult because you’re trying to please yourself and the client,” Emma declares from her Kingsley Common home. “You need to know what they want in the back of your mind and there is an onus to give them that, to conform to expectations. At the end of the day people are looking for a product. You have to keep a straight face; there’s no point being on a high horse about it.”

Such an easy going attitude fits with the colourful naivety of this artist’s work. Her bright compositions are bursting with life, innocence, curiosity. Misleadingly simple at first glance, each painting provokes familiarity and a smile, a feel good factor in acrylics.

When I ask about early artistic influences, however, Emma’s response is all but obvious: “I grew up in a house where you couldn’t even find Sellotape,” she laughs, “I was the ‘What are we going to do with her?’ child. I had a Great Aunt Edith who painted oils in her lean-to; she seemed like 100 years old even if she wasn’t. At school I was allowed to stay in at break to paint the school scenery for plays. I used to make things like birthday cards and clothes and sell them in shops or markets. I always knew I wanted to go to Art College.”

With no direction in mind, a foundation year proved to be a “wonderful” experience and was followed by a degree in Fine Art Printmaking which appealed to a desire to have a technique, a practical involvement alongside painting. Afterwards, the government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme provided financial support to set up her own business. “I trolled around galleries with my prints from college and painted from home. You carry on little by little and get a few lucky breaks. Friends would tell people about my work and I’d go and see them, knock on doors.”

Working in galleries gave Emma an appreciation of that side of the business so she knew what information to provide when trying to sell her art. She learned the importance of consistency and pricing whilst her entrepreneurial attitude fuelled an impetus to succeed. Decades later, her degree course continues to influence her art. “I work in layers like a print maker. I paint flowers because of their colour; I put them in front of other things, bringing in flat shapes and sometimes things going on in the background. It’s a bit like stage sets and instead of perspective, each layer is in its own plane.”

In an upstairs room at home (plans for a purpose built studio were shelved when the children moved out) Emma is creating a painting inspired by a bunch of Sweet Williams, a gift from a friend. Although naturally vibrant, the tones are enhanced in order to give them extra “zing”. It is this boldness and bravery in colour which surely encompasses the artist’s signature style.

I wonder whether she has a bank of ideas or needs to lookout for inspiration. Turns out she does both. With ongoing concepts surfacing during daily dog walks Emma also recalls when she spotted alpacas in a field of buttercups backed by a row of cottages.

“I move along in galloping circles,” the 56-year-old muses. “I come back to things then I move in though I don’t come back in the same way. I have painted allotments for 15 years and revisited the idea at least four times. You can see continuity but also how they’ve moved on. The most recent are almost abstract because they are looking at what is in the allotments. The ones overlooking the sea are more integral to a place rather than a jumble of marks and abstract textures.”

Painting often begins with little square thumbnails, quickly putting down colour while scenes are memory fresh. She then paints onto marine ply whose texture and solid surface she prefers to the springiness of canvas. Although brushes are favoured, anything which scratches through paint – including knitting needles – are used. Intriguingly, the dimensions of her images vary considerably though the appeal of larger work is dampened by practicalities. “I like to paint big pieces but it isn’t what people want. Bigger paintings make a much bigger statement. And require extra big brushes. I would love to paint large paintings and have somewhere for them to go.”

Emma is practical in her approach, recognising that art is her job which, like any other profession, demands regular commitment. She favours natural daylight and admits that, if she takes days off, a similar amount of time is needed to get back to where she was. Although successful relationships with galleries have been built she smiles when recalling another outlet she didn’t initially take seriously. “When my husband set up my website I thought, if anyone buys from there I’ll eat my hat. Well, I’ve eaten several since then! People are more savvy now, they look on the back of greetings cards, Google your name. But if people don’t know your work they still want to see it in the flesh.”

Emma recognises that her paintings have improved over time, while layering and composition remain similar and early images enjoy continuing popularity. Timescales differ these days and there is a degree of pressure from galleries, but she always agrees to their requests for paintings. Expectations, from gallery owners and the public, means conforming to expectations. Self assured, professionally shrewd, level headed, Emma encapsulates elements which anyone running a business needs yet which many artists struggle to embrace. On the other hand, modest recognition of her working life borders on gratitude. “My ambition is to be able to carry on. I make a living and justify spending every day painting. I’m one of the lucky ones. Some people have to commute to London although I’m not very disciplined and there are distractions at home. Back in the day I wouldn’t be flicking through an iPad.”

Emma’s images are in galleries around the country, she is a regular exhibitor at art fairs and holds her own Open Studio in November. It’s a typical gesture by a talented artist with an eye for marketing. Go along and I promise her acrylic compositions will not only raise a smile, you might also be tempted to buy.

emmadunbar.co.uk

More…

Writer Matthew ‘M.J.’ Arlidge on why Hampshire is a perfect fit for Detective Inspector Helen Grace - The detective writer who chose Southampton as the setting for his dark novels tells Faith Eckersall why the city - and the New Forest beyond - are a perfect fit with his ‘fractured’ heroine, Detective Inspector Helen Grace

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Graphic artist Chris Gibson is bringing Hampshire’s landmarks in to people’s homes with his nostalgic posters

Read more
Monday, October 29, 2018

Some of Hampshire’s best known personalities have revealed what they most love about the county. Here, we compile some quotes from our interviews over the years

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

Something Wicked this way comes… the hit musical follows the yellow brick road to Southampton this month. Leading ladies Amy Ross and Helen Woolf share tales from behind the emerald curtain

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Turning 40 kick started a career change for Claire Fuller that took even her by suprise. She talks to Rebecca Fletcher about becoming a best-selling author, and what to expect from her latest novel

Read more
Monday, September 10, 2018

You can take the lady out of Hampshire but you can’t take Hampshire out the lady. Yes, it’s a corny expression but it is true in the case of actress, singer, dancer and TV presenter Amanda Holden, who has never forgotten her roots in the county

Read more
Monday, August 20, 2018

With her bold, graphic designs, New Forest artist Evelyn Bartlett captures the magnificent scenery on her doorstep

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

From food and drink to fashion and furnishings, Wickham is home to businesses that are pushing the boundaries. Viv Micklefield meets some of those proud to be different

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

A surf club… on the Isle of Wight? Surely not! 50 years on, Faith Eckersall meets those that say their little island is the surfing community’s best kept secret

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tinnitus affects around 10% of the UK population and often goes untreated. Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care told us everything you need to know about tinnitus

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sir Ben Ainslie’s sights are set on bringing home the 36th America’s Cup in 2021 and hoping to join the battle are the sailors currently in his youth squad. Viv Micklefield catches-up with some of the young guns already taking the world by storm

Read more
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

You can’t keep Mary Berry out of the kitchen and the same goes for Hampshire. Bernard Bale hears about her favourite places to visit

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

We are a nation of shopkeepers, but is the shop dying? We head to Winchester’s High Street

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Vibrant and colourful, Overton artist Arabella Ross captures nature in its most vivid form says Sandra Smith

Read more
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Once destined for the chip fryer, we visit one north Hampshire business whose award winning single-estate cold pressed oil is giving Tuscan traditionalists a run for their money

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory



Property Search