Heaven and Hell: Emma Connolly

Artist Emma Connolly in the countryside with her sketchbook

Artist Emma Connolly finds endless inspiration in the East Anglian landscape - Credit: Contributed by Emma Connolly

Emma Connolly is an inspirational artist and educator. She takes the natural and ever-changing colour palette of the expansive skies, sea and land of East Anglia and translates them into abstracted paintings and screen prints, capturing the feeling and emotion of the place. Emma has exhibited locally and internationally and consults for museums and galleries. She is also the Course Leader of the L4 Art Foundation course at One Sixth Form College and co-wrote the education programme for Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk exhibition. She runs successful workshops too. 

What’s the impact of Covid-19 and how are you adapting?
This is a difficult one as it has affected every aspect of my life. As an artist it has given me more time in the studio than I ever thought possible, which has been a real positive. I’m fortunate to have beautiful landscapes on my doorstep to immerse myself in and work from, all in walking distance. I desperately miss exploring further afield though and getting lost in new surroundings.  I can’t wait to get back into the East Anglian landscape where I take so much inspiration from.

What advice can you give to our readers?
Covid related - try and use the time productively and not get totally swallowed up by the negatives. Do the things you have been meaning to do for ages, such as read the books on your bedside table that are gathering dust, or some kind of creative output to calm your mind.  In life – try and carve out time for yourself every day doing something you actually want to do, even just 30 minutes.

A print by Emma Connolly

Emma Connolly creates paintings and prints - Credit: Contributed by Emma Connolly

What is your connection to East Anglia?
My father’s family are from Walton-on-the-Naze, settling there from the late 1700’s. My dad was on the Walton and Frinton Lifeboat when I was a child, as was my great-great-great-grandfather.  Many of my memories when I was small revolve around dad’s bleeper going off and my mum tuning into the coastguard radio to see if his number was called and then we would know he made it on the boat for that callout. So growing up in Walton for me was like living between the sea and the land. My mum is from Suffolk so living in East Anglia has always felt like home and where I belonged. It’s where my husband James and I raise our two sons.

What is your East Anglian Heaven?
The colours and the sky, the way the sky meets the land and sea. Also the way the seasons change everything throughout the year so I have a never-ending colour palette to work from. You can smell the air here and feel the weather.

What is your East Anglian Hell?
Right now, it’s not being able to get out further afield due to Covid restrictions. It’s like living in something you can’t see properly.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?
The Naze at Walton-on-the-Naze. It’s where I have walked since I learnt to walk and it’s like being in history, with its fallen WWII pillboxes (which I remember being on the cliff top when I was small), the Jurassic shark teeth I have hunted since a child and now with my own children. I love the way the Naze Tower pivots on the edge of the cliff. There is something so primitive about the landscape and the way it opens itself up to us; there is nothing to do but just walk and breathe in the sea air.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
The sense of community and all the events that happen across the East Anglia every year, from farmers markets, craft fairs, music events, etc.  It’s such a vibrant and lively part of the country to live in.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?
20th Century Modern Art.

What is always in your fridge?
Milk. Tea is my engine oil for the day!

What’s your simple philosophy of life?
Be kind. If you shine out, the positivity will always get bounced back to you.

An abstract work by Emma Connolly

An abstract work by Emma Connolly - Credit: Contributed by Emma Connolly

What’s your favourite film?
My husband would say any natural disaster movie as I am obsessed with the weather, especially extreme weather, but I don’t think I have one movie I love, I just love to watch lots as it’s an escapism for my busy mind.

What was your first job?
Working in the Parade Café in Walton, next to the lifeboat station, where all the past and present lifeboat men would come to drink tea like clockwork every day. Sadly, it’s no longer open. I remember there being photos of my dad and his friends on the walls.

What is your most treasured possession?
My mini sausage dog, Hobbs.

Who do you admire most?
Anyone who has the courage to do what they love. Also, right now, everyone juggling work and homeschooling…it is hard work!

What is your biggest indulgence?
Travelling. Since I was young, my parents would take us abroad to see new places and experience things as a family. Driving through the Rocky Mountains in Canada with my mum, dad and sister when I was young, it totally opened the world up to me and I have craved travelling ever since. I went backpacking at 17 for a month and ever since I am always itching to explore somewhere new. There is so much I want to see 
and do.

What do you like about yourself most?
I want everyone to be happy and will try my hardest to make that happen.

What’s your worst character trait?
Not letting my husband finish his sentence before I jump in and interrupt him and my inability to be able to relax.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Paris. The fact you can do so much for free; people watching, wandering the boulevards and Montmartre, sitting in the Tuileries reading, slipping into a beautiful church to gaze at the interior, so much. Also, Rendlesham Forest camping with my family and friends each year. Watching all the children play in the forest freely, no Wi-Fi connections, muddy feet and hands and sitting under the stars each night. 

Best day of your life?
Can I have two days? The births of my sons. I was incredibly lucky and had two relatively easy natural births and I will never forget the feeling of having them placed on my chest straight from birth. I have never felt such overwhelming love and connection and the instinct of a lioness kicked in, knowing my main role would be to protect them.

What’s your favourite breakfast?
That one is easy as it is the same every day! Fat-Free Greek Yoghurt, oats and local honey. It’s my favourite meal of the day.

What’s your favourite tipple?
Dry white wine topped up with sparkling water, drunk soaking in the bath whilst watching Netflix.

What’s your hidden talent?
It is so hidden I have not discovered it yet.

What’s your earliest memory?
Holding my Dad’s hand walking into the hospital when my sister had been born.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?
I binge watch documentaries and listen to Radio 4 constantly, I just love to learn new things. I am also obsessed with Louis Theroux and watch and listen to everything he makes.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
I am very self-critical, so anything negative throws me off-kilter for a bit.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?
Because it is home in every way. 

What do you want to tell our readers about most?
Looking back at the last year and turning all the negatives of Covid on its head, I have been more productive than ever and have watched my practice grow daily. For more information on my artwork, please visit my instagram: @emmaconnollyart or my website: www.emmaconnollyart.com

If you have a story, email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: @ginageelong

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