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Artist behind the Art: Emma Gleadhill

An interview by Michaela Del Casale from the Sydney Children's Hospital Foundation

Emma at Luna Studio

Emma began painting while she was working at Macquarie University in research admin and missing the creative side of things, feeling something was missing in her life. Art gave her a way to meet new people in a new city and get back to her creative side.

Why water colour? What do you love about it?

I think because it’s very uncontrollable but then it’s very controllable. You can get really interesting effects that you don’t intend which can be quite alarming, because you start thinking 'oh no I’ve ruined my whole painting because the water has just taken my pigments off into a different direction to where I thought', but then also if you’re doing really fine detailed work you can get in a lot of detail too so I just find it really exciting. I like things to be very organized, so it’s a good challenge for me to just let go and just see where the painting takes me.

How did you get involved with our Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation Art Program?

When I was having an exhibition at Luna studio a couple of people came in and mentioned the art program to me and just said 'ooh you might want to check it out and get involved', so I went online and had a look into it and applied.

Emma at Luna Studio

Do you have any connection to the hospital?

Not a personal connection, but my husband, Shane, is a doctor and he did a placement for 6 months at the Children's Hospital Westmead. So I did know of all the great work you do from his placement there and he said working at that hospital was like seeing the best of what a hospital could be with all the wonderful activities they had for the kids. He said it was a joy to come to work and see a clown at work, or kids would come in for an operation and their face would be painted. I think it’s wonderful for these kids who are going through really difficult times, you know their early life is going through a tough time and to have all of these wonderful sort of programs and things available is really great for them.

What do you hope that staff, patients and families will think about the paintings on the wall?

I think it’s really those times when you’re in hospital or you’re going through a difficult time and you're taken away from all of your usual sort of home life, normal activity and your everyday life that you start to really appreciate it and you really miss the wonder that you find in your daily life. So I hope that my paintings sort of bring that back to these kids and their families who their lives have been tipped a bit upside down. And they can sort of see the paintings and recognize some familiar places and sort of see the human and interaction in the paintings too. A lot of my paintings have little figures in them and it can just bring back sort of memories to them in their own lives. Just the nice everyday activities and every day life.

For you personally, what does it mean to you to have your paintings on hospital walls?

Ooh so much. It’s really special. I’m really grateful to be part of the program, I think that’s who my audience is. I just want, you know, anyone to just enjoy my works and recognize something of their own lives in them I guess. So yeah, I think it’s great.

How do you decide what you paint?

My process is just sort of everyday, when I’m walking around or going for a run, anything. If there is something that I think looks beautiful and captures my eye, usually if there’s really nice light. Or if I see that there’s nice kind of symmetry happening. Or a nice colour combination. Say somebody is walking past a shop and they’re wearing a green top and then the shop has some green street frontage or the light is shining just right, I’ll take a few snap shots and then I do most of my paintings based on different photos I’ve taken during my daily life. So it makes me see the wonder in the world around me as well, cause I'm always noticing these beautiful moments. And it can be places that I walk past everyday, regularly but there might just be one morning where there’s just a certain combination of things that makes it special and makes me sort of see it in a different way. And it’s fun painting it as well because you’re spending a bit more time on it and your reliving that sort of wonder that you saw in that moment and extending it out.

Emma at the Inner West Artists Market

Do you ever take requests on the things you paint?

Yes, I do commissions as well. Something that’s quite popular is to paint people’s houses and their families in front of them. So I’ve done quite a few of those and also local shops with the local shop owners in front of their shops. I do family portraits and pet portraits as well. I talk to the family about what is special to them about their house and sometimes it won’t even be the house themselves. One lady whose house I painted - her and her kids have planted an olive tree out the front of her house when the kids were little and now the kids are much older and the olive tree has grown and it’s taller than the front of her house and she said the olive tree brings together everyone in the neighborhood as well. Every year when it grows the olives, people come and pick them and her family pick them together and so she wanted to capture that in the painting, so it’s just getting those stories and that’s what I brought out in that painting was the olive tree out front. The world around us is just so inspiring and you just have to keep your eyes open.

Do you have any other messages you’d like to say?

I think there is creativity in art in everybody and I think if anybody is thinking of taking up an artistic pursuit then you should definitely give it a go, and because we can only do what we have tried or experienced before. So if you’re worried about doing something new you should definitely try it because that’s what happened with me with water colour. I had never used that medium before and then all of a sudden I found the medium for me where I can really express myself. So I think that’s out there for everybody you just need to be brave and give it a go, even if it seems a bit daunting.

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