'Emily Carew Woodard is a secret gem and a star in the ascent' VOGUE UK
A bit about me...
My name is Emily and I'm an artist and creator of anthropomorphic characters who I tend to kit out in Belle Époque attire, whether they be fine aristocrats or Dodger-esque pick-pockets.
I was born and raised in the Cornish countryside, surrounded by a menagerie of animals; shire horses, ponies, goats, dogs, cats, rats, mice, rabbits, ducks, bantams and a swarm of 20 guinea pigs (that all escaped one day, giving the farmer quite a fright as the GP's squeaked their way down the lane towards him). The doors to our house were most usually left open and it wasn’t an uncommon sight to find a chicken perched on the back of a sofa or on top of the Aga pecking at toast crumbs. I spent most of my time with my brothers and sisters playing in boundaryless fields, on the beach or up trees, playing in our fantasy worlds of pirates and pixies and not coming inside until it was too dark to see, admitting defeat. I remember when my siblings and I would meet up with the farmer’s children; we’d make mazes and warrens inside of straw bales that had been stacked 30ft high and 30ft wide, it was so exciting. Thinking back on it now, as an adult, if our parents knew what we were up to they’d have had kittens. Anyway, we managed to avoid getting crushed to death by falling bales and I'm still here to tell the tale.
When I was four years old I had an imaginary friend called, Timberly. Timberly was about 6 inches tall, wore a black bowler hat, tortoiseshell glasses and a finely tailored suit. My mother was very interested in my friend and kept a keen eye on our relationship, one day she asked after him and I stated quite matter-of-factly that he’d been ‘squashed by a car and died’ and that was the last time I ever spoke about Timberly. Poor chap.
I spent most of my adolescent hours in stables kissing ponies muzzles or in the saddle competing in national competitions representing Cornwall. I won rosettes and trophies, but always knew that horses weren’t going to be my career path, much to the disappointment of my instructor. However, I still love them and ride when I'm back in Cornwall or on Wimbledon Common.
My mother, Miranda was a fabulous artist, she had a studio at home and I’d sit with her whilst she worked. We painted and drew together from as early as I can remember. She painted everything beautifully not just paintings but she also dabbled in a bit of Trompe-l'oeil, so things in the house were painted too such as window shutters, dressers and kitchen chairs. She encouraged me to paint and I knew that this was what I truly loved. Painting and drawing was the fire in my belly. I lost my beloved mother very suddenly in the Autumn of 2017. The memory of her spark and wicked sense of humour keeps my pencil to paper.
I moved to London in 2005 so that I could attend University Of The Arts London, where I studied illustration. Moving to London was everything I'd hoped for, I loved my University, I loved the galleries, the theatre, the extraordinary zoo, and of course exploring its diverse boroughs. Moving was also scary too, I've seen stuff that I'd never seen before in Cornwall and I've had my phone stolen more times than I'd care to admit. I am also very interested in London's history and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a bit geeky about it. I know lots of London facts, I find it all hugely interesting, from the remains of the Roman amphitheatre in Guildhall Yard, to the fact that the entrance to the Savoy is the one road in the UK where you drive on the right. I lock all this inspiration away in my mind to use later. London is my home now and I've lived here for 14 years, I love it as much as I love Cornwall.
My childhood and early life plays an enormous role in my work, it’s affected almost every ounce of it, I'm now able to illustrate and create all of those made-up characters that played with us on the farm and put them onto paper. Someone once called me an ‘old soul’, I think I'd tend to agree, I'm in the wrong century for sure and would be far better suited wearing a pinafore and gaiters atop of a pony and trap.
Now for my artwork. Both my rural upbringing and my current urban life inspire my work. The romance and deep, rich histories from bygone times are woven into the fabric of my paintings. Artists that have inspired my style are Edward Gorey, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, William Morris, and writers such as Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl are undeniable influences on my daily work. The fables and stories that they have illustrated or written are sometimes used as starting blocks for my compositions. My work is bold and rich and most usually finished with touches of gold leaf to add another layer of luxury to my designs. I have honed my style to fit a range of disciplines such as book design, newspaper articles and I've even designed costumes for the opera. I have exhibited my work across the globe from Taiwan to Paris to Piccadilly.
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"These diverse strains – formal and iconographic – coalesce to offer the viewer a menagerie of animal characters engaged in surprising but always believable activities and juxtaposed with unlikely objects or settings. Artless conjunctions of imagery combine to create what she has termed a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ or an ‘anthology of all things incongruous’: the paradox of her art is that here the Surreal seems quotidian. The breadth of Woodard’s reference is matched by a constantly inventive wit (whimsy, however, is wholly absent) and remarkable technical skill, both in terms of elegance of line and adventurous sense of colour. Indeed, her juxtapositions of objects and animals are often echoed in brave and sometimes unlikely palette combinations. At times the familiar coastal landscape of the Cornwall of her childhood appears, and it is impossible to resist the suggestion that the young girl who occasionally features is a self-portrait of the artist herself. While resisting the temptation to explain her imagery further, she has suggestively termed it ‘paper taxidermy’. But, however her art is described, it is clear that this exhibition marks Emily Woodard out as a major new talent in the field of British illustration."