Emma Howell

Art Talk: Soaking Up The World

Emma Howell
3 August, 2017

Tree Lines


“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.” – Pablo Picasso


A lot of people ask me where I get my inspiration from to make the art I do. It’s a bit of a hard question to answer- I can either be too broad by saying ‘from anything and everything’, or too specific and peculiar by saying ‘from the texture of a shirt on a man selling pretzels in New York’ or ‘the lines and shapes I saw in a cluster of clouds last night’. Which way do I answer the question?

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about how artists or creative people see the world differently to people who aren’t so creative- those who are more analytical or mathematical, if you will. This isn’t to say someone can’t be both- I’m sure there are some brains out there that interpret the world in all sorts of ways. But to keep it simple, let’s just focus on one particular person- me, an artist with a ‘creative brain’.

I’m not going to state facts, figures and scientific experiments here- I’m not submitting this as an academic essay, so there’s no need for quotes and references- I hope you agree.

I deduced from one article that when looking at a landscape, a scene or a photograph, an artist focuses on lines, negative spaces, colours, gradients and angles, ignoring the actual subject- whereas, non-artists only look at specific objects and translate what they see into a concept or a subject matter. Do you relate to either of these?

When I look at the world around me, I instantly see colour and line. So, you could say that the way I see things is comparable to the artists talked about in that article. I don’t just see a boat, some buildings or a cliff face- I see horizontal, vertical or meandering lines, gritty texture with a burnt orange tinge and an expanse of nothingness above. This probably sounds super strange to those who don’t see things this way, but if you’re an artist/creative, do you know what I mean? When you look at a scene, are the first things you visually absorb shapes, lines and textures? Alternatively, if you’re an artist, and you don’t see the world in this way, how do you see it? Let me know here.


blog landscape


Going back to what inspires my art- it’s the world around me and how I interpret it. It’s why I also label myself an adventurer; I like to travel, to go places and to see all kinds of different things. Whether it’s my local park, a nearby forest or 7,100 miles away in Hawaii.. the places I go, the things I see, the people I talk to- they all inspire my work. Usually, I take a notebook with me everywhere I go, so that I can document marks, colours, lines, shapes and conversations- all that make their own way into my artworks. The green in “Jungle Agapanthus” was derived from hilltops in Kauai, the marks in “Pastel Blue Overcast” were taken from dark clouds in Santorini and the layers in my latest paper experiments were all inspired by numerous adventures I’ve been on with Jon. Each artwork has it’s own stimulus.


Blog Jungle Agapanthus


Obviously, I’m not going on epic adventures all the time and I do have days when I’m stuck in my own head, lacking inspiration and not wanting to be in my studio- this is normal. I have days where I don’t want to make marks, mix up colours and reminisce about things I have seen/places I have been. When this happens, you know what the best thing for me to do is? Leave the studio and go soak up the world on my doorstep. For many years I took for granted where I live- I never realised how much potential artwork can be made from my bubble here in Gloucestershire. It’s pretty much a dictionary of marks, colours and textures- everywhere is!

If you’re an artist, see every place you go as a dictionary of inspiration, whether it’s the Amazon rainforest, a subway in New York, your own hometown or your local garage where you take your car- take a notebook and soak it up; there’s your inspiration.


Thank you for reading. If you have any opinions or you’d like to ask me something related to this, message me here. You can also follow my adventures and studio practice on Instagram.

willow on hills