"I aim to capture the spirit of a place, or the emotion felt on glimpsing a fleeting moment in time"
We caught up with Emma Bissonnet, the Gower artist who provides beautiful illustrations for Black Bough's Christmas and Winter edition (vol 1, 2020)
Emma, your linocuts and prints are hugely atmospheric. You focus on nature - owls, birds, foxes, mushrooms, all kinds of flora and fauna - what draws you to these subjects?
Growing up in Norwich, I spent many long dog walks exploring the wide open spaces of the Norfolk countryside. I loved wildlife documentaries, nature books, and through helping Mum in the garden and birdwatching, I learnt to appreciate the natural world from a young age. Nature and the environment are a constant source of inspiration, both in life and art. I have worked in environmental management for wildlife and conservation charities, and studied ecology courses at Swansea Uni. I also donate a small percentage of profits from the sale of my art to the 'Gower Bird Hospital', who provide vital work to rehabilitate local wildlife.
You live on Gower, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Your art suggests you're very much nature lover. Do your prints start as photos or sketches in the wild?
I mostly work from photos taken whilst exploring Gower, or a combination of my memory and wildlife reference books. I aim to capture the spirit of a place, or the emotion felt on glimpsing a fleeting moment in time. I apply a bit of artistic licence when composing landscapes, but aim to build a recognisable scene for the viewer to explore.
Have your prints been published in any books? What do you think about the combination of words and your art in the Black Bough anthology?
As yet I have not had any artwork published in books. I was excited to be asked to contribute to last winter's Black Bough Christmas online edition. I put forward some existing images and created some new linocuts. The title of 'Winter Festivals' was very different to my usual subject matter, and I found this new challenge very rewarding. I was proud to have my artwork alongside so many wonderful varied poems and I look forward to reading the Black Bough anthology.
What are you working on at the moment and what plans do you have for 2021?
I have been developing new festive cards in time for Christmas and would like to adapt a new lovespoon linocut to be screenprinted onto tea towels. Next year, I aim to have a new print ready to launch in time for 'International Dylan Thomas Day' May 14th, which will feature his boat house. This will compliment my other Dylan Thomas linocuts, which have been hugely popular in the UK and America.
How can people view and buy your prints?
Weather permitting I often have an art & craft stall at Swansea farmers' markets. It is also possible to buy online via my Etsy shop, or follow me on Face Book or Instagram.
Cutty Wren and the Snow Moon
The Winter Fox
Cover image - 'Fire Festival with Northern Lights'
Winter Festival: Mari Lwyd'
All images © Emma Bissonnet.