If you live in Stone, you'll already know who Emma Joustra is. Well, you'll almost certainly know her work, and she's sure to become a household name.
They call Staffordshire the 'Creative County' for a reason. I'm certain that in years to come, the name Emma Joustra will be included in the same conversations as other iconic female artists from the county, like Clarice Cliff and Emma Bridgewater.
Her work is distinctive, instantly recognisable, and is increasingly in demand. Emma creates cartoon like paintings of families, businesses and schools. Her commissions currently come from people wanting a special one-off gift that simply cannot be bought or acquired anywhere else. I love her work, so was super-excited to meet her.
"If someone wants me to create a painting for a relative's special birthday or anniversary, for example, I go to their house and chat to them and get photos of their home, any pets, the people, the cars and gather snippets of information about their characters or habits, and then I create my drawing to include recognisable faces, buildings and lifestyles for that family," explains Emma.
"It could also be for a business or town, and I've done a lot of schools and now a hospital as well." Emma's latest commission was something rather different — to create three pieces of art for the new renal unit at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
One of the drawings is a picture map of all the community areas served by the hospital with iconic images relating to that area. You can see pot kilns, a Spitfire, Trentham Gardens, the Wedgwood factory and more.
"I love the Potteries," smiles Emma, "and I'm very proud of the fact that I'm from here." She showed a talent for art at a very young age. At 10, she entered and won a national art competition by doing a detailed pencil drawing of a ball of wool. As a child, she was always drawing and doing Doodle Art. The young Emma Jones, as she was then, went to Newcastle-under-Lyme School where she studied Art 'O' and 'A' Level.
"I did really well at 'O' Level and achieved a grade A, but I lost my way a bit with my 'A' Level, though I did really well at English, so I decided to study that at University instead."
She began her career in advertising, where she discovered a talent for drawing storyboards with marker pens. "I was still pursuing my love of art, and was painting watercolours in my spare time," she says.
The advertising world in London was too 'cut and thrust' for a gentle creative like Emma, so she headed home to Staffordshire to work at the Whitmore Gallery, printing etchings. Around this time she produced her first 'Silly Cow' painting — a cartoon image of a happy cow that has become a signature image for Emma and showed her early style that has become recognisable today. But she still wasn't a professional artist. It was just a hobby.
After having her children, Emma decided to train as a primary school teacher, a job which she did for a year before her father died in 2007. "Losing my father made me realise that I had to pursue my dream. We only have one life, and I'd always wanted to be an artist, so I decided to go for it. I'd done a painting for Granville's in Stone around this time, and the owner had used it for advertising, which had created a lot of interest in my work.
“I decided that this was the right time for me to take the plunge and become an artist." A feature in a local newspaper about her work suddenly saw things change, and Emma has been busy ever since, working from a spare bedroom at home in Stone.
For her husband, Marten, who she met when he played piano at Granville's, she created a painting of their wedding day, and when he turned 40, she presented him with a painting of their home and family. In the painting, their sons Arthur and Fred are featured with their passions of football and bikes, Marten is on the roof doing some DIY, and Emma is hanging out the washing in her bare feet, as she does. It's a lovely family scene of people going about their daily lives.
She's done a lot of schools - particularly as leaving gifts for head teachers. Her iconic work is now displayed in her old school at Newcastle-under-Lyme, at Denstone College, St. Michael's First School, and Yarlet, to name a few. "I did a lot of drawings of the stalls in Stone Market," says Emma, "which were really popular, and I think people got to know about me that way as well. I have done a lot of paintings of places in and around Stone."
The people in her paintings are all real characters and recognised by those who know them. Emma and her family also sometimes feature in them as well, in the background. Some of her paintings feature so many people that it can feel a little like 'Where's Wally?' — trying to spot everything because there's so much in the picture. I hear myself saying things like, "Oh, look at the dog!", and,"Oh, there's ball a stuck in the guttering!", and "Oh, there's someone who obviously loves skiing standing next to someone's Mini Cooper!", and "Oh, I've just spotted a ladybird!"
When you see Emma's paintings, you just want one. And you know if you ever see one of her paintings anywhere again, you'll know straightaway it's by her. "I think a number of things helped me to form my style," muses Emma. "Certainly the storyboard marker pen drawings that I did in advertising, working with etchings at the Whitmore Gallery, my love of Doodle Art when I was young, and now I realise that looking back to my childhood, I loved the illustrations in the books by Richard Scarry — I can definitely see some influences from there."
WHSmith loves her work so much they commissioned a jigsaw from her — called, 'Parents' Day'. She's hoping for more commercial success as her name becomes more widely known, though she admits her order book is already getting full. "I'm doing leaving presents for staff at schools and businesses, wedding invitations, wall art, PR and jigsaws at the moment," she says. "Who knows what will happen next?'"
Projects vary in size and complexity, but on average, each individual piece takes Emma two to three weeks' full-time work. After chatting to the clients and gathering photos and notes, she begins work with a pencil and a sketch book.
She draws every single leaf, roof tile and shoe lace — everything in the picture is hand drawn. Without giving away her clever technique, Emma uses computers to help finish and colour her work.
"I've never really thought of myself as being very good," she reflects, "which I guess is a confidence thing, and something artists do suffer from a lack of. But I'm starting to realise that I've finally made it as a professional artist and I'm thrilled that people love my work."
Now you have the chance to win an A2 size print of Emma Joustra's wonderful pictorial map of Staffordshire. This map was commissioned by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire and can be seen in the Renal Unit as well as above.
Emma has used iconic images representing areas of the county to identify them in the map. It's a wonderful piece of work and shows the rich heritage of Staffordshire as a creative county both now and in the past.
For your chance to win simply answer the question correctly and fill in the form below. The deadline for entries is midnight on Thursday 31st October 2013.Error: Form with ID 1054, has expired.
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