Lauren Emmons is the New Talent winner of the Site Specific Category. Here, she gives an in-depth view of her award-winning project.
Wee Thee Vikings is a children’s gallery at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, MN, USA. The goal was to create an immersive area for children with different illustrated environments. I created a continuous panoramic world that covered all the walls in the gallery for imaginative play, reading, and exploring!
The education team asked me to create an ocean scene and a map for the viking ship area, a longhouse interior for the open house structure to be up against, and a forest for the library.
I spent the first week or so nose deep in historical books about the Vikings, their villages, where they sailed to, and their runic system (specifically runestones). As this was a partner to The Vikings Begin, an exhibition of Viking and pre-Viking artifacts, it needed to be historically accurate.
I used a big ol’ mixture of materials! Every wall had a different collection of paint and pencils. I used watercolors as my base for every painting before layering on copic markers, gouache, pencils, and posca markers.
My goal with this project was to make a believable world, one where you could turn in a complete circle and see the landscape of this village and forest as if you were standing smack dab in the middle of a field turning around to look behind you.
The balance of materials has always been a challenge for me, and that definitely presented itself during this project. I love the vibrancy of gouache and copics, but I also love the softness of pencils and watercolors. I did a lot of experimentation to overcome this!
I learned so much from this project. In a technical sense I learned about layering materials together, but in a creative sense I learned about the importance of world building and pre-planning, of being flexible with my images and myself, and of how much I love narrative.
About midway into the project I adopted a cat. So the second half of my project was filled with a new friend who loved to sit on my desk with me while I worked, and if that just happened to be on top of my painting then so be it!
This project was lovingly made with thanks to: 5 pencils sharpened to the end, 7 sheets of hot press watercolor paper, 100s of hours of podcasts, 4 very distracting nature documentaries, 3 UK crime procedurals, 120 cups of strong coffee, 100ml of masking fluid, and many, many dog walks.
I would probably change the underwater view. I did this first, and the style of the animals and artifacts under the waves doesn’t quite match the rest of the gallery. I would love to go back in and paint this piece in gouache and add more vibrant color.
Be kind to yourself! Step away when things aren’t working. If you’re close to laying your forehead on the table and crying in frustration, get out of your chair and step away for a few minutes or for the night. You don’t need to figure it out today.
Well right now I am about to enter my final semester of my MA in Children’s Book Illustration. Once I finish in December I’ll be sorting out where I am going to be living next and then figuring out the next step!
I have so many. (I mean, which illustrator doesn’t have a desk drawer full of dream commissions?) But I would love to work in anything that tells a story, and has a strong narrative base. My ultimate dream commission right now is to create a graphic novel and illustrate picturebooks.
Favourite thing to draw
Forests full of little creatures and magical possibilities! Does it have trees? Does it have some plants and animals? If so, I’m one happy camper.
My workspace is in my house, with a desk firmly up against my window with some little plants and trinkets decorating the sill, with a dog trying to shepherd me back to the bed for some cuddles and a cat screaming at me for more treats.
To have won this award is mind-blowing. I am honoured to be in such a talented group of people, and I am more grateful than I could articulate. Through winning this award I feel a tremendous amount of support, and I am so excited to keep creating. Thank you so much!