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Kingston artist Emma-Kate Moore entered the Parkin Drawing Award for the first time and, much to her surprise, was one of eight artists to have two works selected for the finals. She tells Rebecca Fox about her art journey.
Q Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in a small town in southeast Queensland.
Q How did you discover drawing?
I've drawn ever since I can remember. As a maker, I'm drawn to all forms of creating but in terms of art, I've especially loved the rudimentary nature of drawing. It's approachable and allows me to work out ideas right there, in a free and unpretentious way, just making the marks.
I like describing what I see, both for the simple pleasure of deeply observing something and as a material way to understand the world around me more deeply, whether it's grabbing a pencil or using my iPad.
Q Did you study art in school?
I took art in high school but am otherwise self-taught as an illustrator/artist. I completed a BA degree in philosophy at the University of Queensland. I've always had an interest in conceptual matters, how our ideas about ourselves, the world and our approach to living shape our day-to-day practical realities, so I think both my learning and art-making flow along those lines.
I enjoy learning and take my self-directed education as an artist seriously. I take classes/workshops in life drawing, watercolour and printmaking wherever I'm living, and have made time consistently over the past decade to draw most days and develop a practice.
I also read widely about artists whose work I love, both visual artists and also writers, poets, designers, and I'm always particularly interested in their processes.
Q What is it about drawing you like?
For me, drawing always comes first when I'm making something or working something out. It's like the gateway drug to serious art making, haha, but, I think, also interesting and expansive enough as a discipline to be an end in itself.
Q What made you enter the Parkin Prize?
I have a friend [Sophie Scott] who lives nearby and has been selected as a finalist for the Parkin before who suggested I enter this year. It's the first award I've entered, so I needed some encouragement to share my work on a national level.
Q How did you feel when you made the shortlist?
I felt really encouraged.
Q Do you make a living from it?
Art making is the vocation of my life - sometimes it pays the bills and other times I supplement my income with other projects, from illustration to photography to Airbnb.
Q How long have you been living in Kingston?
I have been in Kingston since 2013 and it is home. I LOVE it here and have been overwhelmed by how welcoming this small community has been to us as neighbours and friends. I think it's probably the best village in the world! My partner [Patrick, who is originally from Monterey, California] and I chose this region of NZ to make our home because of the lifestyle and landscape.
We wanted a beautiful place to live simply and affordably, to have the kind of lifestyle that allows time to create regularly without the high-paced pressure of needing each and every project we take on to have commercial viability just to pay the bills.
This is a great luxury as an artist. Patrick is a designer, photographer, chef who also loves working from home on a diverse range of projects.
Q How long does it take to finish a piece?
Saddle Up, the horse drawing, for the Parkin took about six hours, in a couple of sittings over a few days. I particularly enjoyed shading the leaves on the trees in small patches of scribbles once I'd roughed in their larger shapes. Detail work like that is meditative.
The Arrow Junction landscape for the Parkin, took about 12 hours, also in a few sittings over a few days. In a piece like this I am working to abstract the landscape into shapes, defined by continuous lines, which I then colour with larger strokes.
The working of multiple layers, using flat colours with some opacity to build up a picture is a similar process to many forms of printmaking, and I've been particularly interested in woodblock printmaking techniques and aesthetic when visually exploring my local landscape recently.
Q What materials do you use?
Both of these drawings for the Parkin are done with my stylus, an Apple Pencil, on my tablet, an iPad Pro, using an illustration program called Procreate. I learnt to draw using pencils and paper, and enjoy all forms of mark making with just about any medium, from pens and Sharpies to charcoal, chalk, watercolour and gouache.
Over the last few years I have been exploring drawing with digital tools, but haven't found the technology to be truly enjoyable until recently. Now, it really is comparable to picking up a pencil and putting it down on paper with the developments in speed, pressure sensitivity and accuracy afforded by some of the latest tools.
So all of the general technical skills in drawing I've developed over the last decade can be put to work using a digital medium, which, like any medium, takes time and practice to learn and become comfortable with. This is distinct from a computer-generated or manipulated image where a few clicks or commands tells the program what to make.
In my case, it's traditional hand-drawn marks and strokes each made with the stylus, the underlying technology supporting my creativity in allowing for variation in colour, size, texture, opacity etc in the making of each mark. I mean, even the ubiquitous paper and pencil was once a new technology that allowed a different form of human expression.
Q Where do you work?
I work from home, mostly at our kitchen table. We live in a cosy 1970s crib, called the Boathouse, a name we inherited from the previous owners who built and restored boats here.
We bought it around 18 months after we moved here and have since renovated it to make the 60sq m into one open-plan space where we live and work, along with a small extension where we enjoy hosting family, friends and guests.
It's heated incredibly well by a Yunca log burner, which becomes like a well-tended and much loved pet in the wintertime. Our dining table looks out over the garden (lots of flowers and veges in the warmer months) and hedge to Lake Wakatipu, and the mountains dusted with snow. It's idyllic.
Q What inspires you?
The landscape. Kindness. The courage of people who truly live as themselves in the world. Family and friends who are audacious, generous and brave when living with loss, illness or hardship.
Q Have you sold your work/exhibited your work?
I have worked freelance as an illustrator over the last six years, across a range of commercial projects both locally and abroad. Over the last six months I have had a range of print work, a series on NZ birds, for sale at Vesta in Queenstown, MXT in Auckland as well as a range of gift cards for sale in a few other stores.
Q What do you aim to do with your art?
Keep on making it. I would like to be able to exhibit a larger body of work at some point, and am working towards this at the moment. Art making is integral to living healthily for me; it's who I am.
I hope some pieces or projects will continue to have commercial appeal, and to help pay my bills, but I'm committed to a life of creating for its own sake.