Recently described in a piece in The Tatler as ‘the next Quentin Blake’, York-based artist and illustrator Emily Sutton self-effacingly downplays the comparison.
“I don’t actually think my work is that similar, but it’s massively flattering,” she says. “And he was somebody I really liked and admired when I was growing up. I read all the Roald Dahl books that he illustrated.”
Sutton is one of around 100 artists participating in the York Open Studios this year. An annual free event taking place over two weekends, it allows the public to explore the creative spaces of the city’s many artists working across a range of media. Visitors next month will be able to see the work of ceramicists, painters, jewellers, sculptors and many other makers.
Sutton’s studio will be one of the highlights. Her work is inspired by cities, landscapes and treasures that she has discovered in antique shops, museums and galleries. “I spend a lot of time at car boot sales around York,” she says, laughing. “All my work is very much based on drawing from life, so I like to surround myself with objects and place them in different contexts. I draw every day, I miss it if I don’t, you build up a momentum and as you are working, you find ideas for other things.”
Her delicate, finely detailed paintings reflect her travels in Europe – there is a whole series of work that came out of a trip to Venice last autumn – journeys into the Yorkshire countryside, and all those visits to car boots. “I’m interested in architecture and signage, so that is often a starting point and I’ve done lots pictures of shopfronts.”
Sutton’s illustration work has been a busy part of her creative practice over the past couple of years including working with legendary Paddington author Michael Bond, who died at the age of 91 in 2017. Sutton illustrated Bond’s final two books, an experience she describes as “an absolute dream” and she had the pleasure of meeting him following publication in 2016 of the first book they worked on together, The Tale of the Castle Mice.
“When it was published, he invited me and the team from Random House to his beautiful house in Little Venice,” she says. “It was a warm September afternoon and we all sat outside eating marmalade sandwiches and cake. He was such a lovely person.”
Sutton has just signed off the proofs for the sequel The Ups and Downs of the Castle Mice, completed by Bond shortly before his death, which is due for publication in September and she is currently working on her own children’s book, a long-held ambition. “It’s loosely based on my niece and my dog,” she says.
“It’s about a little girl who moves to a new town where she befriends a dog and together they have lots of adventures.”
This will be the fourth time that Sutton has been involved in York Open Studios and she is looking forward to this year’s event. “It is always a really fun and vibrant couple of weekends,” she says. “It’s nice to chat to people and it’s really good to get feedback. People do tend to like seeing the work in the setting of the artist’s home and especially with my work you can see where I get my inspiration from because there are objects all around the house.”
York Open Studios, April 6 & 7 and 13 & 14, 10am-5pm at venues in and around York. Free entry. Full details and maps are available at www.yorkopenstudios.co.uk