Emma Beavis is a graduate of Plymouth's BA (Hons) Illustration degree.
She now works freelance as a multi-award winning artist, illustrator and animator in Bristol – having recently been awarded the Birmingham Film & Television Festival student animation award for her beautiful final degree animation 'Eden and the Greed'.
Driven by bold colour schemes, interesting themes and funky characters, Emma just loves creating and making.
Emma's practice focuses on immersive storytelling and creating fluid transitions within her animation and static work.
From fantastically grotesque monsters, to the meaningful moments of everyday life, she enjoys exploring a wide variety of themes and subject matters including science, education and current global issues.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Emma talks about her recent award success, what inspires her practice, how her time at Plymouth prepared her for a career, and what the future may hold next for Emmer Studios.
- Award-winning artist, illustrator and animator
- BA (Hons) Illustration graduate
- Winner of the Birmingham Film & Television Festival student animation award (2022)
- Winner of the competition to design the artwork on SailGP’s Great Britain Sail Grand Prix merchandise (2021)
In conversation with Emma Beavis
What did the process involve? How long did it take to make?
The animation took over a couple thousand drawings and about four months from start to finish – including ideas generation, research, development and the creation of the final outcome.
Where do you begin?
I always start with research. Loads and loads of it from relevant to random – because in the creative process you just don’t know where your creativity is going to come from, so look at as much as you can to inform your ideas.
For example, research into your theme, mine was ‘fresh air’, but look into colour theories and associations, what impact might they have, will they enhance the narrative or detract from it?
Who is your audience? Research into how you’re going to get your idea across. How do they do it in advertisement? Looking at it from as many possible angles allows you to start big and then funnel it down to your end result.
Did you go through many different iterations?
My ideas changed many times. While the central idea had the same focus, I found myself continuously re-designing and re-working storyboards over and over, character designs, camera angles, textures – but that’s the whole part of development. It’s meant to change because you're meant to learn something from your process.
It’s important to try something new and if it doesn’t go to plan then that’s also a really good thing because you can learn from it.
Eden and the Greed
How does it feel to have won the Birmingham Film & Television Festival student animation award?
It still feels a little bit surreal that my animation did so well, but I’m so excited and grateful for it being selected.
When creating an animation like this, with all the different components that go into making it, you spend so much time working on it that it becomes a part of you. You become really precious of it and naturally feel proud of what you’ve spent time on, but it always feels nice to know that others feel the same way or that the work had an impact on them.
How did you find out you won?
It was really funny because I opened up my emails and saw the notification but it was past midnight and there wasn’t anyone awake, my flatmate had gone to sleep, so I couldn’t tell anyone. I stood there smiling, phone in one hand and a spatula in the other – I happened to be cooking late that night – and then danced around the kitchen quietly and told everyone about it the next day. Everyone was really happy for me.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind, and the creation of, 'Eden and the Greed'?
Eden and the Greed is an animation that explores the importance of having fresh air and how we might take it for granted.
It was inspired by a brief set by the Fresh Air World Organisation and I focused my response on the importance of trees and how as a society we are surrounded by consumerism to the point where we’re probably heading towards a world where we choose to buy fresh air over planting a tree, purely based on convenience.
It is an animation that transports you to a future where consumerism has completely taken over and the world left behind is completely desolate – in hope that it makes us reflect on our current situation.
Created as part of the 'Fresh Air World' project; this 2D hand-drawn animation demonstrates the importance of having a world with fresh air and what a privilege it is to have fresh air so freely.
Watch Eden and the Greed
– Emmer Studios
Finding your voice
You love to create immersive stories, so where can the inspiration come from to create new stories within your animations and illustrations?
I get inspiration from everywhere, but most often than not from people I talk to. Whether someone says something in a comical way or has an opinion on something it inspires me and I’ll find scrap paper and start scribbling words down and make drawings from that. You’ll find my drawings on brown paper bags and anything I can grab when an idea strikes.
I am also really inspired by music. Whether it’s a certain lyric or a riff that captures my attention, I think art and music just go hand in hand. When I say my animations are immersive, I mean they’re coming at you from multiple angles, both visually and audibly, to allow the viewer to feel all consumed by the work. It’s strange but whenever I start creating an animation, in the ideas stage, I also start to write a song at the same time.
When I'm sketching a storyboard I can see the journey and the flow of the work and start hearing the drawings and how they could flow to audio. Each animation has a few lyrics I’ve written alongside the composition, but then I often strip it back to the piano holding the melody and create additional sounds from found objects and recordings to bring in different textures for a more complete sound.
You're drawn to a variety of themes – from science, educations and global issues – how do you begin planning an illustration or animation for different markets?
When you’re making work for a particular audience, you need to immediately think about its context. What is its purpose and how are you going to communicate this? If you’re looking at making something educational then I think about its accuracy and what age group as this will inform the colours, style and ultimately everything about the work.
Whereas if it’s a global project that could potentially have an international audience, then how will it be received from opposite ends of the world? Is the message still going to be understood the same? I really try to put myself in my audiences’ shoes and think, 'how would I visually receive this work or project?'
How long has it taken you to define your style of work? Do you have any advice to help someone discover their own personal voice?
As I’m sure most artists and creatives say, you never really notice your own style of work – myself included – but as one of my lecturers once said to me, 'often your style is what flows out of you and what comes naturally', so for me that is illustrating with big exaggerated shapes and colour and making animations with morphing sequences.
I think as creatives we’re so set on making things we feel we ‘should be making’, when actually it’s when you go off on a random tangent or start drawing dinosaurs and people swinging in space surrounded by cheese that you might just find a way of drawing or making that just feels fun. That could be your style.
I’d say from an advice point of view, just keep drawing. Anything and everything, whenever you feel like it.
Don’t apply too much pressure on yourself, just draw away and reflect on what it is that you’re actually interested in. You’ll find the love and drive for your project and that’s when you’ll find your personal voice.
Don’t keep making what you think you should make as you won’t find yourself within that – allow outside influences to inspire and inform you but follow your creative flow and see where it takes you.
Where does your interest in colour and characters come from?
I love colour and things that are bold or considered. It lifts you on rainy days and I enjoy the task of finding colour schemes that work together or against each other and what it says about the illustrations. Not only does it have a massive impact on the way we receive and understand art but it’s just so fun to experiment with.
At school, for me, it felt quite restrictive, because you’re thinking about colours that do and don’t work together, like there’s a right and wrong way of doing art? Which there absolutely isn’t. You can feel restricted to what you can make, but sometimes when colours clash that’s the best combination. I love experimenting.
Have you always loved creating and making?
Yes, I was really lucky growing up to have a really supportive family that allowed me to explore creating and making. I was surrounded by pens and paper and what my mum would call ‘my box of making stuff’ to go and feel inspired by.
From following Art Attack tutorials to making things from recycling, I’ve always had this desire to just make things. Whether it’s through writing, like composing songs or poetry, baking, or dancing; I’ve always felt creative and I just love the art of creating.
You seem to embrace the creation of mood boards and completing a lot of sketching and storyboarding. How far along with an idea do you need to be before you begin using any digital tools? Have you had any eureka moments derived from sketching?
I find mood boards and sketching so important, especially in the initial stages and throughout the development. This is where you begin to cluster your thoughts and ideas visually together and is such an important part of the process. It can be really easy to want to jump straight into digital, but if you can I think it’s important to keep sketching on paper as this allows your ideas to flow more naturally.
Most of my projects start with sketching using a normal pencil and paper or a sketchbook and then I will sometimes re-draw it all digitally afterwards. I’ve even had it where I’ve been sorting through piles of old paper and books in my studio and I come across a random sketch that then went on to inform future work – so even if a sketch doesn’t feel important at the time it can sometimes come back and inspire you later.
What digital tools and technology do you use to create your work?
If I’m creating digital illustrations or 2D animations then I will draw on my iPad in Procreate, which allows you to mimic the traditional style of animation where you draw frame by frame and flick between the layers in quick succession, but through a screen instead of paper. I do also use other video and audio editing software to develop and compile ideas together.
Your time at Plymouth
How did your time studying at Plymouth help prepare you for life after your graduated?
My lecturers were really helpful for providing opportunities for us to collaborate with external clients and briefs. So in relation to having experience of applying our work to real life projects my course was great.
My lecturers were also practicing illustrators, artists and animators too, which really helped as they would always be happy to offer advice about their own experiences. They were great and so supportive that you could talk to them about anything, which really allowed me to feel comfortable during my studies and staying in touch with them after graduating.
What were highlights from your time at Plymouth?
Coming from quite a big city, it was so nice to be in a smaller one that was right next to the sea. I would go on long walks along the coast to clear my mind and it felt so inspiring being so connected with the outdoors.
In relation to my course, the highlight was being in the illustration studios with my friends and course mates. We would collaborate together, laugh together, be there for each other and have the best creative time together. I always felt so inspired being surrounded by them. The studios were the best.
Do you have any advice to students wishing to follow you down a similar career path?
Do not limit yourself and if you have the opportunity to attend talks or tutorials then just go for it because it will help grow your understanding of your practice so much.
If there’s a design for a logo competition or a local illustrative brief you can get involved with, just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean you aren’t capable at being great at it.
I know you don’t have to go to attend higher education to become a great artist, but the skills you learn and the people that you meet there will become your greatest inspirations, biggest fans and lifelong companions, so I’d always go for it if you can.
Just try and get involved in anything you can – even if you aren’t sure of your style or if your way of working is suitable.
SailGP's winning design
As a third-year student, you won another prize – a competition to design the artwork that appeared on
SailGP’s Great Britain Sail Grand Prix merchandise, depicting the theme ‘Powered by Nature’. How important do you think art is in making or carrying an important message about the world?
I think its massively important. In a world that is so heavily visual in so many different varieties and platforms, using art to make or say an important message feels like a responsibility.
Our visual language is intercultural, it’s not language or nationality bound, it’s understood by so many – so why not make something impactful and make a difference with it if you can.
Our visual language is arguably the most important language of them all.
What are you working on at the moment? What projects are coming up?
I’ve recently worked on illustrative work that explores the importance of connecting with nature. I exhibited this in a gallery space in Bristol Aquarium during April 2022 half term with a group called Create for Collab, an artist group led by other Illustration graduates from University Of Plymouth, alongside lots of other amazing creative Bristol artists.
In my free time I’m creating more random illustrative work on things I’m inspired by such as music and I have also been making illustrative work in relation to the Ukraine Aid support.
I have been spending time volunteering at an art therapy group for adults with learning disabilities and Alzheimer’s to help them express themselves too.
It’s so lovely to explore art in so many different ways as it has really allowed me to reflect on myself and my practice and it’s also wonderful to see what a positive impact art can have on others.
Do you have a dream commission or job that you would love to do?
Ultimately, I’ll be happy as long as I’m making work that I want to make, then work doesn’t feel like work.
I would really love to collaborate or make work for impactful groups striving for positive change, like Forrest 500 or working with National Geographic and Sir David Attenborough.
I’m so passionate about topics like this so it would be really cool to work with people with a similar focus and to make animated and illustrative work that's research driven and impactful and used for positive change towards our natural world.
Define your direction, get noticed and work in industry
In a lively, purpose-built studios with creative students and award-winning staff, we help you forge your visual voice to succeed in today's fast-paced creative worlds. You set your work in a global context through inspiring overseas study trips. Take part in an International Exchange programme to broaden your cultural references and gain new contacts in the international illustration scene. Prepare to get noticed in the professional world with external commissions and competitions