Artistic License: Emma Sheridan

Penny McCormick talks to artist EMMA SHERIDAN about her inspirations, FASHION COLLABORATIONS and her CURRENT EXHIBITION … 

For the last six weeks Brown Thomas Dublin has presented “Art & Style” with the aim of showcasing the vibrant arts scene in Ireland today. Work by six contemporary artists were represented in both the store windows and in revolving exhibitions on Level One. If you visit the store this week, the quirky drawings of designer, illustrator and stylist, Emma Sheridan are on display. Her work brings together street style, fashion and pop culture.

Can you tell me the starting point and inspiration for your illustrations for Brown Thomas’s “Art & Style” exhibition?

My work has always been self-expressive; I have recently had another baby and I am trying to capture the sense of vulnerability you can feel. It’s a time of growth and renewal for me and I looked to nature to help me to show this. Like a flower these paintings are both strong and delicate, beautiful yet fragile. It can be hard looking after small children and you can feel like you have lost part of your old self. Painting gives me a voice, I like to use the figure to show the inner workings of my thoughts. The girl in my work is my alter ego and she tells the story of my daily adventures. They also touch on the area of mental health; I paint as a means of therapy and I use colour and humour to combat any negativity I may be feeling. I sketch compulsively, as a result I end up with very energetic, honest and colourful paintings. They are very personal and I hope to inspire any other mothers that might be feeling to same way as me. I want show them they are not alone.

How and where do you work? 

My current practice is all worked around being a parent of two small children, so I keep very unusual hours! I paint in the evenings when everyone is asleep, it’s a nice way to finish the day. When we are out and Ben is asleep in the buggy, I like to sit in a crowd and sketch passers-by. The whole thing is about speed and multi-tasking so I have to work fast. I feel like it is urgent, I like to take any opportunity I have to draw. I always carry a notebook in my bag. My studio is currently in the attic at home. It was in the city centre until recently but I could never get away to actually use it, so it needs to be available to me to grab those little opportunities to paint when I have a spare minute upstairs. Having it so readily available has allowed the work to develop a lot.

You have frequently collaborated with designers and fashion brands in the past, can you tell us a little about these?

I worked for years as a tailoring and outerwear designer in London for all the different high street giants. I have always been part of a fast-paced working environment so that is where the speed comes from. There was always a deadline and I got very used to projects coming out of nowhere and having to be done quickly. It was good training and it has made me very conscientious to my work. I also collaborate with the Irish designer Jill De Burca – we have been friends for a long time and both lived in the UK together. We combine our talents to create one of a kind wedding dresses.

Your style is very distinctive – has it evolved over time? Do you have any mentors?

It is something that I have been playing around with for a long time but became more refined in recent years. When my daughter was born four years ago I missed having a creative outlet and I started a project of doing a sketch every day to relax at night. At the beginning these were kept in small notebooks but, as I got more and more into it, they grew until they became the large paintings I do now. It is a style that developed because I was squeezing it into my day so I had very little time to get them done. I began to realise the faster I did a sketch and less I thought about it the better the outcome and so I harnessed that. The style became very instinctive and I liked the mistakes as much as the marks I made on purpose. It became a celebration of unapologetic almost accidental mark making and that is why it is so fun and free.

What are you working on next?

I am taking part in a group exhibition opening on May 3 in the Science Gallery. It’s all about art related to pregnancy, birth and beyond. We will be giving talks along-side some mental health professionals at this event too. I have absolutely loved the opportunity to work with the Brown Thomas team, it has been a dream come true and I hope to do more with them again in the future.

Need to know: Emma Sheridan’s work is in the windows and on Level One of Brown Thomas. For further information visit

Penny McCormick

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