Corby mum's lockdown art passion leads to Washington Post illustration commission

Emma Evans had been working on her art during lockdown

By Alison Bagley
Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 9:22 am

A Corby mum-of-two has been left amazed by a commission for an 69-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American newspaper that draws in millions of readers a month.

Emma Evans had been using her lockdown time to carry on her passion for art from her living room whilst watching the TV.

Taking part in a daily art challenge set by a US-based Instagram group her distinctive style caught the eye of one of the commissioning art editors of the famous newspaper.

Emma Evans with the Weekend supplement

Contacted via social media, the 49-year-old was asked to provide the illustrations for an article about Zoom wine, cocktail and whiskey tasting - a challenge she accepted.

She said: "It's amazing. it just goes to show that if you keep on going you can still make it. Being part of the group reignited my passion for the arts. We had a daily challenge and it kept me going during lockdown.

"One day I got a message on my @icklewitch Instagram that someone wanted to contact me. They said they really loved my style and my artwork. It turned out to be an art editor from the Washington Post.

"The article was all about Covid and how people have been doing wine, whiskey and cocktail tasting over Zoom."

Emma Evans byline

Emma immediately agreed and set about drawing for the design brief set by the paper. Over four days and guided by the commissioning editor she produced the four illustrations.

Using pencil to sketch the initial ideas, she then used ink and finally watercolours to create the paintings and then enhanced them digitally to produce the final pieces.

She said: "It was the first time I'd done an all-nighter since I was a student. They told me what they wanted - fruit, a hand, space on the left hand side - and I adjusted the illustrations."

Working to the tight deadline was even trickier when at once point her cat ran across her drawing board with dirty paws.

Emma, Bill and Phil

She said: "I had to rub the marks off and paint over them."

The unknown Corby artist's work was then used on the front of the popular supplement and inside across several pages.

Despite graduating with a degree in Surface Pattern, Emma had not been using her creative training except for at home.

Made redundant during lockdown from RS Components, her artistic career has had another upswing with a new role working at Workbridge at St Andrew's Healthcare in Northampton, holding ceramics therapy classes.

The front page of the Washington Post's supplement featuring Emma Evans's work

Emma's illustrations now take pride of place, not on her living room wall but in the Whiskey aisle at Corby Tesco Extra superstore, in Oakley Road, as a thank you to sales assistant Bill Muir.

He had been helping Emma and her husband Keith since Christmas as they became whiskey connoisseurs, buying and tasting 35 bottles of 'liquid gold'.

As the couple chatted over the months, and got to know each other, Bill learnt of the incredible story of Emma's lucky break.

She decided that the ideal place for the illustrations of wines and spirits was the place where she shopped for them and gave them to Bill.

Bill said: "We want to celebrate our customers and encourage them to do something great. It's a celebration of local talent and a lovely customer who got a break."

With help from the in-store Max Spielmann outlet, the Washington Post front cover has been enlarged and put on a canvas with Emma and Keith presented with a bottle of whiskey as a thank you for the pictures.

The illustration for the Whiskey has been used by an American whiskey producer

Phil Langham, Corby Extra Tesco store manager, said: "It's a pleasure to be able to support Emma."

The original cover
The beer illustration