Emma Green Blog



December 18thWelcome to my blog. My name is Emma Green and I am an artist based in Woodbridge Suffolk. I have been commissioned to create a special artwork for the new premises of Suffolk Coastal District Council for their new premises at East Suffolk House.  Here I aim to keep a written and visual diary of the painting I will be working on and the beautiful Suffolk river that inspires it.



‘That winding streamlet, limpid, lingering slow,

where the reeds whisper when the zephyrs blow;

with ceaseless motion comes & goes the tide,

flowing, it fills the channel vast & wide;

then back to sea, with strong majestic sweep,

it rolls, in ebb yet terrible deep.’

George Crabbe, Suffolk Poet


It was time for the painting to be hung in it’s position, the high, beautifully lit wall at East Coast House. It arrived safely in one piece, and was put in the able hands of staff from Suffolk Norse, who scaled the scaffolding and deftly secured the weighty panels in place. I watched , excited and terrified.


The relief seeing the painting up on the wall was immense. It was the right size! I had checked and double checked the dimensions before beginning the painting, tweaking the size many times before ordering the linen panels, It had to be big enough for the large wall but not so big that I couldn’t get it out through my studio door. Seeing it finally in position, the shape of the panels echoing the dark frames of the window panels of the building, I was delighted. Most importantly, I was pleased with the painting itself. I normally avoid commissions as for me it creates too many compromises with the finished painting, the direction the painting needs and wants to go. I felt now, looking at the piece that it was a good balance of answering the brief set by the council and the natural flow of the way I work, the decisions I make spontaneously in that creative moment that hopefully result in a good painting.

So here it is, my painting:

Lingering Tide, Soft Light (The Deben)’ Oil On Linen 2018  (190×135 cm) & (190x85cm)

East Suffolk House Commission

Here are some of my family, friends and staff at Suffolk Coastal District Council – I’d like to thank the staff and everyone at the council for this wonderful opportunity and their positive feedback. Photos by Paul Nixon at EADT.

group photo!

commission painting 1


April (2)

“Pale beneath dark clouds, the winter sun descends. Across it’s shine the gulls patrol, while over marsh and saltings the oyster catcher’s call comes borne on salt-sharp wind.” – Ian Tait

The winter this year had seemed to go on and on. With tantalising glimpses of spring one day, then the daffodil stems smothered in snow and an icy north easterly howling down the river on the next.

With an equally cold studio progress was slow, with paint seemingly taking forever to dry. But on a rare sunny day in April, the big painting was dry and ready for another layer.

The Boatyard Studio

The boatyard was busy, with yard hands and boat owners keen to get their boats back in the water. The hammering, sawing, sanding, the crane and forklift engines beating their own tune, becoming part of the rhythm of the painting.

brushes ready

The boatyard in the painting is suggestive. I splash and smear the paint on – here the suggestion of a rooftop, and there a hull, a mast.

Scared that I will drop and damage it, I enlist some help to move the panels over to the window so I can check the surface in the light.

Out of the studio window the Lapwing are doimg their aerial dance, the males showing off now as they dive and roll and zig-zag to alert their presence to rival males and potential mates.

Knowing when a painting is finished can be hard. Ultimately the artist has to trust their instinct. I knew then as I looked at the huge painting dominating the studio wall, that it was finished.


Studio tunes of the day:

Eivør – Trøllabundin 

Fairport Convention – Who Knows Where The Time Goes


April (1)

‘Ambiguity to clarity, absence to presence,

and the hazy mysteries of nature’  James Fox


For my idea of the two linen panels for the painting and inspired by the segmented black framed windows of East Suffolk House, I have drawn on an art form dating back to sixteenth century Japan. Here artists worked on multiple contiguous surfaces, not only on small decorative screens and partitions but also on a magnificent scale and designed to enhance the architecture of the building in which it was placed.

Popular subjects included flowers, birds and sages from legend, but also most notably for me, landscape. Branches, hillsides and mountain streams flow from one panel to another in simple Zen-like style.

Hasegawa Tohaku’s mesmerising ‘Pine Trees in the Mist’ 1580  is one of Japan’s most famous and one of my favourites. The trees stand ethereal, their forms appearing in and out of the damp mountain fog. It was painted about one hundred years after Sesshu Toyu’s iconic ‘Splashed Ink Landscape’. In a recent television program James Fox discusses this ground breaking but remarkably humble painting which was the beginning of this unique aesthetic. The simplest brush marks and shifts in tone create a remarkable serene, shifting landscape three or four hundred years before Impressionism began visually exploring the landscape in such a way.

What strikes me most is the amount of space and light in composition. Areas of what appears as empty space are just as important as the areas of detail and it is this that exudes a calm meditative feel in works of this nature. It’s a characteristic I hope to capture in my own work.

Eastern Horizon

‘Eastern Horizon’ Oil On Linen, Emma Green 2018

Horizons are placed low, leaving a large expanse of space and light in which to breathe. In my painting for East Suffolk House, the sky and light-filled river below will also take centre stage.

March (1)

“Various winds, the Sea Wind, the sound-laden winds of Evening,

Blowing the stars towards them bringing snow”

from  ‘Various Portents’ by Alice Oswald

Before the snow came, the towpath was lined with bare stems of Blackthorn and barbed Dog Rose. Only the vivid yellow of the Gorse enlivened the grey and the sparse winter landscape.IMG_20141117_193255

It won’t be long however before the Blackthorn and Cherry Plum will be in blossom, and then later, on long warm summer days, the Dog Rose, Sea Aster and Sea Lavender.

Blackthorn 1 oil on copper  Blackthorn 1 – oil on copper

For now though, the riverbank and the far shore beyond are cloaked in ice stone snow, the Gulls, hungry, wheeling above. And the river, as ever, a beautiful place.

gulls and snow



February 3

‘Now the warriors of winter they give a cold triumphant shout, 

And all that stays is dying and all that lives is camping out.

See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on 

before the snow’  Joni Mitchell

On the other side of the river, the land rises up, cloaked in trees. Scott’s Pines stand sentry, gazing down over the river. Here is Sutton Hoo, home to the legendary Anglo- Saxon ship burial and other earthen burial mounds which can just be seen on the horizon of the hill.towards Sutton Hoo

Apart from a couple buildings, I like to imagine that little has changed here. And it’s not just Sutton Hoo. The Suffolk coast is littered with clues to it’s past. Some have been taken by the sea but some like Barrow Hill ,which rises above Butley Creek, remain. It’s inhabited by cows now, signs of the excavations here 1978-81 still visible, their findings dating the site back to Neolithic and early Middle Bronze ages. These ancient sites contribute to the unique atmosphere of the coast here I think.

Back at the studio I am excited to find the big painting is dry and I am able to work another layer over the piece. Gently defining some of the clouds and a hint of branches on the trees. By the time I have finished it is almost dark and a gentle snow is falling.

Emma Working

I haul the painted panels into what little light is left. The boatyard and river has fallen quiet. On my stereo Kate Bush’s ‘Snowflake’ is playing.

‘I am Ice and Dust and Light, I am Sky….’

I look back at the painting, it is almost done.

February (2)

I cycle to the studio along the tow path through mud and puddles. It’s freezing in the studio. No matter though, another jumper and a big flask of hot coffee does the trick. I gently touch the painting. Still wet. No work on the big painting today.

damp day on the river

It’s one of those February days where the air is damp and still and it never feels like it has truly gotten light. The calls of the Oyster Catchers, Redshank and Curlew are eerie in the gloom. Later in the day as it starts to get dark, the trees on the other side of the river turn a deep slate blue and the white hulls of the bats in the yard gleam even brighter in a fleeting moment before the light vanishes. I love painting the river when it is on the cusp of nightfall, or since I have had my daughter, seeing the sunrise. At these times the river takes on a special quality as the day slips into night or that first gleam of light as another day begins.

wintry gloom

Studio tunes of the day: Satie: Gnossiennes – 1. Lent

Kate Bush: And Dream Of  Sheep

February (1)

Today the sunlight is streaming through the windows of the studio. The tide is high and choppy and the wind is strong, rattling the halyards of the boats and creating an unearthly holler that whistles round the boatyard like a banshee. The sun shimmering on the water is dazzling and when I turn back to look at the painting it takes time to adjust to it’s subtle colours and tones.

Today, with the background now dry, I’m tackling another layer. Along with some thinner layers over the whole thing, I now need to add some thick impasto layers where the suggestion of the boatyard would be. It’s a little daunting as once dry these thicker textural areas are there for good and will shape the composition of the final piece.


Often the messiest stage of the painting, I am adding layers that you only want a glimpse of when the final coat goes on. Brushes ready I turn up the stereo and begin to mix the bowls of paint.

Studio tunes of the day –  music to lose yourself in! :

James Blackshore ‘Cross’

Fever Ray ‘Coconut’

January (2)

On a bright day I get the background down. I spend time carefully blending my colours, six of them in bowls. I’ve chosen a palette of Charcoal grey, burgundy, olive, and lighter hues of white, grey and a creamier colour to add some warmth. I love nothing better than painting twilight, or thunder storms brewing, but for this piece I want to keep the light predominantly calm and not to feel cold once it hangs in the light, bright space of the council reception.

background colours

I work quickly, instinctively, gradually covering both panels. At this stage there is little detail, only the rough shapes of trees, shore and sky. It’s a thrill to work so large and I love it, revelling in the freedom of moving swathes of colour around such a large surface and beginning to see a hint of what this painting will become. Once this first layer is complete, now follows a period of waiting for it to dry (at this time of year the studio is freezing, and drying times frustratingly long) before the next can begin.

Studio tune of the day: Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto ‘Emperor’  – this glorious piece always makes me feel energised! essential for gearing up to work big.

January (1)

There’s a particular stretch of the river that I love as it winds it’s way up towards Melton.


From one side at this bend you can see the boatyard with it’s tangle of rigging, masts, hoists and crane. On the other, an expanse of mud too deep for boats to navigate. This is the home of Lapwing, Gulls, Knot, Oyster Catchers and Little Egrets. As the tide comes in and the water envelops the gulleys and mudflats, they fly up in flocks, the Knot especially, twisting and turning in looping formations that skim the water.  The Lapwing, as seen below, fly slower, alternating from black to white as they turn, looking for somewhere to settle.


I love the juxtaposition of the noise and clamour of the working boatyard with this wild place. It is a place I return to time and time again to sketch, and it is the subject I have chosen loosely to portray in my painting.

sketches in the studio


In December I took delivery from specialist art suppliers Bird & Davis, of two enormous and beautiful linen stretchers. My painting will encompass both panels, with the landscape flowing from one to the other in a classic diptych.   I hope to capture the light and atmosphere of the river Deben near my studio here on the Suffolk coast.

Linens Arriving

I have never worked on this scale before and am excited and daunted all at once to begin. So that I am able to begin work as soon as possible, the linen panels arrived stretched, primed and ready to go.