When successful artists recount their early inspirations, they often recall their youth. Emma Caldwell isn’t yet old enough to look back from that distant viewpoint, but this already attention-attracting artist confirms that she is inspired by her dairy roots.” I grew up on Maple Holme Farms, a dairy farm in Carp. We milked 45 Holsteins in a tie stall barn, until we sold our quota in 2007. We mainly do cash crops now. I have been a member of the Carp 4H dairy clubs for the past 12 years. After we sold our herd, I borrowed calves from Sandy Crest Holsteins, Riview Jerseys and Drentex Jerseys for my 4H projects. Last year I bought half of a jersey calf which I co-own with Mike & Monique Bols of Russell, Ontario. The past three years I have been helping the Bols of Drentex Jerseys along with Jenna James with their show string and helping out with clipping and preparing for the classifier. This will be my last year in 4H, but I hope to continue working with Drentex.”
In Praise of Painting
It’s exciting to hear how young Emma was when her artistic talent took root. “I think I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and it was something my dad and I did together after he got in from morning chores.” Looking at Emma’s portfolio, one envies the vision and talent that produce such art with apparent ease. It turns out that it was indeed a special talent. “I have two learning disabilities, and up until I was diagnosed I really struggled with school. I think if you don’t think you’re good at much else you’re going to focus on anything that gets you that bit of praise from your teacher or peers. So I guess art was attractive to me from a very early age because it was and still is a method of communication that I find most natural.”
Painting Her Way to the Top
Despite challenges along the way, 21 year old Emma has always set and achieved her goals. “I think my greatest accomplishment will be graduating from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. I have struggled throughout my entire education with learning disabilities. The Fine Arts program at Queen’s only accepts 30 students out of the 300 that apply each year, and since Queen’s was my first choice, to be one of those 30 is something I worked really hard for, and am really proud of.” This is a special achievement for Emma and one that, through her art, she can continue to share.
Basically Bovine with a Unique Perspective
As more art enthusiasts get the opportunity to explore Emma’s portfolio, they will become part of the evolution of this artist who feels her style is still developing. “I am always trying to grow as an artist. I want my art to have energy. I use a lot of bright colours, splashes and drips of paint with brushy strokes of paint. I like it when I let some of the underpainting show through, and leaving hints that there is more than meets the eye underneath. This year I started using gold leaf in some works and I really love the contrast it brings to a painting. It is not important that a painting be totally realistic, I am more concerned with the impression of character or presence. I think sometimes when I leave a part unfinished or just give a suggestion of something like hooves, it brings more life to the painting than I would achieve by trying to copy a photograph. What really draws me to cows is their personalities that you only get to know from being in close contact with them your whole life. I want my paintings to feel like they have captured the character of an animal.”
Expressing Dairy Strength and Power
One of the great pleasures of being an artist is having the opportunity to explore the different aspects of the chosen subject. “With cattle this becomes challenging,” says Emma, “because they do not fall into the two usual categories of animal painting: pets or wildlife.” She elaborates, “Cows are working animals, and although we love them, they’re not our pets, they are still bred for a purpose. I want to capture the strength and power that humans have bred them to be.” She sees the contrasting sides of these dairy animal partners. “Cows have been bred to be big, strong animals but also to have wonderful quiet temperaments that allows people to work with them). I try to convey the calm air that a mature cow has AND that tremendous physical strength that is absolutely necessary in an enduring cow, which is only really obvious in person, but also present her as feminine, dairy and stylish. That is a challenge exclusive to cow painting.” In eagerly accepting this challenge, Emma also recognized others who excel in this field and therefore are role models for her. “Bonnie Mohr has had the biggest influence on my artistic career. Not in terms of style, I am not going to try and be the next Bonnie Mohr because there is only one Bonnie Mohr, I just want to be myself. But I definitely look to Bonnie as my role model, especially her work ethic and setting goals for myself.” (Read more: Bonnie Mohr – Science and Art Together Creates a Holstein Love Story)
From Work in Progress to Charitable Fund Raiser
Emma’s art has provided her with special experiences recently as she explains, “When I am at school I often tweet pictures of my ‘works in progress’. One of the works I did at school was a painting of the legendary Ayrshire Sweet Pepper Black Francesca (Read more: The Magic of Francesca). I tweeted a picture of the unfinished work and a couple retweets later, Francesca was recognized. Deer Hill Ayrshires inquired about the painting and Jason French & Kris McLeod of Holstein Ontario asked if I could work on something for the branch AGM’s fun auction. These exchanges all happened within an hour.” The painting of Ferme Gillette’s Smurf was a highlight of the auction and was purchased by another passionate bovine observer, Patty Jones. The final site for hanging the painting was also meaningful to Emma, “It was so generous of Patty Jones to hang Smurf at Gillette. I think she looks right at home!”
Sharing Art in a Social World
Emma is continually surprised and humbled by the speed with which her work has reached people and inspired their enthusiasm. “Thanks to social media, my art has reached more people from across the world than I ever dreamed. I am absolutely blown away by the response, and when people retweet or share an image of mine I am absolutely just so humbled that people want to share my art with their followers or friends. It truly is an amazing time to be growing up with social media.” This modern change inspires her to reflect on what agricultural artists who precede her faced. “It gives me so much more respect for artists like Ross Butler who were as successful as they were in getting their art out there. It used to be just word of mouth and making sure you got your art seen and traveling.”
The Agricultural Spirit – Unlimited!
Forecasting the future for this rising artist is another broad canvas for Emma, seeing as she is so recently out of school. “Right now I am still just working as establishing myself as an artist, but in the future who knows! I think that there are many opportunities out there for myself as an agricultural artist. However, I don’t want to limit myself to only one area of art. There is so much I want to do and learn.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Despite her youth, or perhaps because of it, Emma has a clear vision of the possibilities she is facing. “A lot of my work at school has to do with the future of Canadian agriculture and I think my goal as an artist will always be to depict the passion of life that Canadian agriculture embodies. The farming community in Canada takes tremendous pride in the beauty and life in our land, and my art is a reflection of that spirit.” Obviously her artistic future is in good hands … her own!
Don’t miss your chance to own Emma’s work of art “Hailey” click here to find out how.