To celebrate the release of our 2021 puzzles, we're getting to know some of the talented artists who illustrated and designed the artworks!
This week, we spoke with Matthew Emeny, the illustrator behind our wonderful Changing of the Guard puzzle. We hope you enjoy getting to know himas much as we did!
Tell us a little about yourself.
Firstly, thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself. I hope it's evident that I'm enthusiastic about my artwork; but when I'm not in my studio, here are some other things I'm passionate about and like to spend my time doing……
I like to go for walks with my family and generally enjoy being outdoors as much as possible, even if it's just in the garden. I try to go for a run when I can and find it a good way of keeping fit and unwinding after a busy day. However, I'm also happy just relaxing with a good gripping TV series or film. Anything that's suspenseful and leaves you guessing!
As well as being a self taught artist, I'm also a self taught drummer, playing regularly at the Church I attend. My Christian faith is very important to me and one of the things I thank God for is my ability to paint and the joy of sharing my art with others.
There's always time to tackle a jigsaw puzzle, but so far I've never attempted a 1000 piece and therefore can't wait to see how long it takes me to complete 'Changing of the Guard'. The fact I painted the scene probably won't help much and I look forward to my wife and children helping!
How long have you been an illustrator for, and what inspired you to make it your career?
I started painting at a young age just as a hobby and would paint scenes as gifts for family and friends. My style was still developing and I enjoyed experimenting with different mediums and attempting a wide range of subjects. I am totally self taught, so I was delighted when I sold my first painting and started receiving the occasional commission request. I was thrilled that people actually liked my art enough to pay for it! Knowing that paintings I had created were hanging in people's homes was a buzz, gave me a feeling of accomplishment and spurred me on to paint more and more.
With commissions increasing, I established my business Emeny Art in January 2011 and have just celebrated 10 years!
2013 was a big turning point for me as I finally found a subject to specialise in. This was all thanks to my father-in-law Andrew who suggested I tried military aviation scenes. He had a large collection of old postcards featuring WWII aircraft and kindly gave these to me to use as reference material. I soon discovered my ability to paint aircraft in very high and realistic detail and haven't looked back since. This same attention to detail also became evident with other subjects, not just aviation.
To start with I was working around my full time job in my spare time and early in the mornings. However, my military aviation paintings were proving to be very popular, to the extent that I had enough commissions being booked to start thinking about turning full time professional. In January 2019 that's exactly what I did. It was a bold step and definitely daunting to begin with; but orders continued to come in and have been ever since. It is great being able to work full time doing something I thoroughly enjoy, that just started out as a hobby.
How does it feel to have your artwork turned into a jigsaw puzzle?
Absolutely amazing! I still don't think it's sunk in yet and probably won't do until I have all 1000 pieces on the table struggling to complete the puzzle! Many artists and illustrators aspire to seeing their work used this way and for me having it become a reality is definitely a dream come true! Very special indeed!
What’s your biggest achievement?
Considering this is the first time my art has been used for a jigsaw puzzle; then I'm going to say it has to be Gibsons decision to use the scene 'Changing of the Guard'. I know Gibsons take great pride in their products and set a very high standard when it comes to selecting scenes for their puzzles. With that in mind, it is not only a huge achievement for me, but also an honour to be working with Gibsons and an important milestone in my career as an artist.
Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators who want to develop their career?
The most important thing to do is enjoy being creative, keep doing what you're good at, but also don't not be afraid to experiment, develop your style and explore new subjects until you find what works best for you. Sometimes that push into the deep end can reveal new styles and abilities you didn't even know you had. I believe that hard work pays off and is evident in the work you produce. So, enjoy your work, don't be afraid to experiment and continue to work to your best ability. And as well as exhibitions and submitting your work to those companies who may be potentially interested; definitely use social media as a platform to get your creations and designs out there! The more people who get to see your art/illustrations the better. And a well designed website is definitely worth investing time and money in!
What is a day in the life like for you when you’re working?
A good breakfast to kick start the day is a must and helps me avoid snacking at work! With my studio connected to the kitchen, it's easy to raid the cupboards which is not ideal.
Music! My studio is often full of music, which I find is good entertainment whilst working. It is often inspirational; with different types of music suiting different subjects and moods. It can get quite lonely in the studio and I find music helps break the silence! My favourite music is 80s and classical.
What do you do for fun?
Definitely spending time with family and having crazy adventures together. My children share my creative streak and enjoy drawing and painting with me. In the summer we all like to socialise in the garden and I'm always eager to fit in as many BBQ gatherings as possible (in a non covid world!). Looking forward to returning to those times!
Essentially I find painting fun which is definitely a good thing!
Tell us a random fact about yourself?
I often paint with my fingers! Not a replacement for paint brushes, but very useful for dabbing paint (Gouache) on paper to create some interesting effects. Don't worry though, you won't find any fingerprints on 'Changing of the Guard'
What would be on your ideal pizza?
I know there's probably petitions out there trying to ban fruit from pizza, but I'm a great fan of ham and pineapple!