Does that fox have an attitude? Yes, it does, and it is the creation of Chatham Artist Guild illustrator Emma Skurnick. Her unique work will be on display in her Bynum studio the first two weekends in December at the 25th Chatham Studio Tour. Skurnick’s nature illustrations infuse human emotions into realistic animal portraits. “I am respectful of nature,” she explains, “I give human personalities to animals in hopes that people will view their fellow creatures with empathy.” Skurnick explains why her intimate and humorous portraits of North Carolina’s flora and fauna are so clearly painted: “I want the viewer to overlook my materials and technique, and to directly experience the character of the animal.”
Emma has found a niche in the intersection of science and art. “When I was a kid in New York I spent my time in the woods collecting little treasures. And I was always drawing – especially deer and rabbits,” she remembers. “Due to dyslexia, I was discouraged from pursuing my interest in science and encouraged to develop my art. When I went to art school I was still picking up feathers and pine cones.” The fine art establishment at the time, however, did not encourage representational work so Skurnick found her niche in a science illustration graduate program in California. “I felt right at home,” she explains. “Art and science have some interesting commonalities. Both professions are based in asking questions, in experimentation, in pursuing answers to ‘what if?’”
She began her professional career in 2000 working as a science illustrator for journals, books, museums and other scientific communications. “I always wanted my art to be purposeful,” Emma notes. “Helping scientists communicate with the public felt good”. As time went by she also wanted to begin telling her own stories. “Nature illustration is traditionally made using watercolor and colored pencil. I use these tools in both my scientific and fine art work, and I’ve added to them as I progressed.” Her work now is mostly mixed media. “Whatever helps tell my stories.”
Now, there are many threads in Skurnick’s art life. She exhibits her work at the Joyful Jewel in Pittsboro, in area shows, and during the Chatham Studio Tour. She coaches other artists to expand their creativity in classes in her studio. She offers a subscription service in which members receive monthly illustrated letters.
Skurnick’s original art ranges in price from $200 to $800. She offers a range of other products such as decorative plates, note cards, and prints for as little as $1.
“I want my nature inspired message to be available to everyone.”