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The Yorkshire artist illustrating Shakespeare’s First Folio

Bears in the Forest by Emily Sutton
Bears in the Forest by Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton is an artist, illustrator, and print maker. She has illustrated over twenty picture books for children both in the UK and internationally, collaborating with authors including Nicola Davies; Katherine Rundell, Michael Bond and most recently Anne Twist. Her work is inspired by mid-century book illustrations, collecting old toys and a love for the natural world. This year, she designed the joyful artwork for Castle Howard’s Christmas in Neverland. Her latest project is illustrating Shakespeare’s First Folio; A Children’s Edition which will be published by Walker Books and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 2024. Emily lives and works in York with her dog Mouse.

A place in Yorkshire that makes you smile?

The Outside In, on Holgate Road in York. It’s a gorgeous little houseplant and terrarium shop run by my friends Alice and Carlos, and the entire atmosphere is guaranteed to cheer me up on even the gloomiest day. Alice radiates sunniness and enthusiasm, and her passion for plants is catching. She also runs workshops and other activities; I’ve done a couple of the terrarium making workshops and it’s such a fun and inspiring way to creatively recharge.

A place in Yorkshire that you love to eat at?

I recently had possibly the best meal of my life at The Star Inn at Harome. I’m not normally a gourmet restaurant kind of person, but it was a special occasion, and I was so impressed by the attention to detail - the food, the service and the decor were all amazing. Partisan in York is the place I eat at most and is also always excellent - the owners Florencia and Hugo have created a proper York institution that’s a magnet for creative types, decorated with antiques and art with a fresh and locally sourced menu. It’s the place I take visiting friends and family for a delicious lunch or cake - it’s never missed the mark.

Great British Life: Castle Howard's Neverland by Emily SuttonCastle Howard's Neverland by Emily Sutton

A place in Yorkshire that you like to take friends?

It’s probably going to sound biased because I’ve been doing artworks for them for a number of years now (and even used it as the basis for one of my picture books, The Tale of the Castle Mice by Michael Bond), but I love taking friends to visit Castle Howard. It’s an easy drive out of York and it’s so peaceful to wander around the grounds and beautiful walled gardens. When my nieces were small, I would take them to look at the colourful fish in the pond and the spectacular fountain, and these days they’re very into the adventure playground. I’m also excited to go with some pals to a Halloween themed outdoor cinema there this month.

An early memory of Yorkshire?

I spent the first four years of my life living on our family farm in the Wolds, and still have a strong connection to that part of the county. I remember going on lots of very hilly walks and getting up to mischief around the farm with my cousins who lived there too. We were only a few miles from Hunmanby Gap and would spend weekends going to the beach, persuading my dad to make increasingly ambitious and enormous sandcastles. Another very vivid memory is going to the Castle Museum in York when I was about six for a primary school trip; we all dressed up in suitable costumes and visited Kirkgate Victorian high street with its wonderfully recreated shops, prison and schoolroom. This was the first time I ever tried using a dip pen - funnily enough it’s the tool I now use for the majority of my illustrations!

Your cultural go-to?

I love having a day out at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Whilst my own artworks and the art I’m drawn to are predominantly two-dimensional, there is something so special about seeing the huge sculptures surrounded by rolling fields and the very indifferent, grazing sheep. There’s also an excellent gift shop with both art and books for sale that I tend to spend way too much money in!

Great British Life: Emily Sutton. Credit Esme Mai PhotographyEmily Sutton. Credit Esme Mai Photography

A place for indulgence?

I’m not into spa days or shopping so my main indulgence is generally food based! For this I have two contenders - York Cocoa Works for the most incredible hot chocolate, chocolate bars and truffles that are all made in York, and The Mill in Stillington which is a café and arts venue opened up a few years ago by Abbi Ollive and her family. Ever since the café started opening on Saturdays during the spring-autumn months it’s been such a treat to get a fancy coffee from Paul’s state of the art machine and one of Abbi’s spectacular bakes - sit under an apple tree in the garden there and escape from the world for an hour.

I'm never happier than when . . .

either deeply immersed in whatever book or other illustration project I’m working on, or walking with my friends and our dogs in the Yorkshire countryside - especially at this autumnal time of year when there are acres of stubble fields for the pups to race around in and blackberries for us to pick.

A view that inspires

The drive over the moors to get to Whitby, or the views from Yearsley Wood over to Ampleforth, one of my favourite walking spots.

Three words that sum up your best Yorkshire life?

Countryside, animals, family


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