Emma de Polnay lives and works in Brighton as an artist, designer and MD of My Special PA.
Emma studied art at Wimbledon Art School, did a degree in fine art at Kingston University, and an MA in design for Film and Television. She worked for over 10 years as a set designer and art director for the Film and TV industry before creating a business she truly loves whilst re-discovering her passion for drawing and painting. She now runs the two strands of her career side by side.
Emma founded My Special PA creating a team of virtual assistants and business consultants offering a business service for creative professionals who need administrative assistance and business support without the full-time financial outlay. Through her own experience as a working artist, she understands that success in creative business demands a synergy between the left brain (logic and detail) and the right brain (feelings and imagination).
Emma’s collection of figurative artworks on paper have been created in a series of dynamic and intensive life drawing workshops guided by artist Bella Pieroni. In these energetic and unconventional sessions, the models (predominantly 2 at once) will move and dance to pieces of music and then hold mid-motion when asked to stop. Their positions are ‘found’ rather than ‘made’, thus retaining a vitality and dynamism that transfers to the mark making on the paper.
Emma combines naturally derived materials such as quills, reed pens, clay, chalk and ink with hot acrylic paint colours, glittery and iridescent mediums and found mixed media. She has also developed a series of mixed media abstract drawings and paintings using many of the drawing and mark making techniques she uses for her figurative pieces.
In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
As an artist - I’d be lying if I said it was all in creating my work. No, it’s seeing someone falling a love with a piece of my work and buying it. As a professional artist, there is no sweeter spot than this. The buyer has a piece of art they can enjoy everyday for the rest of their life and I have been paid for doing something I love. Happy Days.
As MD of My Special PA - I get a massive kick from hearing from happy clients. From seeing them enabled to get on with their creative work, whilst their MSPA VA or creative business consultant is working on their admin or marketing or helping them get their creative work to market. That’s where they should be, in their creative space doing what they specialise in, whilst we are doing what we specialise in!
Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
Grayson Perry - he’s about as genuinely individual as it gets. He looks so eccentric and yet he’s as straight talking and grounded, as he is wildly imaginative and innovative. I’ve just read his book 'Playing to the Gallery’ where he demythologises contemporary art with such warmth, candour and great wit. I think his artwork expresses his enormous tenderness for humanity, in all its wonky and wonderful forms. I also respect his hard work and unflinching vision. He certainly hasn’t always been a globally famous artist.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
In my art career - I wish my teachers had insisted I learn everything there is to know about colour science and mixing, experiment and really understand it. I struggle with this sometimes even now and have to go back to basics if something isn’t working. I like working really fast, so I get frustrated with not having this knowledge bank at hand.
In my business career - I wish someone had insisted I do a crash 'belt and braces' business course with a bit of legal/ compliance thrown in. I’m great at advising others, but at times making big decisions with associated contracts, still scare me. Again I’d like to feel more learned here.
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
As an artist - I try to let go inside, soften my thoughts, go back to sketches and allow myself to make a mess to stop myself being too controlling or precious. I believe creative blocks come when we are too left brain (logic and detail) and putting too much pressure on ourselves for results. We tighten up and then nothing flows. Creative constipation.
As a business owner - marketing and strategy require a lot of creative, if I get ‘blocked’ on what we want to be communicating about ourselves, I go back to the WWWH - What, Why, When, How? - And I’ve recently done a very useful Vision & Purpose exercise from The Happy Start Up School
Finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
A silver fit flop. Practical and comfortable, whilst aspiring to a wee bit of glamour too.