Emily Beasy’s Beautiful Beasts

How would you describe a passion that is powered by another passion? Alive. Vibrant. Wild. Well, all of those words and many more like them go well towards describing the beautiful artwork of Melbourne-based illustrator Emily Beasy (also known as Wildebeest).

772Courtesy of Emily Beasy. All Rights Reserved.

Beasy is about to open her very first headliner show, called As One, at Off the Kerb gallery in Collingwood. But you can hardly tell it’s the artist’s debut solo outing by looking at the fruits of her assured hand and eager mind, with a whole plethora of curious delights set to make up the exhibition opening in July.

I recently had the chance to chat with Emily about her upcoming show, how to mix science with art, and the trials and tribulations of capturing faces and fungi:

Emily, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Emily Beasy: I’m a Melbourne-based entity floating in the grey area between fine art and illustration. When I don’t have a pen in my hand or a book under my nose, I spend my time enjoying and exploring Melbourne and the beautiful Yarra Valley.

You say that your passion for art is driven by your “deep compassion for animal welfare and conservation”. Have the two passions always been intertwined for you, or was there a point at which you realised that you could combine them?

EB: The two naturally go hand in hand but it wasn’t until recent years that I understood how great an effect our footprint has on the natural world. I grew up alongside all kinds of creatures, from bantam hens to bearded dragons and even a python, and was always grateful for their honest, quiet friendship. Without their homelands they wouldn’t be, so conservation is naturally included.

How did ‘As One’ come to be?

EB: It evolved from a series of illustrations created for a university assignment about two years ago. That was when I started to focus on how important the natural world is to our own wellbeing, especially being among a society that is increasingly isolating itself from that environment. I used my work to create a voice for the ones who could not shout over the load roar of humanity and needed to be heard.

774Courtesy of Emily Beasy. All Rights Reserved.

What would you say the theme, or message, of the exhibition is?

EB: It is essential that we experience and respect vulnerability, but never abuse it. For ourselves and for other creatures.

For as much as your work focuses on the forms of nature and fauna, there is also a very present commentary on the connection between humans and animals. Why is that?

EB: I try to depict animals and humans together to better show that we are one of them. Sure, we are the most advanced tool users on an evolutionary scale, but there is an immense pool of information out there supporting intelligence in other species. Like humans and speech, songbirds birds have specialized areas of the brain for song learning, and baby birds learn their tunes from listening to and imitating the adults. They even dream about the songs they learn. I like to combine these kinds of abstract connections. But I also want people to enjoy the work and if they happen to see a part of themselves within it, there is a better chance the messages behind the work will hit home.

In reading the brief about ‘As One’, I got a sense that science—or at least scientific process—may have been one of the inspirations behind the show. Is that the case? And if so, by what and how are you inspired or informed by science in your artistic explorations?

EB: I enjoy reading about ethology and how we are able to determine levels of intelligence in other species, which I then compare and contrast with people. What I do is quite anthropomorphic, which is generally frowned upon in the sciences, but I feel it helps to connect an audience with the subjects within my work. Publications by Frans de Waal, David Attenborough and Sarah Blaffer Hrdy are among many that have guided, inspired and informed the outcome of this body of work.

Why have you chosen to feature fungi in ‘As One’, and did the actualities of the fungi inform how you used it in works, or is it purely aesthetic?

EB: The presence of fungi was originally a metaphor for the fight for life, an instinct almost every species shares that I use to tie us all together visually. Fungi can either slowly kill a tree or nourish it by living inside or around its roots, helping the tree to take up nutrients from the ground. In the same way the fight against our inevitable end can either destroy us or nourish our lives. But I’ve always found toadstools intriguing, in general and to draw, so it was a little of both.

Were there any subjects—fungi, animal or otherwise—which were, or have in the past been, especially difficult to illustrate?

EB: A recurrent drawing process for me is to research, sketch from observation, refine the drawing, paint, hate it all, stress, consider a different career path, and then apply the final pen work. I have a love/hate relationship with my own work. Sometimes my technical skills don’t match the vision in my head and I’ll have to push that little bit harder to try to achieve the result I desire, but it’s always a beneficial struggle that way. I enjoy seeing the end result. The human form, particularly portraiture, is what I find most difficult to illustrate, so I’ve been trying to include more of it within my practice.

Do you have a favourite piece in the exhibition?

EB: Definitely the feature artwork which is my largest to date, but I also want to keep it a surprise for the opening! It features a literal depiction of the battle for survival with softer elements that comment on our own personal struggles and vulnerabilities, particularly in regard to the relationships we have with ourselves and others.

What’s next for you?

EB: After exhibiting throughout the first half of the year I’d like to dedicate the second to launching some personal illustration projects which include children’s book illustration. We’ll see how it goes! All info for upcoming projects and shows can be found at www.wildebeestillustration.com

777Courtesy of Emily Beasy. All Rights Reserved.

Many thanks to Emily for taking the time to talk with us.

You can catch Emily Beasy’s show As One at Off the Kerb gallery from July 7 – July 21. The show opens on Friday July 8, from 6 ‘till 9pm.

Off the Kerb is located at 66B Johnston Street in Collingwood, and is open from 12:30pm to 6pm Thursday – Friday, and 12pm to 5pm on Saturday + Sunday.

You can find more information about the gallery at their website: offthekerb.com.

You can find out more about Emily Beasy and her lovely work at her webpage: wildebeestillustration.com

You can follow Emily on

Facebook: facebook.com/wildebeestillustration
Instagram: @wildebeestillustration
And find her store on Etsy: etsy.com/au/shop/wildebeestonline

Courtesy of Emily Beasy. All Rights Reserved.