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A brush with beauty

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Rhona Emmerson started an advertising agency to have more time for herself. She still laughs at that 35 years later.

“That was my first mistake,” said the 62-year-old. “When you run your own business your time is never flexible. But I love advertising.”

But her busy work life means she has to carve out space for her other passion: painting.

“I work full time so I have to snatch time for painting where I can,” she said. “That usually means painting on the weekends. That has meant some sacrifices over the years.

“I don't have much time for socialising. If I'm out painting all weekend I don't have much time to organise a dinner party. Painting can be a lonely business.”

But she has made many friends through her heavy involvement in the En Plein Air group, which meets weekly to paint outdoors.

“I'm trying to relax more,” she said. And by relax, she means switch things up.

“I think 62 has been my biggest ‘aha' year yet,” Ms Emmerson said. “I decided enough was enough, I wanted to do something new.

“With my three children all living their own independent, creative lives, I now have more time to be self-indulgent.”

In the last year she and her photographer husband Mark Emmerson went to an art conference in San Diego, California, and then to France to paint poppy fields.

“Turning 60 was a real gift,” she said. “At 40 I don't think I ever thought much about it, other than to think 60 was very old and very far off. But it comes on you quick. Now I'm giving myself permission to do things I never did before.”

Last summer, she went to the beach and painted in the dark for the first time.

“I put on a miner's light,” she said. “I went with 40 others from the En Plein Air group. We painted the August moon. It was fun.”

And last year she put aside her collection of more than 500 paintbrushes, to try painting with a knife.

“I took a palette knife workshop,” she said. “At first it sucked. I hated it. I had no control over the knife.”

The knife produced an impressionist feel, she was not used to.

“I'm a competitive person though, more with myself than with others,” she said. “I kept pushing myself.”

Gradually she figured out she needed different types of knives to make it work.

“I took to it,” she said. “But I still don't have as many knives as I do paintbrushes.”

Some of her knife paintings will appear in an exhibition at the Masterworks Museum, A Year Times Two. The show also includes work by Chris Marson.

“I'm a little nervous about how people will take to the new style,” Ms Emmerson said.

Paintings in the show depict Bermuda's beaches, waves and lush gardens.

“I'm a real believer in Bermuda's beauty,” she said.

She thinks everyone on the island has a duty to sell Bermuda.

“I never go anywhere without business cards in my pocket,” she said. “If a visitor stops me on the street and asks me for directions, I give them a card.

“I said, call me, I can tell you about a good place to stay, or a good restaurant.

“It's the personal experiences that bring visitors back year after year. If I was running Bermuda Inc, every Bermudian would have at least 500 business cards in their pocket at any given time.”

She is excited about the America's Cup but thinks what comes after is what is important.

“The gift of America's Cup is what have we learnt — big branding, big race promotion, moving bodies,” Ms Emmerson said.

“We're opening our homes again, making sure we invite the world in visually. Our national pride is taking a huge surge. The other side of it is the hard work. Everyone has to be on deck.”

She is concerned that Bermuda's traditional welcoming openness might disappear with the next generation.

“I think we have become mean and selfish,” she said. “The trolls behind the scene are ugly.

“I try within my immediate sphere of influence to think about how I can make people's day better. I think about how I can ensure my children are better ambassadors to the world. Kindness is the oil that makes the world work.”

•A Year Times Two opens on Thursday at Masterworks from 5.30pm to 7pm, and runs until June 7.

Rhona Emmerson painting at Elbow Beach (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Rhona Emmerson painting on a windy day at Elbow Beach (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Rhona Emmerson painting at Elbow Beach (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
One of Rhona Emmerson's paintings (Photograph supplied)
One of Rhona Emmerson's paintings (Photograph supplied)
One of Rhona Emmerson's paintings (Photograph supplied)

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Published May 15, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm)

A brush with beauty

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