Emma Larsson The artist documenting the organisms of the natural world

Cover Image - Emma Larsson
WordsAlex Kahl

Emma Larsson’s compositions look like so many aspects of the natural world. Some appear like rare fungi or growths you might find on tree trunks, others like squished plant petals or tiny cells. She creates miniature worlds inspired for her love of the outdoors. Images of organisms deep beneath the earth that are not necessarily drawn fictionally from her own mind, but that don’t fully exist either. A watercolor world of her very own, inspired directly by spending a lot of time in nature.

Words by Alex Kahl.

As a child, Swedish artist Emma Larsson preferred spending time alone than with others. Home would bore her, and she’d go to the forest whenever she could, looking for things to decorate her room with. One day, she went a step further than her usual sticks and rocks, when she found a calf’s carcass. It seemed natural to her to take it back to the house, paint it and place it on a pedestal in the middle of her room. These days, you may not find her dragging carcasses around the forest, but what hasn’t changed is her love of nature, and its ability to spark her imagination like nothing else.

Emma’s work with watercolors is clearly connected to her love of nature. Some of the pieces look a little like the pressed flowers you might have made as a kid, when you would flatten a rose or a daffodil in the pages of a book. Others resemble cells or viruses when viewed under a microscope, looking at things that are so intrinsically part of our bodies and our world, yet look so strange to the naked eye. The shapes and figures she paints are alien, but also organic, appearing like something you'd find foraging in an old growth forest.

“My inspiration definitely comes from nature,” Emma says. “So undemanding, giving transcendent patterns and colors superior to what any human being could ever make.” Emma makes sure to spend at least one day every week in nature reserves, exploring and letting her imagination run wild. “And I recommend that all of you do it too, if possible. Mother Nature wants to share her power with you and help you create!” she adds.

Emma doesn’t remember much about her life before she started making art. When she turned 11 her dad, an artist himself, gave her a set of oil paints and other equipment. Painting always felt good and natural for her. She’s done it ever since, and when 10 years ago she realised she couldn’t stand any of the day jobs she’d tried, she decided to dedicate all of her time to her painting.

She still uses oil paints and acrylics from time to time, depending on how she’s feeling as she starts work on a piece. “Are you in a patient mood? Go for oil and take your time,” she says. “But most often I get inspired by coincidence and need a quick result, which is best achieved with watercolor.” When using oils and acrylics, Emma can spend months on one piece before she’s satisfied. With watercolors, though, she works on quick series of work, sometimes creating 10 pieces simultaneously. “When I’m in the flow, I have to seize it and let it out, and some of the pieces turn out to be good enough to share.”

Emma’s Instagram bio says “I live in my own mind,” and this is apt given how she spoke about her own very personal relationship with nature both during and since her childhood. “My main concern is the fear of losing inspiration to create, to evolve...and being exposed to too many people does subdue my creativity like that,” she says. “I prefer being alone in my world. I enjoy the company of my family, my cats and the forest. I don’t need anything else.”