Lady Beck, Gouache and Gosia Herba: Emma Hardaker

We pride ourselves at All Day at being able to find and catch up with humble, passionate and talented creatives, and freelance illustrator Emma Hardaker is no exception. With a constant string of previous and upcoming commissions ranging from; paintings, illustrations, murals and t- shirt prints to co-running two studio blocks, a new creative city tour and being one half of a mobile artistic creative workshop duo, it becomes apparent that Emma is our favourite type of creative who has not only got the drive and ability but also the foresight and modesty to want to help and give back to the artistic community of Leeds. 

IG: Evhardaker

IG: modesofexpression

Lady Beck IG: Ladybeck_leeds

Assembly House Studio's -

We had a chat with Emma and asked her a couple of short questions about herself and what’s she’s up to.

How long have you been illustrating, what made you start?

So I’ve been illustrating for about 2-3 years now, I’ve always done art really, since college and then at MMU. I found that I first approached art with quite a specific idea of what I thought it was, but then it became a bit more multidisciplinary which in the end helped me focus back on what I wanted to draw. So it’s been a bit of a relevant circle really.


What would you call your style and are there any artist/individuals in particular which shaped it?

Absolutely no idea (laughs), I dunno, maybe highly stylised or bold, it’s not something I think about really. I’ve found it’s developed over time and taken me a good year and a half to become comfortable in what I’m drawing and selling. I feel like I had a bit of identity crises at first with my illustrations as naturally your style tends towards what’s in the market at the time, but then you always want to put out something original as well.  It’s nice because a lot of my friends are artists as well so I’m always learning and I actually find that my friends are as much an inspiration as any. There is this one artist who I have been loving recently, she’s a publish illustrator whose currently designing children’s books, her names, Gosia Herba you should check her out!


I’ve seen your new place in Mabgate; Lady Beck and was interested to know what it’s about and how the name came about?

So originally the term ‘Mab’ was a Shakespearian insult as it was associated with prostitutes or ‘mabs’. So Mabgate itself was considered a kinda red light district, and within that Lady Beck was the area in Mabgate where all the prostitutes used to hang out. I like the origins of the name as much as I enjoy the fact it can provide subtle historical explanation of the area as well. In terms of the studio block, it’s essentially a group of affordable studio and project spaces to let for artists and creatives in Leeds. It’s such a good mix of different people and communal and personal projects, with loads of diverse artists, sculptors and designers making it really great in creating a community of people all willing to help and teach each other.

Where do you usually spend most of time when you’re illustrating?

Well I co-manage Assembly House in Armley and the newest Lady Beck studio down on Mabgate so for the last couple of months I’ve been down there painting the building and helping make sure everything and everyone down there is getting on alright. I love working at both of the studio spaces, but it’s such a distraction doing all the admin, so usually If I was doing a commission piece it would be at home, I’ve got a pimped out studio now with all the gear, only problem is that it becomes hard to find reasons to leave the house (laughs), so it can get quite cabin fevery sometimes. As well as that I also run ‘Come Find Us’  every 1st Friday of the month. We’ve been going for about 4 months now and it’s sort of like a free, small 8 venue city tour of all the best creative and lesser known places outside Leeds city centre. The places can range from bars, print workshops and studio spaces all intended to find a wider audience of people who might only be interested in art and then helping them getting them into it, rather than just focusing on the people who love it. 


What materials/ Paints would be your go to/ favourite?

Definitely Gouache for paint. It’s a kind of acrylic and chalky watercolour paint I use for illustrations or commissions. I like that it dries quickly, so I can do lots of different layers in a shorter time and also that I can use it with a brush as it always feels like the brush is leading you when your painting, rather than when using pens, I hate pens, too rigid.


How long have you lived In Leeds? What is it about the city that keeps you here/entertained?

So I’ve lived in Leeds for about 4 years now, originally I lived in Hull which I often think is similar in ways to Yorkshire and I like that Leeds itself isn’t too big, meaning within certain industries it’s nice to see familiar faces. I feel as well that in the last couple of years Leeds has really upped its game, all the creatives and small businesses have started to work together and create events which bring everyone together, making collaboration between different business’s and artists much more accepted.


What would you consider a hidden gem of Leeds which more people should clock onto?

Ahh, that’s really hard, I would have to say maybe down on Mabgate, Lady Beck? (laughs), no seriously, there’s a lot of nice stuff going on down there, you just have to go and check it out to see. I would say though, definitely check out Veg Out Cafe 6 week pop-up just off the Headrow in what used to be Candy Heroes. Its opened on Monday the 3rd and there’s set to be lots of different guest kitchens happening throughout, not one to be missed.





Dan Phillips