Dublin-based mural artist Emma Blake catapulted to Insta fame after rapper Cardi B reposted one of her house-side murals. The painting, which featured Cardi B shouting ‘Coronavirus’, provided a guide on how much distance people should be keeping between them.
Appearing on new video series Up Close And Socially Distant, Emma, who has been a street artist for many years, told host Kate Thornton that friends first gave her the idea for the Carid B mural.
“I was lying in bed thinking about it,” she said. “I was like, actually, do you know what would be really good? If I actually did the speech bubble two metres long to try and encourage people then to keep their two metre’s distance.”
She continued: “When people go in the park gate for their daily walk, it's just in the entrance, so loads of people get to see it then when they're going out to get their exercise in.”
Emma caught the world’s attention when Cardi B reposted her mural – and Emma was gobsmacked by just how many people saw it.
She told Kate: “Cardi B screen-shotted that and posted it up onto her Instagram to, like, 62 million followers or whatever she has - so, it just kind of blew up from there. I think it's on 3.1 million likes at the moment, which is nearly the population of Ireland.”
Emma first got the idea to do lockdown-related murals because she thought the Government information was not getting through to younger people.
“I was trying to think of a way that would grab people's attention more or they could relate to more, so we decided to paint some that included pop culture,” she said.
The first mural Emma painted was on the wall of her own house, and featured Dua Lipa and her – currently very relevant – song lyrics ‘Don’t show up, don’t come out’
“I've never actually painted in my own housing estate before,” she revealed. “Loads of my neighbours wouldn't have even known that I was a street artist. All of them then were like, ‘Oh my god…That was unreal. You could use our walls if you want.’”
Since then, Emma’s murals have featured a variety of famous faces from the very retro Tia and Tamara to the more modern pop star Robyn. Emma hopes that her distinctive murals are helping to get the message through to people to stay home and keep their distance.
“It just seemed like everyone – not everyone, but a lot of people – were taking it as a holiday,” Emma said about the early lockdown days. “Everyone was going out to the seaside and going to the same places, and there were so many photos going online of, like, hundreds and hundreds of people all in the same place.”
Not all her murals feature famous faces though. One mural, based on the famous ‘We Can Do It’ American wartime poster, features a nurse wearing PPE.
“I had wanted to do one to encourage people working on the front line and of the medical staff,” she said.
She continued: “I’ve actually got a nurse that I know – she's working in ICU at the moment – and so I asked her if she would send me a photo of herself with her mask, and gloves, and scrubs on, and then I painted it from that. Loads of people have told me now that that's their favourite one.”
Emma announced her next mural is inspired by the local children in her housing estate.
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“I wanted to bring the community into it a bit more,” she told Kate. “I asked kids to submit their drawings and messages of support. I got two of my friends' kids to pose as models with cans of spray paint, so I'll paint the two of them on the wall spray painting.
“Then in between all of that, I'm going to recreate all of the children's drawings so they have ownership of the work as well, and they can all see their work up on the wall.”
Up Close And Socially Distant is hosted by Kate Thornton and features weekly video catch-ups with people who are all doing whatever they can to help those around them get through lockdown.
This week Kate speaks to Julie Graham about writing and starring in the first YouTube drama to be filmed entirely in lockdown, Dun Breedin’, to raise money for the Trussell Trust foodbank network, to the founder of the Rooms4NHS website, Dr Joseph Alsousou, and to Dublin-based mural artist, Emma Blake.