I get this question a lot. Here’s the long version 😉
I spent a large part of my childhood with my grandparents, and they were both makers. I would hang with my Papa in the wood shop, my Gram in the craft/sewing room, and both of them in their epic flower and vegetable gardens.
My Gram’s crafts of choice were quilting, knitting, and crocheting. She would crochet extravagant bridal gowns for Barbies with the tiniest crochet needles on earth. She taught me to embroider, cross-stitch, needle-hook, sew, puff paint, all sorts of things, but when I smeared my first creamy dollop of rich, vibrant paint, the love truly began.
I started with craft paint, switched to oils at 8 or so, then to acrylics, gouache and watercolor in high school. I still experiment with new mediums all the time, but acrylic is the basis of my work.
As a kid, I had every episode of Bob Ross (WOOT WOOT) recorded on VHS and that’s mostly how I learned. I would look at things in terms of how I would paint it and what brushes I would use to create it.
In junior high and high school, I had wonderful art teachers that took note of my interest and skills and gave me the tools and room to develop them. I always wanted to be an Artist ‘when I grew up’ and was accepted into several art schools in the US and abroad, but was never able to make it work financially.
I thought art wasn’t meant to be anything more than a lifelong hobby, and pursued other passions in college and grad school – human services and nonprofit leadership.
I spent nearly 10 years managing fundraising campaigns and events for various nonprofits, working in hospice, working with Seattle organisations to combat homelessness, and had a brief stint in the Peace Corps.
I never stayed in one place for long, as I always became quickly unsatisfied with either the work itself, or the inefficient/ineffective leadership.
When my husband’s military career took us overseas, there was very limited opportunity for work in my field, or in any other field. Shout out to my fellow spouses – the career sacrifices are real and appreciated.
It was a very hard pill to swallow to realize I was in a situation that was forcing me to depend on my husband financially. Dependence is not my style.
While I was having a panic-filled breakdown and career identity crisis, I also recognized that it could be my opportunity to see what could happen if I started my art business.
I took a low-paying job on the base that was loosely related to my experience, and began building my Etsy shop and website every spare minute I had.
I had recently taken a silk painting class with Christine Sutherland in Phoenix, Arizona before we left for the UK, and I loved it. So aside from the few originals and prints I had, my Etsy shop was mostly filled with handpainted silk pillows, scarves and neckties.
Within 6 months of launch, I was making half of what I was making at the day job, and within a year I put in my notice so I could give my business my full attention.
There has been much fear, struggle and self-doubt along the way, and it’s a constant learning process, but there is nothing that makes me feel more aligned with the universe than creating.
Plus running my own business suits me perfectly. It can be and become absolutely anything that I can imagine.
There are no limits, except ones I place upon myself.
I can’t imagine ever going back to work for someone else, it would crush my soul.
Had we not been stationed overseas and I been put in such a situation, I don’t know if I would’ve ever had the courage to take that leap. The isolation was incredible for my personal growth as well as the development of my work and business.
We travelled all over Europe and beyond, absorbing natural and man-made beauty, delicious food and collecting gorgeous art. I’m so grateful for those 4 years abroad, for so many reasons!
It was during this period that I really focused my work on nature as well.
I choose to paint nature because there is truly nothing more amazing and magical to me.
I was fortunate to grow up in an incredibly gorgeous area of the world, and my surroundings greatly influenced my work and still do. When I travel, I seek epic natural beauty, and I’ve been moved to tears so many times in so many places. I try to convey those feelings I have in those places with my work – the calm, the rush, the peace, the joy, the epicness. We all need more nature in our lives. <3
My abstract work comes from a love of color and texture and allowing materials to behave and interact organically. The experimentation with my abstract work has led to many of the techniques I use in my nature work.
What has developed over time is this ethereal world of nature as it might be without humans.
While the handpainted silks – the Lyric Scarves in particular – were the foundation of my business at first, I’ve slowly phased most of them out in order to spend more time on paintings. Today, my shop consists of Original paintings, lyric scarves, prints and the luxurious items they are printed on, such as leggings and pillows.
It’s been a crazy amazing journey since Gram handed me that first paintbrush. I wouldn’t change a moment of it. I’m so grateful and excited about what the universe has in store!
Emily is an Artist, entrepreneur, and ambitious introvert who had to rethink her career plans when she married a military man. She wrote Permission Granted to lift other purpose-driven women up on the journey to creating their ideal lives.