This week’s artist highlight is Emily Tingey, a painter that finds inspiration from sounds and landscapes discovered while traveling. Emily shares insights into her artwork and running a business.
Visit Emily’s beautiful Instagram account to see more of her work, available prints (use code 15OFF for 15% off), and a GIVEAWAY!! You can also win tickets to the Fall Benefit and Recital, so be sure to follow Women’s ALI.
How did your artistic style develop? How has it evolved or changed?
I grew up in the desert, so much of my artistic style was undeveloped until I got out of that landscape and began traveling. What I am most drawn to is the scenery on a rainy day — how the colors become deeper, more mature, and how the scenery looks as if it is dripping — the sky into the trees, the trees into the hills, the grass into the soil. How sound stops sooner and noise doesn’t carry far. How life slows down just a bit and being cozy is more welcomed.
The first painting I ever made, Berth, is in my sisters' home, so I get to see it often. I still stare at it and wonder how it came to be. I still look at it and am proud of the colors and techniques and composition. It’s one that I try every so often to recreate, but haven’t been able to do quite yet. I like the fact that I am still proud of my very first painting. It shows me that I knew then what I wanted to do, and the lineage from that first painting to my most recent painting is clear. They are all related, maybe in ways that I, as their mother, can only see, but I do see their similarities.
Where do you get inspiration? How do you generate new ideas?
My main source of inspiration is in the views I’ve seen throughout my traveling and the emotions that I felt while looking at them. The utter silence and contentment that I felt while gazing over a misty Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland made its way into a painting just as strongly as the overwhelming variety of greens did. Sometimes it is in the moment that I realize the scenery I’m looking at will be translated through paints, and other times, mostly during quiet, alone time, the ideas pop into my mind and stay there until I put in on the canvas.
New ideas come and go freely, thank goodness. I think that having my creativity appreciated and valued from a very young age has allowed me to be very kind to myself in my work. If a new idea hasn’t sprouted in what seems like a long time, I trust that it will come soon. I work hard to live a calm, peaceful, simple life that allows my creativity to work properly.
How do you feel that design school helped you transition into art as a career?
I studied interior design in school, and while there isn’t a very direct line between that and my career now, I wonder if I could have had one without the other. My degree in design may have helped me get a job as a display coordinator with Anthropologie, and it was there that I learned and practiced a variety of different skills. By not saying no to myself and by being pushed to create new things under tight deadlines, my skillset and creativity developed quickly and deeply. It was there that I gained the confidence I needed to become my own boss and trust that my work had a place in this world.
What communication skills have you found to be most valuable and important in running your own business?
Recently, I looked back on some of the first emails I sent as an new artist and wondered how, or if, the reader had any idea what I was trying to say. I was eager to get my work out there and begin making a living, but in an effort to sell my art, I was selling myself short.
A lot of the work is done through email - contacting galleries, talking with potential collectors, discussing a direction with commissioners - and having a professional and personable voice is important. I think people like to know that there is an individual artist on the other side of the email, one who cares deeply about the work being discussed and wants to share it with viewers.
When I am able to eloquently express my connection to a piece it helps others be able to see its worth. They see it is more than just paint on a canvas that it goes beyond “something my three-year-old could make”. They see the painting has a personality, a history and a future, a purpose, the ability to form an attachment, and sometimes even mood swings.
My paintings feel to me like sentient creations and, when a viewer only has a few pictures of my piece to look at through a screen, where details and depth can sometimes be muddied, it is my job to speak up about those characteristics on behalf of the painting.
In what ways has mentoring helped you as an artist?
I’ve hired on a few unpaid gurus to help me with my business as there are many, many different roles one needs to have as a creative business owner. I don’t pretend to have all the skills necessary, so I talk with those business gurus often to get their point of view, have help with their wordage, give me a push towards something new, and give an overall double-check to my work. I wouldn’t have had the guts to become a full-time artist were it not for them, and I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had if it were not for their continued help. It can be solitary work, and having people on your team to help and care goes a long way in preserving fortitude.
What business skills do you feel are most valuable for young artists to learn?
Is being kind to yourself a business skill? If not, I think it ought to be. Creativity can be a fickle beast, and I’ve found mind only flows properly when I approach it with kindness and patience.
An unfortunate majority of my work as an artist is far away from the paints. It’s photographing pieces for prints, researching papers and printers, doing social media, communicating with potential collectors, looking for and staying in touch with an artist community, more social media, looking for opportunities to showcase my work, more even social media. Communication skills are used just as often as creativity. Without both, I wouldn’t make it very far. Confidence and trust in your skills, and work hard to develop where you may be lacking. Or bring on unpaid gurus like I did…
What does your studio workspace mean to you? What do you feel strengthens your business?
I look forward to the day when my studio is a room I can walk into, separate from any other space, where I can be as messy as I want, where the soft light flows in through large windows and everything I need is in a permanent spot, but I make do with the limitations my studio has now. For now, I like living and working in the same space. I’m always close to it, so it is on my mind all the time. That can be exhausting, but it can also be nice to roll out of bed and into my workspace when an idea comes to me in the middle of the night. There is an intimacy to it all, and I feel closer and more attached to my work because of that.
Doing art as a career, what has been your most satisfying moment?
The feeling of stepping back from a painting to see something I could not have even imagined creating is likely my most satisfying feeling. But I suppose that is an expected answer. A second and lesser known satisfaction comes when I ask for what I need (it is heightened when I get it, but simply asking is enough). One of the more difficult parts of the business is setting the right price for a piece - a price that balances what I think it is worth but doesn’t alienate a collector. It has taken some time to put it into practice, to not second guess myself, and to state it clearly and without apology, but that’s all part of becoming a small business owner.