STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE: EMILY EISENHART

People

STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE: EMILY EISENHART

By: Parker Davis

Engaging in analog activities from an ethnographic perspective ushers Emily Eisenhart into her preferred mindset for creation. Her high demand throughout the states affirms a high value of thoughtful visual storytelling.

Our conversation with Emily decodes her art’s focus, the integral role that nature plays, and the ancestral importance behind that desire to align with it.

Your relationship with MINERAL is a new one.

I am new to the MINERAL product line, but was quickly enchanted. I love that the products are rooted in nature. A huge element of my personal and professional life is, as much as possible, surrounding myself in nature and using natural products. I find myself using my products daily. After my morning or evening shower, I’ll use RELIEF or HYDRATE on my face and hands. They smell delightful, and leave me feeling refreshed. On days I’ve been painting murals or commissions, or working hard in the garden, and my hands are tired and sore, I’ll soothe them with MAISON for recovery. BALANCE has been a part of my bedtime routine for months, and helps me slip into a calm state before sleep. As a nearly non-stop creative, it’s important to find some peace and balance whenever possible. Plus, the elegantly simple and beautiful glass bottles are displayed on my dresser and fit seamlessly into the interior design of my home. 

Your work seemed to garner significant attention within the Austin community beginning a few years ago. Is there anything you believe initiated that interest?

I’ve lived in Austin for 6 years. Halfway through my time here, my inner creative entrepreneur took over and I launched my creative studio. A multidisciplinary artist, I specialize in murals, illustration, and fine art. I think the combination of my relentless zest and charisma as an extroverted creative and a very public portfolio (my murals are visible across Austin and throughout the country) drew people in. My work is said to be stimulating and refreshing, my clients are creative and collaborative, and my canvas is dynamic and always changing. One week it’s a boutique wine label, the next week it’s a mural on a 7-story building facade, the next week it’s a private residential commission. Austin—a city that fervently celebrates its creatives—welcomed me with open arms. I’ve been told that my work resonates with people because it is bright, captivating, dynamic, and includes abstract shapes that are inspired by nature and thus familiar. Austin is vibrant, innovative, evolving, creative, and warm in all senses—from the weather to the kind and collaborative residents—and is the perfect home for me and my creative studio.

Nature is integral to your inspiration. Tell us about how that came to be. Did you want to work to honor the nature around you, or did you have a fairly specific idea of your medium, then feel that nature guided your work?

The great outdoors is where I feel most myself and most at peace. Having grown up often in the outdoors—from long walks beachcombing at our cabin in the Pacific Northwest to family camping trips across the Southwest to backpacking trips in the Redwoods—I feel very comforted by and inspired by nature. I am constantly observing the natural cycles around me—sunrises and sunsets, the moon and tide cycles, and death and rebirth of plants as seasons change, even how birds and other animals grow and transform from juveniles to adults (my father is an avid birder). I’m inspired by the ripples from wind across a lake, wavy patterns left in sand from receding ocean waves, animal footprints in the mud, and shadows cast on a bright sunny day. I am constantly collecting natural items and bringing them back to my studio. Many of the patterns I paint are evocative of the shapes and cycles I witness in nature. While I’m predominantly a painter, at times I have worked directly with nature. Last winter in Oregon, I attended an artist residency where I made cyanotypes with found natural items such as pine cones, rocks, bark, dried flowers, and twigs. Taking photographic prints using the sun and an item’s shadows was a profound way to tell the story of the place. While technology and digital tools are within my repertoire of tools for my work, as much as  possible I engage in analog activities that use my hands and challenge me to see the world around me from a multitude of perspectives and senses. 

How did your studies of cultural anthropology contribute to your life?

I am the daughter of an artist mother and anthropologist father, and grew up with a paintbrush in one hand and a field book in the other. Entering college, I chose to study Cultural Anthropology, a discipline which brought me all over the world, from India to Uganda to Egypt and all over the US, to learn about diverse cultures and ways of life. I studied languages, textiles, familial patterns, rituals, and cuisine across not only the globe but across time. I am fascinated by how we as a species have both been inspired by and transformed (for better and for worse) the environment around us, building tools along the way that assist us—from ancient rudimentary stone tools to modern day wind turbines. As an anthropologist now artist, I am ever curious about the people, places, and stories around me. I approach many of my projects as an ethnographer, diving deep into the culture of a place to create dynamic, story-driven artwork, and weave research into my inspiration for motif and color palette development. Whenever possible, I collaborate closely with locals of the place where I will be creating art. 

What’s your process for preparing for a day of work?

My best days start with an early workout, creative work like sketching or painting in the quiet of my studio, and no checking of email until 12pm (later, if I can manage!). I find that I am most creatively generative and productive in the mornings, and try my best to protect uninterrupted time for my mind to wander and for new ideas to percolate. I feel protected from the digital noise that is pervasive in our culture these days. If I’m ever feeling stumped, I’ll start cutting up my many collected paint chips into new shapes and compositions. As much as possible, I try to spend some time creating without preconceived notions of what something should be, and instead follow my creative instincts.

What is your relationship with nature and what are your thoughts about living with nature in mind?

I have this quiet belief that most artists are collectors of some kind—of ideas, supplies, tools, canvases, journals, art books—be what it may. I am loathe to throw something away that might be used in the future or repurposed in some way, and have often taken artist friend’s leftover supplies and materials. I find that eventually a purpose emerges. Just the other week I used a stack of leftover plywood given to me from a carpenter to aid in my paint color testing for a large mural in Seattle. Each year, I take on a few pro bono projects for non-profits or other community organizations and as much as possible for those projects use recycled mural paint from prior jobs. That way, the paint doesn’t go to waste. In fact, it gets utilized in a creative way for others to enjoy. As an artist, I often most enjoy and celebrate the process of making a piece more so than the final product. Many of my sumi ink pieces have resulted in scrap test paper which I then cut out into bold shapes for collages. Each part of the process can inform new pieces of art. In that way, my art is iterative and cyclical, and ever evolving. 

See more of Emily Eisenhart’s work:

Website: www.emilyeisenhart.com

Instagram: @emily.eisenhart

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