Painting Through the New: Life in the Process

As a recent Indianapolis immigrant, as well as recent college graduate, my life has been filled to the brim with so much new. New relationships, new places, and a completely new chapter of life have characterized my summer. It’s all so exciting! However, wed to the excitement of change are the difficulties spawned in the new. Yesterday morning I had the unique privilege to sit down with an artist experiencing the same excitement and difficulties. Emily Andrews, a North Carolina native, recently graduated from a small college in Georgia with a degree in art. After a bit of deliberation, she found herself immersed in the downtown culture of Indianapolis with some paintbrushes and a story to tell. This month that story is beginning to be heard, or rather seen through the seven paintings she has hanging  in the Harrison Center's Gallery Annex.

Before I met with Emily, I took an opportunity to browse through her work. What I noticed almost immediately was the intricate pattern work that seemed to gracefully flow constitutively from edge to edge on her paper. The flow was truly uncanny, and taken as a whole, I could not help but wonder at how the individual pigmented lines orchestrated what I can only describe as silent patience.


 Breathing, watercolor on paper

Emily and I sat down at one of the picnic tables outside of the City Gallery. I opened the large orange umbrella and we both welcomed the shade. Eager to learn more about her work, I opened our conversation by asking her about what it has been like to create her art on the other side of college and in a completely new environment. She thought for a second and replied, “I’ve realized that context and environment truly affect my ability to be creative. Being a new place, and a lot of times feeling like I didn’t have much that was safe really affected me for a while. It’s not that everything has all been negative, it’s just all been new, and new things are difficult.”

breathing (detail)

Breathing (detail)

I moved on and asked her about the themes of her work as an emerging artist, “I tend to be an anxious person,” she said, “and there is always a lot of noise, so I asked myself, ‘How can I create my practice of art making to be something to struggle with some of those things about myself? How can I create something that challenges me?’ So with each mark I painted [in my largest piece called ‘Breathing’], I set up a pattern of breathing to go with it. With each stroke, I was very conscious of myself, and of my body, and of that rhythm. It was an awareness to calm myself down, and to have my time painting as a way to create a space of quietness.”

As Emily continued, she informed me that this particular piece became much more about the process than the finished product. In a real sense it seems to me that each mark, taken by itself, is as beautiful and glorious as the piece taken as a whole. With the understanding that each line signifies the blessing of a life-giving breath, the viewer is truly humbled as a new perspective emerges. Each breath we take gives us life, and like Emily’s painting, these breaths amassed paint a picture of even the smallest scene of our lives. It seems that with each breath we are all painting a picture of own.


Today Was Safe I, watercolor on paper

“A lot of my art takes so much time,” Emily went on to say. “I want to take the time to do the things that other people might not see as worth doing because the process of “doing” enriches my life. It challenges my shortcomings, and my brokenness. In my work, my tendency is to be anxious to the point that creating art could very quickly become a situation where I say, ‘I just want to get this done,’ or ‘it just needs to look this way,’ or ‘I just want people to be impressed that I finished this whole thing.’ However, I don’t want it to be that self-serving. I want it to be something that is hard for me, and something that is a challenge of not just the effort it took to create, but the internal struggle I face throughout the process of creating.”

Artist Emily Andrews has given us a great deal to think about, so come on over to the Harrison Center and see for yourself, and with each breath you take, may you know more and more that you are telling a story of your own.