Feature Friday: Emily Keating Snyder

Happy Feature Friday! 

This week we are featuring artist, Emily Keating Snyder! We love her playful approach to her artwork and how she lets her pieces reflect the imperfections of the human hand. Katie was kind enough to tell us a little more about herself, her artistic journey and her pieces. She also made an awesome video to teach you some of the techniques she uses in her watercolor paintings! You have to check it out, especially if you’ve been wanting to get into watercolors, but haven’t been sure how to approach them. Emily will give you the confidence to give it a try and experiment – what artists do best!

“I’m a colorful artist, designer, and art party hostess in Los Angeles. Playfulness and a good sense of humor are huge in my life. My favorite materials to work with are paper, paint, watercolor, collage, and embroidery. I believe strongly in the importance of working with our hands and not being too precious with art. After studying art and art history as part of my custom concentration at NYU, I had a few different art world jobs then made the leap to independent creative (and doggie caregiver) a few years ago. I’ve been grateful to show my work in New York, LA, and other major cities and to be featured by Saatchi Art and The Etsy Blog… and here on Castle Foundations!

I’ve been making art my entire life and to this day the best creative advice I’ve ever gotten was from my kindergarten art teacher. Whenever we were working on a project and wanted to rip it up and start all over after one misplaced tempera paint mark, she would say, “Turn your mistakes into something else.” I don’t think it was purely out of encouragement or necessarily kindness. It probably had more to do with needing to ration an entire school’s paper supply, but it has always stayed in my head and helped curb perfectionism in my art for 25 years.

In other areas of my life, I’m detail-oriented to a fault and can get bogged down in organizing and perfecting, but when I’m making art I try to go with whatever comes. If my embroidery starts going off center or I smudge a watercolor brushstroke, I just embrace the mistake and allow it be part of the work. In fact, I love when something like that happens. It means I’m making art in real life. It’s not on a screen and it’s not just a thought in my head, it’s a real thing I can see and touch and mess up.

Emphasizing the human hand is something I love to do in my work and love to teach others to highlight, too. If you’ve ever watched my hero Ina Garten cook, at some point you’ve probably heard her say, “You want it to look homemade.” Her food, in fact, always looks insanely perfect, but I love that she reminds us of the whole point of cooking for others. It’s not just about the outcome, it’s about letting people know that you personally took the time and energy to make something just for them. When I catch myself getting perfectionistic in my art, wishing I hadn’t put something in the wrong spot or used a slightly off color, I just think, “You want it to look homemade,” and press on.

I’m also obsessed with design and can spend hours precisely lining up text or matching a color on the computer, but I love that handmade art can be full of unique happy accidents. The artwork I’m proudest of usually comes out of a playful, non-goal-oriented experiment. When I try to come back later and “recreate” the same idea in a methodical way it can often fall flat. So I’m always balancing between bringing my specific idea to life using my hands/technical skills and allowing whatever wants to come through, even if it’s not quite what I intended. It’s about going back and forth between control and flow.

I try to bring this playful, low-pressure attitude to my workshops, which are really Art Parties for people to get together and make something unexpected with a good treat in hand! When I’m working with kids, they don’t need much help with getting into that playful flow. They just dive in and make something awesome without over thinking. Adults, on the other hand, tend to get stuck on what exactly they should make or how they are going to get it to look just right. And I totally get it because I have moments like that too (all the time actually!). My favorite thing about teaching adults is working with the ones who come in and tell me right away they’re not artistic at all. It’s like Christmas morning for me when I see those “not-artistic-at-all” people make something beautiful and amazing, which they always do.

Coming from the sometimes stuffy and exclusive “Art World”, I see how art can be intimidating, even if it’s just a paint + sip class or a stroll through a gallery. Many of us are made to believe that art is above us and unapproachable. I love breaking down that wall with my own work, which is full of deliberately unserious colors, and with my classes, making them as fun and easy as possible. The activity of making art is often more gratifying than whatever it is we end up making.”

A DIY watercolor experiment

“Watercolor is notorious for being difficult to control, but this can be a huge advantage when you’re actually practicing letting go of control. Try experimenting with letting gravity and chaos theory take the lead (like Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park).

Mix up some liquid watercolor and grab an eye dropper or invest in Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolors, which are ridiculously fun to work with. Take a clean brush and “paint” a little splotch of plain water on your paper. I like to use 140 lb/300 gsm cold press paper. Then squeeze up some watercolor paint in your dropper and try adding small drops of color onto your water splotch from different heights and angles. You can also use a brush to dab in little touches of color.

Do this with a few different colors and take a moment to watch the liquid move in all kinds of surprising ways and the colors mix themselves. Now repeat these same steps in Adobe Illustrator. Just kidding, it won’t work without a human hand and some ethereal universal forces (ooh spooky!).”

See more from Emily: 




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