Local Artist Interview With Emily Engelhard

Katelyn: Today I am interviewing another participant in Brush and Pen: Festival for Artists and Authors, Emily Engelhard.  Emily and I met at a local art crawl and immediately connected. I learned a lot more about why the instant connection when we did our interview.

Hi Emily, thanks for taking the time to share a bit about yourself with our readers.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself that isn’t writing related?

Emily: During a recent conversation with a painter friend, we both decided we were artists because “creating art feels like the most worthwhile thing to do.” But, four years ago, inspired by my friend Suzanne (who taught me to do something about it rather than just whine about it), I discovered something that feels even more worthwhile than creating art: taking care of wild birds. From mid-spring to late summer, I volunteer for The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota in Roseville (wrcmn.org). You’ll find me in the crowded songbird nurseries, smeared with bird poop and loose feathers, dropping mealworms and crickets into noisy gaping beaks, and gently cupping tiny feathered (sometimes completely bald pink) bodies in my hands to check for dehydration and warmth. Nothing, I tell you, nothing feels more holy than healed wild wings flapping against your hands.

Katelyn: That’s wonderful that you are helping the songbirds! I know exactly what you mean by having wings flapping against your hand being a holy experience.  I volunteered at the Twin Cities Raptor Center for 7 years and I felt blessed whenever I was able to hold a bird.

Can you tell us what inspired you to start making art?

Emily: From the time I was a baby until about, say, (yes, I’m actually admitting this), high school, I wasn’t fully human. Although the duration of time shortened as I grew older, I spent most of my waking and dreaming hours as another creature living on another world. Nope—save for Halloween, I didn’t dress like an animal, especially once I hit middle school. My imagination was just that powerful. A week could go by, for example, and my Dad would don the same set of eleven-point antlers, my mom the same muddy brown and black wings, my sisters the same pointy ears that twitched toward sounds and drooped when they got into trouble. Since the time I stuck a straw in my diaper for a mouse tail, worlds other than this one were more appealing, richer with adventure, deeply saturated with kindness and magic. Those were the worlds I believed in, the worlds I trusted. When you have faith in something, and when you want the ones you love to believe in and be a part of it too, you write it down. And so, I picked up a crayon and began to draw.

Katelyn: You were so lucky to have parents who let you play in your imagination.  Imagination is was of our greatest senses as far as I am concerned.  It is more important than intelligence for a lot of reasons.

I am always curious about what an artist’s favorite medium and why?

Emily; Ballpoint pen. I love this medium because when I make a mistake, I can’t erase. Instead, I must choose between one of two options, both of which are challenges for me: just let it go and start again, or find a way to transform the mistake into something meaningful, maybe even beautiful, within the big picture.

Katelyn: I was really impressed with your ballpoint pen work.  Here is an example for our readers:


Katelyn: Why do you create art?

Emily: Mostly, I create because it calms and centers me and makes me a more tolerable human. But on a deeper level, I create because I feel it’s what I’ve been called to do. The creatures I draw want to be born into this world to serve some purpose—whether to be a gift, to awaken something within the viewer, or to be sold to raise money for a cause—and they’ve chosen my hands as their portal into this world. When I deny my creatures this life, I deny myself, and I suffer. When I grant them life, I’m given a taste of the realm from which they came, and I’m filled with a bliss and understanding so divinely beautiful it’s beyond describing.

Katelyn: I imagine your creatures are very happy to come out of your pen onto paper! I can relate to it being a calling and almost having no choice but to listen and create.  Like most artist I also imagine you get creative blocks at times too. What do you do when you get a creative block?

Emily: Typically, I have a temper tantrum and avoid my studio for a month. But the world cleverly gifts something sweet when you grow bitter. Last year, I discovered Inktober, an international drawing event started by illustrator Jake Parker. During Inktober, which occurs every October, ink artists respond to a different one-word prompt each day. For example, my two favorite prompts last year were “screech” (to which I drew an owl) and “rage” (which came out as a wolf). I’d never before done prompt-inspired drawings, and I loved it! The pacing granted me permission to play, to let go of the desire for perfection in everything I drew. Now, when I’m derailed, I mindfully seek out some sort of prompt—I play my way back into the groove.

Katelyn: I would bet most artists have had a tantrum or two in their career!  Thanks for sharing about Inktober.  That sounds like a great resource for artists and even writers to use.

So what artist/artists inspire you and why?

Emily: First and foremost, my Mom (a painter and sewer) and Dad (a musician and carpenter/woodworker) because they have nurtured and encouraged me since day one. Also, my younger sister, Julia, the one who inspired me to dabble in ballpoint pen and to explore the stranger corners of my imagination. We are family and are made of one another, and so I find their work, above all others’, the most beautiful and inspiring. But I also, of course, love the work of artists whose skill astounds me and whose creatures, I imagine, might befriend my own. A few of these artists are Caitlin Hackett, Sarah Leea Petkus, Tai Taeoalii, Susan Seddon Boulet, and (a few locals) Paula Barkmeier, Annie Hejny, Lindsey Kahn, and DC Ice.

Katelyn:  You have some of my favorites on your list like Susan Seddon Boulet and I love DC Ice!  What a blessing to come from a creative family who understood the creative process and how to foster it! A lot of artists don’t have that kind of support growing up so what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Emily: Do all that you do—including all things art—in the spirit of love. If monetary success is your only or primary goal, your art and all other personal endeavors will not be genuine, will not come easily, and will ultimately abandon you. Remember that love for your talents, your self, and others is the truest wave to ride. But if you get knocked in the wrong direction for a time, forgive yourself. In the end, what matters most is that you keep turning back in the direction of love.

Katelyn:  That is so beautiful!  It is so easy to get caught up in the making money part, I know I do at times, and forget that when it comes down to it we do create because we love to.

One last question before we go because one of my reasons for creating the festival is to help support other artists and writers so how can people support you in your art career?

Emily: Talk to me, collaborate with me, share with me opportunities that will allow me to more fully engage with and support communities through the avenue of art. Art is the way I feel most comfortable and empowered to do some good in the world—help me learn where and how I can do that good. And, of course, buy some of my art and help my creatures find their homes.

Katelyn: Thank you so much, Emily, for taking the time to share with the readers a bit about your creative process and thoughts.

What is your web address or where can people see your art.