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Emily Quandahl is an American abstract artist with a rich artistic background. Her lifelong study of the viola has provided a classic insight into the world of music and composition, which is translated in her gorgeously layered and juxtaposed visuals. Shape, space, and hue merge together in a rigorous yet easy repetition, creating a stunningly intelligent symphony for the eyes. Working dedicatedly with the natural flow of paint and water, Quandahl is at ease with the creative process of working in partnership with it, rather than against it.
Read on to uncover the roots of Quandahl’s classical knowledge, inspiration, and her “ride or die” tool of choice.
Tell us a little bit about your life. Was art always present?
I like to think art has always been present in life, even when I didn’t realize it. I grew up in a very Midwestern town, and if you aren’t familiar with US geography, think the movie Fargo or Marshall’s family in How I Met Your Mother. There was a certain simplicity to life there, which allowed me to explore many artistic mediums as a child. Whether it was music, visual art, or theater, I always had my toes dipped in something creative.
What is your artistic background, when and how did you start? How did you end up with the style you currently work in?
I have a nontraditional visual arts background if it’s even possible to have a traditional one. I grew up diligently studying music and went to get my Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance. Around the last year of my studies, I found myself increasingly uninspired so I started to play with painting hoping to strike a creative chord (pun intended). Completely untrained, I made some real shit to start out, but through years of trial and error came to find my own style.
My style of painting really has to do with the process, and I think that is because I taught myself how to paint. I don’t plan what I am working on outside of the color palette simply because there’s no good way to control how water flows. I let the paint and water do what they want, and respond accordingly.
How do you usually work and where do you draw inspiration from?
A lot of my work is intuitive. I draw inspiration from color palettes I’ve seen in my daily life, whether it’s in nature or a car passing me on the road. Outside of that, I just start pouring paint and let it do whatever it wants.
Can you tell us about some of your favorite tools to work with?
My ride or die tool is my paint scraper. It’s about 8” long and something you can find at a home improvement store, but it is the best way to interpret my gestures with water and paint. The ability to push the color across the canvas in an even fashion is about as close as I can get to control the flow of water.
What do you hope your work achieves or invokes?
I hope my work achieves a sense of comfort for the viewer. A lot of artists create to challenge their audience, which is amazing and crucial, but I want mine to be strikingly comforting if that makes any sense. My hope is that a piece of mine resonates with the viewer so much that they find their own interpretation and want to bring it home to put on their walls. There’s a lot of beauty in this messed up world, and I use my work to capture it the best I can.
How do you feel about being a young artist in a modern society?
It definitely has its pros and cons. Cons: financial instability and no health care in the US. Pros: getting to do what makes me tick. I really can’t imagine my life any other way, but I definitely feel like I have to fight to be an artist. I’m continuously proving myself, but that’s what makes me dig down deeper and create work that I’m really proud of. If it were easy, would it really be worth it?