“I put a capital N on Nature and call it my church”: Artist Spotlight on Emily Suñez
Emily Suñez is a landscape and nature oil painter working out of her home studio in Pasadena, CA. She finds inspiration for her desert paintings from studying the stunning landscape of the southwest and frequent trips to Phoenix and Joshua Tree National Park. Emily has recently shown her paintings in numerous galleries and juried exhibitions throughout the state of California, including at Brea Gallery, TAG Gallery, Palos Verdes Art Center, Sanchez Art Center, and the Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition at the 29 Palms Art Gallery. Her painting “Golden Barrel Sea” won the Chantal Giddens Memorial Award for Best Painting at the Pasadena Society of Artist’s 95th Annual Juried Exhibition. Her artwork is featured in the March 2021 issue of CandyFloss Magazine. Emily is the illustrator and author of her forthcoming book The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life with Illness, scheduled to be published by The Experiment Publishing in January 2022. She holds a BA from the College of William & Mary and an MA from New York University.
Painting is a form of meditation and healing, and I gain a sense of peace and connectedness to the natural world through my creative process. I first picked up a paint brush as a means of coping with chronic illness and have since discovered the healing powers of artmaking. What began as a tool for therapy quickly evolved into a passion for painting. Working primarily in oils, I paint southwestern landscapes and plants. I typically include Joshua trees, cacti, succulents, palm trees, and other desert plants in my work. These plants and the harsh desert climate they inhabit represent growth, resiliency, and survival.
While I work loosely from my photographs, I aim to go beyond the photo in my paintings. I create an idealized and enhanced version of the image, portraying nature as pure and sacred. My most recent work is about my own spiritual connection to nature. To me, nature and spirituality are one. These beautiful moments in the desert that I paint are my sanctuary. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I put a capital N on Nature and call it my church”. Nature is a force greater than us, that humbles us, and unites us all as human beings on a shared planet. Through my work, I have developed a stronger connection to and appreciation of the natural world. I strive for my paintings to serve as a reminder to the viewer of Earth’s beauty and sanctity.
Emily’s creative process
My creative process usually begins with being out in nature, exploring and taking photographs. I’m trying to recreate the feeling of being deeply connected to nature, so it’s important for me to get outside to begin my process authentically. I then bring my photos back to the studio to comb through and pick out bits and pieces from pictures to create a composition that works for a painting. I generally start painting with the use of the photo and then paint mostly without the reference for the second half of the painting. By doing this, my paintings turn out realistic, but have a more dreamlike than photorealistic quality. The part of the painting process that I enjoy the most are the tiny details. I actually paint most of my work (regardless of its size) with a size 0 brush. I get lost in the intricate details of the patterns, textures, and repetition found in nature. I find this process incredibly calming and soothing.
Recent work on Emily’s #Heartlist
Some of the artists that I’m inspired by recently include Kallen Mikel and Andrea Durfee. Both of their works, though different in style, explore the connection and interplay between human beings and the natural world. Studying their paintings is inspiring me to start experimenting with incorporating the human figure into my future work.
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