Emily Filler, in the intimacy of her studio
From Practice studies — February 22, 2017
“I might be that girl leaning over your fence to take photos of your flower garden or stopping you on the street to look at the pattern on your shirt.”
In a few words, describe yourself and your practice.
I am a visual artist living in Toronto. I am always looking for new images and ideas and am easily mesmerized by little things I see throughout the day. I might be that girl leaning over your fence to take photos of your flower garden or stopping you on the street to look at the pattern on your shirt. I’d also say i’m an extroverted introvert - I spend many hours alone in the studio, but when I step out to get a coffee I frequently find myself getting into long conversations with random strangers.
When did you start your practice?
I have been a full time artist for about 10 years. I don’t know when I would say my practice started exactly but I’ve been interested in making things since I was a kid.
“The worst thing is a blank canvas - cover it with anything really and something will start to happen.”
WHO (OR WHAT) INSPIRES YOU?
I'm inspired by other artists. I've gone to gallery shows before and created entire bodies of work based off of how I liked one small thing the artist did. I still think about certain paintings I saw several years ago.
How do you start your process?
I am very slow to start in the morning. I get a coffee, I look at some books, I take my time. Once I start working I barely stop to do anything and I often work until quite late, so I like to take the morning to myself. In terms of painting I usually start with an idea, maybe an image in my mind, but I rarely stick to it. I just let that idea be a starting point and sort of let the painting do what it wants after that. Sometimes if I have no ideas at all I start the process by making random marks on the canvas and then working off of those. The worst thing is a blank canvas - cover it with anything really and something will start to happen.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I honestly have no idea. Maybe it would be fun to be the creative director of a magazine or something. I never think about this, I have no back-up plan.
If you were to share one piece of advice with those who aspire to do what you do, what would it be?
I would say put yourself out there even if you don’t think you’re ready (you’ll likely never feel completely ready). Apply for a show, email a gallery, show your work to someone. If they say no, just approach someone else. When I was in school there was this idea that artists get ‘discovered’. I suppose that can happen but trust me it helps if you put your work right under someone’s nose. Also try not to let rejection discourage you (it's so hard, I know). But if you can deal with rejection and just keep going your way ahead of the game.
Is your practice how you support yourself? If not, what else are you working on to do so?
Yes, my practice is how I support myself.
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE SHARING ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR PROCESS?
I am very open about some things and a little secretive about others. I share a lot with other artists and will answer most questions about my process but I feel like if I reveal too much it spoils it somehow. A little mystery is always good.
What is the most useful tip or advice you’ve ever been given?
Years ago I was making a different body of work that I liked but I felt I could do more. I was selling a lot of these pieces so it was hard to push myself to do something different. I wrote a letter to an older artist I admired. I didn’t expect her to write back but she did. She said that if people have liked your work in the past don’t be afraid to try something new because it’s still you making it and your hand will show through. She also said to not be so concerned with the galleries and making money since it will compromise your work. This is a hard one to listen to but I definitely think there is truth to this.
What makes your work unique?
I like to think that I have a unique take on a traditional subject matter. I didn’t learn that much about proper painting techniques in art school. We were encouraged to experiment. As a result most of the techniques I use I sort of came about myself through trial and error and I think that makes my work unique.
“If people have liked your work in the past don’t be afraid to try something new because it’s still you making it and your hand will show through.”
What are some challenges you're facing in your practice?
Right now my practice is expanding in a way that is exciting but hard to manage alone. I’m a painter but also a shipper, a bookkeeper, someone who runs errands, answers all my emails etc… I am considering getting an assistant but have trouble with the idea of letting go of some control and also figuring out what exactly I would get them to do and also how much money I can afford to allot to this.
How has your practice changed over time?
It seems to build on itself. One project gives me an idea for another. For example a few years ago I started making small paper collages. These ended up really influencing the compositions of my larger paintings. I wanted to introduce a new element to these paintings so I started silkscreening on canvas. That lead me to my latest project where I’m silkscreening on paper and doing collage (which sort of brings it all full circle). In the future I definitely want to make some sculptures.
HOW WOULD YOUR AUDIENCE DESCRIBE YOU?
When people meet me at my shows or at the studio they often say I am exactly like my work. Like somehow they understand my work more after meeting me. I like to think that means they see me as fun and playful.
How does where you live affect your work?
Where I live has a big impact on my work, in particular my walk to the studio from my home. I live in downtown Toronto and my apartment is surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars. But on my way to the studio I pass through a residential neighborhood and also a lovely park. This contrast is very inspiring. There is just so much to look at and so much to experience. Also from a practical side living in Toronto is great since there are so many other artists around, a lot of gallery openings to go to, and many great resources close by.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on some silkscreened pieces on paper that have turned into paper collage works. I’m also working on new paintings for some upcoming art fairs. I’ve got a few commissions on the go too… There’s always lots going on.