Updated: Sep 15, 2020
This week we will be exploring the vibrant and colourful art practice of Emily Shih, looking at her series of acrylic paintings and discussing her technique.
Emily is an acrylic painter based in Taiwan. She creates incredibly vibrant landscape paintings using a block technique. Her artwork is created in the hopes of bringing joy and pleasure to those viewing it. If you want to find out more about Emily's artwork you can read our Q&A below. You can find more amazing images of Emily's artwork @cat2791
Can you briefly describe your art practice?
I love using rich and vivid colours in paintings. By piling up different shapes of hue blocks, I transform the realist world into a bright and splendid world of my own. This is how I praise nature, and a way of self-expression.
Is there a piece of art that you are most proud of creating? Why?
This painting depicts the spring scenery of Jiangnan In March and was selected as a finalist of 2020 "International Artist Grand Prize Competition" held by The Taiwan International Contemporary Artist Association. In this season when the wind and the sun are fragrant with flowers and plants, tourists are walking along the willow breeze and the canoes shuttle through the ancient bridges in the water lanes. The ancient town is composed of white walls, small bridges and flowing water, there is no bustling noise or crowds, only a kind of quiet and peaceful feeling. The painting shows the typical characteristics of the water town, with full composition, elegant and bright colours, the backlight perspective increases the spatial sense, depth and visual tension of the picture.
Emily Shih, Spring Outing, 72.5 x 91 cm, Acrylic on canvas, 2019
What do you enjoy about working with acrylic paint, how would you describe your technique? Acrylic are not a high-maintenance medium. You only need a few simple tools. With acrylic paint it can clean up is a breeze. All you need is water and towels. Simple as that. They’re very malleable and more versatile than any other paint medium. So that's why I chose acrylic as my primary medium. Before I paint, I use image processing software to segment the image, and then I arrange the geometric shapes and various hue blocks alternatively and simplify the details of the scenery. In the process of painting, I will adjust the shape and colour to make the picture present a harmonious effect. I would like to show the spatial extensity, rhythm and the impressionism with the colours, and furthermore I hope to construct new imagery and resonance visually. Some people say that my works are like digital art and have some pop art style. What do you think?
How did you develop your personal style?
I started to paint in 2009. At first, I painted oil painting and watercolour. The subject matter was very diverse. I painted realistic style paintings, so I paid more attention to the authenticity, which was very helpful for the training of painting skills. But after I painted a lot of realistic styles, I felt that it was not very challenging. I should find out my own style and characteristics. So, in 2014, I began to try to transform the images into a variety of different styles and found that the silhouette colour block image was very attractive to me. Using acrylic colour can make the painting present a more distinctive style and the image has more tension. I drew a painting called "Sunset Afterglow" with this style. It was my first time to paint this style, and it was also the first time I was selected as a finalist of international art competition, which gave me great confidence and encouragement, so I have established my own painting style since 2014.
Is there an element of art you like or dislike working with? Why?
I love colour. Colour is the most complex artistic element, and its combination and diversity make our world colourful. I think there are all kinds of colours and lightness in nature. Its range is very rich. It depends on whether people observe it with their heart or not. I don't want to copy nature. I don't think any colour is absolutely good or bad. Only if the relationship between colour and colour is correct, and the right colour and amount are placed in the right position, the aesthetic feeling and space can be created. This is the unique style of my works.
Emily Shih, Sunset,53 x 65 cm, Acrylic on canvas, 2018
What projects have you recently completed?
Due to COVID-19, some of my exhibitions have been postponed or cancelled. I think many artists also face the same problems. Artists around the world are adapting to shutdowns by swapping physical performance spaces for virtual ones. Now, more than ever, it's time to harness the power of the internet to strengthen artists online presence. During this period, I participated in eight virtual group exhibitions and published my works in some online art magazines. In addition, I cooperated with two online art galleries to sell my paintings and accepted two art interviews. I'm now preparing for a solo exhibition at the gallery in September.
Why do you make this type of art?
I chose to use the colour block composition method to paint because I feel that using this method can make the image present a good 3D effect, and the flat colour block has more tension than the traditional realistic painting. Such colour blocks are like a large piece of rough-cut coloured paper, layer by layer to create depth of field and 3D effect. This silhouette style is very attractive to me and can give people more reverie and fun. I think flat coating without shadows can bring a sense of volume, and bright colours have a decorative effect.
How do you choose your colour scheme?
Colours are easy to cause two kinds of psychological activities: association and empathy, which are just the golden keys to activate people's emotional activities. The soft colours make people feel warm and harmonious, strong colours can inspire and produce eye-catching pleasure, dark colours are calming and refreshing, the combination of contrasting colours make the picture dynamic, the coordination of colours make the picture more stable. In order to make the overall visual harmony, it’s necessary to coordinate and reorganise the various colours, so that the painting finally presents a colourful but harmonious effect.
Emily Shih, Leisurely,91 x 72.5 cm, Acrylic on canvas, 2017
How do you decide your subject matter?
Most of my works are depicting natural landscapes, such as sunsets, mountains and rivers, reflections of water, places I have travelled and places I want to go. In addition, I like the themes of positivity, optimism and joy. I want people to look at my artworks and feel the same thing that I do - peace, happiness, joy and always believing in something good.
What kind of artists influence you the most?
Paul Cezanne's artistic concept has a great influence on my work. He pays great attention to the volume of the objects and the depth of the images. For this reason, he gave up the linear perspective method. This volume is not expressed by lines, but by the colour blocks freely combined by the author. I personally admire Cezanne's works and his art practice and persistence in art. I also like David Hockney's works, especially his landscape paintings. I like his colour and style, which is very impressive.
How do you engage with online platforms with your artwork? Do you find these types of online communities important for an emerging artist?
I use social media like Facebook and Instagram to share my artworks. A crucial part of building your brand is leveraging social media, not only share your work with a larger audience, but also to connect with clients and fellow artists. I engage with my followers most frequently through these online platforms. It’s great for networking professionally and personally and for building micro-communities and niche interest groups. So, I do think online communities are important for artists.
Emily Shih, Fishing,72.5 x 60.5 cm, Acrylic on canvas, 2018
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
I hope people buy art because they really love the works instead of bringing them huge benefits.
As we all know, COVID-19 has had a very disruptive impact specifically on the creative industries. Can you describe your experiences trying to create art during lock-down?
Under the impact of COVID-19, almost all industries have been hit hard, and people's physical and mental health has also been affected. During this period, in addition to painting acrylic, I also tried to make some collages and small-sized works. Doing these less time-consuming works can relax me and reduce stress.
Do you have any last message or thoughts?
The arts help people to cope in dark times – even during a pandemic that prevents us experiencing art and culture alongside others in the same physical spaces. In times of uncertainty, art is more than beauty or decoration — it's a tool. Art can heal and bring us together even when we're apart. I hope my role as an artist is to inspire, connect, and collaborate. We can use our time in isolation to learn to be more caring and connected to each other and the world.
It has been wonderful to talk with Emily about her paintings and how she aspires to bring happiness to the art world and spread a positive message through her art. She has created a very striking and personal style within her painting and we wish her the best of luck in their future.
You can view more of Emily Shih's work and contact her here:
Instagram Handle: @cat2791
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.