Artist Emily Fetcher’s paintings have an oversized ‘shock factor’ to give viewers an amplified experience with ordinary objects.
Is it a photograph? Or is it a painting? Viewer’s pause to ponder that question as they study oversized art currently dominating gallery walls at Town 220 Restaurant in Madison. The 4’x 4’ and 7’x 5’ oil paintings by photorealist Emily Fletcher are in-your-face renderings of a common garden succulent, a whiskey bottle, and a vase of wildflowers. Her painting style begs the photography vs. painting question. And that dichotomy is the artist’s intent.
“I delight in the ‘shock factor’ of my paintings’ size,” Fletcher says. “The extensive amount of space allows me to emphasize intricate details that grab and hold a viewer’s interest. The bigger the painting, the longer I can keep the viewer’s attention.”
Oil paintings with the amplified impact of photography
“My personal goals for my photorealistic paintings are to delve into color studies, push the limits of perspective and explore challenging surfaces and materials. I want to provide a dramatic experience for viewers to stop and look and see something similar to photography, just amplified!”
Noting the two paintings of succulents – Green Goddess and Simple Succulent – Emily says her exaggerated zoom allows viewers to become immersed in the plants’ color spectrum and surface texture, and the way light and shadow plays across it.
She pauses, smiles wily, and continues. “I also don’t have the greenest thumb. Capturing the succulent in a painting allows me to continue to enjoy its aesthetics long after I’ve let the plant die!”
Capturing light and shadow, reflection and distortion
And that bit of humor is a good introduction to a bright, young “20 something” year old artist who loves to paint, but doesn’t take her art so seriously that she forgets to make it fun.
Emily says her paintings Golden Bubbles, and Wildflowers, Whisky and Wine Bottles required her to capture the essence of glass and the intense play of light, shadow and distortion on reflective surfaces.
In contrast, her UGA Arch painting challenged her to capture the same essences on organic and manufactured structures in landscape.
“Each piece is an exploration of what I can do with color and how far I can push details,” she says.
Pushing contrast and pulling details
“I strive for the perfection of photorealism, though I sometimes enhance colors and composition. I love natural, earth-toned color schemes even if the subject isn’t necessarily something found in nature. Working with a semi-neutral, overall color pallet allows me to use the entire color wheel to push contrast and pull out details that might otherwise get lost in wildly colored pieces.”
Emily is skilled in watercolor, acrylic and oil, but the longer drying time of oil paint allows time to include details required of photorealism — her newest focus. Some of her other work takes on a more painterly style and, when required by assignments like Vibrant Vessels, she has even dabbled in abstraction.
Until taking classes at Lamar Dodd School of Art at UGA, Emily painted on a much smaller scale. “One of my college professors challenged me to try something larger,” explains the artist. “Perhaps she was thinking 2’x3’ or 3’x4’ — something appropriate for a teaching studio — but I wobbled into class with a 4’x5’ canvas. I haven’t gone back since!”
A million small paintings live within a larger one
“In addition to enjoying my professor’s shocked reaction, I learned large paintings allow a multitude of detail. That’s where I thrive. I love that a million smaller paintings live within a large piece.”
When it comes to subject matter, Fletcher is apathetic. “I’ll paint almost anything. It’s more the composition and point of view I’m interested in. Any project that pushes me to look at a subject matter differently or change up a normal composition is a good fit for me.” One of her favorite subjects is dogs.
“I’m owned by a cat named Leo,” she quips with a grin, “but I’ve never met a dog I wouldn’t love to paint! Dog portraits are popular hired commissions for me. Each dog is unique — just as people are — and capturing their individuality requires careful study of the dog’s personality, posture, anatomy, coloration, and facial expression. Just as human portraits are painted in different styles, my pet portraits are realistic, but with a more painterly quality.”
Emily Fletcher’s Photorealistic Painting Process:
“I first paint my canvas with gesso, then enlarge and transfer my original photo on a grid system to my canvas,” she says. “Next, I do an underpainting to establish my composition, lights and darks. Then, I do my color matching and apply it in many layers of paint thinned with medium. My goal is to hide every brushstroke, enhance the image without changing it more than 30%, and give the final piece the smooth, accurate realism of photography. Finally, when the paint dries, I varnish the finished painting to heighten the photorealistic effect. Timing at every stage is critical and varies depending on my painting’s complexity and size. A challenging process, but of course, that’s what drives me to do it!”
Emily Fletcher’s backstory
Emily’s innate artistic ability was first recognized in elementary school. Her mother, a resident of the Del Web community at Lake Oconee, encouraged her to study art and grow her creative side. By high school, the young artist was chosen to spearhead major school art projects. Also quite unusual for a high schooler, Emily was hired to render paid commission works. Noteworthy among these were three 17’x 8’ murals of Turner Field, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.
“These and a number of other commission payments introduced me to the idea of art as a viable career path,” explains Fletcher. “After exploding the potential of numerous artistic avenues, I chose advertising because it offers opportunity to use my analytical side as well as my creative side. And I still have the freedom to develop a dual career as a commissioned artist.”
Walking between two worlds
Emily graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and a Studio Art minor. “Currently, I work for an Atlanta advertising agency from 9-to-5, then paint in my free time under the watchful eye of my fluffy ‘partner in crime’, my kitty Leo. He and I are out here in the world together figuring things out and trying to make it! And on weekends and holidays, Leo and I can visit and enjoy our family and the peaceful beauty of Lake Oconee.”
Emily flashes a sunny smile that bespeaks her joyful embrace of life. And this writer smiles too, captivated by her exuberance and commitment to let nothing stop her embracing an artistic future...wherever it may lead her.
For more information on her art, visit https://www.emilyfletcherart.com/.
Story by Judi Martha Collins