For over 20 years, self-taught artist Emily Balivet has been creating vivid renderings that explore feminine spirituality, mythology and ancient religion. Inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, the Art Nouveau period and the psychedelic art movement of the 1960s, along with elements of nature and the lucious landscapes she grew up exploring, Balivet’s figurative realism has won her a worldwide fanbase that spans a wide range of demographics.
Raised in Alaska but currently residing in Vermont, Balivet got her start selling her creations in the craft fair and festival circuit. In 2004, she began promoting her paintings online and quickly found a market for her uniquely elegant style.
What was your upbringing like, and how did it shape who you are today?
I was born here in Vermont where I am presently living, but the majority of my childhood and early adult life was spent in Alaska where the majority of the year is spent in isolation and darkness. It is a catalyst to find something to be passionate about… or else you’ll crack. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but it worked for my path.
How did you first become familiar with the Pre-Raphaelites, and what is it about their style that appealed to you?
My sister introduced me to the pre-Raphaelites in my early twenties and my mind was blown immediately. To see that human hands could achieve such perfect realism. Not only that, but the mythological and literary themes were so exciting to me, and I was inspired then to marry my love of painting to specific characters and moments in the old mythic stories.
At what point did you realize that you might be able to make a living as an artist?
I began marketing more crafty things at a young age and supplemented my income throughout my twenties through fairs and festivals. All the while, I was painting at home but keeping my work out of the public view. I suppose I felt I was still developing my style. Everything I painted felt too personal to share, too revealing. Eventually in my 30s, my financial circumstances forced me to use whatever resources I had, i.e. my art plus the internet. My art has been my sole source of income since.
How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
My art has evolved in many ways (may it always). But what comes to mind is as I was just mentioning, I used to have some fear about sharing my art with others because I thought maybe each painting would lay me bare and tell my secrets. Each painting is like a personal tarot card to me. As I began setting my art free to interact with the world, I noticed that each viewer has their own experience with it, much like my children have ways of relating to others that I will never know of. Now I know my art may have come through me, but it is not mine and it’s true nature extends far beyond my own experience of creating it.
When it comes to your art, how much of a perfectionist do you consider yourself to be?
Certainly I have hovered over a painting for far too long before looking to achieve what I thought perfection might be. I’ve come to understand more fully the nature of the Muse/artist relationship. My job is to keep my mouth shut and let the Muse have her way with my hands. My Ego and my opinion doesn’t matter in that realm. Besides, I can’t remember ever creating anything great while obsessing over a painting in a negative or frustrated way. But if I tune in to the Muse and allow myself to blithely follow, I slip into nirvana. That’s really all that matters for me… My own state of mind. The art is what it is and everyone will have their own feelings about it anyways.
What does your work environment look like?
Well, it’s bright and sunny, but frankly, it’s a mess. I could really care less as long as I know where my tools are. All I’m really looking at or have time to focus on is the artwork at hand and that always looks nice and clean to me.
When it comes to marketing yourself, which methods have you had the most success with?
I’ve found it’s important to have my own website for ground zero. Branching out from there I’ve posted my art on various sites through time just for exposure. I got in on Etsy when the site was very young and have found the marketplace to be the best site to sustain my web presence. Through those two platforms, I find I am able to pick up interest from various manufacturers and other wholesale accounts that keep my business afloat even when sales are slow.
For you, what was the most rewarding aspect of having children?
There are obviously so many, but mainly it’s the expansion of the heart, to love more fully than ever before.
Aside from painting, what are you most passionate about?
My greatest passion is simply achieving bliss regularly by experiencing ecstatic joy with my people through nature, music, conversation, and art.
What’s the best song you’ve heard recently?
Today I’ve been digging The Pretty Things (“Bracelets of Fingers” is my top song). It’s a tough question though, because music is such a constant and always an eclectic soundtrack in the background of my daily life.
If you had to offer one piece of advice to aspiring artists, what would it be?
It’s all about passion and play. All art is playful and experimental. See if you can accomplish what you set out to do (because that rarely happens). Then learn how you roll with your muse when you’re led down those unexpected paths. Art IS the journey of soul. If we always knew the outcome, this life game would be an utter bore.