Q&A #16: Emily Page


* Emily gives us a glimpse of her journey as a painter, how she is able to make some of her brushes last a long time (20 years!), and how swapping gratitudes with select people helps.


Leigh Lim: Hi Emily! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. I’ve noticed in one of your posts, you mention that you had to recreate 22 paintings in 48 hours. How did you manage that!?

Emily Page: For my sip and paint studio, Artistic Abandon, we do consulting to help other sip and paint studios open without them having to do a franchise. Part of the consulting package is that we allow them to use 50 of our copyrighted paintings, and we provide those 50 physical paintings for them to hang on the wall.

Normally, I have several weeks to come up with all 50, but we had a studio opening in Maryland within a couple weeks and my husband was going to be driving through that area in a couple days anyway, so we decided he should just deliver them on his way and save them the cost of shipping. Luckily, we had several of the images already painted (every time I teach a class, I’m recreating the painting for the students to follow along with), but there were 22 paintings that I had to get done within a couple days. It was madness.

The paintings that we teach at the studio are designed to be taught between a 2 and 3 hour period, so they take me 30 minutes to an hour and a half to recreate if I’m not waiting for students to catch up. So if we average an hour per painting, that means it took me approximately 22 hours total. I pretty much formed an assembly line of paintings with similar colors and would work on one painting while another dried, then go back once it was dry to do the next step.

My hand just about fell off at the end of it. I wear a wrist brace when I paint because I’ve got tendonitis and it definitely earned its keep over those couple days!


LL: If you were to explain the ‘Sip and Paint’ concept to someone who hasn’t encountered before, what would you say?

EP: Basically, customers can bring their own wine, beer, or nonalcoholic beverage and any snacks they’d like to class, and we’ll walk them step-by-step through creating their own version of one of our paintings.

Everyone in the class does the same painting, and we break it down so that, even if you’ve never painted before, you can walk away with something your proud of. You can follow along exactly, or put your own personal touches on it (we’ll help you do that, too, if you ask). It’s a social event with people laughing and chatting while they paint, but if you want to take it more seriously, you can.

We have customers that have been in over 50 times, which I never thought would happen. We work really hard to come up with paintings that are both good, and teachable, and to make sure that everyone is having a good time, too.

LL: What approach do you take when having to ship your paintings?

EP: I’ve gone back and forth between FedEx and UPS. I’ve never used any of the big art shippers because they’re so crazy expensive. I suppose if my work started getting super expensive, I would switch over. My strategy is just bubble wrap bubble wrap bubble wrap. Way more than you think is actually necessary. And I add an extra layer of cardboard in there, too.


LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with painting?

EP: I started drawing when I was little and my parents always encouraged me to explore (mostly because it kept me occupied and quiet, I think, during the many hours we spent touring the country and chasing trains in a VW camper – yes, my parents were dirty dirty hippies). In high school, I did an independent study with a family friend, Tim O’Kane, and he introduced me to several different media, including oils. Check out his work at http://www.timokane.com. He’s amazing and continues to mentor me unofficially.

I fell in love with oils and ended up being an art major in college, focusing on painting. There’s such a satisfying gush. I’m big on textures. I tend to get hooked on a style and do a ton of work in that style, and then I get restless and want to try something new. I mostly figure out how to do new stuff myself, but occasionally I’ll consult books or go online if it’s a new medium. Tim recently gave me some panel to experiment on and I’m totally obsessed with that now. It’s allowing me to get very detailed and precise, so I’m doing a series of realist paintings at the moment, sprinkled in with some other work.


LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

EP: The hardest thing about learning is accepting that you’re going to end up with something that you’re not happy with. You want it to be perfect the first time. But I’m learning to let go and know that I’ll probably have to sand down and gesso over a few pieces and reuse the canvas when I’m at the beginning of a new style or medium.

Making something that ends up being something you consider sub-par is okay – no one needs to see it and you’re going to learn on each piece what works and what doesn’t work, and the next one will get better. That was particularly true when I started doing portraits. Let me tell you, I have butchered some of my loved ones’ faces! Luckily, they’ll never know. I also know that sometimes a piece needs to sit for a few months and then be revisited when you’ve learned more.

I’ve even shown works that I wasn’t thrilled with and a year later gone back and totally reworked it. If a piece isn’t working, you can’t be afraid to go way off course and screw up the pretty parts to get to somewhere new and fresh. Some of my best pieces are works I hated the first time around and that are kind of accidental.

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

EP: I don’t really consult books on a regular basis, but in my studio, I do have The Artist’s Handbooks (1 by Ralph Mayer and 1 by Ray Smith), and the Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Park. They’re sort of for just in case.


LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never painted before, so they could have the capacity to draw at your level and skill. What would it look like?

EP: I don’t think there needs to be a set path for learning to paint. The key is to not be afraid to make mistakes and be willing to practice daily. You WILL make mistakes, and that’s okay. Just learn from them. I believe in having a strong foundation in drawing, because it teaches you how to really see what’s there, not just what you THINK is there. If you can’t draw, you can’t paint.

But really, learning to create art is just like anything else: the more you practice, the better you get. When I give private lessons, I assign homework that both lets you explore and requires you to practice. If you have a good artist to guide you, that’s really helpful, because they can help you see in ways you didn’t already. I would also say that any chance you get to watch a really great artist work, do it. I’ve learned so much by just observing.


LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as an artist?

EP: I was not disciplined when I was younger and it has taken me a long time to get to where I am. I’m not sure how much being more dedicated would have helped me get here faster, or if my brain just needed time to develop and mature and work things out. Even now, I don’t think of it as discipline – I look for ways to keep myself interested, which is why I have such a wide variety of art and styles.

Don’t force yourself to do more than 10 minutes a day as you’re beginning. If you’re enjoying it, do more. If you’re not, stop. Art should be a release. It should be fun, and if it’s not fun, you’ll lose interest quickly. I tend to work in spurts, where I have dozens of paintings in the works and I wish I had more time to paint, and I have phases where things slow down.

The lulls used to panic me, but now I know that’s just my pattern and that soon enough, inspiration will hit again.

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

EP: I can’t think of specific examples of times a teacher has helped me work through a real problem or learn a new technique, but as I said, people often give little tips that help you along the way – like Tim O’Kane giving me a couple pieces of prepped Masonite for my realist work.


LL: Do you plan when you paint?

EP: I do plan when I paint sometimes. I’ll work out composition on paper first, but I rarely make any studies in paint first. It really depends on what I’m working on. If I’m using any photos as reference, I’ll print them out in black and white before I start painting so I can see values without hue.


LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished?

EP: I don’t really have any kind of checklist. It’s more intuitive for me. I think if you have a solid enough foundation, you can let go of the technique and interpret your way through. If I’m struggling with a piece, or if I’m not quite sure if I’m done, I’ll ask my husband. He has no artistic training, and I like getting the layman’s opinion, because they don’t care about technique.

And generally buyers are not artists themselves. He’ll just look at a piece and say something like, “I think it needs more red over there.” He’s often right, and even if he’s not, he sometimes makes me think of something that I hadn’t considered before.

I do like having photos as reference – whether it’s of a color palette I like, or a pose I’m using, or even another artist’s work that I like the mood of, I find photos helpful.

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First layers. Such anticipation.

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LL: Description of your style?

EP: This is a really tough one for me, because, artistically, I call myself a restless spirit. I tend to like bold color, but, of course, there are exceptions to that in my work. I swing wildly between styles – some of my work is fairly abstract and expressive, other work is tight and realistic. I tend to be drawn to figurative work in general.

I often have a theme of subject matter that I’ll focus on for a while, then back off and switch to a new subject, then go back as more ideas arise.

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as an artist?

EP: People assume that I’m naturally talented and that it comes easily to me. They assume they could never do it because the stuff they’ve produced so far hasn’t been “successful.” Wrong. Yes, I do have some natural ability, but I’m good because I’ve worked hard at it.

Paint seriously for 20 years, and it’ll get easier for you, too. And I firmly believe that everyone can produce something of value with the right guidance. That’s the thing that I love about the sip and paint studio: it allows people to try painting again even though their 2nd grade art teacher told them they couldn’t do it (that drives me crazy by the way – never EVER tell a child they’re not gifted at art. If they’re struggling, it’s your job to find their unique ability). We let them sip wine while they paint, so they relax a little, and then we walk them step-by-step through creating a painting.

With the right instruction and having each paint stroke really broken down for them, they can walk away with something they’re proud of and that they never thought they could do. Again, it’s like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get.


LL: Favourite time of the day to paint?

EP: I like painting at night, but that’s not generally an option these days. Because I have to teach classes at night and I’m usually worn out afterward, I’m often stuck carving out a little time during the day to paint.

I try to reserve Fridays to work on my personal art, but it doesn’t always happen. What’s also hard is that some Fridays I’m just not in the mood, and there are other days when I desperately need to paint but can’t. Finding the time for my personal work is a real struggle, and because it’s in the same space as the business itself, I often don’t want to come in on my days off because it feels like I’m returning to work.

I’m looking forward to the future when I have my own dedicated studio space at home away from work so I can work at any hour of the day and don’t feel obligated to do “real” work.


LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

EP: I’m working on realism right now, and trying to learn some glazing techniques. I’m also doing a lot more underpainting in acrylic and then taking oils on top. I like the speed of doing an underpainting in acrylic and then having the leisure to work in oils.

I’m also about to start sculpting with foam for the haunted attraction my husband and I are building. I’ve never sculpted in foam, and I haven’t been able to find anyone to teach me, so I’ve been watching a lot of videos online.

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My kind of Sunday

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LL: What’s part of your kit at the moment?

EP: My favorite oils are actually Utrecht. Good quality, not too pricey. I don’t feel like I have to be stingy with it because it’s so expensive. I usually use some kind of quick drying medium like Liquin or ResinGel (I used to really like Oleopasto, but they stopped making it). I’ve also been doing some mixed media work, so I’m tearing through Matte Gel Medium.


LL: How would you describe your go-to set-up?

EP: If I’m painting plein air (find a good site include as a link), I bring my pochade box, some quick drying medium and turpenoid (I use little baby food jars for carrying the turp), and plenty of water/coffee/snacks to keep me going. I bring my phone, too, because snapping a quick picture can really help me double check my composition and flatten the space before I start sketching. I’m not a purist, whatever helps me get there is fine with me.


LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

EP: I’m STILL not settled on a set-up I like. Sometimes I stand when I paint, sometimes I sit, sometimes I kneel. Having a good adjustable easel is important for me for that reason. I usually get out all of the colors and supplies I think I’ll need before I paint because having to stop and get more as I go frustrates me.


LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you start a project?

EP: Ergonomics is really the constant battle, isn’t it? I have a number of health conditions that sometimes affect my set-up. I guess that’s why I don’t have just one way that I paint. If I’m really achy or I’m working on a small realist piece, I like a low chair, if I’m working on an expressive piece, I prefer to stand so that I can have good range of motion.

I’ve even been known to use those exercise balls to sit on. Having enough padding on the floor is key (and again is one of my big frustrations because of the limitations of the sip and paint studio space). Honestly, I know it’s crazy, but a carpeted floor with a drop cloth on it is my favorite.

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

EP: I have some high end lights I bought for photographing my work when it’s done, but they’re such a pain to set up that I keep them in storage now. I’ve found that photographing my work outside on a cloudy day gives me the best chance at capturing the real colors in a piece. I also have been known to give away media I don’t care for to other artists (I was once gifted an amazing encaustic set, but didn’t find encaustic to be a satisfying medium to work in, so I gave it to a friend. Why sell when you can gift to another starving artist who you love?).

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

EP: If you can buy in bulk and have the storage, hell yes! But don’t clutter your studio space with extra stuff if you need to feel like you have room. I make that mistake a lot – I want the good deals, but I hate feeling like I don’t have the space I need to create.

Clutter is kind of inevitable for me, but periodically I clean up because I feel so much more open in a large, clean space.


LL: Maintenance and Storage?

EP: I’m religious about cleaning my brushes and palette knives. Religious. Brushes are so expensive, and it’s not that hard to take a couple extra minutes to clean when you’re done. I have brushes that I’ve been using for 20 years.

If I love it, I want to be able to keep using it and not have to hunt down a brush that they may stop making in a couple years. I have canisters for my brushes so I can store them bristle up. They’re sorted by style and size (though I’m pretty loose about that) so I can find the one I want easily.

People being cruel to brushes drives me absolutely loony. That’s the hardest thing about owning a sip and paint studio – people are abusive to our brushes, so we have to replace them on a regular basis. It’s painful!


LL: What approach do you recommend for using and maintaining brushes?

EP: If you’re using acrylics, the key is to always leave the brushes in a cup of water when you’re not using them. People always think that, because they’ve rinsed it and it looks relatively clean when they dab it on a paper towel, that it really is clean. It’s not. Paint gets way up in those bristles and hardens when it dries. Once it’s in there, it’s going to make the brush stiff and frayed. For oils, you’ve got way more time, but I still clean my brushes after every painting session.


If you know you’ve got to clean your brushes before you can even start the next day, it can stop you from ever starting. Take away those kind of excuses so that you can come to each session fresh.


People are really heavy handed. A light touch takes practice. I rest my hand or pinky finger on the canvas when I’m painting to help me steady my pressure, and I usually hold my brush pretty close to the bristle if I’m doing anything even vaguely detailed. I use what dentists call the Fulcrum Grip, lol. . I don’t change brushes to change colors. I just clean it well in between. I’m attaching a picture of what our brushes look like when they arrive from the store and what a couple weeks of use by our customers does to them.



LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your paintings came about?

EP: When I start a new piece that isn’t really part of a series, it’s because I’ve seen something that has just stuck in my brain and won’t let go. For the Drippings Triptych, I had the color palette in mind and it kept badgering me to come out. We had a painting we teach at the studio, and about a third of the way through, it looks like a lovely piece of abstract art and I just loved the colors.

(I’m attaching a photo of the studio’s painting so you can see. When we first start we just do the background color and some of the trees, and that’s what really set me off and running I had been doing some really tight work and wanted something more abstract and free, and had a wall at home that I wanted to change out the art for).

I had just been given those pieces of Masonite to try, and liked them and had purchased more for myself and had them cut so that I could make the triptych from some of the leftovers. I had done a couple other drippings pieces, and oddly, those had stemmed from a computer glitch. I had tried to print a pic of one of my paintings, and the printer screwed up and created this box within the painting and I liked how it looked. So I set out to do that intentionally on canvas.

The triptych was an extension of that. The only down side was that I was planning on doing something a little looser to give my hand a break, but I had forgotten that in order to have clean edges around the boxes, that you’ve got to get really tight and controlled in the clean-up of the lines. Murder for the hands, but I love how they came out. Serene.



LL: Have you received referrals to take your classes as an antidote to writer’s block?

EP: I haven’t, but that’s a really interesting thought. I think most people just view it as a fun night out, but I have some regulars that often say to me, “hey, it’s cheaper than therapy,” so obviously it helps them in some way. That’s really what art should be.

We all have this need to be perfect, and people are really hard on themselves in class sometimes. They forget that I’ve been painting for 30 years. If I came to their job, I wouldn’t be good at it right away either. And if it was easy, they wouldn’t need my help in the first place.

I ring a cowbell during class reminding them to take a drink or to breathe. Even when I’m working on a tough painting and it’s not going well or I’m finding it kind of stressful, it’s still good for me because it makes me stop thinking about my “real” life. I think that’s true for my customers as well. They stop thinking about job stress or home stress and they’re truly in the moment for those couple of hours that they’re painting.


LL: Are there any misconceptions about you that you’ve had to clarify?

EP: I’ve never really been pigeon holed as an artist (at least, not that I know of) because I do so many kinds of work. I think the hardest thing for me to get past is people not taking me seriously because I’m a petite “young” woman. I’m still called a young woman, but I’m 37, and I wonder when you stop getting called that?

Granted, I take it as a compliment that they perhaps think I’m younger than I am because of how I look, but I do think that I’m often not taken seriously because of it. When I was in art school, I was advised not to sign my paintings with my full name, because buyers won’t pay as much if they know that you’re a woman. I just sign with my first initial and last name. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I don’t want to take my chances. I do think men get taken more seriously as artists than women do, even in this day and age.

LL: Are there some questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

EP: Why the dancers? Why the elephants. They’re honest questions, though, so I don’t mind answering them.


LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting entries?

EP: I’m trying to post on the days that I’m already in the studio (Tuesday through Saturday) and give myself a break on Sundays and Mondays. This is mostly so that I’ll rest my hand and help the tendonitis ease.

But if I’m really excited about something, I’ll post more frequently. I’m still new to the whole blogging thing, so we’ll see if I’m able to maintain that rhythm.


LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting/sharing something?

EP: I’m a pretty open and honest person. I sometimes question whether readers will get my humor, but I’m viewing the blogging like I view the art. You have to let go of the response you’re anticipating and do what makes you happy.

This is REALLY hard to do, because I’m a people pleaser, but I find that when I let go and just be creative, people generally respond well. The only time I censor is when I’m talking about someone else, like my dad. I don’t want to betray anyone’s trust. If I do talk about someone, I try to keep it in a positive light. There’s enough trash talk out there, I don’t need to add to it.

With my dad, because he can’t advocate for himself anymore with the dementia, I try to think about what he would have been comfortable with sharing, but he was a really open person, too, and decided early on not to hide what was happening (my mom embraced the same attitude, luckily).

If we can be honest about who we are and what’s happening to us, it can be therapeutic for other people reading it. That’s really what support groups are, after all: people saying, “I’ve experienced this,” and other people saying, “Yeah, me, too! I thought I was the only one!”

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

EP: I’d really love to learn a new language. I was pretty good with French for awhile, but it’s been so long since I’ve had to use it, I’ve lost most of it.

I’d love to learn Spanish, just for its usefulness.


I’m also going to have to learn special effects makeup for the haunt, and I’m pretty excited for that. I don’t really like creepy things, but I love the thought of getting to do prosthetics, etc.


LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

EP: I don’t know that mentoring is the right word. I have a friend who swaps “gratitudes” with me once a week. We each keep a gratitude journal – just stuff that makes us happy day to day, and then we email each other everything once a week.

I have a really strong history of depression (something I haven’t talked about in the blog yet, but which I undoubtedly will), so making the effort to see the good in life is vital. Emailing each other holds us accountable, and I find that, even if I’ve had a really crappy day, at the end of emailing my whole list of gratitudes for the week, I feel better. And then reading hers makes that even better, because it alerts you to things you didn’t know make you happy. It can be really simple things like the crunch of ice when you step on a frozen puddle, but it makes you see some good when you might otherwise be cranky about freezing your butt off.

I have another friend who’s daughter is about to turn 10 and is struggling with self esteem, and I think is tending toward depression. So I sent her a gratitude journal and asked her to be my pen pal and trade gratitudes, too. I really want her to get in the habit while she’s young, because it could make a difference in her teenage years.

I’m also trying to be more cognizant of who I surround myself with. I’m looking for people that believe in me and push me, and I try to reciprocate as much as possible. We need to work harder at being of value to each other’s lives. Let’s grow together.

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

EP: I watch FRIENDS religiously. And HGTV. I freakin’ love makeovers (home or beauty). And Harry Potter is kind of awesome, I have to admit. That being said, I’m not really someone who goes and looks up every fact that ever was about something I like. So I don’t know if it qualifies as geeking out.


I’m also really fascinated by medical stuff. I have several conditions that have required me to be my own advocate, which means you have to learn about the science-y stuff. I used to run a local support group in FL through the Endometriosis Research Center. And I worked for awhile as a paralegal helping people get their disability benefits, which meant that I had to be able to write coherently about their illnesses. I really enjoyed that work. If I had better memorization skills (as an actor, I was good at remembering lines, but holding minutia in my brain was never my strong suit), I probably would have become a doctor. Ooh, or a surgeon since I have steady hands.


LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

EP: Anything that’s not “fair,” lol. I have an overdeveloped sense of justice. I do have to be careful though, because if I play the “ain’t it awful” game (as my dad called it), it puts me into a negative mindset which makes me more susceptible to falling back into a depression.

I will say that I’m kind of obsessed with public radio shows right now. My top 3 faves are This American Life, RadioLab (I love the random science crap I learn on that show – I just wish I could remember it to spit it out in conversation later), and Serial.

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

EP: I actually used to be a radio deejay for WTJU (wtju.net) with my dad (he was a jazz sax and clarinet player). We played jazz, jazz, and jazz. It was called Nick@Nine, Monday morning jazz to make you feel good. I love all types except smooth, which makes me want to cut my ears off and shove them into the soprano sax to clog it up and make it stop.

I’m a jazz singer (I know, I act, I sing, I paint – I’m good at everything that’s exceptionally hard to make a living doing), so I lean more towards vocalists. My favorite jazz vocalist is Carmen McRae, though I love Nnenna Freelon, Stephanie Nakasian. If you don’t know about Stephanie Nakasian, you need to. She’s probably the most underrated jazz singer and can scat like Ella.

I was fortunate enough to be her very first voice student. Her husband is Hod O’Brien, one of the greatest piano players of our era. Really amazing. My cats have all been named after jazz musicians (Ella, Satchmo, Dizzy, and Frankie – because he had blue eyes like Frank Sinatra). I had stopped listening to jazz for awhile after we put my dad into a dementia care facility, because it was just too painful for me. But I’m starting to be able to listen again and enjoy it – still depends on the day, though.


My favorite non-jazz musician (though who does often have a jazz vibe to her work) is Ani Difranco. I looooooooove me some Ani. I sing and sing and sing to her. She writes the soundtrack to my life.


LL: What are you reading at the moment?

EP: I’m reading a novel right now that isn’t really all that interesting, so I won’t bother plugging it. I’m one of those people who can’t stop reading once I’ve started, even though I’m not enjoying it. My favorite book of all time is Fugitive Pieces (the first half is incredible). I just read The Art Forger and was absolutely fascinated with the descriptions of how to recreate the aged look in art. I also really like The Goldfinch, though I was a little disappointed when I looked up what the actual painting was. Not as captivating as the book described. Tracy Chevalier’s books are a little romance novel-y, but I love that they include some really interesting stuff about how art was made way back when.

I like books about World War II. No idea why. I also really love Wally Lamb’s writing. He just sucks me in. I have my mom’s old Kindle, so lately I just read whatever she’s downloaded – which means I’m reading a lot of mystery books.

In terms of blogs, my favorite is http://thebloggess.com/ (If you haven’t read her book, you need to. Right now. I’ll wait.) I also have a friend from college with a great blog, http://www.lilblueboo.com/ I like their blogs because they’re both honest and look for the bright side of things. And they can get twisted. Twisted is good.

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

EP: I’m actually really horrible about keeping up with the art world. It does stimulate me when I come across good art, but it also can block me. It can make me feel unoriginal, or like someone is doing it better than me. I love discovering new musicians, though.


LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

EP: I don’t actively seek it. I prefer to let it come to me organically. By surrounding myself with people I admire and love, they tend to feed me inspiration without me having to go looking for it. I find that the universe gives it to you when you’re ready. I think I mentioned before that I go through dry spells. Kind of like writer’s block, and that that used to panic me.

These days, I trust that it’ll come around again and I’ll have more ideas than I know what to do with.

LL: What makes you smile?

EP: I love bad puns. My dad and I used to trade them. It’s one of the reasons the Muppets are so genius (watch the Muppets Christmas Carol this year). I love irreverent humor (for an example, go to http://www.lilblueboo.com/category/elf-on-the-shelf-2). I love musical humor (like Victor Borge). These two things [‘Data’s Life Form Song’ and ‘Peter Catching a Bullfrog for Chris’] also always make me crack up.

Editor’s Note: for the link to the second clip Emily mentions — put in your request here.

LL: What’s your view about social media?

EP: I wasn’t keen on it at first, but now I love it. I’m connected to so many people that I wouldn’t otherwise still be in touch with. I’m so grateful for that. I know it can take over your life, but you just have to exercise a little self-discipline and limit your time on it. It’s also made opening a business and promoting my artwork so much easier.

I have to admit I’m not a twitter fan, because brevity is not my strong suit, but I love Facebook. And blogging has been an unexpected surprise. I thought I wouldn’t have anything to say, but that’s clearly not the case.


LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

EP: I’m still getting into reading blogs. My go-to remains The Bloggess.


LL: Do you currently post at Forums?

EP: I don’t do Forums. Haven’t really explored that yet. I do sometimes participate with the Endometriosis Research Center, but way less frequently than I used to.

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Studio window snowflakes

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LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

EP: I don’t really try to cheer myself up. Sometimes I just need a little pity party. I’ll snuggle with my cats and husband and hide for a little bit. But if I do it for too many days in a row, I try to kick myself in the ass and focus on the things I’m thankful for.

And I’m learning to reach out to my friends and say that I could use a little help. I have hilarious friends with an arsenal of bad puns to make me smile. My mom is also an incredible support, and I can be honest with her when I’m getting depressed.


LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?

EP: I haven’t really explored that option either. I would really like to try it, though. I think it could foster some really interesting stuff.


LL: Are you interested in technology?

EP: No. I’m a luddite. I’m grateful that the internet and computers exist, and they make my life easier in many ways, but I hate learning how to use everything. I’m about to try learning how to use Pinnacle, but it’s under duress.

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Lead soldiers that my grandfather made.

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LL: If you were asked to pick from the pieces you have created, which one would be your favourite?

EP: Wow, tough question. I’ll give you one in each style: From the Dancers, Vogue is my fave. From the Still Life paintings, I like my tomato paintings. From the Fractured Memories, I think the Happy Elephant Singing Emily will probably be the one I’ll keep.


LL: For someone seeing something of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

EP: As much as you can, let go of the outcome and don’t be afraid to experiment and make bad art. And enjoy the process of playing with whatever medium you’re using. Relish that gush of paint. Look for the pieces in a painting that you really like and figure out how to do it again.


LL: What makes your soul sing?

EP: Music and laughter. When someone I love laughs, it’s like heaven on a sound wave. When my dad laughs, it’s like when a really little kid laughs – incredibly precious and something that sustains me. If I blow a raspberry noise at him, he cracks up, and it makes my whole day.

The right song can have the same effect. There are some things for which there are no words, and music and art can convey those.

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Gravestone in Marblehead

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LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

EP: I think replying to comments and emails is important. It lets people know that they’re as important to you as you are to them. We all need to feel special and we can only feel that way if people are as generous with their love as we are with ours.


LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

EP: I think my top priority is to find buyers for my work. It’s hard to justify making more art when you’ve got a storage unit full of it – not that that stops me, but it would stop my husband from grousing, lol. I love commissions because it allows me to make a piece and know that it’s got a home waiting for it.


LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

EP: It’s the little kindnesses that I think make the most difference. I’ve organized Random Acts of Kindness Days at my studio and encouraged my customers to participate.

I’ll be passing out holiday cards to the Walmart staff next week to say thank you for their hard work. People get so little appreciation for the work they do. I’m good with illness and death, so I used to volunteer with Hospice doing 11th Hour care and respite care.

I grew up volunteering at Camp Holiday Trails, a camp for kids with special health needs. I’ve done some murals for free for sick kids. These days, I have so little extra time to volunteer, and my husband and I have been talking about how much I miss that. We do monthly fundraisers for local charities, and that’s great, but it doesn’t really feed the soul in quite the same way.

I need to find a way to carve out more time for actual volunteering, because nothing makes you feel better than giving without expecting anything in return.


* Emily Page is a painter currently based in Raleigh. You can learn more about her via her blog or her Instagram feed. To purchase her work, you can visit this page.”


Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (December 2014 – January 2015) between Emily and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.


  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Emily that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Emily the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
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  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Emily’s Q&A.
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Q&A #11: Andrew Simple

“Andrew shares his journey as a musician, why his Gibson J-45 is his go-to guitar, and the effectiveness of sleep.”


Leigh Lim: Hi Andrew! Thanks for being open to do a Q&A! I noticed you have a couple of lyric videos up on your YouTube Channel. Do you like doing them?

Andrew Simple: Yeah, I have some friends that are great at it, so any good ones are made by them. I’ve slung a couple together on iMovie after getting some requests, but you really want to do them right. After Effects, Final Cut, etc.


LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing, writing, and arranging?

AS: I started by wanting to write, and immediately learning the major and minor bar chords on the guitar and then just writing a bunch of songs based on that. I always recommend learning the bar form first, to get a quick win. It sounds good and is a formation you can easily just slide up and down the neck without too much thought.   It made guitar seem easier than in really is, but it kick started my writing.

As time went on, I gradually discovered more and about the guitar on my own. As far as arranging, I have been fascinated by the symphony orchestra since a young age, and that always gave me a good sense of the various elements that need to work together to create a piece of music. Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ probably was the most influential to me when I was quite young.


LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played, written, or arranged music before, so they could have the capacity to play, write, and arrange music at your level and skill. What would it look like?

AS: Since I have had such a piecemeal musical path, its hard to suss it all out and recommend it to someone. After a few years in the wild, playing in bands, and learning on my own, I did go to college and studied music academically. That helped with a lot of “aha” moments, especially the music theory.

I believe in an individualized plan of education across the board, so whatever the interest is, I say follow it hard however that might look. Music school isn’t for everyone, practicing isn’t for everyone, writing isn’t for everyone, etc.




LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are now?

AS: This follows from the last question, and its discipline that is key.

If you follow the elements of music that you are interested in, study the greats in that field and soak it in, and then apply it. For me, it was breaking down the chord structures of Stevie Wonder, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, etc. And those artists all made really interesting arranging choices too, so learning from those artists was really important for me.

Guitar was the first “composition” instrument I used, and then I added piano when I couldn’t get all the voicings I wanted, which in turn lead me back to guitar to experiment with alternate tunings.


LL: Do you incorporate alternate tunings when you write?

AS: I like simply dropping the low E to a D. It allows me to get some richer inversions that I can play more easily on a piano.


LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to put in time to practice?

AS: I think deadlines are the only thing that really gets me to finish something when I don’t feel like it. Rehearsing, practicing, etc. If I have a gig coming up where I need to learn new songs or something, just that fact alone forces me to put in the time. Recitals were the same way in college.


LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

AS: Besides the above, maybe try to build on any knowledge you already have. If you are wanting to learn guitar, and you already know some piano or theory, I think drawing some basic threads together would be good. Such as noting how the guitar is tuned in 4ths, or how the frets are chromatic, like going key to key on a piano.

I also recommend just learning 2 chords so you can dive in and at least get through a song, like Do Wah Diddy or something. Having a quick win like that can fuel more wins, getting more challenging each time, and hopefully learning the theory along the way.


LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

AS: My go-to guitar is my Gibson J-45. I like the Fishman Spectrum DI for live playing. As far as picks and strings, its Dunlop Tortex mediums and Curt Mangan light strings.



LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?

AS: Yes, it did. For instance, I settled on the Fishman DI for live playing, only after having an LR Baggs DI with a separate compressor, and since the Fishman was both a DI and a compressor, it helped lighten the load. You just make those tweaks all along the way. Settling on the guitar was the most significant thing. Once you play a guitar that really is inspiring to play, you just have to find a way to make it yours.


LL: With your Gibson J-45, do you think that what attracted you (and made you think: “I must make that mine!”) was the sound and feel?

AS: J-45’s are just a really nice, loud, balanced brand of guitar. They are famous for it. So when you pick one up for the first time, you go “oh, I see the light!”. But really, their strength, to me, is in their fullness in terms of EQ curve.


LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

AS: Just in swapping out bridges, and stuff like that, with my guitar guy in Nashville. Nothing major. I have some nice bone bridges on my guitars and ukes.


LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

AS: I’ve written so many songs, I’ve had to use the tablet as a cheat sheet, I admit. Mental notes can fail you, haha!


LL: Were you just “fondly” recalling some gigs when you didn’t have some notes handy?

AS: If you play enough shows, eventually you will have times where you forget lyrics and get lost, etc. So at some point, it’s just nice to have a home base to look at so that you start verse 2 correctly coming out of a chorus for example. Also, once you right enough songs, its just harder and harder to keep them straight.


LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

AS: I don’t think about it too much – I just start playing what I like in the green room or wherever – jamming, etc. You’ll get warm whether you want to or not. That way its not too structured and potentially stressful.


LL: Description of your playing style?

AS: I’m a singer-songwriter, so I rely on fairly basic picking strumming and I used finger-style on a few tunes, flesh, not nail. I am really choosy if I play any solo stuff – I leave the tearing it up stuff to my band.


LL: How about your voice? Did you have to put a lot of hours to get it to where it is now?

AS: My voice really just naturally developed. The hours were put in, but not consciously. Early on I was all over the place pitch wise and dynamically, but [it has] really evened out over the last 3 years or so.



LL: What are some misconceptions about you as a musician?

AS: I think, just in general, musicians get the classic bad rap as slackers or something like that. In my experience, musicians are some of the smartest cats around. Just not getting taken seriously when I was starting up years ago, but that’s to be expected, I suppose.


LL: What’s next for your playing?

AS: Playingwise, I feel like I’m fairly happy where I am. Honestly, I am always trying to find ways to condense, even just writing songs with two strings on the guitar.


LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you play?

AS: I think bass is harder on the body that guitar, and maybe a padded strap is more important there. With acoustic guitar, I’ve never felt a need to use anything besides a basic strap. Just having good posture in general will spill over to playing music. Since I started on drums, posture was a huge factor in being able to play properly, so I’ve always been mindful of that.


LL: Guitar Maintenance and Storage?

AS: I’m bad when it comes to putting my guitars away…they tend to lay about the room so I can grab them quickly. I get bummed out when I have to open a guitar case if I am wanting to play the guitar, haha. That sounds bad, but it’s true.  

All over my house are guitar stands and guitars in several rooms of the house so there is always something to grab. I’m not one of those that cares about keeping the guitars ding-free. Though there are cases, where that is in order. Otherwise, some lemon oil with a cloth up and down the fretboard is a good thing to do regularly for cleaning/conditioning.



LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

AS: If you can, bulk buying for small stuff like strings and picks is wise.


LL: Your music has been used a number of times in ads — is that something you are constantly excited about?

AS: It’s a surprising twist in my musical journey – that my songs seem to work well for various film and TV applications. I love the exposure, and it’s just fun.


LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos? (Or it depends on when you think of something to share?)

AS: The latter


LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

AS: I geek out about bird watching and philosophy/logic. That’s pretty bad.


LL: Are you still a big listener of music?

AS: I really don’t listen to much music these days. I’m creating it so much, there’s just not time. Maybe a couple times a week I will throw on an old record, but its mainly to zone out.


LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things

AS: I think just being in the music business, I hear all the new stuff from various sources naturally.


LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

AS: I think films are heavily inspiring for me. Its such a rich art form, it stimulates on nearly every level.


LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness?

AS: I don’t guess I focus on uniqueness per se. I just hope I naturally am “me”.



LL: What’s your view about social media?

AS: I’m fairly reluctant about all of it.


LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

AS: Sleep


LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

AS: I collaborate all the time with other artists. It’s a big part of my world.


LL: Are you interested in technology?

AS: I use technology out of necessity. Pro Tools is my go-to recording software on my Mac Pro.


LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

AS: Always open to new things


LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favorite?

AS: I like some of the live acoustic ones best probably. That was a fun concert.





LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

AS: Sure, inspiring others to create is always great. I don’t know if there is a single message, but that’s certainly one of them. If they find something they like and that they can incorporate into their jam, all the better.


LL: What makes your soul sing?

AS: I think just creating music, really. Basic as that!


LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

AS: I think the mailing list does a good job of it



Andrew Simple is a singer/songwriter currently based in Nashville. You can check out his videos here and learn more about him here.


Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (October 2014) between Andrew and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)


  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Andrew that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Andrew the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nine) that would be a companion piece to Andrew’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀


** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.