These guest doodlewashes come to us from Emily Porter, an elementary school art teacher in Longmeadow, Massachusetts (follow her on Instagram @blackbirddarling!). Emily says, “art has always been a part of my life, especially in a therapeutic, calming way.” Her notebooks from school were always filled with doodles and she tended to doodle more when things got a bit stressful in school.
Emily never thought about art in a serious way until she went to school at Washington University in St. Louis. There, she realized that it was only possible to get into art classes if you were in an art major, so she promptly switched into the school of art and ended up graduating with a BFA in Printmaking/Drawing. She says, “I just didn’t like the thought of not having art as a part of my regular schedule. Which makes it kind of ironic and sad that after graduating, I didn’t touch an art tool or make any art for a few years.”
Ever since art school, Emily has had trouble finding a way to incorporate art into her life in a meaningful way. Her art-making comes in “fits and starts, often times gets pushed to the backburner.” Most of her art avoidance comes from fear (“of failure or success, I don’t know”). She has, though, through the years, always continued to be interested in new techniques and inspired by processes. This led to learning knitting, embroidery, free motion embroider on a machine, watercolor, etc. through online research.
Through her winding path of careers, Emily has also found that she loves teaching. She is heading into her second year of teaching art to elementary school children. She says, “I love working with children and I especially love opening their eyes to the very large world of art! I think children are naturally imaginative, but don’t often get a chance to express themselves in a productive way because school does not give many options in between ‘right and wrong’ in terms of learning and knowledge – there is no gray area.”
Emily often notices that kids are terrified to create because they might be “bad” at it, they “don’t know how” or they are afraid of what others will think. “I can sympathize with them and I think most artists can. I try to tell them that each artist’s work is unique and that is what makes it special. I also tell them how important it is to practice and work hard!!”
In her classes, Emily also reads her kids a lovely little book titled ish, by author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. The book tells the story of Ramon whose little sister opens his eyes to thinking “ish-ly” and something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” (The is very much the doodlewash way of thinking, so thanks Emily for pointing out this wonderful book!)
It is important to Emily to practice what she preaches. While teaching is a very busy job, she knows that saying “I don’t have time for art” is an excuse, so she has been making more time to create. She says, “I love working in my sketchbook because it gives me the freedom to create quick sketches without feeling the pressure of making a ‘work of art’.”
Emily is always on a quest to incorporate all of her loves (printmaking, fiber art, watercolor, drawing, etc) into one happy style. Watercolor has always been a part of the mix. She says, “I LOVE the airy, dreamy quality of watercolor – it makes me feel warm and happy! and I love the way it feels when I am painting with them.”
She just recently created her Instagram account and is so happy she did for two reasons: “I am so inspired by the other artists and art lovers out there AND it holds me accountable to create more so that I can post, post, post! Even if it is just something little.”
Emily says, “I am a lifelong learner and I find that I am learning A LOT from looking at all of the wonderful work that people are sharing. I still have a lot to learn about the watercolor medium and am anxious to keep practicing! I am still trying out new styles, new watercolor techniques, and finding new things to try to sketch… and “meeting” new people!” (And it was SO wonderful to “meet” you Emily! Can’t wait to see what doodlewashes you’ll make next!)