Her lifelong delights in nature, color, pattern and fantasy inspire the art of Emily Fotis.
Admirers compare her work to such timeless greats as William Morris, Henri Rousseau, and Laurel Burch – but, Emily’s playful, imaginative art is distinctively her own.
Working entirely by hand in various media, Emily creates vibrant originals characterized by her gifts for harmonious color and pattern. Her paintings contain motifs such as birds and other animals, flowers and geometric forms. They range from primitive to refined, from vivid to ethereal – each unique and charming, and each somehow infused with a life and personality of its own.
Emily is a self-taught artist who has taken private instruction with masters in calligraphy, drawing and oil painting techniques to refine her skills. She began showing and selling her work in her late teens, starting with her extensive series of paintings inspired by the early Pennsylvania Dutch folk art known as “American Fraktur.” For this series, Emily painted on found antique papers, using inks handmade from walnut shells and lampblack, and watercolors handmade from pigment stones that she collected from local creekbeds.
In the summer of 2003, at her first solo-artist exhibit of her American Fraktur Paintings, Emily set up a painting table where guests could learn to make watercolors and paint the colors on sepia outlines of her drawings. Guests of all ages expressed delight at coloring Emily’s designs – many requesting extra outlines to take home to their families. This sparked Emily’s love of innovation – she decided to create “the first-ever coloring book that both children and adults can enjoy!”
Emily put much thought and care into making that book user-friendly, and into giving buyers something more than just temporary fun – authentic artworks to frame and enjoy for years. Published in 2004, Emily’s American Fraktur Paint-and-Color Book was a very early pioneer in modern coloring book design, with hand-drawn outlines printed one side on high-quality, perforated paper. Despite very limited marketing, the book has enjoyed steady sales through the years, earning enthusiastic reviews and solid 5-star ratings. In 2010, the book was chosen by renowned artist and critic Eric Fischl, for inclusion in the gift shop of his traveling, multi-artist exhibit, America: Now and Here.
In response to customer requests, Emily began working on her second coloring book in 2006, but the demands of her career made the work slow going. Her gorgeous new book Wild Things – A Color-In Book for all ages, finally released in September, 2015, is a more varied collection at nearly twice the size of her first. It offers the same high-quality, user-friendly features and is earning rave reviews. She is now at work on a third book.
Her shows and sales have created demand for Emily’s art beyond paintings and prints. An experienced graphic designer, Emily works with clients to create business logos, advertising materials, package and concept design, CD album design, and book covers. She produces a line of frameable greeting cards, launched in 2006 as Inkstone Arts Fine Art Frameables. Emily incorporates her art into stationery, jewelry, journals, housewares and giftware, sold in local shops and at her etsy store, EmmyCat.etsy.com. Emily also licenses her art.
But her greatest delight, by far, is in creating new, original works. Emily likes to experiment with different materials, styles and techniques to expand the scope of her art. In addition to watercolors, she works in oils, gouache, casein and acrylic paints, inks, pencils and markers. (She has also created “paintings” done entirely in blended polymer clays!)
Response to Emily’s art has been extraordinary. Viewers young and old, connoisseur and novice, express a remarkably unanimous emotional reaction to her work. Whether they describe the effect as joyful, magical, peaceful, delightful, or inspiring – simply stated, Emily’s art makes people happy.
P.S. Emily has often winced at mispronunciations and misspellings of her last name – “Fahtis, Fowtis, Foits, Fortis, Foats” (even, we kid you not, “Fetus” – on a zoo membership card!). So, we thought we’d just clear up the mystery. The original family name was Fotopoulos, shortened when Emily’s Greek ancestors came as immigrants to America. Fotis rhymes with “notice.”