Nostalgia, etchings & artistic pursuits: An interview with Emily Carlaw

Sometimes refraining from doing the thing you love makes you realize where your true passion lies.

Emily Carlaw, BFA ’13 and B.Ed ’14, said she felt a longing for artistic creation while studying abroad in first year at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC).

Removed from art for the first time since high school, yet exposed to European galleries with works by renowned artists, only amplified her desire to create her own work.

Upon her return to Kingston, Emily applied to the Fine Arts program and heavily immersed herself in the artistic community.

I spoke with her to learn about ways aspiring student artists can hone their craft and establish themselves in their community:

Where do you get everyday inspiration from?

I would say that most of my inspiration actually comes from the past and a nostalgia and yearning towards that. I do a lot of research into past times and generations, and I really love history as well as art history, so I really love to combine my love of those two as well... I just love the manners .. and the etiquette that exists there and I try to evoke that type of sensation. I try to put a type of modern spin on it and it’s a bit cheeky perhaps too … I do a lot of imagery of women and you can almost step inside of it. It’s very relatable and there’s cohesion.

What advice would you give student artists about starting out in school and the community in order to establish themselves?

It’s nice to have your time … and enjoy that process of art-making, but it’s also very beneficial ... to get involved in community endeavours. When you get involved with a gallery you meet a whole group of people and you can really utilize their knowledge and apply it to your work. There’s a lot more to being an artist, I realized at university, than the technical process-based side. There’s also a whole business component that they don’t necessarily teach you in arts school like how galleries and grants work and getting your work out there. Talking to people is a great way to utilize and get a grasp on those resources.

How do you find a balance between creating art for personal enjoyment and “public consumption”?

I’m not sure if I think of the public that much when I’m creating my work. It’s …subtle and cheeky. There’s subtle variances and undertones and little nuances that people might not see at first … If I think too much about my audience then that starts to detract from my work and what I’m trying to express. So, I try to keep that as whole as possible. And then that way when someone connects with my work, they’re connecting with me … What’s really nice about fourth year and the BFA program is that they make it more of a thesis work; you’re working with an advisor so you can use them as a bouncing board for ideas and you have a lot of artistic freedom so it’s your thesis – your body of work.

How has studying and living in Kingston impacted your personal style and perspective on art?

It’s actually a really tight knit artistic community so one person will introduce you [to another]. It’s sort of old school in that way ... I am currently involved with Modern Fuel. I’m on the board of representatives so that’s something really new for me this year. In the past, I got to be involved with the Union Gallery and I was the Vice-President then President; that was a really worthwhile experience and it really allowed me to see how the inner workings of a gallery operate ... I’ve been enjoying teaching in a context of schools, communities and galleries so it gives you different arenas to work in as an artist. You’re also focused on producing your own work as well as sharing techniques and teaching practices with others.

What are your immediate and far-off future goals?

I’m hoping to teach abroad next year … but also I love travel and I find it worthwhile for my art … . Teaching is something I’m interested in. That’s what I like about the [Queen’s] Artist in Community program; it lends itself to other forms of teaching, not just teaching within a school context because there are many different ways to teach youth and to promote arts and that’s what I want to do.

To learn more about Emily Carlaw and her work, please visit:

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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