The ritual has been in place for years, and Emyo credits her development as an artist in part to the presence of creative discipline in her life as a young girl. “It was as if my future artist self was self-coaching towards a certain amount of sketches each day. I did this without knowing the value it would bring later in life.” She cannot remember a time she did not love art. Her early years were consumed with crafting everything from a “bumblebee house for a bee family” to sketching people she observed. “Creating something was the greatest joy for me as a child,” Emyo says. She began to sign her work with her initials—EMYO for Emily Marie York—the pen name that now defines her work and also grants her a welcome anonymity as an artist.
As her artistic development continued, she was given freedom to explore whatever captured her creativity. She recalls having a high school art teacher who allowed her to just paint, instead of assigning certain projects or tasks. “She carefully allowed me to blossom without much stifling or instruction, just critique and the gift of space and time and unlimited materials to use.”
Emyo later went on to study with impressionist painter William Schultz in Italy, an experience that solidified her techniques. But her studies went beyond form and style. “We focused on the importance of training one’s eye to really see instead of just training one’s hand to paint. I think that in all of life we must train our eyes to see the gifts that are being given, even in times of darkness or pain . . . to count the gifts.”
“MORE ABOUT CAPTURING A MOOD THAN PRECISE LINES, HER PIECES OFTEN INVOLVE THE BOLD HUES OF HER CUBAN AMERICAN HERITAGE.”
Even now, her paintings are birthed out of joy and thankfulness for beauty. “Subject matters for paintings just catch me,” Emyo says about her inspiration for certain pieces. “I am surprised by joy and color, by watching someone sail a boat, by watching children playing at a park, by watching people mill about and gather on a street corner.” She paints these scenes in bright, eye-catching colors, with wispy, feathered strokes. Emyo embraces impressionist style in her work, lush scenes drawn with soft edges and dramatic texture. More about capturing a mood than precise lines, her pieces often involve the bold hues of her Cuban American heritage. She paints what she knows—often scenes that she experiences firsthand—and invites viewers into the experience.
Emyo’s art goes beyond the pieces she paints and has a profound effect on her as a mother, especially when it comes to “cultivating the appetites of [her] children.” As a mother of six children under the age of 12, Emyo admits that her life often looks like an impressionist painting, richly layered with flexible strokes.
“There is discipline to my work, in the underling structure of form and figure, but because of the freedom that those underlying disciplines allow, it feels very light and loose.” Emyo continues, “In the same way, we have a structure to our home of valuing relationships and loving stories. [We read] aloud together daily and usually respond to our experience of story with . . . art. What might look to be very loose and free is actually based on hours of reading the classics aloud, filling our ears and minds with excellent language and poetry.”
The blend of discipline and creativity shows up winsomely in Emyo’s art and in her life. Each painting contains vivid, intentional strokes of color and personality working gracefully with a life- giving creative spirit that finds beauty even in unlikely places.
-2016 by Gracie Pratt