A look into the mind of an ambitious conceptual artist

Spicing up the Tam campus with her unique style and fascinating creativity, Emily Schwenk is a girl worth knowing. You may have seen her art featured in the Tam News or perhaps progressing in her sketchbook, which is filled with intricate and detailed drawings that are reflective of her passion for humanity.

Emily was born and raised in the Bay Area. When her and her father needed a break from city life, they  would visit Saline Desert for weeks at a time, which is a nudist desert in the heart of California. This provided somewhat of an escape and a chance to enjoy a more natural lifestyle. Schwenk claims that life in the desert played a major role in shaping who she is today. “The desert always represented things at their core,” Schwenk said. “You take away everything and that’s what there is. In my drawings, I like to take away all the junk that hides personality and show things as they are.”

Schwenk’s interest in art began at a young age. She claims that drawing bugs in different colors and shapes is one of her first memories as a child. Another thing that has remained constant in her life, along with her innate talent in art, is her genuine love and interest in humanity. Almost all of her artwork features a person, depicted in different forms of energy and light.

“My drawings may be provoked by a certain person I meet that day with a certain energy, essence and lifestyle that can be transformed onto paper,” Schwenk says as she casually shades an area in her sketchbook. “It may be difficult but oh well. I like the challenge,” she said. When she wasn’t living in the desert, Schwenk and her father would travel country wide in his beloved Syncro Volkswagon. “Each town is like a person with a different personality,” said Schwenk thoughtfully. “That’s what I want to incorporate into my artwork.”

What essentially drives Schwenk is her feedback from others. Compliments from her family, friends and just general observers drive her to do more and master her talent. In fact, in her own eyes, she doesn’t view her work as something to be praised. She continues with art in fear of a wasted talent, but sometimes harbors the feeling that she is taking attention away from other artists who are more passionately dedicated to art. What may be hard to believe is that Schwenk has never taken a lesson in art and is completely self taught.

Aside from the feedback of others, Schwenk’s desire to share her own personal view of the world is another reason she chooses to draw. “I believe that everyone has a way of sharing their own perceptions of life, and drawing is just my way.”

Her inspiration flourishes mainly from the beauty of different cultures; one mentioned specifically was the earthly spiritual style of Native American culture. Schwenk finds herself incredibly open to new cultures and harbors a genuine interest for the different lifestyles and beliefs of people worldwide. This is translated through her drawings, as many of them represent a culture or group of people as a whole.

As for individual inspiration, Schwenk is influenced by artist Alex Gray, who shares her passion for people. “He never makes a drawing without people in them, so I feel related to him in that way.”

Often, Schwenk will dedicate only a certain amount of time to completing a piece of art. She says that if she spreads one drawing over days, she will lose the focus and drive.

“When I have an idea in my head, I have a clear image of the details and directions of the drawing. If I wait too long, I lose focus and purpose.”

One aspect of Schwenk’s art that distinguishes her style from any other is her unique and incredibly intricate use of detail and designs incorporated skillfully into her work.

“I feel like you can never represent a culture or idea with just basic shapes,” says Schwenk. “Every idea has its mysteries, so designs help me portray that in my work.” Another personal and recurring theme to her work is her signature sun. This stems from a lifelong interest and appreciation of the sun. When she was diagnosed with rare allergies to its rays, it only enhanced her captivity with it and she allowed the sun to play a large role in her life and somewhat become a personal symbol of representation.

As for a career, Schwenk is interested in pursuing a job in anthropology. She feels that this way she can take her love of humanity further and study more about the endless types of people that exist and essentially, why they do what they do. However, she doesn’t plan on dropping art completely. Schwenk plans on soon opening a business in which she creates clothing featuring her art work. This way, not only can people have another way in which to appreciate her art, but more people will be exposed to it so the love of Schwenk’s style and talent can spread. “I never felt that art would be my main career but I want it to be integrated into my career in some form or another,” says Schwenk.

Emily’s creativity, articulation and fascinating mind is represented in her art and overall presence. She will continue to create illustrations for the Tam News, which provide just a taste of her talent and unique mind.