We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Brunner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
It’s funny, I never thought I would ever end up working as an artist. I wanted to work in the animal care industry ever since I was a kid. And I did just that, for 17 years, gaining a Bachelor’s in Zoology and working in wild bird conservation, wildlife rehabilitation, and as a veterinary nurse. Painting and drawing was always a side hustle or a way to get out creative energy or stress after a long day. It wasn’t until the chaos of 2020 and 2021 when the entire veterinary industry was hit with a tidal wave of new pets and angry clients, and a subsequent wave of compassion fatigue, that I decided to take a step of faith and try something less stressful (ha!): a freelance animal artist and illustrator. It’s been a year now and still going strong!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve recently hit the 1 year mark for being a full-time freelance artist and it has certainly been a bumpy road! The joke about being self-employed meaning you work 24/7 is no joke! I feel like all I’ve been doing is trying everything and seeing what sticks. From teaching paint nights, to being a regular on the art market scene, to illustrating 3 children’s books, to creating hundreds of pet portraits, I’ve done (and am still doing) it all! And by God’s grace, opportunities keep appearing just when I think maybe I should go get a “real” job.
My biggest passion though is wildlife art, and I think I bring a unique twist to the artistic table because of my background in zoology. It helps me bring art to life in a way that would be impossible if I hadn’t been surrounded by animals and nature my entire life. To know the quirks of different species helps add a spark that I don’t know would exist otherwise. My love of wildlife conservation is definitely the driving force behind most of my art. It is my goal to create beautiful, interesting, and sometimes quirky art that will hopefully get people to take a second look at the natural world and appreciate it more. And if you learn to appreciate something, chances are much higher that you’ll want to go out of your way to protect it. This is why I’m currently working on a project to create posters and calendars featuring birds, pollinators, plants, etc. that are all native to the greater Los Angeles area! I’m also doing this on a more global scale by creating an art challenge on Instagram where I am going through every country in the world and painting an endangered species from each one. Both projects are my way of showing the world that no matter where in the world you live (even if it’s a concrete jungle like LA), you’re sharing that space with something amazing!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So many options, so little time! I currently live in the North Hollywood arts district, so I’d probably start the week with coffee or tea at Groundworks or boba at Teapop, then maybe a movie at the Laemmle. Trivia night or an Afterglow Makers market at Lawless Brewery is a must. Also definitely have to meet up with the Brews Brothers run club for an evening run down the Chandler bike path, with a brew or two after. From NoHo I think branching out for a tour of the La Brea tarpits and a wander around LACMA, followed by a quick tour of the walk of fame is kind of a must, just to say you’ve done it. Then definitely grab a nerdy drink at the Scum & Villainy Cantina. A trip down to the Santa Monica pier would be in order, along with a tour of the Getty Villa, then an afternoon and evening of bird watching at El Matador or Leo Carillo. A few sunrise hikes in Griffith Park and the Burbank hills are always excellent ways to start the day, followed by Chillaquiles and lattes at Miracle Bakery, or a drink and a muffin at Priscilla’s. Oh, and of course a day at Universal with all the butter beers and dinner at the City Walk! Dang. I need a friend to come visit me ASAP.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Oh man, so many people deserve a shoutout for how much they’ve helped me in this crazy artistic venture! But I think the person who deserves the most recognition in my artistic journey is my husband, Shawn. I absolutely could not do this freelance artist thing (emotionally or financially) without him!
Facebook: Barefoot Seeker: Art by Emily Brunner