We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Tanaka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, what do you attribute your success to?
Work Ethic . . . Having a previous career in graphic design taught me how to create on demand, whether I was in the mood or not, working under pressure with tight deadlines. It gave me much experience pitching design ideas to clients and going through rounds of critiques and tweaks to satisfy their needs. The ability to keep my ego out of it and push myself to be open to critique and collaboration helps me greatly with my art business. This is especially true for commissioned mural projects.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Specializing in both painting and graphic design, I migrated from Indiana to LA, via Chicago, with a design career by day and showing paintings in pop up events, and art shows by night. I always loved the project based nature and creative collaboration that came with my design job. For me however, the fine art path has always been my first love.
Starting a family, working full time as a graphic designer and still trying to squeeze in time for my art became exhausting. I had been telecommuting for 10 years, managing designers in 3 different time zones, getting little sleep and not feeling like I was doing a good job at anything. Feeling completely burned out, I left my career in design to focus time on my 2 little kids. It wasn’t until then that I realized how little time I had been spending on my art. I hadn’t painted on a regular basis for such a long time, that I was almost intimidated to get back into it.
As I slowly began to paint again I noticed how much happier I am when I’m doing something creative. I felt like I could breathe again and realized it’s something I “have to do”.
Finally, about 5 years ago a friend volunteered (volun-told) me to paint a mural at my son’s school. I had never painted a mural before, but decided to dive and figure it out.
This project opened a door to something that finally morphed my design and painting skills together. Completely enjoying the new challenges and potential for interaction with the community that creating public art offers, I launched my own business called “Have to Create”. I now paint commissioned murals and sell original artwork, digital paintings and prints in various media.
Lately, I’ve been working on paintings that are photoshop mixes of vector elements drawn on my ipad and high res scans of hand drawn art. I then print it, then spray paint and paint into it more. It feels really great to me to mash up my past career with my love of creating fine art.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One day would definitely be a DTLA day. Grand Central Market for lunch and a walk around town to see all the murals. Would hit up the Broad Museum and eat at Otium right next door afterwards.
Another day would be Venice Beach. Go to Abbot Kinney to see all the street art, walk the canals. Have dinner at Felix.
South Bay Day would include a drive around the cliffs in Palos Verdes. I love seeing the cliff side views at Point Vicente and all the native flowers and animals. I’m currently illustrating a children’s book based on the animals there. I’d probably take my friend on a bike ride from Torrance beach to Redondo Pier and have a Mai Tai up above in the crow’s nest at Old Tony’s on the Pier. On a perfect day I’d go to see some art at Resin Gallery in Hermosa and hang with Rafael McMaster and the crew at Indivisible Arts (https://www.indivisiblearts.org/). Walk to Hermosa Pier afterwards for dinner at Fox and Farrow in Hermosa.
3 days of planning is a lot for me. The rest of the days I’d keep free form. Walks on the beach in the mornings with coffee at 2 Gunns. To go breakfast at Brother’s Burritos, maybe a breakfast at North End in Manhattan beach too. Take my kids to their favorite local surf spots.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Rebecca Davies was my mentor and painting teacher growing up. I grew up in a very small town in Indiana. She was my 7th grade art teacher who I also took private painting lessons from on the weekends. She sparked my love for painting and color. We’d spend hours in her studio in the barn, listening to music, painting together, and sometimes dancing too! She is an incredible artist that can paint anything she sees in an amazing colorful slightly abstract way. I learned so much from watching her work, and it gave me confidence to pursue an art career having her as an example.