Looking at Amy McEmrys’ colorful paintings, you get a splendid sense of nostalgia and longing for another time and place. “I’m drawn to nostalgic scenes, dreams and memories, so those are common inspirations for me,” says the Portland painter.
Memory inspired Summer Laundry (above), a 40-inch by 40-inch acrylic painting. “I was thinking about my childhood summers, and I was remembering how I’d lay on the grass and look up at the laundry lines at my grandmother’s house,” says the Wisconsin native, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin. “I played Billie Holiday’s music while I worked on this painting, because I was thinking about that 1940s era and feeling.”
McEmrys, a mother of three who has her studio in her garage (“I have drawings and photos on the wall next to the laundry machine, and a couple of easels”), often plays music to inspire her. “It might be ’20s Gershwin or it might be the White Stripes,” she says.
When she’s not working on canvases, the 37-year-old paints large-scale murals (she’s done murals for a local bike shop, the Bethany Athletic Club and private residences). But whether it’s a canvas or a wall, her favorite part of the process is coming up with the idea. “I love getting started—there’s a real rush of excitement,” she says. McEmrys’ canvases cost $200 to $1,500; her murals cost $200 to $2,500, depending on the size.