For Emma Ballou, art imitates life: living, breathing life. Ballou is passionate about art and nature, which she gracefully fuses in her paintings. She fell in love with nature at a very young age, finding herself continually mesmerized by the sight of natural beauty. Ballou loves to paint with her studio windows and doors open in order to surround herself with melodious “nature noises.” The artist predominantly creates images of nature, varying from beach scenes to tree canopies to close-ups of leaves and flowers. Whatever catches her eye makes it onto her canvas.
Ballou is from a small town called Buxton, Maine, where there was only one convenience store. Her family of artists still live there. However, Ballou said some spots on the North Fork are reminiscent of her hometown. Three years ago, she and her husband Matt moved to Eastport with their dog Logan. They transformed the garage of their house into a studio for her art business.
The nature lover is still relatively new to being a full-time artist. After graduating from Goucher College with degrees in studio art and art history, Ballou was a museum curator in Southampton, New York for five years. At the same time, she was creating and selling her art on the side. Eventually, she decided it was time to be her own boss.
“It was a hard decision because there is also that fear that when you are not creating for fun, how will that transition into creating for a business? I have been very lucky about that; I’m happy that my brain works that way and all for it,” Ballou said.
“But it can be a tenuous transition, and I feel like you have to say ‘yes’ to a lot of things. You have to put yourself out there a lot and get out of your comfort zone to succeed as an artist, especially at first.”
Although she mainly focused on using oils in college, Ballou has lately been favoring acrylics for their speed.
“I have been liking the speed that you can create with acrylics because oil paint takes a lot of time and patience to layer them correctly and then it takes time for it to dry. With acrylics, it is kind of exciting with how fast they dry. You have to work fast, think fast, and if you get in the groove with it, if you have a lot of ideas in your head and you want to get them out, acrylic paint can really get them out fast.”
In order to keep up with her influx of ideas, the artist keeps a journal beside her bed to record the inspiration that comes to her as she’s trying to drift into sleep.
“I would be laying in bed; everything is done, its time to go to sleep and then all of a sudden I get bombarded by ideas… It has been very exciting to have so many ideas popping up in my head, and I think it is why I’m liking acrylic so much at the moment. I’m trying to keep up with my ideas and what I want to create, it is very exciting and I want to keep it going you know.”
Ballou also revealed her excitement for marketing and branding. However, the artist made it clear that taking her art business seriously has been crucial for success.
“I get really excited about connecting with the new people and growing a following. The whole point of all of this is to create more connections, to expand your knowledge base and meet new people. I get really excited about this part, but I also feel like sometimes artists, especially at the beginning, when they are just starting out, they find it hard,” Ballou said.
“If you don’t look at it as a business, it is more likely you won’t succeed in it. I take it very seriously. I love the marketing side of it, branding and I get excited by both, by creating the artwork and by the business side of it. I have fun switching between the two sides of my brain.”
Like many Hampton’s folks, Ballou prefers the warmer weather over the harsh wintertimes. During this particular springtime, Ballou has resonated with nature’s rebirth after this past winter.
“This winter was different. I went inside and allowed myself to rest for the first time; I went into hibernation a little bit. I ate more and slept more and watched more movies and l just took it off a little, but now that is spring I feel like I’m waking up together with nature,” Ballou said. “All of a sudden, I just have all this energy, and I’m ready to go. It’s interesting that I allowed myself to have that rest period and now all of that creativity is bursting out. I’m coming out to spring with my creativity this spring, and it feels terrific.”
According to Ballou, the unchanging goal for her art is to grow as an artist and learn more about her individual style, “because I feel like as a person I’m always evolving and changing, and my main desire is to have my artwork to evolve and change with me.”
Additionally, she aims to retain her styles as she reshapes herself as an artist.
“Some artists have one style, and they stay with it for a long time, and when they are sick of it, they have a hard time transitioning to another style. I want to be transitioning and evolving as I evolve as a person, keeping the two of them hand in hand.”
In terms of earning an income as an artist, Ballou called working with her creativity on the daily a “scary game to play.”
“Everybody can tell you not to give up and just be pushing and pushing, but when you are doing something that is creative, your creativity will suffer… When you are stressed how can you focus on creating this beautiful piece of art, spend all this time dedicating when you are really thinking about, ‘how am I gonna eat today or pay rent?’ You can push only so hard until your creativity will break.”
The artist also addressed the idea of creativity at large, that everyone should create art whether to be compensated or not:
“You have to keep in mind that not everybody can be a full-time artist, it is not for everybody, but I think everybody should be creating. Everybody has creativity, and they need to express it, most people just need to figure out how they want to. There is beauty in just creating, and you don’t have to do it for money.”
When asked what advice she’d give to a young artist, Ballou answered that they should have another job first in order to relieve the pressure of making an income.
“Because then you can really develop your style, and developing your style isn’t something that you can skip. It takes years to find a rhythm and a pace that works for you and for all those years if you are a starving artist, you might just stop and give up on creating. So kind of building it up as a side hustle, thinking of it as a side business, something that you want to do for the rest of your life and kind of think about it in the grand scheme, so if you do have a little bit of failure or something doesn’t work out, you are playing the long game, not the short game,” Ballou said.
Ballou sells her original paintings and prints on her website.