Emmy Grier feeds her heart and soul with bright color. She brushes sharp turquoise and teal onto canvas and pulls out an orange necklace or dress for the day ahead of her. Through the trends of neutrals and grays, she keeps people’s eyes wide open with brilliant glow. “Somebody, please come to me and say, ‘I love fuchsia,’” she asks.
Emmy composes female figures from wide brush strokes that move sharply across huge canvases. Though they’re abstract, formed with shapes and blocks of solid color, her subjects still beam with life. Stretched skin becomes woven pinks and purples, and tensed muscles become squares of white paint. But this community of painted figures were strangers to her until a few years ago.
When she first began playing around with paint, Emmy just wanted a few pieces of art to put in her home. She began experimenting with watercolor while working at her mother’s store, The Nest in Homewood, and customers noticed the beauty of what she made. “I never intended on selling it. I just had something inside of me that just wanted to play around with painting,” she says. She did, and still does, finding the same joy of mixing colors in watercolor as she did in staining furniture.
As customers began to purchase what she made, Emmy soon made a business out of her painting. She got her work into galleries and shops around town, and her mediums evolved. Eventually, she took a leap of faith from watercolor to acrylic on canvas, which gave way to her even bolder, brighter palette. “I need the fuchsias and the greens and the purple. People saw that and recognized it as happy and different,” she says.
Emmy reflects her enthusiasm through the layers of vivid paint. “I’ve always been able to put colors together, and that’s how I see the world. With art, you don’t really win or lose. You’re in it to express something inside you. It just brings me joy,” she says. “To transfer the joy I feel painting to anyone who sees it, that makes it all worth it.”
As her artistic curiosity grows, her Cahaba Heights home has also been transformed, both with the finished products on her walls and the heart of her creative space. “I kicked the kids out of the playroom,” Emmy jokes, explaining how her projects quickly outgrew the living room coffee table and demanded a new studio.
What has long been the house’s playroom now houses her splashes of color and buckets of paint tubes, but her children, Mason, 10, and Mallie, 6, still make use of the room too. “They’re always with me in my studio,” she says. Mason even asked for clay for his birthday, inspired by Emmy’s recent adventure into clay bowls and flower pieces. “How cool is it that I’ve found something that makes me so happy and opens an avenue for my children?” she says.
Emmy even bought her own kiln for her pottery, so her home studio really is a playground for curious artists. With a bowl she bought in mind, she knew she could make the same thing herself and began to purchase clay to recreate the flower petals. She’s always looking for a new medium to master—like her new joking-but-not-joking interest in welding. “As a creator, you’re always changing,” she says. “You’re always moving, so I don’t know what’s next.”
Along with her children’s shared joy in making art, Emmy’s family sprouted from a medley of creatives. When she and her mother moved their oriental rug business to a warehouse in Homewood, they shared the space with the Griers— antique dealers, furniture finishers, and the parents of Ned, who would later become Emmy’s husband. Everything— family, business, and inspiration—seemed to be perfectly laid out.
Her mother’s business space continues to hold inspiration for her, from the color mixing for finishing furniture that Emmy’s grown fond of, to the richness in rugs and antiques. While no one expected the painter to emerge in Emmy, she can see now the curiosity she always had and the color that surrounded her. “Every day, it’s a surprise. I never knew I had a love for art,” she says. “I was doing a lot of things before, but never the thing I was supposed to.”
Looking back on her life, Emmy finds comfort in how her life was unexpected and excitement in what might be next. “Something everyone should know and see from my very unglamorous story is that there is always a plan there for your life,” she says. “I did not know that this was going to be what it is.”
You can find Emmy’s work locally at Arceneaux Gallery, Trouve, Argent and The Nest. Learn more at emmygrier.com or follow her on social media @emmygrier.
Two of the most fundamental parts of Emmy’s work are her love for color and for people. “I’m driven by color. So that always get into whatever I paint,” she says. Although she can adapt her palette and style for the commissions she does, Emmy favors the brightest of colors and the wildest of combinations.
She’s also inspired by people and relationships, which makes her common subject of figures fitting. “The figures are something that everybody can look at and relate to.” And at the end of the day, Emmy is all about sharing her joy with others through a language of paint.