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Stroke by Stroke, Spike by Spike, Artist-Athlete Pursues a Dream

Dancing Reflection: Just two of the words that capture the paintings of Academy of Art University Fine Art major and volleyball player Isabel Emrich. Her works are now on display at Chloe Gallery in San Francisco.

Adding two more pieces, “Endless Color” and “Above and Below,” to her work at the gallery, Emrich explains her paintings as the culmination of an artistic journey that began with her grandmother and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific in Southern California.

Emrich grew up near the water, with dreams of becoming a mermaid. Her grandmother would take her to the cliffs and encourage her to paint what she saw—a presence she still feels when she picks up a brush. Exploring the dynamics of light and her perceptions of the human body in water, Emrich navigated life’s waves to enroll at the Academy 2013, where she’s putting her story on canvas.

“I’ve wanted to do this series for over a year,” says Emrich, a two-time Academic All PacWest Conference recipient, also twice featured in the Academy’s Spring Show. “I took photo references over winter break and knew I wanted to start this collection this past spring. I have been working with my teachers to understand skin tones underwater and how to refine my skills for this series.”

Since enrolling in the School of Fine Art, Emrich has gained a wide range of essential painting and drawing skills. Focusing on anatomy, color, brushwork, light, shadows and more, she’s worked diligently to make her dream of studying at a top art school a reality.

The Disciplines of Art

“When I came to Academy of Art, I dove right in and pushed myself to learn as much as I could,” says Emrich. “Since I didn’t have any fundamental skill prior, I got extra help to practice the skills the instructors were teaching. Everything I know, I learned since I’ve been here. I used oil paints for the first time almost two years ago.

“All of my teachers influenced me and kept inspiring me toward my dream to show in a gallery,” says Emrich. “They helped me in different ways. Kevin Moore mentored me with one of the underwater paintings—that was the beginning of this series.

“My first semester, I took figure modeling with Rex Waters, and it was my first time working with clay,” says Emrich. “My lion head and torso made it into Spring Show. I was constantly asking Rex for help to improve my sculptures. The last day of class, I remember him telling me that if I keep this work ethic up, I will have no problem being successful in art. That meant a lot to me, has stuck with me, and continued to push me.”

Stroke by Stroke, Spike by Spike, Artist-Athlete Pursues a Dream
In addition to her studies in Fine Art, Isabel Emrich (left) is a top volleyball player at the Academy of Art University.

The Disciplines of Athletics

One of five Urban Knights to start every volleyball match during the 2014 season, Emrich showed her motivation on the volleyball court. She was the only player on the team to rank among the squad’s top four in points, kills, digs, and blocks per set. Understanding the importance of patience when it comes to developing skills, Emrich finds her journey as an artist-athlete particularly rich.

“Volleyball taught me discipline, how to handle criticism, and to enjoy the journey,” she says. “I learned to handle pressure, which helped when I had a deadline to create more paintings for the gallery. I love learning, and I am always striving to be the best I can be. My love for the game, along with painting, helped get me where I am—and have prepared me for the future.”

Emrich is on track to graduate from Academy of Art University in 2016 and plans to pursue an MFA in oil painting, becoming an exemplary role model in balancing campus life. As the her future grows clearer, stroke by stroke and spike by spike, Emrich is following in her grandmother’s footsteps to become a master painter.

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