Everyday Art - Page 3

‘Low brow’ flirts with high times and MCM for the paintings of San Francisco rising talent Emily Fromm
Everyday Art
'Baker' (2016).
Everyday Art
'Kearny & Bush' (2015).
Everyday Art
Emily with beau Jimmy strolling along Ocean Beach, minutes from her San Francisco home.

If you live or work in the city's Mission District, North Beach, Chinatown or, yes, the Sunset, you may have seen Emily scoping the city for inspiration.

She still works a couple of day jobs. One is painting logos and text on walls for business clients. The other is for a firm that arranges 'experiences,' like hanging out with giraffes at the zoo or having lunch with Mike Tyson. But she makes time to stroll the city to find material for her art.

"I usually take a lot of pictures, like five to ten per place I'm standing," she says. She often finds compositions anchored by signs—'Mission Thrift' and 'Money Loaned' in the Mission, 'Bing's' and several signs in Chinese at the edge of Chinatown.

"I like to stand at an angle where I can get a bunch of signs in a row, or see a lot of things at once in a condensed space," Emily says. But she's not documenting reality, and will freely add or delete elements, or move things around when she turns her photos into paintings. "I'm allowing myself to make some leaps," she says.

The images for her SFO mural, which will be rendered by a Montreal firm in mosaic based on her paintings, will be real scenes, however, "iconic neighborhoods in San Francisco—the Haight, Embarcadero, Castro, and North Beach," art commission director Susan Pontious says.

Emily paints using acrylic, because it dries quickly, thus allowing for quick over-painting. She often paints on wood and sometimes on found wood, including wood from a neighbor's fence. A large painting can take a month. "I like it to be flat and opaque," Emily says of her paintings, and she paints each image in several layers to achieve the effect.

"I paint the whole thing," she says of a painting. "I paint the whole thing again. I paint the whole thing again."

She prefers to work large—which is not surprising, given her interest in signs and her side job painting corporate signs.

For signs to be effective they need to be graphically strong, simple, and readable—and they often employ visual shorthand, in the form of symbols. It's the same way with cartoons, she says. "Like if [a character] gets hit, they see stars," she says.

"When I first started painting in this flat, cartoon style, it wasn't landscape at all," she says. "I was making a lot of smaller pieces that were kind of out there." There's 'Bakery,' seen on her website, with a trash can, the window of a bakery, a pair of women's legs in red high heels—but no woman attached, and fish heaped on the ground with X's in their eyes, signifying death.

"I definitely was thinking in terms of media, in terms of cartoons and comics, and things that are the archetypes of cartoons and comics," she says of her early work.

"Taking photographs for reference is when I started focusing on landscape," Emily says. Not surprisingly, landscapes with signs proved particularly appealing.

"I found that the scenes that I wanted to get pictures of almost always were places with great signs," she told Juxtapoz magazine last year.

Also last year, while her exhibit was up at 111 Minna, she told blogger Broke Ass Stuart, "These signs are from another time, but they're still here in our lives. And they're huge, and everywhere…we see them every day. I like to paint them as we see them now, next to everyday people doing everyday things."

Emily says, "Eventually, I could combine them both, pictures of streetscape with cartoon imagery."

Besides finishing up the SFO mural paintings, Emily is turning out art to fill 111 Minna Street, and recently created a poster for the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival, based on a cool, old motel on the strip. She accepts painting commissions, often for subjects similar to the work she turns out for exhibits.

Plus there are her two day jobs. Does she have time for hobbies?

"Yeah, tons." Hiking, biking, hanging out in the city, enjoying a drink at Specs', the Broadway watering hole. Watching Netflix with Jimmy, catching flicks at the Roxie or Castro theaters. Seinfeld. She curated a Seinfeld-themed art show and a Halloween show at a nearby art space, the Honey Hive Gallery, where she also stores her canvasses.

"It's about the art, but it's also helping the space," she says. "They help me, I help them."

Here's hoping Emily stays in San Francisco. She doesn't just paint the place. She has become an important part of it.


Illustrations: Emily Fromm
Photography: Sabrina Huang


Enjoying the Art of Emily Fromm

Some of Emily Fromm's earlier works, San Francisco landscape collages, can be seen at a café not far from her home, Java Beach Café, 2650 Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco.

Her work will be on display during January and February 2019 at 111 Minna Street Gallery, around the corner from SFMOMA, San Francisco.

You won't need to hop a plane to see Emily's mosaic mural once it is installed at San Francisco International Airport in 2020. Visits can be arranged through the San Francisco Art Commission.

For more of Emily's art, visit EmilyFromm.com.