Emily Ding is an artist worth noting and has a personality as vibrant as her world. Though she has spent a lifetime honing her craft, at age 21, she has only begun to show the world her talent. A powerhouse of creativity, she already has the creative community taking notice. Her tenacious ambition and relentless drive are only matched by her fanatical devotion to the visual arts and care for all creatures. She’s a living dichotomy–or as she explains, “I’m a 50-year-old career woman and an 8-year-old that just wants to have fun and draw goofy stuff.” If you’ve met Emily Ding, you know exactly what we mean.

Her work however, is anything but kid stuff. The artwork Ding creates isn’t just optically alluring it is universal, telling the story of emotion and experience. Utilizing vivid color, fluid movement, layered texture, and bold imagery, her work showcases an understanding of and potential for wisdom beyond her years. Though born in Galveston, Texas, and currently exchanging time between Houston and Austin, Ding is not a sedentary Texan; rather the daughter of two hardworking Chinese immigrants, Ding has the soul of an explorer.

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When asked how her style evolved over time, Ding shares, “looking at my past, most of it was spent practicing and learning the foundations of art. I’ve only just started to develop my style (content and technique) in the past year. I would describe it as loose and painterly in an impressionistic way, while still capturing the realism that I first learned from. I now also try to emphasize movement and motion in my pieces”. She describes her current work as, “visceral, evocative, and flowing”.

The Emily Ding’s Timeline according to Emily Ding:

Age 0-4 scribbles
Age 5-7 cute things
Age 8-10 slightly realistic things
Age 11-15 moderately realistic things
Age 16-17 realistic things, filled with teenage angst
Age 18-20 devoid of art
Age 21 her current interest — explosions of color, movement, flow

Few memories exist before the start of her artistic journey. She recounts, “When I was four years old I took ballet classes, but I only went because we got a sticker at the end of each class. I can vividly remember my favorite one, a 3D puffy sticker of Cinderella’s glass slipper on a cushion. At the same time, my mother took watercolor painting classes. Whenever I finished a ballet class, I would see the new paintings she had completed—my favorite being a still life of bright flowers in a vase. I loved the things she made and wanted to do the same, so I dropped ballet and picked up art. I no longer get free stickers [as often], but making art is pretty rewarding too.” Continuing on this path, Emily then on to study with renowned mentors and teachers at the Glassell School of Art at MFAH and with acclaimed Chinese artist Zhang Yao Wu, to name a few. Upon entry to the University of Texas, she rationalized that it was time to Chīkǔ” (吃苦), or simply to put down the brush and pick up the books. Allured back to art by fate, she explained the catalyst for her new path was an intro to and new adoration for a new medium. A friend invited her to the Hope Outdoor Gallery to try her hand at spray paint. She was fascinated and instantly hooked, and has been in full-force ever since.

Emily declares that her father is her most prominent inspiration in her artistic career. His journey to America from China in the late 20’s and his sacrifices made for her family is what motivates her to wake up everyday and continue to push her art to the next level. Growing up in poor city slums, he overcame famine, poverty, the Cultural Revolution, and attended primary school to higher education (which was rare). Starting with only $5 in his pocket (that he borrowed), and a promise of work later flourished into an abundant life for Ding, her brother, and mother. “There’s a term in Chinese, “Chīkǔ” (吃苦) that means ‘to eat bitterness; to have hard life experiences that teach you how to grow’ – it’s the struggle. Both my parents have experienced a significant amount of Chīkǔ for me. I’ve been privileged to have basic necessities and comforts because of this. It inspires me to eat my own bitterness.”

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Art as a Viable Career and a Compass to Guide you

When asked to share about the struggles that artists in today’s competitive creative environment face, Emily dropped a few key points, and so we have compiled these points into an easy to follow list below….

Freelance art is 90 percent people skills/communication and 10 percent imagining/creating. The most difficult thing is to keep a healthy balance between projects that can be the soul-sucking (but money-making) with work that is more fulfilling, enjoyable art—which is often one’s personal work.
A piece of advice to other visual artists: “Artists should be aware of is the delicate balance of your business side of contractual work with your creative process maintaining respect to artist creative freedom.”
Be friendly and continually expand your network of friends and connections. “Make the world your friend – whether it’s a client, a collector, or a fellow artist friend — they’ll be able to help and support you in your career.”
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  1. Assume Nothing. Assume everyone knows nothing; both parties, including yourself—communication is key; be specific on project details from the birth of a project, so there’s no conflict that arises out of a lack of communication.
  2. Structure. Structure the way you respond to people—create rough templates for initial introduction emails, set expectations, meet deadlines, and follow-up with communication often to assist with consistency and organization throughout the project. Proofread your email communication before sending, while taking care not to impede swift and open communication between yourself and the client. Errors can reflect a lack of attention to detail and laziness.
  3. Impress. Know that you’re being hired for your creative services. When meeting a new client, remember to show the professional side of yourself. Dress to impress by, “imagining that you’re going to meet your great grandma.”
  4. Clarify. Be clear and upfront with your expectations of the project and client and ask questions to make sure you clearly understand the clients expectations of you and the project.
  5. Find Wisdom. Find mentors; ask questions—they are a wealth of experience and can help you discover worth as an artist so you don’t undersell (or oversell) yourself. Readjust these rates as your skill and experience increases.
  6. Do. Experience is the best teacher. “That’s why I dropped out of school. I knew I could get a degree, but I felt that going out into the world and actually having experience and learning the lessons I needed to learn was more important.”
  7. Measure & Assess. Set quantifiable deadlines. Make sure your makers are set at a manageable and numerical goal to help you continually progress forward.
  8. Intention. Care about everyone that supports you.
  9. Achieve. Exceed expectations.

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The Unity of Bitter and Sweet
“[Just as] tardigrades (water bears/moss piglets) are tenacious and resilient as hell,” or as mockingbirds are so versatile that,  “They sing many different songs.”  Emily values both the bitterness and the sweetness of life. She is the tardigrade and the mockingbird; and the dichotomy created is, as we said earlier, embodied in, of, and by Emily Ding.
If our words haven’t yet convinced you, her work speaks for itself. We are so grateful to have welcomed Emily Ding to the  SprATX family. We will be following her next journey and hope you will too! And with that we leave you with one last Emily Ding fun tidbit….

Emily’s Current Top 3 Favorite Artists:
  • Lauren Marx (@laurenmarxart) illustrates anatomically accurate animals with deep/bright colors in beautiful arrangements; shows dark themes and conflict.
  • Beth Cavener (@bethcavener) sculpts anatomically accurate animals that are enchanced with human features and expressions; figures are emotive and flow elegantly; shows dark themes, conflict, and presence of a story/relationship
  • Dulk (@dulk1): creates a brightly colored world of creatures and animals with their own personalities and quirks; characters, scenery, and situation are all highly developed.

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