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Daily Inspiration: Meet Emily Brunner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Brunner.

Hi Emily, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
The story of my art and my work with animals are tied so closely together that it would be hard to tell one without the other. I’m originally from a small beach town in Washington State where I grew up surrounded by pets, working at a horse barn, and being part of the family who took on all the abandoned ducklings in town every summer. I also grew up obsessed with drawing: it started with nonstop horses, then branched out to birds, I won multiple local poster and t-shirt design competitions and added commissioned pet portraits to my repertoire when I was 12.

I went on to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology with a minor in creative writing. With my new degree and a newfound love for endangered species conservation, I interned and job hopped my way around the country; working with endangered birds in Hawaii, wildlife in Texas, wild birds in Delaware, and at an emergency veterinary hospital in Alaska. Throughout it all, I continued to make art, creating a variety of commissioned animal-themed work. I think I could have continued that life indefinitely, but my boyfriend surprised me with a proposal and a dream to work in film in LA. Which is how I ended up in North Hollywood 6.5 years ago.

I worked at a local vet clinic up until summer 2021. A death in the family and the madness of veterinary work during a pandemic made me experience compassion fatigue and burnout for the first time in my life. So I finally decided to quit my job and make Barefoot Seeker: Art by Emily Brunner, an official business. I currently still create pet portraits, as well as a variety of wildlife (especially bird) themed art to help bring awareness and funds for endangered species and local wildlife. I’ve painted a few utility boxes in the area (on Los Feliz and Riverside, if you keep an eye out). I also wrote, illustrated and self-published a children’s book called “Kiwi & Little Blue: What Makes a Bird a Bird?” last year, and so far it’s doing well. And because of that success, I was recently hired to illustrate a children’s book about a rescue dog. So really my small business story has just begun in earnest, and I’m excited to see where it goes!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
In a city brimming with creatives being seen as an artist is definitely an uphill battle! I’m an introvert by nature, so marketing has probably been the biggest struggle for me. I’m not good at selling myself, and reaching out to strangers with the very real potential of getting rejected is not my idea of a good time. Even the idea of making Instagram reels was terrifying up until a couple of months ago… It doesn’t help either that wildlife and endangered species themed art is very niche and not an easy way to make a living even if you are good at marketing yourself. It’s hard to care so much about helping to save the Kakapo or preserve the habitat of the Yellow-billed Magpies, only to be told by friends and strangers that I should paint more dogs because that would sell better.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I love most forms of art, and I’m always up for trying something new, but my currently speciality is acrylic painting and digital painting (using the Procreate app). I think I’m currently most known for my realistic animal portraits. My best-selling item at art fairs are definitely my mini 3″x3″ painted canvases featuring all sorts of interesting animals. Though I’m working towards being known for using my art to raise awareness and aid for wildlife conservation, the struggle is real.

I think I’m most proud of my recently published children’s book. That had been a goal of mine for many years, and I’m so proud of myself that I actually did it! And kids actually like it! Your family and friends can tell you how great your book is, but it’s when a seven years old does a book report on their favorite book, and it happens to be the one you created, that’s when you know you’ve made it.

When it comes to what I think sets me apart from others, it’s probably the rare combination of science, faith and art. As a Christian, I believe that God has commissioned humanity with the care of all creatures. As a zoologist, I believe that preserving the biodiversity of our world is vital to our health and survival. And as an artist, if I can show people just how awesome animals are, maybe they’ll take a minute to learn how they can help.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
A strong work ethic and self-motivation. I was homeschooled by very hard-working parents up until I went to college, which I think is what gave me my ability to stay motivated, even when working alone. I think it’s easy to work when someone else is telling you what to do and how to do it, but it’s another thing to get up early every morning, do your own research, make your own schedule, and stick to it.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
For the image of all the miniature paintings in their market setup Photo: @alexaldana

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