By Sandee Rager
She has become almost as synonymous with fairy art as Brian Froud. Her world of fairies and other mythical creatures swims in modern and youthful ideas while still managing to retain the folksy roots of all the wee folk. Sandee Rager got to sit under the mushroom with the new Queen of the Fae and discuss her journeys through the veil.
Her signature trademark started as a fascination when she was a small child; her aunt bought her a book about fairies by Brain Froud and Alan Lee. That’s all it took for Amy Brown to create the wonderful, winged world of fairies she is so well known for. But what sparked at an early age didn’t come to canvas until later in life.
“I liked fairies,” Brown said. “But I didn’t start to paint them until my boss at the gallery asked me to paint a fairy to fit into a frame she had.”
Since then, Brown has expanded into a winged world of her own. Her work is loved worldwide and expands further than fairies. Her line of Fairy Divas is the most known and popular: Bubble, Elements, Seasons, and Inscent Friends. In addition to that she includes resin figurines of horses, dragons and Puck.
When Brown paints, she does so all for herself. She finds it hard to be passionate about someone else’s ideas. She is usually working on 5-10 images at a single time. She draws her creative inspiration from many avenues: books, music and movies. She has a rich collection of art books and reads fantasy every night. It is from this avenue where she pulls most of her creativity: she really focuses on fantasy. One of the high points of fantasy art for Brown is that there are no rules and whatever is imaginable is possible. Some of her favorite books that she has read are Imajica by Clive Barker, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Swan Song by Robert McCammon. She likes the haunting sounds of Loreena McKennitt and also enjoys Coldplay, The Smiths and Natalie Merchant to listen to for pleasure and inspiration. Movies that feed her creativity are Labyrinth and Heavy Metal.
Recently, she has welcomed a new daughter into her life. Her time is now divided between the two as much as possible, but it seems that work comes second to motherhood.
With managing a catalog of over 800 paintings, figurines, a new baby, and working on many new images at a time, it’s a wonder that she hasn’t reached burn.
“There is a compulsion to paint,” she said, “I don’t always want to do it, I HAVE to do it or I get grumpy or crazy. It’s like therapy. I must be mental—I just can’t sit still. I live for new ideas.”
Some days, though, the muse won’t stop by and those times can be challenging.
“I stare at the blank paper for a looonnnggg time,” she said. “Then I give up and go watch TV or something, no use fighting it. Just wastes time.”
But, Brown loves what she does and it shines in everything she creates. She doesn’t envision herself branching into other subject areas; she will remain in the fantasy realm and will always paint winged creatures.
Brown’s work is so enchanting and detailed, it can seem to come to life. It’s that way for her.
“I imagine the character as I’m working as if it were a real creature,” she commented. “And let it tell me what it wants to look like.”
Her favorite paintings out of all of her works are Mystique and Dragon Dream. These are ones that she can always come back to at any time and say with certainty that she wouldn’t change a thing. Ironically, according to Brown, these images are not very popular with her fans.
Just about all the rest of Brown’s work is loved worldwide. She has a massive legion of fans, spanning across many demographics. Which means lots and lots of fan mail. As much as she loves her fans and the feedback that they give, she can’t possibly have contact with everyone.
“I don’t get out much so (I) don’t have much contact with them,” she said. “I used to answer all of my email personally, but it got to the point where I was answering mail more than painting and I had to give it up.”
Her favorite part about everything she accomplishes is finishing a piece and liking the way it turns out. The downside of this is when people steal work of hers to make money for themselves.
“Then (they) get ‘pissy’ when you tell them to stop,” she said. “Another bummer would be the sheer number of people who think they have more right to your artwork than you do.”
Many people have contacted Brown in regard to designing their own tattoos inspired by her artwork or using a piece of her art for a tattoo. Brown doesn’t have any tattoos of her own, but thinks that is very cool. She has no problem when people customize her work for body art. People also have asked her to design tattoos for them. Brown loves to see any tattoos inspired by her work and encourages people to send photos to her via her submission page on her site.
As well as being able to purchase her prints, figurines and other merchandise from her website, fans can buy products at Hot Topic stores. Those stores can be found in many malls across the US. The shelves in some stores are dominated by Brown’s fairy line products. It has attracted a new age of fans—teenagers generally. Before that her customer age base was 20 to 40 – mostly women.
Brown keeps expanding her creative wings. She would like to tap into a clothing line designed to reflect and compliment her paintings, as well as film and books. If it wasn’t for art, one might wonder what she would do as a mainstay. She would have a career in an art gallery, doing custom picture framing, displays, and work like that. She’s had seven years experience in that field.
Brown has smart advice for artists;
“Work constantly. The more you produce, the better you will become. You must have a website. Lots of exposure is good, but take precautions to protect your work—copyright, registrations, etc.”
Over the years she has done extremely well marketing herself.
“Don’t jump at your first ‘big break’ without knowing where you’ll be landing,” she added.
Exciting news for Brown is that in September 2003, her first book of art is to be released, The Art Of Amy Brown. In October 2003 she participated in another book, The Art of Faery, this is a collection of various modern fairy artists.
If you’re wise and winged, flutter over to www.amybrownart.com.