Aerial View of Detroit, 24" x 30", Oil on Canvas

The Paintings of Emilie Mae

All of the art featured in this issue is the work of Emilie Mae, an American oil painter from Detroit, who now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Following the images below, our editors ask Emilie a few questions.

Aerial View of Detroit, 24" x 30", Oil on Canvas
Aerial View of Detroit, 24″ x 30″, Oil on Canvas


Do You Remember, 48" x 54", Oil on Canvas
Do You Remember, 48″ x 54″, Oil on Canvas


Set Free, 56" x 70", Oil on Canvas
Set Free, 56″ x 70″, Oil on Canvas


The Sweetest Thing, 40" x 56", Oil on Canvas
The Sweetest Thing, 40″ x 56″, Oil on Canvas


Trust the Unseen, 48" x 48", Oil on Canvas
Trust the Unseen, 48″ x 48″, Oil on Canvas


Vancouver and Stanley Park, 18" x 24", Oil on Canvas
Vancouver and Stanley Park, 18″ x 24″, Oil on Canvas

Interview with Emilie Mae

Img Emilie Mae in her studio
Emilie Mae in her Vancouver studio.

Border Crossing: We really enjoy your use of vibrant color as well as use of texture in paintings. Can you talk about your process for choosing colors and textures in Aerial View of Detroit and Stop Searching?

Emilie Mae: Thank you! My cityscapes revolve around ideas of connection and striving to see goodness and positivity. The colors in the Aerial View of Detroit were chosen to enhance these ideas.  The soft pinks represent warmth and a welcoming spirit. It fades into greens, grays, and blues to represent a sense of calm yet with a touch of mystery. I use texture to draw the eye to the buildings in the center, along with the Renaissance Center. I also use the roads in the distance to draw the eye to this focal area.

My abstract work is intended to depict an inner journey. I chose to incorporate hints of turquoise to symbolize refreshing peacefulness about the decision to stop searching for something. I chose red to symbolize self-love and respect. The black and white show a struggle. Essentially, I chose colours that evoked certain emotions and had symbolic roots and I was using bold, quick strokes that matched a feeling and created spontaneous texture.

BC: Recently you told us how your work took a turn from abstract to natural and city landscapes. What prompted that shift?

EM: My early work was actually reflective of the natural environment as well. I shifted towards abstract work when I was going through a difficult time. I was seeking an outlet to express what I was going through. Now, I am in a much better place and I have regained my initial interest in depicting the urban and rural landscapes. This was amplified by my move to BC [British Columbia], where I have become very inspired by the landscape here. I have taken some elements of my abstract work and incorporated them into my landscapes such as more expressive gesture.

BC: We enjoy not only the natural and city landscapes, but also how the abstract pieces create landscapes with lines and curves. How different is it for you to work in each style?

EM: I truly love working in both styles and I believe that each one feeds the other one.  In my landscape work, I often include some sense of a pathway or a literal road.  This element speaks to the theme of connectivity and of our life’s journey. How a road can connect us, how it can lead us to discovery. Yet sometimes, we take an unexpected turn or reach a crossroads. I carry this theme over into my abstract work with those lines and curves. They also indicate life’s journey…mysterious pathways that curve, bend, and change direction. The path that our heart and soul is on.

BC: Can you talk about your process for coming up with titles for the three abstract pieces featured in this issue, as well as the piece with the birch trees? We notice two titles begin with imperatives, but each of these four titles seem to arise of responses to the world.

EM: With my abstract work, I utilize poetry to help translate my experiences onto the canvas. During the time I was painting “Stop Searching” I was also reading the poetry book, Milk & Honey, by Rupi Kaur.  I chose a poem that was related to the experience I was sharing and used words found in the poem to name the painting. I often listen to music as I paint, and every so often I come across a song that resonates with me and the message of a particular painting I am working on.  “Do You Remember” is titled after a song by Jarryd James and “The Sweetest Thing” is from Allman Brown.

Set Free, the title of the birch tree paintings doesn’t literally take the words from lyrics or poetry but the idea comes from a poet named Victoria Erickson.  She says, “Go to the trees to explore your questions and dreams. Go to the trees to desire and seek. The world will listen as you walk, watch, soften, and breath.” To me, this quote is telling the reader to find a sense of freedom within yourself, and I believe that the forest truly fosters the ability to free your thoughts and take a breath.

BC: Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between the landscapes in your work and your home state and/or Canada?

EM: I have found that wherever I go, my work inevitably changes to reflect both the location and my experiences there. I began painting seriously while I was living in Hawaii and I found that as soon as I returned to my home state of Michigan, my work changed. This happened again when I relocated to Canada this past fall. I find that by exploring the local landscape through my art, I feel more connected and appreciative of my surroundings. It helps me to be present.  I love going out into the world and taking what I learn and experience back to my studio to extend, reflect, and share with others.

Emilie Mae headshotEmilie Mae is an American oil painter working, studying, and residing in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her current work spans from the natural to the urban to the abstract. Learn more at