For those that love the fair folk, the name Amy Brown is synonymous with fairy. What many may not realize is that she resides right here in Tacoma. Born in Bellingham, Brown moved to Tacoma as an infant and never left. Like fairies, she can be a bit hard to pin down for conversation. However, we were able to lure her into pausing long enough to answer a few questions about her work and why she loves the Pacific Northwest.
Brown has been painting fairies since 1992. Then 21-years-old, she was working at a small, local art gallery, Festival of Art, when her boss asked her to paint something to fill a small frame. She wasn’t sure what to paint, so she asked her boss, who replied casually, “I don’t know. Paint a fairy or something.” That day made history. Brown painted a fairy. It sold, so she painted another one. Who knows who owns those originals now, but they are certainly keepsakes. Brown herself does not even have pictures of these early works.
“I sold the originals, and at the time we didn’t have a computer or scanner, and having professional slides made was expensive,” explains Brown. “Plus, I didn’t know that it would go anywhere.” She added that they didn’t start archiving her paintings until a few years after that fateful day in 1992.
Though she started at that tiny, local shop, her work really took off when she started her own website. “That’s what really launched my career,” she says.
A Fairy Kingdom
Fast forward, and Brown has created an entire fairy kingdom with fans around the world. Her pixy-like fairies are seen everywhere and on everything – from prints and coloring books to calendars, figurines and many other household items through Redbubble.
Her paintings have expanded to include dragons, mermaids, witches, fae cats and all kinds of other mythical creatures. Her creations all seem to have personalities of their own – some are impish, some sweet, some alluring, some serene and others are a bit dark.
And while the subjects in these portraits may only exist in Brown’s imagination, there are few that have been inspired by people she knows that seem to have a touch of the mythical about them.
“I can’t recall all of them, but the one that sticks out in my mind is an older piece called ‘The Brat,’ which was loosely inspired by my younger sister as a teenager,” Brown says with a smile. “Also, an older piece titled ‘Attitude’ was actually a self-portrait and was painted as a joke for a friend.” It’s not a surprise that Brown found herself the subject of one of her own pieces – a slender, petite woman with stunning red hair and pixy-like features, she truly belongs with the Fay Folk. And clearly her fans agreed. “It ended up being one of my best selling images,” she adds, laughing.
As for having a favorite, Brown says she doesn’t really have one. “It changes constantly,” she explains. “For me, the ‘favorite’ is the newest piece I can look at and not feel like I need to ‘fix it.’ I think this is common with artists. We are our worst critics. We see everything we wish we could change. I have pieces I really like for a while and then eventually I don’t like them much anymore. I also have pieces I didn’t like when I painted them, but years later I look at them again and find something I do like about them.”
When asked why she stayed in the Pacific Northwest, Brown answers simply: “I love all the green of the area.” Anyone who has walked through one of our forests or stared at the mountains or the sea knows they are definitely fit for fairies.
“I think the forests and beaches of the Pacific Northwest are very inspiring, but nothing in particular has inspired certain pieces,” Brown explains. “It’s more an overall feeling of ‘inspiration.’ I think nature grounds you and centers you so you can be more open to ideas – wherever they should come from.”
When she gets low on that inspiration, Brown goes outdoors. “I head for nature when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need a break,” she adds. “The inspiration I get is more a feeling of being renewed so I can keep going. As far as inspiration for actual art, that tends to come randomly. Ideas for paintings pop into my head at any time, often when I’m just walking to the kitchen or cleaning the house. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.”
As for her favorite sports? Brown says she and her family like to visit parks on rivers mostly. “I love the moving water,” she adds.
Even when she needs a break from creating, she can be found outdoors. “I am an avid gardener and love to create gardens, so when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I like to take breaks and walk through my gardens. I have a small koi pond, and I find watching the fish incredibly soothing. I can clear my head for a while.” This probably explains some of her beautiful mermaid tails.
Like all fairies, Brown does make appearances to non-magical folk every now and then. She attends a few festivals a year in the area, including the Spring Fairy Festival at Crescent Moon Gifts in Tacoma, Lakewold Gardens Fairy Fest in Lakewood and the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Buckley. She loves doing the festivals.
“Festivals and conventions are funny, because I’m working harder than usual, actually, but I don’t feel like I’m working” she says. “There is an ‘energy’ about them. It’s hard to explain. It’s like re-charging a battery I had forgotten I had.” Fairies are unpredictable, and her schedule does change, so it’s best to check Amy Brown’s website for her current list of appearances.