Emma Fick spends half of each year traveling the world. She’s visited roughly three dozen countries, and she pays for it all on an artist’s income—granted, she’s no starving artist. At only 27 years old she’s published two internationally beloved illustrated guides to travel and culture, the second of which has sold 3,000 copies and is on its third print run in less than a year.
“It’s really exciting,” Fick said. “And it makes me feel like an art career is not as crazy as I thought—or as crazy as a lot of people in my family probably still think it is.”
Fick’s success in art, however, began rather unconventionally. She was an English major at UA, and after graduation, she received a Fulbright Award to teach English in Serbia for a year. She had plans to return home and pursue her master’s and doctoral degrees in English, but her life plan changed because of a collection of illustrations she had been making while in a small town in south Serbia called Novi Pazar.
“I was doing cultural illustrations, specifically about this small town, as a way to share my experiences with people back home,” Fick said. “But it kind of exploded, and I ended up getting funding from the U.S. Embassy in Serbia to return for another year to pursue art.”
While in Novi Pazar, Fick held an exhibition of her illustrations, and the local population turned out in droves. They connected with her work, and the U.S. Embassy was so impressed by the engagement that they asked her to do a similar collection of illustrations for the whole of Serbia.
Fick’s drawings are largely of everyday people and scenes, but they also include some historically significant places and architecture as well.
“For the most part, the process was very organic and stream of consciousness,” Fick said. “I would just go out on a walk, for example, to the market to get some vegetables, and I would see a woman selling flowers. That would strike me so much because in representing the everyday person, she became a very important emblem of the society as a whole.
“I was very taken by these small vignettes—like the woman selling flowers or a house that was sort of crumbling on the outside but had a beautiful interior that was maintained so lovingly by the people.”
The full collection of her work was published under the title Snippets of Serbia, and Fick realized she wanted to use her artistic skills full-time.
“I feel like I found a big part of myself in Serbia,” Fick said. “And I definitely found the courage to pursue art there. A lot of that was just because of the people’s response. If the people hadn’t been so enthusiastic, I don’t know that I would have continued.”
On the heels of her success in Serbia, Fick returned to her native Louisiana to create a Snippets of New Orleans book and sell her fine art in shops and galleries around the city. She has sold thousands of prints, and her work continues to develop and be informed by her travels. Her fine art is inspired by ethnographic works and ancient architecture, but she also continues to work on her Snippets series. Her upcoming Snippets book will showcase the Trans-Siberian Railroad, which she took last year from Beijing to Moscow.
“I like having these two sides to my production,” Fick said. “Art is so often relegated to the ivory tower. It’s seen as something that people cannot ‘understand’—or that is only for the wealthy and educated. With my fine art, I can do the allegorical stuff for your wall, but then I can do Snippets, which is for everyone.”
After completing her book Snippets of New Orleans, Fick travelled to the other side of the world to Russia, where she rode the Trans-Siberian Railway. Here, she gathered inspiration for her upcoming third book, Border Crossings: A Journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The book is set to be published by a major US publisher in Spring 2022.
When she’s not trekking the globe, Fick continues to create fine art in her hometown of New Orleans. Her original fine art prints, illustrations, and wearable art can be found on her website.