How Artist Emily Kalina's Chronic Condition Led Her to Create a Viable Business with a Far Greater Reach

When artist Emily Kalina started drawing on an iPad 13 years ago, her initial intention was just to explore and have fun with this new, fascinating medium. Eventually, the experiment proved to be beneficial as she was forced to transition to a different instrument if she wanted to continue making art due to her chronic condition.

Having been trained in classical art using traditional media at the famed Rhode Island School of Design, Kalina never considered using a computer to create artwork. She painted exclusively using watercolors for the first 14 years of her career, selling them to private collectors and clients, often through a gallery representation. Her extensive experience and expertise with the medium also paved the way for her career as a teacher at various private institutions.

Kalina's eventual transition from classical artwork using traditional mediums to digital art and painting for product design was sparked by two factors - her chronic condition and the realization that making and selling art traditionally would soon become obsolete.

Kalina saw that it would only be a matter of time before the industry would shift from brick-and-mortar to digital and she realized she would need to think outside the box in order to continue as a working artist. Simultaneously, Kalina was faced with the task of finding a new way to create if she wanted to continue making art due to the escalating impact of her chronic condition - epilepsy. As one of the primary hallmarks of a seizure disorder is its unpredictability, the iPad proved to be the perfect medium as it was easy to pick up and put down, evolving into the equivalent of a portable studio. Today, through her iPad, she can come up with classical pieces with a touch of modern and contemporary.

Her deep appreciation and passion for seacoasts, boats, lighthouses, and nature, and her growing knowledge of apps and technology inspired her to make the same products people love as wall art and incorporate them into prints for product design. Eventually, her work found its way on scarves, tote bags, mugs, and shirts through her partnership with various companies.

In order to build a viable business, Kalina would need to sell and incorporate art in this way. Apart from revenue potential, creating art digitally is also practical. Because every piece is digital, Kalina can easily integrate and customize every artwork into any product.

Kalina's work is easily identifiable by her distinctive mark-making, using an Apple pencil that responds to pressure the same way a pencil or brush does. Since her first love is watercolor, she has designed her digital brushes to mimic a hybrid of watercolor brushes and professional markers. This has allowed her to create her paintings with shading and layering, which enables her audience to feel as if they are not just viewing a 2 dimensional painting, but rather are stepping into a living, breathing, 3 dimensional space.

As technology has evolved exponentially, so has Kalina's process and ability to create with greater flexibility.


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