Emily Wilde Coe has always been fascinated by the power of a pencil. The same pointed tool brings baby portraits and favorite pets and new houses to life with each different line and texture possible. Then, the final product holds the emotion behind each subject—celebration, comfort, sometimes loss or a sense of home.
Through her portrait and calligraphy business, Wilde Art Co., Emily uses her precision to make this happen. “It makes me feel so good to know that I can preserve and capture those moments,” she says. “I can manipulate a pencil to create a softness, and I hope it’s engaging to people who see it.”
Wilde Art Co. collects a wide range of Emily’s artistic and lettering talents, including graphite portraits as well as stationery, wedding suites and framed Bible verses with her calligraphy. She started the business in 2013, all on the side of her full-time career as an architect (and when she first started, a new mom).
Though Emily draws mainly in graphite, she maintains the same precision with pen and ink through her calligraphy and lettering work. She addressed her own wedding invitations and has since done projects and commissions for friends who’d ask her. Now, drawings here and there have collected into a company that doubles as Emily’s creative outlet.
But in some ways it’s nothing new. Emily has always had an interest in art and always knew that would be a part of her life. “In my head, I knew I’d always do something with art or architecture,” says Emily, who attended Auburn University for her architecture degree and currently works at Nequette Architecture and Design downtown.
Emily also grew up in Mountain Brook. Every Christmas or birthday brought new supplies or art books that continued to inspire her passion. Even when she was studying at Auburn, she traveled to New York and Italy during her summers to take art classes.
Portraits have always captivated her. “I really like drawing eyes because they always capture you first. I want to bring someone into a drawing and capture a feeling, or an emotion. I feel like I can do that easily with a portrait.” All of Emily’s work is both detailed and soft, a combination that brings such a familiarity to a portrait.
Working like a true architect, Emily drafts everything first and makes sure all is in place before she fills in her lines with shading and strokes. She also works in gray, black and sometimes gold for calligraphy as her main palette, though she experiments with new mediums or colors on occasion.
One of her most popular commissions recently has been house portraits. Her architecture training again weaves into her style in the attention to all the small details that make each house itself. They are, in a way, not too far from the other portraits she draws. “House portraits are emotional because everyone is so attached to their home,” she says.
For her calligraphy, Emily carries the same softness from her drawing. Her work takes the form of traditional flourishes or a simpler modern cursive. “Your handwriting reflects your personality and style,” she says. “Someone else’s calligraphy, even if I teach them, is not going to look like mine. You’re able to put yourself into it.” Each project has a different flair, and Emily’s style has a subtle connection between all of them.
Continuing the family tradition, Emily hopes her children, 7-year-old Addie and 3-year-old Oliver, will pick up on her creative spirit. “I like them being able to see me work, hopefully to inspire them,” Emily says. Addie will soon be learning cursive at school (with the help of a book at home) and is growing in her own love for drawing.
Even though she’s always taken art classes and has made drawing or lettering a part of her life somehow, Emily’s not going to stop learning now. “It’s important to me to cultivate my skills further and to always be growing and learning,” she says. “In both my fields, I feel like I can always keep learning. I love to be able to learn new things.”
Learn more about Emily’s work at wildeartco.com or @wildeartco on Instagram.
Community within Calligraphy
Emily is active in calligraphy circles and feels part of a tight community of artists. Sometimes that takes the form of a conference, other times as a group text message. “I’m surrounded by artists who want to help me get better. I love that raw and honest feedback and the support,” she says. With so many different artists and styles, she’s always able to learn from others and take classes. Emily has also taught herself in the Birmingham Museum of Art’s Studio School.