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Emily Willey

Photo by Gloria Anderson

Oshkosh native Emily Willey is no stranger to aircraft and art. Her passion for planes has become the creative inspiration for her work. “My father was a pilot and my mom had her license, so I was always surrounded by [aviation],” Willey says. 

Willey’s painting career began at age 14 when she asked her mom if she could paint a dolphin on her bedroom wall. “One dolphin became three dolphins and a turtle and then eventually the ocean,” she says. 

Willey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where she earned a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license in art education. Although Willey does not currently teach she says, “I have not given up and will keep looking for a teaching position.” 

Since the days of her mural paintings, Willey has taken up working with wood. Her unique style combines watercolor, wood stain and Unicorn Spit which is a gel stain and glaze. Whether her work is client-based or one of her own ideas, she prefers to use photographs to help capture the essence of the subject. “I take a lot of photos of my own to use as reference because I want it to be correct, especially with airplanes. I have a huge bank of photos.” 

Once she has an image or series of images, she decides the medium it will go on – either watercolor paper or wood. If she uses wood, she has to both cut and sand it before she can pencil sketch, a process she affectionately refers to as her “prep party.”

Willey spends most evenings working in her basement studio. “I am a full-time mom and have a full-time job, so I wanted to be able to have a space where I could work and still be with my children.” 

Her deep love for art has also inspired her son. “He just helped me with one of my pieces,” Willey says. 

Find Willey during EAA AirVenture, July 22-28, at the Seaplane base located at 5202 Streich Lane in Oshkosh. Here she will have originals and prints, along with other pieces from her collection for purchase. Also see her work at FOX CITIES Magazine’s booth in Houdini Plaza during Art on the Town on June 21 from 5-8 p.m. 

More of Willey’s art can be found on her Facebook page Willey Art and on Instagram @willeyart. – By Patricia Israel

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