By Ashley Tiedt
If you ask Amy Crews to tell you about how she became an artist, she’ll tell you that she was a creative child. While her career as an artist may have started like others, Amy’s story has taken many twists and turns.
“My elementary school vice principal, Mrs. Smith, was precious. She recognized that I had some artistic abilities, so she would call me into her office and ask me to draw things from a book. I would draw things upside down and whatever else she would give me to do,” Amy says. Mrs. Smith nurtured her talents, even giving her a special project.
Amy was asked to create all the bulletin boards in her elementary school. “There was an art closet with reams of giant paper of different colors. I had anything that I wanted at my fingertips. I would spend time there and create whatever themes I wanted to display around the school,” she says. Her favorite bulletin board featured Snoopy and the other comic strip characters. She still has a picture in front of the bulletin board from her seventh grade graduation. High school, however, wasn’t as nurturing as elementary school, but Amy pursued her craft relentlessly.
“In high school, I took art every year. My art teacher admitted he was just there, trying to get through until he could retire, so it was on us. I feel like I created my own curriculum. I reached a point where he didn’t have anything else to teach me and so again, I was able to do whatever I wanted to do,” she says. One morning, Amy showed up at school to find a trophy case in the front of the school filled with her artwork. She was shocked! Her teacher didn’t tell her about his plans to display her work.
Amy took her love of art to college and majored in fine arts, but art degrees were different when she attended Valdosta State University. “I didn’t know what else to do. It was always what I did, it was what I knew. But when I was an art major, the only thing I could do with the degree was to go into art education, and I didn’t want to teach,” Amy says. Amy realized she didn’t want to be a teacher while student-teaching at Valdosta High School. After a college transfer, a change in majors and a short break, she returned to school. She was working full-time, with the type of schedule that did not lend itself to finishing her degree in art.
Amy pivoted and majored in business management, knowing this degree would make her more employable. While finishing up her education, she met Matt, the man she would eventually marry. Later, she decided to collect another degree, and in the search to find something creative, she chose marketing as a second degree. Matt and Amy eventually made their way to Birmingham in the late 90s when Amy accepted a marketing managerial position with Southern Living.
“[Eventually they] moved positions like mine to Tampa and New York,” she says. Amy was given the option to relocate, but she decided to focus on spending time with her son and painting. She began taking art classes, building on her technique. Amy said it was never her intention to take these classes and sell her work. She was just excited to return to art and spend time at home with her son.
Before too long, Amy began showing her art at various venues and festivals. Amy found one of the breaks she didn’t know she needed at one of her first outdoor art shows. “I was at the Mountain Brook Art Show, and a woman came in my booth. I had a pair of red poppy paintings on display. She said she liked it, and that it was exactly what her company was looking to include in the catalog,” she explains. Amy did not recognize her right away or know that she was referring to Southern Living AT HOME.
“When I realized who she was and where she worked, I decided not to tell her that I used to work for Southern Living because I wanted my work to be chosen if they loved it and not because of my having worked there,” Amy says.
Southern Living AT HOME soon commissioned three floral paintings and sold prints nationally in their catalogs. The commissions for Southern Living were the push Amy needed to create her website and take her business to the next level. Amy still works out of her home in Hoover, painting whatever brings her joy.
There are also times when painting can become therapeutic and time for Amy to pray and feel the presence of God. “There was a time when I was painting a nest, and I was going to put a bird building in one. I was just getting started, and a mentor of ours passed away suddenly. He was young. It was devastating, and we were both crushed. We attended the service, and I came home and started back on the painting. I realized that the color in the bird’s chest reminded me a lot of his hair color. I started thinking about his wife and started weeping. I was painting and crying, but I realized that I was painting a bird building a nest. It made me think of the scripture about how God is preparing a place for us, and it was just so powerful,” she says.
Amy was eventually able to present her mentor’s widow with the painting. Amy was able to pen her thoughts about the painting and its meaning to her. When she presented the painting to her mentor’s widow, the two wept together. She recalls that it was the most meaningful piece she ever painted. Amy took a short break after that piece, as she wasn’t sure anything else would be as meaningful. She has been back at the easel now, though, sparking joy in her life and the lives of others.
She focuses on painting florals, landscapes and still life, bringing simple subjects to life with a dot of oil paint and a stroke of a brush to the canvas.
Amy is launching an art subscription box called “The WonderBox,” which will be sent out seasonally throughout 2022. “It’s named in memory of my mom who kept gifts in what she called her ‘Wonder Closet.’ She was also artistic, and she really supported me and encouraged me in my work. The first box went out in February, and you can find information on my website,” she says.
Amy is also hoping to start offering online art classes. She is in the beginning stages of planning right now and plans to launch in the future. Additionally, she will be participating in the Harding Art Show in Nashville, which is one of the most reputable and anticipated art shows in the Southeast. If you can’t make the show, you can always check out amycrewsgallery.com. While you’re there, sign up for her newsletter to hear about the new product line, print line and the next release of originals. You can follow her behind the scenes in the studio on her Instagram: @amycrewsartist.