For this Navy retiree, art imitates life


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Navy retiree Paul Emig chose fine arts for his encore career. Photo courtesy of Paul Emig

When career military folks retire, they typically gravitate toward industry for the second chapter in their lives. Navy man Paul Emig, on the other hand, went straight for the fine arts.

It was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, for Emig is no mere Sunday painter. Art has always figured prominently in his life, even during his Navy days.

“Throughout my Navy career whenever I was on shore duty, I was taking art classes,” the Indian Harbour Beach resident said. 

Even as a child, Emig loved art and excelled at it. Even before graduating from high school, Emig was selected as State Scholar in the Visual Arts by his home state of Maryland. He had a passion for painting in oils and acrylics, but he was realistic about the hardships of making it in the world of fine arts.

“Instead of pursuing art as a career, I went for the military, because all my friends were doing that and it seemed the right thing to do,” Emig said.

The plan was to enlist for six years and then go on to the next adventure.

“At the end of the six, I stayed for 23,” said Emig, who retired from the Navy in 2008 as senior chief of engineering. 

The Navy afforded him travel throughout the world, from the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic, from the Persian Gulf to the Caribbean.

Italy, with its rich artistic heritage, was a favorite “hangout.” Italy was Emig's "home away from home."

“Italy was my home away from home,” said Emig, who estimates he has visited the Italian peninsula more than 20 times.  

If the port of call featured any good art museums, Emig would make a beeline for them, often transforming into an unofficial tour guide for his Navy colleagues as he discussed the works and techniques of the European masters. 

When the time to say goodbye to the sea arrived, Emig enrolled at Old Dominion University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Stationed in Orlando during his Navy days, Emig was very familiar with Brevard. Making the decision to move here from Virginia Beach was easy.

“We had looked all over Florida and liked this area best,” he said. 

He quickly went pro with his art, which focuses on beach and oceanscapes. His wife, Kimberly, is the greatest cheerleader for Emig’s art business, Emig Impressions. These days, Emig paints during the week and participates in outdoor art festivals during the weekend. Although he tries to stay within the Florida border, he will travel as far as Richmond, Va. when a good show beckons.

“For the most part I’m out at shows on weekends,” he said. “I do two or three weekend shows a month.”

The effort pays off in sales of his originals and prints, as well as in awards, such as the one he received at the recent Melbourne Fall Festival.

A member of the Strawbridge Art League, Emig is represented in Brevard at the Highland Artisan Company art gallery in the Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne. 

Art may not offer the steady paycheck the Navy did, but Emig is happy he finally followed the life of a painter. 

“Art is something I’ve always been very good at,” he said.

For more on Emig, go to emigimpressions.com.