Artwork Paintings & Children’s Book

Growing Wild Plums

A Childhood Off the Grid

by Emily Lupita

Three Questions

1) What do you/we mean by wild?

The word ‘wild’ evokes a deep sense of beauty and freedom of expression. I grew up in rural Southern Iowa on a sustainable homestead off the grid. We lived without running water or modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing and central heat. We had an outhouse and sometimes no electricity. My childhood was spent running wild in the creeks, fields, and forests that surrounded our house – way out in the countryside of Monroe County. I wove my days together immersed in the incredible beauty of nature, and also learned to respect and honor Mother Earth for her spiritual generosity and physical power. ‘Wild’ is the seed planted in us that grows into our individual connection to the larger world.

2) What changes are needed for us to live within the bounds of sustainability?

I believe there is an important change happening now, with a shift back toward a more Earth-centered society on the horizon. The more we focus our energies on bringing healing to our society through moving it closer to nature, the more sustainable our lifestyles will become. Each small change that each one of us makes is movement in the direction of this healing. Encouraging each other, supporting each other, loving each other into wholeness – each of these actions will allow for more movement toward humanity’s ultimate choice to heal our planet and live within the bounds of sustainability.

3) How can we create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed?

We can create this vision by ensuring that our young people become dedicated guardians of the land they will inherit along the Mississippi Watershed. We can teach today’s youth about the lifestyle of sustainable natural living. We can show them the beauty of living a life in connection with the natural environment. By ensuring a trusted transfer of knowledge, we can help create a future filled with beauty, biological diversity, and the mysteries of the wild world we call home.

Summary of the Project

Art Form: Artwork Paintings and Children’s Book

Award-winning artist and writer, Emily Lupita grew up in rural Southern Iowa on a sustainable homestead off the grid. Her parents were minimalist naturalists who taught their three children how to live off the land and appreciate the extreme power and beauty of nature. The family lived without running water and without modern conveniences like indoor plumbing or central heat. Often times there would be no electricity. Water came from a well pump and heat from kindling chopped by hand in a wood-burning stove. The homestead sat on a hill in rural Monroe County, down a rock road, down a gravel lane, down a dirt path…far from the modern world surrounding them.

Emily Lupita and her two brothers had a magical childhood filled with the stories and mythology of their Welsh, Mexican, and Cherokee Ancestors. Their parents, the Bardic poet Joseph S. Plum and the Mexican-American artist Juana Maria Gutiérrez, encouraged their children to embrace the wonder and awe of a natural world filled with beauty and miracles. They caught fish with their bare hands in the creeks and streams surrounding the homestead, they did rain dances in the field with the butterflies, and they slept under the stars while listening to the coyotes howl. The children also learned how to live a sustainable lifestyle off the land. They learned how to plant and tend a garden, how to dry, preserve, and can food, how to clean fish and hunt and skin squirrels, and how to gather together around a fire out on the hill at night to keep warm and tell stories.

Emily Lupita will create a series of watercolor paintings in her unique signature style that depict her childhood living off the grid. She will use vibrant colors and interesting mixtures of perspective and space to convey the passion and beauty of this season of her life lived in the natural world. The paintings will be the basis for a children’s book, which Emily will write, that will teach today’s youth about the lifestyle of sustainable natural living.

Emily Lupita believes that educating our youth about the natural environment is an absolute priority, so that they may become passionate guardians and dedicated stewards of our planet. To support this belief, Emily Lupita will donate a copy of the finished children’s book to every elementary school in Monroe County, Iowa. It is the artist’s hope that the paintings and children’s book will inspire young readers and adults alike to become interested in learning more about how they can contribute to the effort to save our planet by reducing waste, living more simply, and respecting the power and beauty of our Mother Earth.

Emily Lupita will paint twenty paintings, size 12×12 inches on 100% cotton rag cold press professional-grade Arches watercolor paper. She uses Japanese ‘Irodori’ watercolor paints and Sakura Japanese black ink. The original watercolor paintings will be professionally matted in white museum grade archival matts and sealed for protection in high-grade plastic archival bags. Due to the size, the fragility of glass panels, and the high cost of framing watercolor paintings, the paintings will not be framed at this time. Instead, Emily Lupita will have 20 large size canvas prints made of the original paintings as these are much more accessible to viewers. Emily Lupita will show these canvases in an art exhibition that is free and open to the public, or any attendance that is a requirement of receiving the grant. The corresponding children’s book will accompany the canvas prints and original paintings, and Emily Lupita will be available to talk with visitors about her project.

Topics of the book are as follows, with more to be added or edited as the painting series progresses. Initial planning sketches are already complete and are included at the end of this proposal. These sketches are the very first stage in Emily Lupita’s detailed creative process that’s involved in producing the finished watercolor painting. Previously finished artwork by Emily Lupita is included at the end of this proposal as well, and can also be viewed on her website at

Artist Bio

Emily Lupita is an award-winning artist and poet from rural Southern Iowa. Her unique artwork style is composed of vivid colors mixed with black ink lines. She uses ‘irodori’ Japanese watercolors and Sakura inks on Arches 140lb watercolor paper. Emily Lupita has shown her artwork and books at many art shows and festivals in the United States and in Japan. Emily Lupita’s three published art books include Water and Stone; The Artist’s Alphabet: 26 Words to Encourage Creativity; and Wonderful You: A Book of Art & Encouragement. Emily Lupita is the founder and editor of Emily Lupita Studio Press, a small independent publishing house she created to publish books that express joyful wonder of the world.

Emily Lupita has numerous writing and poetry publications from national journals, including The North American Review, The Atlanta Review, and the anthology, Writers Without Borders. Her awards include the Pearl Hogrefe Award for Creative Writing from Iowa State University and the Faulker Award for the Poem. She holds a BA from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, with thesis advisor, Professor Debra Marquart, Iowa Poet Laureate. Emily Lupita had a previous career in international higher education that allowed her to travel the world. These travels influenced her writing and artwork in a deeply meaningful way. She is now the full-time caregiver of her two cognitively disabled sons, both of whom are diagnosed with severe non-verbal Autism. Emily Lupita and her husband recently moved into the city of Atlanta so their sons could attend a specialized Autism Center for children with their specific diagnoses. Emily Lupita writes a blog about her family’s Autism journey at and about her art & writing at


Equipment including professional grade, cold press Arches 100% cotton rag watercolor paper, artist professional grade watercolor brushes, Holbein Japanese ‘Irodori’ watercolor paints, sketch book, and Sakura Japanese black ink will be needed to complete the project. The canvas prints will be ordered and printed from Walgreens, and an artwork display apparatus will be needed to hang the paintings for the exhibition. The artwork /poetry exhibition will be displayed at a communal gathering in Iowa that will be free and open to the public, or any specific attendance that is part of receiving the grant. Gallery and reception expenses are anticipated, as well as travel expenses for Emily Lupita to travel and stay.


Painting Supplies: In-kind donation match from Emily Lupita
Display Arch and Artwork Display Items: In-kind donation match from Emily Lupita
Travel and lodging = In-kind donation match from Emily Lupita
Formatting, Editing, and Publishing of the Children’s Book = In-kind donation match from Emily Lupita
Reception Rental and Gathering Food= In-kind donation match from Emily Lupita
Hiring an Hourly Respite Caregiver: (to care for Emily Lupita’s two disabled sons while she works) = In-kind donation match from Emily Lupita
Emily Lupita: 20 paintings x 10 hours per painting = 20 hours x $25/hour = $5000
Total: $5000

Project planning sketches and previous artwork samples are included at the end of this proposal.

Initial Sketches of the Project