Piece of Mind: An Interview with Erica Elle
Erica Elle is a visual artist raised in Memphis and currently based in Lawrenceville, Georgia. In this interview, Erica tells us a bit about her process, the inspiration for her work and advice she has for emerging artists.
VM: Erica, I am so excited about your story and your work! So, you're a native Memphian now living in Georgia. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I'm excited and grateful for you taking the time to interview me. I'm a visual artist based in Lawrenceville, Georgia focusing on two primary styles: mixed media abstract and wood stain portraits on wood. Somehow I've grown into wearing many hats as a wife, mom and entrepreneur. But overall, I'm a big kid at heart that loves to laugh, meet new people and crack dry jokes.
VM: Your paintings are fluid and organic, and the process itself is fascinating. Can you describe it for us? How did you get into this style of work?
Thank you! Everything started in abstract for me and that came from the need to find a way of relieving stress. When I began making work, I was a stay-at-home mom to a three year old and a newborn in much need of an outlet. Ultimately my stress reliever has turned into my career.
Mixed-medium work has always been best for me because it allows me to be as hands-on as possible. I remember getting to a point where I felt like I was improving but had not yet developed my own signature style. That's a frustrating place to be as an artist - not feeling wholly authentic. Doing research was critical in helping me find my own voice. Seeing exciting work made by other artists inspired me to work with resin to create interesting effects with paint. It also lent a glass-like finish to my work that I couldn't get from varnish. I was hooked!
Pours filled with various types of paint and resin led to a need for a heat gun to manipulate the colors and to dry the work. The heat gun led to a blowtorch for more interesting texture. The blowtorch on alcohol-based mixtures led to all-out flames like you see in my video, creating some really nice textures that result in unique effects every time. It has been a natural progression that is just as much science as art.
VM: In your bio on your website, you talk quite a bit about your family. Do you think they factor into the type of work you are making?
ABSOLUTELY! I am a stay-at-home mompreneur by choice. But make no mistake....it's hard! There is never a time when my two boys, my boxer pup and tortoise aren't around. Juggling my responsibilities to them and my husband while perfecting my craft and building a brand have pushed me to places I never would have willingly signed up to go myself.
There have been times I have had to cancel art shows because someone was too sick. It is a stigma I have worked hard to battle against that having children holds people back professionally. It isn't true. My family is the reason I have found ways to stretch resin, design my own branding, photograph and edit my work and market and book my own shows. I make my best work literally in the middle of the everyday laughter and chaos that family life brings.
VM: Tell us about the figures in your portraiture. Who are they and what do they represent to you? Why work on wood?
Queens. Hands down, that's what they are. Those pieces are a part of what I call "The Queen Collection." My goal is to portray strength, beauty, resilience and all the characteristics a Queen should have. Women are so beautiful and powerful. That is something that I want to convey, especially after looking at the women in my life and some of the things they were dealing with. All of my portraits are made wood because of its natural and organic characteristics.
VM: You are a self-trained artist using an intensive process to make beautiful work. Your online presence is professional and warm. Do you have advice for budding artists, particularly those that either cannot or choose not to attend art school?
I am flattered by your kind words because I can't help but think, I'm not there yet. But I have learned that there is no substitute for doing your research. You need to know what is out there, what other artists are doing and how they're doing it. Not to copy, but to make it your own.
Be humble but passionate about what you present to the world. Only you can sell yourself. Remember why you started and trust your journey.
The other thing I would say is don't underestimate or neglect the power of branding yourself. I do want my work to speak for itself, but as an emerging artist who may not have all the accolades, it is critical to refine and polish my presentation. Work on developing how you present your work online, in person and at shows while you work on your technique in creating the work. Your professionalism and cohesive presentation will take your catalog of work further.