Friday, September 21, 2012

Conversations Between an Artist and Their Spouse

"… I know we were supposed to be there an hour ago but I got caught up in the creative spirit. I just needed one more brush stroke, one more line and a touch of red. I was about to turn off the lights and shut the door and then I realized if I darkened the bottom right corner, the whole painting would come to life.  I’m sorry."

"I’m sorry that I didn’t realize this was going to be such a formal party. I swear on the invite it said the dress was casual and that we were allowed one guest. I chose you dear because you are so special and you support all of my endeavors. No one will notice the paint on my pants. It’s not my fault. Everyone came right from work wearing suits and ties. I just came from painting. We are fine. We will fit right in. I love you."

"I’m sorry. You must be so exhausted. We will leave shortly. I just have to look at this painting one more time. – Oh, there is the artist. I’ll just say hi. It will be quick. – Oh, there is the gallery director. I should probably go over and introduce myself. Why don’t you go get a glass of wine, I’ll only be a minute… 30 minutes later…I ended up meeting that guy who owns the coffee shop down the street. He knew who I was! I was so honored. Then he asked me if I’d hang some paintings in there next month. We should probably stop in for coffee and check out the place. Oh, I love you."

"So what did you think of the show? It is definitely not what I expected. I can’t believe they can show such crap! I don’t understand. I could probably have a show there. I would probably do way better. I would even have red dots on the wall. Did you notice that they had no red dots? There was only a green one. Really? Do they really think that means hold? That’s just dumb. They should just buy it…well if it was good. But it’s crap! If that were my piece, it would have had a red dot. Honey…honey, are you awake? I love you."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Erica Brown Interview

Enjoying lunch at Pietros in West Chester is the last place you would find artist Erica Brown, but I dragged her out of her house with daughter in tow.  I say dragged because catching Erica, when she isn’t painting or working or catching her breath with a 9 month old is a pull in the opposite direction. She is a night owl with bright blue eyes and a welcoming smile. If you’ve ordered a beverage at the bar of Pietros, she probably served it to you. So now you know how the restaurant review is going to go, it is like Erica’s second home.

I brought her to Pietros to find out about her second love…painting. Her first love is her beautiful blue eyed daughter, Annaleah, who contentedly sat on her lap for our conversation. One word used to describe Erica is passionate. She puts her heart, soul, fears, and beliefs behind and in front of a field of chaotic harmonious color. It is mixed media layered with the past and the tranquility of the present. As an artist she changes mediums effortlessly, be it encaustic or acrylic, it is always passionate. There is an intense desire to find herself and her ever-changing life. Hopefully her answers to the questions below give some insight to her abstract work.


How did you get started making art?
As soon as I could hold a crayon I would be drawing. I grew up in a studio so there would be things around to use. My mom would be encouraging me. She would give me watercolors and brushes.
Did you receive any formal art training? Where and what did you major in?
I did, in school I actually transferred to a private school my junior and senior year. There was a really great art teacher I wanted to study under, Mrs. Unger.  Then, I went to Tyler for college.
Please describe your work in general for the readers?
I would say abstract but organically based and inspired by nature.
What is your medium?
Mainly encaustic, but I do work in acrylic and sometimes pencil; I do drawing as well.
How do you do choose your subject matter? 
I find my paintings as I paint them. So, a lot of times there are things that may be in my head but I like to paint the paintings through the process of making them. Later, down the road, I find them. I usually work on about six at once, all different sizes. That way if I get really frustrated with one, I move to another.
What are your thoughts on perfection?
Well I think every artist is a perfectionist to some extent. People ask me what is my favorite painting. I have some I like better than others, and have some that I think are more successful than others. But I have not painted perfection yet. I may never paint that painting. If I painted a painting that I thought was perfect than I would have no reason to keep going.
What are a few tips for encaustic painters?
Oh be careful about the fumes. And be careful about the flames. At Tyler I got into using wax and someone said, “Why don’t you try encaustic?” But I couldn’t do it on the premises because of the fumes.  So I had to do it at home. At the time I was living in an apartment so my studio was in the basement with a tiny little window and a tiny little fan. I hadn’t researched it a ton and was in love with Prussian blue. I started getting really sick: fatigued, achy, and had a weird taste in the back of my mouth.  Out of curiosity a friend looked it up for me and found out that Prussian blue produces cyanide gas. So, I found out I was giving myself cyanide poisoning.
How do you decide when an artwork is done?
Obviously I was trained at Tyler and so I  know certain things, but honestly it’s like a fight going on with all the paintings I am working on. I kind of go around and around; most of the time its very angsty with all that’s going on. People think I am crazy, but I guess I kind of am. When we’re not fighting any more its like “Oh this is all you need.” It doesn’t mean its good, but it’s done.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Family and friends. Jeff Schaller, you have been very encouraging.
What would you like your daughter to remember about you?
That I love her. Some people say, “Maybe you should just go on sabbatical?” But, I would much rather have her see her mother working very hard and struggling financially while pursuing something she loves.
What inspires you?
A lot of small things: Looking around in my travels, music, emotions, inspired stories; the way windows are cracked. Or there’s a tree over on Gay Street that is eating the bricks, and I pass it all the time. I love it! And the cracking of paint, I’m always like, “That’s so cool!” That’s just something I am naturally attracted to, the wear and tear.
You’re a late night painter, what’s your normal routine?
Usually I kind of get the place cleaned up and that sort of thing. Than, I look over what I have done the night before; removing fire hazards. Its more of finding my tools again, because they all get covered in wax. So it’s re-harvesting my materials, removing fire hazards, and getting back into it.
You have made reference to being an artist is humbling, why?
Well, painting on demand is hard. It’s a struggle. Your work is not always appreciated. You may hate the painting or feel cheated. I might labor and the whole thing might be hard but than I see someone standing in front of one of my paintings and their incredibly moved and touched in a way I feel like I cant take credit for. There are people that are like, “Wow I feel like I am exactly where that painting’s at.” There is just sometimes a really deep connection some people have with artwork and when I see that, I just want to tip toe away. I remember the first time that happened to me with the first big truly abstract painting I had ever done. I had been working and went to take a break late at night. I came back and there was somebody standing there five feet away with their head cocked. And they had this look on their face that was like, Wow! And I remember being like, “That’s awesome,” and tip toed away.

What are you eating right now?
I am eating the sirloin burger with steak fries. It’s delicious.
What is your favorite food?
Everything that’s really bad for me: fries, fried chicken, ice cream, but I don’t let myself eat that very often.
What does home mean to you?
I think it’s more of an environment than a place. It’s where you can let your guard down and feel at ease.
Your proudest moment?
I think I continually keep having them since I have had her (looking at Annaleah).
What was your mother right about?
She told me this would be hard, not that she didn’t want me to do it. She was encouraging, but she knew that it would be rough. It has been, but I would rather have it this way then not. It’s worth it.
Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about. What is it about?
It’s about living, experiencing, and loving. Most people will be poor most of their lives but we’re so rich in so many ways.  You can’t buy the things that bring you joy. There have been times where I needed to choose between food and paint and I chose paint. And literally, I wouldn’t eat for a few days. But I would have that color red for that painting I was trying to get done. It’s crazy but it’s not always that dramatic or hard. Now that my career has been built up a bit it’s not like that. But if you’re coming from there than your like, “ I can eat anything! Life is great!”
Where did you grow up?
In Malvern, PA.
What is the last book you read?
Unfortunately, most books I have been trying to read lately are about parenting. If I have the time or energy I am usually in the studio or trying to sleep.
You collect?
Odd things like tree branches. The oddest things strike my fancy. I like having them around, they inspire me.
Something that is important on your nightstand?
Your strangest possession?
My water buffalo skull.
Your best birthday?
My best birthday was two birthdays ago. Bill and I were dating. It was right before she came along. He just made me this great dinner and gave me this really beautiful gift, than we went out.

Play- Bye Bye Birdie
Album- Its either the Cranberries or Ace of Base
Concert-  James Taylor.
Plane ride- To Seattle 

As for Erica’s second home, Pietros is everything you’d expect in a steak house; rustic brick walls, heavy wooden chairs, and tables with linens. Since it’s a steak place, I’m getting the ribeye sandwich with a side of onion rings. There “she” was, presented as a perfect 9oz steak on bread and huge breaded golden-crisp onion rings the rings were huge and generously coated with batter. It would make your heart stop…literally. Erica’s suggestion of a beautiful Cabernet was Crusher, a perfect companion for my steak. Erica had a hefty hamburger with a side of fries, which was enough to last her through all my questions and beyond. Her daughter, Annaleah, was mostly content on her moms lap and being the center of attention among the wait staff. She let us know when the interview was over. Her eyelids grew heavy and it was nap time. We walked back to Erica’s studio talking about more art and raising kids. I left to go back to my studio and finish painting but I did consider a nap myself. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the year...

It's the most wonderful time of the year...fall. The lazy days of summer are over and all of my white pants and sports jackets have been put away in storage. Dont get me wrong, I do enjoy summer, but I love what I do. I tend to slow down in the summer and relax with the family while trying to soak up every ray of sunshine.  It is one of the preoccupations of living in an area  where the possibility of 12 inches of snow in three months time could become a reality.  Summer is a time to get up an hour later to enjoy coffee outside and go to sleep a little later after enjoying that summer cocktail. I believe in eating and drinking seasonally. Right now it's tomatos all around. Tomatoes and mozzarella, tomatoes in salsa and tomatoes pureed for gazpacho! There are so many tomatoes!!! I don't dare wear white! As for the summer cocktail, summer is not long enough to enjoy a pitcher of all kinds of beverages! Sometimes I just drink so I can keep my mint plants at bay. Mojitos and mint juleps are always a keep cool gratification. Once I have kicked the bottle of rum and the bottle of bourbon, or two, trying to stay cool to no avail, there is GIN! Gin & Tonics, Salty Dogs and Gimlets are just a few of my favorites. It starts to sound like a Dr. Seuss story.

One Gin
    Two Gin
       Green Gin
           Blue Gin
Some are old and some are new
                      Some are bad
But all make me glad
    And some make me very glad
Why are they
        a fad, bad or had?
I do not know for I do not own a kite 

     and I no longer can wear white