Shari Erickson is an American contemporary artist who spends much of her time exploring the Caribbean. “For three decades my artwork has focused on the Antilles islands, recording the beauty of the tropical landscape and the rhythm of its culture,” says Erickson, whose work Pretty in Pink appears on our May/June 2019 cover. The painter’s love of the human form and movement – infused with light and vibrant color – is at the heart of her work.
We took a minute to talk to Erickson about her gorgeous paintings.
Saturday Evening Post: Can you tell us more about what inspired you to paint the image that appears on the May/June 2019 cover of The Saturday Evening Post?
Shari Erickson: Inspiration is easy to come by in these beautiful islands. There’s an abundance of tropical landscapes, bright colors everywhere, and a lack of commercialization. The scene of the cover art is an everyday sight; just a passerby returning from the market, protecting herself from the midday sun.
Post: Do you know the woman in the piece? Can you share the details of the place, time, and elements of the painting?
Erickson: I didn’t meet the lovely lady in the piece. I try not to be an annoying tourist, being intrusive or disturbing the natural event. Essentially, I’m a studio painter working with oils on canvas. I want to record as much as I can, as fast as I can, to capture the normal moments of island life. So in my travels I rely on sketches, photos, and bullet point notes that return to my studio in the woods where I compose the elements of a memory. For instance, sometimes I might depict a chattel house from Antigua with a banana tree from St. Lucia and a child I met in St. John.
Post: Why are you inspired to paint these Caribbean scenes?
Erickson: I love these people and places that I want to record and celebrate before they are gone.
Post: Why do you say “before they are gone”? Are elements of island life disappearing?
Erickson: Of course, time and tourism take their toll in the Antilles, as with especially beautiful places everywhere. Even those unpredictable hurricanes (which seem to be getting worse) can change the landscape along with irreplaceable architecture, delicate reefs, and traditional crops. Language, art, and customs bend to the future, but, thankfully, the people always remain “Irie” — defined as “pleasingly good.”
Post: Tell us about your choice of and placement of colors.
Erickson: My use of color is totally intuitive now, born of forty years mixing and experimenting so they describe my vision by working in unison.
Post: What media do you typically work in?
Erickson: I’ve had a lot of fun with many mediums on assorted media, but for me, nothing feels or performs as well as quality oil paints.
Post: What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
Erickson: It’s an incredible gift to realize that you really do see the world differently than others. Literally, your “vision.” It takes years to understand this difference and nurture it.
Post: When did you first realize that you had a vision that was different? Have you always been an artist or is this something that you nurtured later in life?
Erickson: I always felt I had an artist inside me. As I grew up I became aware that I was literally seeing more details in things than others. In the way people might react passionately to hearing new music, I react the same to a new shape, a new color, a new way light falls through a tree that I hadn’t noticed before. Realizing all this, I studied and worked hard to become a professional artist.
Post: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Erickson: Find your voice and embrace it. Draw and sketch constantly which becomes the reliable foundation of better paintings. Stay loose — enjoy yourself. Fight any sneaky voices that tell you judgmental lies and discourage you. Work. Work.
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