I didn't really want to post my painting here without giving a little background as to why I even decided to paint something in the...

The story of my first painting...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 , , , ,

The Story of my First Painting 
I didn't really want to post my painting here without giving a little background as to why I even decided to paint something in the first place, so lucky you. You get a whole post of paintings here...

To understand why I decided to start painting, it might help to look back at my family history. My great-grandmother Erickson was an artist, and I'm sometimes told that I'm very much like her in many ways. I guess she was a creative soul too...also, I've been told we share the same pointy, ski-slope nose.

My great-grandmother Erickson painted this portrait of my father as a toddler, probably in 1959:
Bradford Erickson by E. Erickson 
She had an impressionistic style, I think. I have this painting of hers hanging in our living room:
Painting by E. Erickson 
So many of you might know that my father is an artist, but you might not have known that it goes further back in our family than that. 

Though I was too young to remember my great-grandmother Erickson before she died, I did grow up watching my father paint. Throughout my entire life, I've seen a countless number of canvases morph into works of art by my father's hands. This is one of his paintings from a few years ago:
His Old Vest by Bradford Erickson
His Old Vest oil on canvas
by Bradford Erickson
And another one of his recent works, my father uses oils most often and I love the colors in this one (though I've seen his watercolors, pastels, sculptures, and even furniture and font design during his days of earning his art degree when I was a child).

So I suppose creativity is in my blood, though I will never be the artist my father and great-grandmother became. My reason for showing you some family paintings is to demonstrate how I was immersed in art growing up. When my family vacationed, we'd occasionally hit up places like Disneyland, but more important we'd head for places like the Norton Simon Museum all excited to see that Degas sculpture of the ballerina. You know, things like that. I didn't always appreciate it at the time, but I certainly do now.  

That said, for as creatively inclined as I've always felt, and despite making things with my hands for as long as I can remember, I've never tried painting until now. At the ripe old age of 28, I finally decided to try it, and here's why (of all things)...

One thing you do not know about me, I LOVE primitive Americana art puzzles: 
Primitive Americana puzzles 
I have a closet full of these puzzles, most of which I thrift, and I love to do them, especially seasonal ones. My mom always had a Charles Wysocki (or like) calendar on the wall when I was growing up, and though this art might be considered campy to some, when you really start looking at these paintings, you just have so much fun staring at all the little details. 

Here is a Halloween puzzle I did last month--and this is what really started to give me a hankering to paint. A painting by Jane Wooster Scott, who is one of America's most reproduced artists according to Guinness. 
Jane Wooster Scott 
It's funny to me that despite my artistic upbringing I never really wanted to paint anything until I started doing these primitive Americana puzzles. Maybe I've found my niche, finally? 

Like with all art, there is a place for this style, which is in the same spirit as the works by Grandma Moses and Edward Hicks. For some reason, I'm drawn to it. Like I said, they're fun to look at, but also full of nostalgia. 

Plus, this style of art is very forgiving, so maybe that is why I was willing to take the risk? Idiographic, my dad calls it, in that all you're trying to do is get the idea across and not get into realism. Similar to the way children draw, and that's what's fun about it. 

So my first goal when I set out to paint a Halloween painting in this style was to find a muse, and I found one in this house. An old Victorian just a few blocks away from us, I've always loved to look at this house:
My muse 
Then I really bit the bullet and purchased some supplies. I honestly had no idea if I would be able to complete a painting or not. But I started to block it and paint anyway. I had to try.
blocking my first painting 
So how did it go?
First, it takes a lot more concentration and skill than I ever realized.
But most important, I really enjoyed myself!
I'm telling you, I had so much fun doing it, I can't wait for another blank canvas.
At the same time, I feel like I gained a deeper understanding of my great-grandmother Erickson and my father, just by doing what they did.

Now I know why my dad would slurp his spit and grunt while focusing so hard on certain brush strokes. I found myself doing the same thing. And I get why he would stand several feet away from his painting, and just stand there. And stare. For hours. I get it now. Again, I found myself doing the same thing.

Finally, I'm excited to paint more, but I also know now that I have a lot of things to teach myself and a lot of practice ahead of me. I already learned so much, just with this painting...
Me painting my first painting

But I've gone on long enough.
So without any further explanation or chit chat about it, here it is. My first painting:

Halloween Night by Heather Erickson
Halloween Night 
acrylic on canvas, 14 x 18
by (me!) Heather Erickson

If you wish to see more details you can click on the painting and zoom in, but here's a few shots of the details...

This was my little homage to my grandmother who passed away this past spring. A lot of these primitive Americana paintings show horse and carriages, I wanted mine to be a business carriage so I decided to use her name.
Mary Kay's Gourmet Apples
In the distance, two little ghosties enter a covered bridge:
These two little trick or treaters were stolen right out of a Jane Wooster Scott painting. I decided to add them to my painting and make them my own.
Trick or Treaters
And the house, again, was inspired by a house a few blocks away from us. Next, I am thinking of maybe painting our own house at Christmastime. We'll see...

Either way, I had a great time, I love my painting. Though it's not perfect (this is another thing I found myself wondering, how does an artist ever decide his work is done??? You could add to and refine it for, well, forever) it is certainly better than I'd hoped, being my first go at it and all.
Halloween Night by Heather Erickson

{I'll be asking Santa for some quality brushes and acrylics now that I know I want to continue.}

Thanks for taking the time to read this post!


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  1. Heather, I just love your painting! It is gorgeous. Most of all I love the covered carriage with the homage to your late grandmother. how wonderful! I love painting too!

    1. Thanks Kara! This means a lot coming from you :)

  2. Heather, Your talents in so many areas amaze me. Wow! I love your painting. I love the colors and the way it makes me feel-like wrapping up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea and watching a really good black and white movie.

    1. DeAnn, you're so sweet! I'm glad my painting makes you feel this way, that's exactly what I want :) I had such fun doing this scene.

  3. This was a great post, Heather. I've been slogging away at my book and this helps me remember why I love creating things in the first place. His Old Vest, as always, brings tears to my eyes.

    I ADORE your painting. You did a fantastic job. I especially love the ghosties and the trick-or-treaters. Georgia O'Keeffe said nothing is less real than realism. In this style you've used, you eliminate unnecessary details to give us the cozy, safely spooky feel of a perfect Halloween. The emotion is conveyed by the details you choose to present. All styles have their strengths and place. I really love this painting, is all I'm saying.

    I'm told an artist or writer knows her work is done when her endless tinkering stops actually improving things.

    Can't wait to see more.

    1. Thanks Bea!! You're the sweetest :)

      That makes sense, on when an artist knows her work is done...I did get to that point with this painting. I'm glad my family appreciates this sort of thing :) Your words mean a lot to me!

  4. What a beautiful post, and a lovely painting! A nice homage to your family. I have always found pleasure in the presence of paint, I even enjoy the smell of it. But there is obviously a long tradition in American Folk Art for the type of painting you did and really there is no end to its versatility, what you can do with it. So please keep it up, it makes me happy you found joy in it, and that is a reward that may be shared by others. Love Dad

  5. I, too, love your painting, H! Could you get giclee prints made for B and me? That folk art style has always appealed to me as well, and I remember having Wysocki calendars in our home. Do you remember that we also often had Carl Larsson calendars? I really love his style, and it references your Swedish heritage. Gma would have been so delighted to see her apple cart in your painting.

  6. Heather! I LOOOOOVE it! You did such an awesome job!


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