Q&A: Krista Svalbonas
April 3, 2013
May 23, 2013

Q&A: Lisa Rydin Erickson

We have been intrigued by the way Lisa Rydin Erickson is using PanPastel. She is using PanPastel with sumi ink on rice paper. We invited Lisa to tell us more about her work in this month’s Artist Q&A.

Lisa EricksonLisa Rydin Erickson

Tell us about your background as an artist.
I have very early memories of telling my mom before age 5 that I was going to be an artist; thinking artist meant being a “painter”. She had my picture taken with a special white angora beret she’d bought and that was enough – I was an artist. This is a strong and formidable memory. The fact that I wasn’t questioned but rather given the beret has always been an affirmation for me.

When did you become a full-time artist?
I am a full-time artist in that art does occupy my thoughts full time. In my adult life I draw and paint nearly everyday. As a child though, I didn’t always draw but instead I spent a lot of time outside in the woods or on my bike with vast landscapes in a small country town in Ohio.

Lisa Erickson

PanPastel & sumi ink on rice paper by Lisa Rydin Erickson

Were you formally trained or are you self taught?
I was formally trained at Kansas City Art Institute. I have a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree with a major in Painting and a minor in printmaking. Soon after college I spent a summer at Chautauqua painting with Deborah Rosenthal. I am interested in many different mediums and have found my way into educational experiences with mentors and instructors such as Jean M. Larson, Wang Ping, Roger Pulvers and Phyllis Weiner.

Describe your work.
My art is diverse. It is mostly 2D. Since college I have painted backdrops, murals, hand painted fabric for Kravet for commercial use; also, illustrated books, fine art painting, drawing in different mediums, photograph, bronze medallions, printmaking monotypes and most recently iPad drawings and animations. The medium really depends on what works for the project or what feels like the right look for the project or whatever calls to me at the time.

Lisa EricksonPanPastel & sumi ink on rice paper by Lisa Rydin Erickson

Describe the space where you normally create.
For the last several years I have worked on the dining room table in our home. It has proved to be the best environment for getting work done. I have two teenagers and can leave my “in process” work without worry. My daughter will often work on the other side of the table or sometimes my son will want to use the space for a project. It is nice to be in close proximity with them as well as to the kitchen and laundry so those kinds of things get a little attention as well. This arrangement is a testimony to my children that art is a lifestyle. Specifically, that art is a part of our lives. When working on larger projects I work on site.

Tell us about your creative process.
My creative process depends on the type of project I am involved with – for example, I have painted backdrops for a dance school for 11 years and I definetely had a strategy. The choreographer would list the songs that would be in the performance with some idea of what she wanted and I came up with a design gathered from many images and drew out a basic plan for the 50′ canvas. The images were for reference and detail. Usually I worked within a color range of 5-15 colors. I have used this technique for other projects like illustrating books (i.e. gathering images and making thumbnails). In other bodies of work the medium acts as the unifying element. It’s nice to explore subject matter and let the medium be the constant. Twyla Tharp wrote a great book about creativity called ‘The Creative Habit’. She talked about having something to start with for the next day. You can make a continuum bridge to the next day by planning the next step or a “to do” list, or starting with what you did the day before. I have worked on larger projects with a friend who has helped learn to make a checklist at the end of the workday of all the details needed to address the next step in the project. It helps you stay focused.

Lisa Erickson

Work in progress – PanPastel on rice paper – Lisa Rydin Erickson

When did you first being using PanPastel colors in your work?
My first experience using PanPastel Colors was to illustrate a book. I had carefully chosen about 5 colors to carry the color themed images throughout the books pages. I really didn’t know much about PanPastel except that Donna Downey was using and promoting them and I thought I would give them a try. It was at that time I learned PanPastel is a great way to add color to my drawings. I was recently gifted an entire set of PanPastel Colors and was both surprised and delighted as I experimented with the colors. It’s great to have all the colors and various sponges which help produce various textures and widths.

What surface(s) do you normally use?
I had been working on rice paper for about a year and love the texture of the PanPastel on it. The pigment grabs the unevenness of the thin paper and acts like a watercolor without wrinkling the paper so terrible. It is a nice contrast of dark ink and soft wash of pastels. The pastels respond to the paper in a delicate way.

Lisa Erickson

PanPastel & sumi ink on rice paper by Lisa Rydin Erickson

Are you doing things creatively with PanPastel that you weren’t doing before?
Yes, they add color to the line work that I make with my sumi like drawings. The color adds both interest and dimension to the work. I can’t really think of another medium yet that can translate the same way the pastels and sponges are able to emit. They have much more varied width than colored pencils, are softer in texture and variation than markers and lay on top of paper and blend easier than paint.

Do you have any tips / techniques to share with other artists that are using PanPastel?
Layer your drawings between extra sheets of rice paper. I use a pad of sumi paper rather than a roll of paper. The roll of course has a tendency to either crease or roll up and smear the delicate pastels. I think that the less that you handle the paper the safer your drawings will be. I have sprayed a heavier paper with spray adhesive and laid down a sheet of rice paper so that you can have a sturdier surface which makes it easier to photograph and frame and won’t wrinkle. It is also traditional to work on a felt pad which works great blotting ink and has a little give as you draw. It is still a mystery to me how sumi painted panels and wall hangings are created. There is a lot more investigation into mounting rice paper that can still happen on my part. Rice paper though is a beautiful surface. Lucky for me sumi ink, rice paper and PanPastel Colors work well together.

Who and what are your creative inspirations?
I like art. I like looking at art. I like the colors and candor of Camilla Engman, structure and compositions of Diego Rivera, Minnesota artists like Jennifer Davis and Landland, James Waryge and Kimberly Christensen of Elva Pottery in Saint Paul. There is a lot of good silk screen art right now. Early on I really liked Chagall, Matisse, Kandinsky, Russian Constructivist posters, Bauhaus, Sonia Delauney and Giotto. I will always love Braques, East Indian miniatures and Etruscan encaustics, beautiful sumi painting (unfortunately I don’t know specific names) and Japanese etegami. I like the ease of what Flora Bowley is doing and mariaurora’s fabric collages and I love German artist Beerlala’s new paintings. Mary Livoni makes beautiful dreamlike charcoal drawings of Chicago. I love anything that Nicola Moss makes, medallions and prints. I like Ashley Goldberg and Mulysa Melso. I better stop……

What excites you most about your life as an artist?
All the elements that make up 2D work, line, composition, proportion. I love making, looking at and thinking about art. I like having that visual language to view the world.

What’s the most valuable lesson you have learnt on your journey as an artist?
I think is is a combination of advice from two people. First, I was standing at the New French with Kevin Kling and he told me a story about a man that he met down by the sea. It is really a distinct memory so it must have been an embellished story. In my memory it was night down by the sea in a different country and the waves were washing up on the sand and the moon was out, there is a rocky cliff to the left and just this old man and Kevin standing there. The old man told Kevin “make something every day, it doesn’t matter what you make just make something every day” and then Kevin told me that he believed the guy and that’s what he tried to do. The other story is from a friend that I admire and has just started painting. She said that she was easy on herself and just enjoyed painting for the day and didn’t bash the poor little painting. She just painted another one the next day and enjoyed the process. I think that is really great advice. The best thing I express to my kids is the thought of life as a river and to just jump in and it will carry you.

Lisa Erickson

PanPastel & sumi ink on rice paper by Lisa Rydin Erickson

What are your artistic, and other goals, for the future?
I think it always goes back to painting. Painting is my compass. As I move through different projects, I re-center and ask myself what do I really want to do and assess what makes me the most fulfilled, I usually think of painting. I think the word ‘painting’ goes back to the word that was in my head when I was so young. To me that meant “hurry up mom and get me to Sunday school where there were two easels and you could stand in front of one of them and ‘paint'”. My goal is to keep ‘painting’ keep making art. Whatever medium that will keep the inspiration open. PanPastel has been a great way to keep that inspiration alive. It’s immediate and vibrant. I have another story that I will be working on in the next year. Again I will use the rice paper sumi ink and PanPastel combination for the illustrations. It’s a good fit to create numerous images that have a storybook feel. Again I can use the pastels to delicately add color and texture to fill in the sumi drawn figures.

When you are not working on your artwork what other interests do you have?
I like camping, walking, reading, gardening and spending time with my family. I am married and have two kids and also work as a dental hygienist.

Are there any current projects that you are working on?
Recently I created 17 animations on my iPad for a short movie that was presented at the “Nature Heals” event for the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. My daughter (age 13) and I are working on some large paintings that will be used at the Saint Paul Flint Hills Childrens’ Festival in early summer 2013 and later in the summer I will have a couple of art shows one of which is at Clear Lake Art Center in Iowa.

Strong in the rain

Lisa’s book “Strong in the Rain” can be viewed at http://www.blurb.com/books/3034250-strong-in-the-rain

To see more of Lisa’s work visit her website lisarydinerickson.com and blog apapersnowflake.blogspot.com