An Interview with Erika Lee Sears
Erika Lee Sears is an oil painter from Portland, OR who specializes in contemporary still life scenes. Known for her intimate oil depictions of 21st century everyday life and objects, Sears transforms the mundane and ordinary into fascinating and emotional works through her unique textures, point of view perspective, and mastery of lighting. Motherhood is a key driver for the art she creates; milk, laundry, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and household items are the key protagonists to her paintings. We caught up with Erika to discuss her inspirations, creative process and how she endeavors to capture a little bit of magic.
Why did you start making art?
I honestly don’t know. I have always been a very creative person but I don’t come from an artistic family. I grew up in the suburbs in Portland Oregon. I didn’t know anyone that had a creative job growing up and my friends weren’t into art. I didn’t even go to my first art museum until I was in my mid-20s. I was told growing up that being an artist was something you do just for fun and not to be taken seriously. I guess there isn’t a why. It’s something I have to do.
How did you begin the process of teaching yourself how to create?
I was given an expensive oil painting set and I started with that but it wasn’t the greatest quality. I just started buying the supplies and researched basic supplies. When I first started learning how to oil paint, I couldn’t afford new tubes and would pick up oil paint from garage sales and estate sales. Since oil paint can last a really long time, you can find professional-grade paint used and still good. I also checked out a few books from the library but I think the most teaching you can give yourself is to just do and paint.
What artists influenced you to take the step of becoming an artist?
I didn’t know any artists when I very first started out.
It’s quite impressive that you make art every day, how do you make sure that happens for you? What does this kind of practice teach you as an individual and an artist?
Thank you! I make art every day because I have to and it keeps me honest in my creative journey. It keeps me on my toes and thinking about what I want to be creating and making. For someone who doesn’t like discipline, it has given me the structure and discipline to evolve not just my creativity but technique, skill, and style. Art doesn’t always have to be something in your face, it can be a whisper, a moment, and take 5 minutes. Everyone has a couple of minutes out of the day to at least think about art.
How do you think this commitment informs your work?
It helps it because I have so many ideas and so many paintings wanting to come out. It helps me want to make more and if I need to create something and can be done with it in a day I can. Art has to live, and it’s easier to let them out than lose them.
How did you begin working with these seemingly ordinary subjects?
I am an observer and a documenter of our time. I think a lot of people miss the everyday things that surround us, especially the hope, the extraordinary, and the bits of magic. To me, what makes art special is when you can capture that little bit of special that is all around us but we miss because of how busy and challenging life can be.
What does your art mean to you?
Making art is my soul’s work.
What inspires you and your work?
The ordinary and extraordinary.
What goals do you have for your art in the future?
To paint, make more, bigger paintings, new projects, murals and to have more art in the world.