Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Visit with Painter/Sculptor/Muralist Erik Pearson

Pearson holds sketch of the new mural he created this year.
I first met Erik Pearson in Fall 2011. We were each part of Phantom Galleries Superior and his particular presentation was sculptural so that I failed to connect his work to the murals we’ve become quite familiar with at the Red Mug. When earlier this year I learned that the former Art in the Alley space across from the bakery was being renovated to become a bar, proprietor Suzanne Johnson gave me a sneak peak of the mural that was being inserted on one of the interior walls. And there was the congenial Erik Pearson in action, whose work graces the Red Mug’s interior and exterior stairwells. Having met previously I finally made the connection.

EN: Where did you grow up and what were your early experiences in making art?

Erik Pearson: I was born and raised in Superior. As a child I was always drawing, painting, and making things, plus, art was always one of my favorite classes all throughout school, culminating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from UWS.

EN: What do you like about mural work?

EP: I love the scale of murals. It's always exciting for me to see the small sketch evolve into a big mural with larger than life characters that take over the wall. I also like climbing on scaffolding and painting at different heights, it gives me a totally new perspective on the work and it's kind of like an adult jungle gym. Finally, it's an amazing experience to complete a large mural and have it on permanent display for the public. You never know who will see it and how they will be affected by it. I still get responses from people who have discovered one of my murals for the first time.

EN: Your murals have a definite style. How did this style evolve and who /what have been your influences?

A familiar face in the crowd?
EP: I paint my murals the same way that I approach my paintings, with many layers starting from darker colors and building up to the highlights. Stylistically, I've always loved the interaction of multiple characters within a very dense composition, it creates an immediate relationship or story that I enjoy exploring. My major influences are German Expressionism (Max Beckmann) and Mexican Muralists (Diego Rivera) with a little bit of poster art thrown in.

EN: Where do your ideas come from?

EP: Most of my ideas come from paying attention to everything all of the time. I store images of the way someone may stand, the color or style of their clothes, the quality of light and shadow during different times of day and weather and use those images when I start to paint or sketch. Musical instruments often appear in my work as do various other "props", I guess it's like putting on a play that has no specific script, but has a lot of interesting characters and a musical score. With my mural designs, I apply my usual tactics but add specific stories that will visually tie the painting to the building, location, or business where it's painted. I do research, gather stories, and talk to the owners about what makes their location unique and use a much information as I can, with many "inside" references.

EN: You also work in other media. What other kinds of art do you make?

EP: Besides paintings and murals, I also create three dimensional and wall relief sculptures of characters that look like they've stepped from one of my paintings, I do an occasional block print, installations, and I write and record songs.

EN: You’ve had some opportunities to do residencies. What is a residency and what makes it so valuable or significant?

EP: In 2001, I was awarded the first art residency of the Lanesboro Art Center in Minnesota. The month-long residency offered a stipend plus a place to live, so I promptly quit my third shift job to pursue the experience. I was able to devote the month to my proposed painting project, as well as, interact with the community in the schools and through public presentations of my work, I also taught an evening drawing class for adults. At the end of the month we had an art reception at the gallery for the work I completed during my residency. The residency in Lanesboro allowed me the time to discover what inspires and excites me about art, it also gave me a boundless determination to become a full time artist. Art has become my full time job since the residency and I have the community and the fantastic people at the gallery and theater to thank for it. I maintain a strong relationship with Lanesboro to this day.

EN: Where can people see more of your work, besides the Red Mug?

EP: I post process photos, projects, completed works, and upcoming events on my Facebook fan page, Erik Pearson Art/Shipwrecked Studio.

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EdNote: The Red Mug has put out a Call for Art for the North Country Dylan Days Celebration in May. We'd like to see your work and share it. 

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