Briefly describe the work you do.
I make paintings to entice the viewer with decorative, visual overload. My paintings are full of layered patterns and textiles, items I have collected and sought out for each piece. While the figure creates a point of interest, I am not concerned with the portrait as the depiction of a specific individual. The figure, like the setting that I have built, is merely a catalyst for the exploration of formal aspects of painting, line, shape, color, pattern, composition, and brushstroke.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Pretty much, in 5th grade I traded line drawings of faces for people to color in, for like Doritos and use of better art supplies than what I had. Ha, let’s say the portraits started there….and all the layered patterns…. I am an image collector. My sketchbook is full of clippings, and my phone and laptop are full of screenshots. Visual stimulation, plants, interiors, patterns, textiles, food, fashion, tropical landscapes, gives me a jolt of adrenaline. I try to capture this with my work.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Since I make the majority of my living painting commissions I spend 40ish hours in the studio during an average week, and 60 plus once it gets closer to the holidays. Right now I’m prepping for a solo show and starting a corporate commission, so I’ll be in there holiday hours for a bit. Unless you’re discovered as an art star in school, if you want to make your financial living making art, it needs to be treated as a full-time job. For a long time I was full time at a regular job and in the studio.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I’m basically a one woman business, so I run PR, marketing, research, photography and photo editing, grant writing and application procedures, customer service, and I’m sure a handful of jobs I can’t think of right now. Luckily, I have an accountant to help with taxes…and I’m getting an intern this summer. I like the game of business. Marketing is problem solving. Now that I’ve been doing this for a living, I think that if I hadn’t gone to school for art I would have liked to go to business school. Ha, I probably should have gone to business school.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I like to do any writing and take care of email when I first get up, any office-type work. Once that’s done I spend the rest of the day in the studio. I’m usually in there from about 10 or11am until midnight. If I’m working a hard deadline I’ll work until the work is done, like the time I had to photograph 12 subjects, and draw/photograph/frame/hang all 12, 18×24″ pieces in 14 days. I worked from 9am to 4am for a solid week.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I used to paint simple head shots. The work was about really capturing my subject. The backgrounds were a neutral grey or white. Now the figure has become a prop in my multi-layered setting.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I look at fashion and design more than I look at fine artists, how ads are composed, how spaces are lit, what patterns/textiles/colors I’m drawn to at a particular time. This comes mostly magazines, photography books and Instagram. When I look at actual painting, I’m looking at formal aspects more than subject matter most of the time, how an artist lays down paint, uses pattern, composition…stuff like that.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Not seriously. I like to say yes to a lot of things for the experience (and money of course), but painting is my main man. I’ve done a ton of odd freelance jobs. I’ve done wardrobe, art direction, art department, and acted in film/advertising. When I did wardrobe for an ESPN commercial I had to make sure all the actors looked like Washington Redskin players. I’ve taught high school, run a letterpress, taught a sewing class, been an illustrator, and poured a lot of beers. I’m getting ready to do art department on another commercial next month and I’ll be in front of the camera painting for my next commercial commission.
My other non-work/art interests have a lot to do with baseball, pools, summer, and tropical vacations in the winter.
Erin Fitzpatrick, Baltimore native and graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, began her current series of portraits in mid 2008. This body of work now contains hundreds paintings and drawings of notable artists, musicians, business people, Fitzpatrick’s peers, and commissioned subjects. Exhibiting extensively in solo and group shows, she has gained collectors throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.
When Erin is not in her studio she is probably somewhere being really good at summer, scouring over interior design and fashion images, pretending not to be on Instagram too much, getting a fake tan, listening to rap music, lying by a pool, traveling, watching/listening to/talking about baseball, and/or all of the above.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.