Briefly describe the work you do.
I paint predominantly figurative or portrait works with an emphasis on seeing the subject.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I had always been creative growing up, but I had not painted until my senior year of high school. This class changed my life. Though I began college as a politics major, I eventually succumbed to a different calling and finished with a double major in both art and conflict transformation. Pursuing art later in college had a deep impact on the work I do. Initially I worked to hard to charge my paintings with political agendas. It was senior year that I discovered a greater interest in the power of observing a human and translating it to paint rather than pressing upon an image or subject my own purpose.
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.”
I have only had a studio space for the past month and a half as I have entered grad school at University of Washington. It has been a big change from working in my dining room, and a welcomed one. My studio practice is still developing. At this point my practice relies heavily on the act of showing up, and seeking to be present in the space. When I can do this, creating happens.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I have found myself enjoying the business aspect of art making more than I ever would have expected. It’s exciting to connect with new people and places by doing something that you love.
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 work best when the sun is out. At night, it’s very difficult for me to paint.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has drastically changed in the past five years. I have only seriously been pursing art for a little less than five years. So rather than changed, it has emerged from nothingness.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Family, friends, musicians, theologians, philosophers, and other artists deeply impact my work and how I approach it. Whether I recognize it or not each of these influencers has a role in the bounds, expectations, and message of my work.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I initially thought I would study politics and event took the LSAT at one point. I also have always written and played music, but thankfully I am still able to pursue this with my husband and our band.
Erica Elan Ciganek is a painter currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Washington in Seattle. She graduated in 2013 from North Park University with a BA in both Art and Conflict Transformation. She continues to paint mainly portraits with an emphasis on the power of truly seeing people in a world that is quick to dehumanize.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.