A nomadic existence seems to be one of the recurring ingredients within an impressive artist. Erik Olson is no different. Erik has bounced around the world throughout his formative years, living on several continents and adapting to different environments with art being his only real constant. The brushstrokes in Erik’s paintings are deliberate and thick with intent. It is easy to see why Erik needs to know his subjects well before he paints them because his ability to capture ‘essence’ is quite uncanny. Erik is a succinct individual that has been able to grasp and is holding on to something most of us seek endlessly – purpose. Art drives him.
See the concise interview with Erik below.
“The process of making paintings is how I learn, it’s my language and …”
Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?
I’ve moved around a lot in my life and that has definitely shaped who I am and the energy I bring to my painting. I was born in Calgary, Canada and the next week my family and I moved across the country. A few years later we moved to Nairobi, Kenya where we lived for three years. Then back to Calgary, then Boston and the rest of my life has sort of been like this, moving from place to place with Calgary being a frequent stopping point. As I’ve moved around I’ve always been painting, so in a way, the work is a constant despite the changing environment.
I just recently moved to Düsseldorf Germany where Peter Doig invited me to study in his class at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
What does your art mean to you?
Art is the way I interact with the world. In order for me to make a good painting I have to know the subject quite well; this general rule ends up taking me to some pretty interesting places. The process of making paintings is how I learn, it’s my language and it’s also what drives me.
How do you describe your form of art?
What tools do you use for the creation of your work and how did you create your personal style?
Paint, brushes, canvas, wood. The paintings are made in a fairly old fashioned way but the source material that informs the work is of today. I pull inspiration from my life around me, from my friends, from things I see. I don’t think about having a personal style. Instead I just follow my curiosity.
When was your last art epiphany and what was it about?
The past + the present = the new.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
The worst criticism I remember probably came from my grade 10 math teacher.
The best compliment? When a 5 year old boy tried to jump into one of my “Space” paintings at the exhibition opening. After months of trying to mix the perfect black to create a sense of the void, it seemed like I’d achieved something.
Which artist/s do you look up to the most? In your view, what defines a great artist?
Bob Dylan. There are many painters living and dead that I look up to but somehow Dylan continues to be a source of inspiration for me. There’s this one Dylan quote that has stuck with me over the years: “An artist must be careful to never think he has arrived somewhere, he must always be in a constant state of becoming”. The visual artists I admire all have this quality too.
There are quite a few art snobs out there – what is your view on the appreciation and consumption of art by all?
Art snobbery is boring. All the really good artists I know are open minded, modest and welcoming people. Art is of course for everyone; we all drew as children, we all like music and films. It’s just a matter of finding the right way for an individual to engage in it, as Tal R says: “to get people on the dance floor”.
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?
Hats. Big hats. But seriously, a man ain’t nothin’ but a man. The clothes should just hang on that… it’s about poise.
What is your personal life philosophy?
Gotta, Git, Going, Go!
Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with?
How can people learn more about your current and upcoming works?
Lots of new projects coming up this year but the best way to connect is through www.erikolson.ca .
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