Erica Chen is an eclectic child of the world who gets bored extremely easily. Thank goodness for this boredom because it yields the most amazing and varied work we have seen in a while. Erica’s art has a very charming and inviting feel to it. Her images are quirky, playful and very intricate. She shows that the art world is wide open and the only thing stopping us from enjoying all of it is our own acuity. Take a read/look at her eloquent words and images below. You are guaranteed a great time.
“The best compliment I received was from a doctor who remarked that my anatomical …”
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 am an only child – born in Texas and raised in Japan, California and China. To date, I have spent nearly 20 years living abroad. It’s been an incredible experience—one that I hope will eventually include South America. Unfortunately, this has meant that at the age of 30, I have yet to learn how to drive. It’s kind of embarrassing!
I fit pretty neatly into conventional stereotypes of only children. I’m an outgoing introvert who often prefers being alone to the company of others. Drawing and reading have always been my two favorite pastimes and even now I favor activities that can be accomplished individually. Fortunately, I have wonderful and understanding family and friends.
What does your art mean to you?
My art is less about the final product and more about the process. The act of creating art is what fulfills and sustains me. I love being able to shut everything out and focus solely on what is on the paper or screen in front of me. I always end up feeling divided when I finish a piece. On the one hand, I’m happy at having seen it through; on the other, I’m sad that the journey is over. It’s much like when you reach the last page of a good book and you realize that you have to find a new one.
How do you describe your form of art?
It’s an exploration. Most artists have a unique style that defines them, a signature of sorts that renders their works immediately recognizable. The likelihood of someone being able to do that with my art is pretty slim. I get bored very easily, so I’m constantly pursuing new ideas, styles and techniques. The inevitable outcome has been an incongruous mix of cartoons, line art, and pencil and charcoal portraits—otherwise known as my portfolio. The lack of continuity may be irritating to some, but I love it.
The topics of your art are quite vast, how do you pick your topics and what tools do you use for the creation of your work. How did you create your personal style?
Very rarely do I do the smart thing and plan each piece in advance. When the desire to draw hits me, I immediately go about fulfilling it. As a result, all my pieces have to begin in pencil. The eraser is my best friend. I really enjoy drawing faces, so I often end up with a pile of incomplete portraits that sit in a corner until I figure out what to do with them. I also have a few pieces that began as one thing and then took an unexpected turn somewhere along the way. Case in point: The heart in my anatomy series actually began as a duck.
When was your last art epiphany and what was it about?
My last (and possibly, only) art epiphany occurred sometime in the fall of 2012. Up until then, I would look at other artists’ work and think: “Wow, I could never do that”. Somehow, in my reverence for other artists, I had developed this idea that simple doodles were all that my art would ever amount to. It was incredibly frustrating and disheartening. Then one day, I was staring at a beautiful pen and ink portrait and a thought occurred to me: This artist didn’t just wake up one day and learn to draw like this. This was the product of years of hard work and dedication, and if I wanted to, I could achieve something similar. I bought my first set of Microns that weekend and both my anatomy and animal mug shot series followed soon after. That positive change in mindset has amounted to so much for me. That moment when you realize that you can accomplish something you once thought impossible is so pivotal.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
Thankfully, everyone has been very kind thus far. The best compliment I received was from a doctor who remarked that my anatomical drawings had managed to transform something ugly into something beautiful. I was grinning from ear to ear upon hearing that!
Which artist/s do you look up to the most? In your view, what defines a great artist?
“Great” is such a subjective term, especially in this case. I honestly don’t know how to define it. I admire the work of many artists who are all stellar in their own right. Jared Muralt can do some phenomenal things with a pen and Katota’s Fat Heads of the Day are an endless source of enjoyment for me. I would also love for Mattias Adolfsson to decorate an entire wall of my home. He has a place to stay in Beijing should he ever come this way.
There are quite a few art snobs out there – what is your view on the appreciation and consumption of art by all?
Art is not meant to be one size fits all. There is something for everyone. Even if you don’t like a particular artwork or style, take a moment to appreciate the time and effort that went into creating it and then move on. Whatever you do, don’t look at something and say “I could do that”. Condescension is not a good look for anyone.
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?
That’s a hard one. I would say that what defines a man—or any person for that matter—are his actions. Of course, a good sense of humor and self-deprecation go a long way. Unfortunately, in this age of selfies, the latter has become exceedingly rare!
What is your personal life philosophy?
Go with the flow… unless you think everyone’s going in the wrong direction, in which case, go the other way.
Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?
I can’t decide between David Mitchell and Stephen Fry. I love dry, intelligent humor and no one does that better than the English.
How can people learn more about your current and upcoming works?
They can go to my website (www.ericajchen.com) or follow me on Instagram (@pjsheeps).
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