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In Studio With Erica G. Thune

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

A canvas by painter Erica G. Thune is drenched in vivid, saturated color. Her work swirls with motion, pulses with energy. Yet it never feels chaotic. There’s a strong, still center to paintings by the North Dakota artists, all that straight-from-Fauvism color against a calm, crisp background of white.

In addition to being a painter, Erica G. Thune is a poet as well. I asked her about what inspires her work, how she arranges her days and her studio space and what she’s working on next. This In Studio feature was originally published a few months ago, but was lost (along with almost all of my art posts) when my website crashed. I think that makes her thoughts about renewal, the creative cycle and creating through challenges even more relevant.

Here’s a look at what we talked about and where you can see her work. All thoughts and observations not in bold are provided by Erica G. Thune.

Painter Erica G. Thune often works with oversized canvases

What does creativity mean to you? Existence.

How long have you been creating? I have been creating for as long as I can remember – I was a coloring book fiend as a child. I continuously took art classes throughout my life into college and it was not until I entered my advanced studio classes at the University of North Dakota that I recognized I wanted to make this my life. I created my website after I graduated from college. My website launched in June 2017.

What’s your creative process like? My creative process is chiefly consumed by translation of emotions. It’s the translation of feelings from everyday living. Creating is breathing to me – creating is the way I understand life’s complexities. I start somewhere – anywhere. It originates with a mark and I let the piece take on a life of its own as I am interpreting myself through the hues, lines, and textures. I write poetry that coexists within my pieces – I often have a poem that complements the piece in order to communicate with viewers through my writing segments.

What inspires you? I am inspired by my world. I’m inspired by: my family, my friends, my dogs, my emotions, my daily encounters, the journey of life, poetry, the seasons, the trees, the way the moon beams relentlessly, the stars that dominate the sky, the flowers that refuse to die and come back to bloom every spring, survivors, the wrinkles on the knuckles of hands, the love in one’s eyes, smiles from a stranger, feeling the ground beneath your feet, the way your skin glows, writing, looking through the mirror and feeling beautiful, finding someone you click with, realizing you are not meant to be, feeling inept, isolation, analyzing the purpose of existence, architecture, vulnerability, old books, white walls, fresh beginnings, new friends, fresh ideas, sunsets, driving to a new place, grasping each breath is a blessing, understanding how dang lucky you are to be able to walk, seeing how far your legs can take you, holding a new baby, losing yourself, coming home to yourself, reading, daydreams, belly laughs, heartbreak, the way the sun rises every single day despite the night, intense love, nostalgia – as long as I am living, the list is never ending.

Erica G. Thune works with both paint and markers

What materials do you prefer? I love mixed media – I primarily use acrylic paints because they dry quicker than oils and I enjoy layering over dry paint. I also use an excessive amount of white paint and white oil paint takes WAY too long to dry – I don’t have the patience! I do use oil paint from time to time – oil paint has a unique texture, I like to layer oil paint thick.

I also love to incorporate oil pastels and chalk pastels into my work. The oil pastels leave a smooth, buttery texture. I often layer the oil pastel over chalk pastel to create an intense color on top of a faded shade. I often use spray paint in larger works.

I incorporate pens, markers, and sharpies in almost all of my work. I am infatuated with line work– fine lines flowing throughout a piece feel like the telling of a story or a journey.

How does your current audience respond to your work? This community has been so incredible supportive and loving. I have been spoiled because I know it won’t always be that way. There are critics that will want to challenge my work that I have yet to encounter, but I’m ready for it. I have received beautiful feedback from strangers and made connections through my art and poetry. Human connection is so intensely powerful – I live to be able to share my art and be able to have connection and dialogue on a deeper level.

How does this compare with the reaction from people who are seeing your work for the first time? One of the most flattering compliments I have received from a fresh set of eyes viewing my work was “your art reflects your personality.”

Painter Erica G. Thune in her studio

What is your workspace like and how does it function for you? My workspace is currently a closed off corner space in my garage – I have quickly learned that painting is much more difficult in a ND winter. I have also learned to adapt to my environment and have come to adore my little space. It feels closed off from the rest of the world – I get my heat and music blasting, my breath catches the beat and I get to work.

Almost all of my painting is done outside in the summer. The energy and atmosphere (of) painting outside cannot be matched – it is a unique experience to be able to bring your materials and lay down some color and see it in the natural light directly under the sun.

I have also been recently looking for larger spaces I will be able to use in the future. If I want my business to grow, I am going to need more space to work and store my materials and finished pieces. I’d like to be able to invite people into my workspace and show them processes and pieces. I would like to have people filling the space and have some life in that environment. Then in turn, be inspired by the life filling the space and interpret that on canvas. I have not come across the ideal location yet.

Why is it important to support other artists? There is an incredible array of artists — especially within the community. It is vital to band together and have each other’s backs. Artists are on the rise – people are embracing their inner creative now more than ever.

Social media is the primary influencer. Artists have advertising and sharing right at their fingertips. I spray finishing fixative on a piece, snap a photo, and share it with my audience straight from my studio within seconds. Artists are able to share their work quickly and efficiently. It is also easy to support other artists via social media. It is a wonderful, beautiful way to talk with one another, especially about art.

I have met (via Instagram) some incredibly talented people that I would have otherwise never had the chance to communicate with – people from other states and countries. I use social media to talk art with other artists every day and this can lead to collaboration and let me tell you – collaboration is seriously beautiful. Bonk some creative heads together, you get magic.

Which creative people inspire you and why? People inspire me – every individual is creative in their own way. I love when people feel comfortable enough to express themselves despite fear of vulnerability. The people I love inspire me every day.

This close up shows of different perspective of Erica G. Thune’s painting

Which routines and choices help you stay creative, open and/or flexible? How do you reset when you get stuck? Music is a dominant factor in my creative world – if I find a new playlist that I am seriously feeling, nothing can stop me.

I also try my best to stay active – another thing that feels more difficult in an ND winter ;-). My mind never fails to feel refreshed after some exercise or spending some time outdoors. If I am feeling uninspired, I often step back from my work. Sometimes you need a break – on my breaks I try to go on a walk, spend some time outside with my dogs, go on a bike ride, go on a drive, go get some coffee or tea, or just breathe for a while.

What are a few tips you give people when they ask how they can live a more creative life? It is important to be in tune with yourself. I often have the tendency to want to push away negative emotions – like most people. To be able to channel those feelings into a creative production is intense and difficult, but the final product is frequently breathtaking. If I am feeling stressed, or blue, or undeniably infuriated, I often get into a head on collision with those feelings and get to working on a piece. The fear and timid feelings I sometimes get when working on a piece is diminished when I start expressing those dominant emotions. It works the same positive emotions like joy and excitement – I channel those emotions into a piece of art.

How do we purchase your work? I primarily sell my work through my website. I often post photos on my Instagram page. I often inform my followers when I list new items available for purchase on my website.

My favorite part is hearing about how the piece fits into each individual’s home following the purchase – I have received some of the most heartfelt “thank you” emails and letters from customers that I will cherish forever.

What do you want to do next? I plan to keep working and pushing my art. I am always searching for new opportunities for my artwork to grow and expand. I am striving to get my art to as many places and people as I can – I want to be able to share with the world.

What do you hope people take away from experiencing your work? I hope people can make a connection – I do not want people to feel a specific way or even feel match the way I feel about my work – but I do want people to feel something – anything.

North Dakota painter Erica G. Thune at work

What about you? What do you like about Erica G. Thune’s work? How do her paintings make you feel? Which of her comments resonated with you? What are your tips for living a more fruitful creative life?

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