GUEST ARTIST INTERVIEW: ERIKA RIER
Erika Rier is the guest artist for Olympia Zine Fest 2016. On August 14th, she visited us at Community Print (also known as zine fest headquarters) for an interview. You can catch her at the Olympia Zine Fest tabling expo at the Olympia Center on October 1st.
Will you tell us about your family?
My husband is an amazing oil painter, and he also works a soul-sucking corporate job just to keep us going. And then I have a thirteen year old daughter who’s into astrophysics, and art, and Doctor Who… and Sherlock. She’d get angry if I didn’t say, “and also Sherlock.”
Will you tell us about when you first started making art?
I was really little. My step-father was an artist. He did these crazy pastel drawings — they’re portraits of women. He called them “snot drawings.” They were like pointillism, but with squiggles. They were pretty amazing, in that eighties pop art way. Our house was filled with art books, but I was supposed to be the smart one. I was the nerdy one. I was good at math and crap like that. I really wanted to be an artist, but my sister was the artist, not me.
But I would draw all the time, and all I really wanted to be was an artist. So, I was pretty young, but I kept making art. I was making art when I met Joel, but I kept trying to do other things. Then, like five or six years later, I was pretty much like, “fuck all this other stuff, I just really want to be doing art.”
Who are some of the artists that inspire you?
Remedios Varo — she was a Mexican painter who I am completely in love with. Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning — both female surrealists. I’m also completely in love with Édouard Vuillard. I worship the ground that guy walked on, and interestingly enough, his mother and sisters were dressmakers, so a lot of his paintings were made in a dressmaker’s studio, and he lived with them his whole life. So, even though he’s a male painter, his paintings are these very intimate portraits of real women and real settings, not sexualized… just these beautiful paintings of fabrics and people working, and a lot of patterns.
Away from fine arts, I love Persian miniatures, Hindu devotional art, and illuminated manuscripts. I think illuminated manuscripts are probably what inspire my zine work and my desire to make books the most.
There are tons of modern artists that I really love as well, like Amy Cutler. I can’t help but love [Henry] Darger, though he has his issues. The way he was making these massive quantities of work in secret, and writing completely disturbing things to go with it. He had no plans of anyone ever seeing that work, which is kind of crazy. We got to see those at the craft museum in New York City.
How did you come up with the idea for the design that you submitted for the Olympia Zine Fest?
I thought long and hard about this, honestly, because I grew up with this idea of Olympia. If there was a promised land to my teenage mind, it was Olympia. I sat down and just thought about all of the aesthetics that I’ve absorbed, and all the records I listened to when I was a teenager, and thought, “How can I distill that into a poster design?” I’m really into drawing animals that are kind of humans also, because I feel like it’s a good way of drawing experiences of women without singling out certain ethnicities or races or religions, and just trying to make an experience that’s just open to all people.
Can you tell us a little bit about your work space? You work from home?
I do. Right now I have a desk in the living room, and I just kind of take over the rest of the house as necessary [laughs]. I work a lot out of the IPRC, too. They have a nice screen printing area. I make all my zines at the IPRC.
Can you tell us about your process as an artist?
Every once in a while I have an idea that just comes into my head so fully formed that I just sit down and it just comes out in one pass. I have a notebook for brainstorming, where it’s like a sketchbook, but I’m writing notes about projects in addition to sketches. Depending on the project, I may do a pencil sketch or two, and then ink it in, and then paint it in, and then ink it again.
What is your favorite time of day to make art? Are you a night owl? Morning Person?
I’m very schedule-based. I like to do things in order, and every few months I change the order I like to work in, but I’m very compulsive about how I do things. It doesn’t really matter what time of day it is, as long as I did everything I usually am supposed to do before I sit down to draw. Some days I’ll start working at eight o’clock in the morning, and some days I won’t stop until two o’clock in the morning, so it just depends on how much work I have to do.
Is there anything right now that you’re particularly excited about? Like a project or something?
I have a new idea for a really big color crazy zine construction. I’m still in the brainstorming stage, so I think I’m most excited about that. The working title is Patterns and Conversation, though that probably won’t be the actual title, but it’s going to be this super long, thin book that is filled with illustrated patterns that are painted really carefully, but then have these crazy fold-out panels, which will be these vast scenes where patterns are integrated, and there’ll be conversations that come from these first pattern pages.
Is there a piece of artwork that you’re most proud of at the moment, or maybe just in general?
I tend to be very series-based. I think the series that I’m most proud of — that I’m working on still, but I like the pieces that are in it already — is a series called Revisionist History. I love to read history books, and my daughter loves to read history books, so she’ll read me passages, or I’ll find a passage, and then I’ll wildly misinterpret them through illustration. There’s one about this British naval sergeant that had gotten an ear removed by a pirate, and to prove that he had been attacked by pirates, he had pickled the ear and brought it back to show the king, and so I made this drawing of a pirate with an ear in a bottle.
Do you like to draw animals for a particular reason?
I think part of it is when I’m drawing animals it’s harder to say, “Oh, this is this type of person, or this is that type of person.” I think animals often are stand-ins, just more of a metaphor for other forces in the world. Or, sometimes for men, because I just don’t really draw men. Animals are good stand-ins for men [laughs]. What does that say about me?
I’ve noticed you have certain animals you enjoy drawing, but do you lean towards certain animals for a particular reason?
I definitely draw a lot of cats and cat people. We have a cat who has a very huge personality, so part of it is that. I feel like it kind of changes, too. I went through a period where I was really into drawing jackal-wolf creatures because they’re kind of ominous looking. I went through a stage with these weird bear creatures, and they definitely stood in for a very dark element in the work, something scary, and they were usually hiding behind things. I think it depends on what the subject matter is. I’ll kind of evolve different animals. I’m always trying out different animals, too, and just seeing what happens.
What are your favorite art and zine-making supplies?
I’d say for just regular art supplies, my favorite is gouache, like the Holbein Acryla Gouache. I’m obsessed with that stuff. I have so much of it. I love the way the color goes down. I just love everything about that stuff, so most of my work is done with that. I do some marker work. For zines, I’m really a paper person, so I get obsessed with certain kinds of paper, especially since I do a lot of color zines.
How do you incorporate your love for art and your love for zines with each other?
By making zines that are way too expensive [laughs]. I feel like I’m in such a weird space because I go to zine fests and I do a lot of color printing because I like color, and my zines are always ten dollars more than everybody else’s. But I love zines, and I’ve been making zines since I was a teenager. When I was a teenager, they were photocopied zines on black and white, and cut and paste. I can’t keep doing that medium. In my twenties, I went more into making bound, limited-edition books. Then I kinda grew out of that, too. I feel like there’s an art book world — I don’t feel part of that. I want something that kind of bridges that gap. There’s no reason that zines can’t be high art, too. I just don’t have that same angst that I had as a nineteen year old.
Will you tell us about your artist-in-residence that you started up this month?
Oh, at The Pigeons.
Yeah, I’m just curious about teaching, if you see yourself moving in that direction eventually?
I’m working on a few different proposals for a few different classes at different places. The Pigeons is a cool gallery space that opened up in St. Johns [neighborhood of Portland, Oregon], and they are going to a more cooperative kind of model. I’ll be gallery sitting and actually making art twice a month, and then teaching classes to youth and to adults. I’m going to be integrating illustration with textiles for most of those projects. So, I’m going to be making hand-painted fabric while I’m in the studio that I’ll be making clothes from, and making zines with kids, and making sampler scrolls with adults where I’m going to teach them to sew and hand-stitch and things like that.
Will you tell us a little bit about the self-definition that you created for yourself of folk surrealism?
I had been an oil painter, but I was doing it because I felt like the art world needed me to do that to respect me. But drawing was my passion, so I started drawing and I stopped oil painting. I felt like no one knew what to call my work, and if you can’t label work within the art world, it’s unmarketable. There’s very much a folk aspect to my work. All my favorite artists are surrealists, right? But I don’t have the refined motion of a surrealist. Then I was like, obviously, “folk surrealism.” I mean, it just hit me one day. I felt a little silly saying it at first, but now I feel like I own it.
Well, I think those are all the questions that we have for you today. Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
I’m super excited to table at Olympia… I can’t wait.
Yeah! We’re excited, too.
I feel like it’s one of those things that my fourteen year-old self would totally have swooned had she known… If there’s ever a time machine, I’m going to go whisper it into my ear, and maybe my teens will be easier.