Simplicity and forgiveness of charcoal…”

Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Erica Bren


Paul Zimmerman:  How did you get interested in art?

Erica Bren: In my childhood, I would visit my horse on Kohala coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. The ranch house was full of Islamic art. The arabesques ornamentation and abstract motifs ignited my curiosity in world cultures represented through art. 

PZ: Your charcoal drawings often depict horses. Why are they important for you?

EB: My love for horses inspire my paintings, representing power, freedom, and pure raw energy. 

I consider how paintings are capable of bettering ones emotional landscape. Strength, movement, peace, tranquility. The horse is not just a reminder of these traits but an inspired feeling. 

Living in Sun Valley Idaho, I thought about what people would want on the walls in their homes. Homes are the most intimate place. 

After painting the first couple horses, my paintings started to sell, and began to be noticed by galleries. I started receiving commissions for large scale horse portraits. The horse painting series snowballed my success as an artist. 

As an artist, I ask how I can give through my paintings. Art has energy, I wonder can a painting be grounding? Can a painting give strength to someone? Can a painting be healing?  Can a painting remind the viewer of love and connect them to their core feelings? 

PZ:  What is your artistic process?

EB: Nature inspires color combinations. My favorite painting was created by looking out to a snow storm from a top of a mountain while skiing. There was the most beautiful grey scale. I went home and painted “Grey”.  Everything I see when I look around is the beginning of my artistic process. 

PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when

your start a new piece?

EB: There is an image of a feeling I want to capture. When I begin a painting it creates and evolves into what it wants to be. I let go of the control, and the paint takes over. 

PZ:  Has your practice changed over time? 

EB: Yes. I used to only understand monochromatic charcoal drawing techniques. Over the past 6 years Ive evolved from the Simplicity and forgiveness of charcoal  into creating a theory for painting with colors I could make sense of. 

PZ: Which artists are you most influenced by? 

EB: I am influenced by the feeling Jean-Honoré Fragonard transcends through his paintings.  When I look at his work it creates the most luxurious relaxing fun feeling of freedom and romance. Rococo and the Fête Galante have always resonated with my innate desire to express the feeling of nature through my art.

PZ: How would you define yourself as an artist?

EB: Have the ability to focus on the opalescent of my surroundings and put it on canvas. 

PZ: What are you working on now?

EB: I am building on my past paintings and allowing my mind to see things differently so I can take my paintings to the next level. It’s so easy to get caught up in the perfection of an image. I am working to let go of an idea and allow more fun to come into the paintings. 

There was a ceramics class my instructor recommended I take. It was a very curious class to me. We were told to make the perfect vases, and the perfect bowls. The instructor then gave us broken pieces of wood and hammers to smash them. I was shocked to ruin the perfection. And then by ruining the perfect vase, the ceramic vessel became something entirely new. And born into something incredibly beautiful. One of a kind, something not able to be recreated. I want to take this concept and apply it to my ideals of painting. 

PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?

EB: Pandemic gave me perspective on how My Art can fit into the world. 

Art as a life raft in a time of uncertainty,

Focusing on the power of creativity and choosing to create images to bring people joy.  

Art like entertainment is an escape for the viewer. Creating a parasympathetic state and allowing enjoyment and natural thought. The pandemic created a fight of flight feeling for so many. So I found it important to focus on the beauty in the paintings. 

PZ: What is your next project?

EB: I am starting series of large scale paintings incorporating lush textiles to compliment contemporary alpine interior aesthetics. 

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