with Erica Eriksdotter
It’s such a pleasure to talk with the amazingly talented Erica Eriksdotter. Erica’s last name is Eriksdotter which means “Erik’s daughter” in Swedish. Named after her father, Leif Erik Larsson, he inspired her to dream big and ‘just go for it,’ as he used to say. She is proud to sign every painting with “Eriksdotter” and is honored when customers say they have their own “Eriksdotter” in their home. This personal narrative will draw you into her artist’s world and make you instantly pull up Instagram to get a glimpse into her magical studio, to spy on her process.
There seems to be paint running through your family’s blood. When did you start painting?
I’ve always loved to paint. I’m a self-taught, third generation painter and I sold my first painting at the age of 10 in Sweden (where I was born and raised). Thirty years later, I pride myself on having customers all over the world, with many trusting me to come back for another pet portrait or bridal bouquet painting (or a fifth!) within a couple of years.
Yes, I started to paint early. That first art work I sold was of a delicate landscape with a single red balloon floating in the air that I had painted with my first, and to me magical, watercolor set that I had bought several years earlier.
There was never really a starting point with my art, there just was. Painting has always been an essential way of being for me, whether it was finishing watercolor pieces while on the phone with girlfriends in my teens, or working on large acrylic statement pieces to exhibit up and down the East Coast in my 20’s and 30’s.
Your unique style combines acrylic and watercolor techniques, how did you develop your style?
My pet portraits are made up of many thin layers of acrylic paint. I never enjoyed the thick consistency of acrylic paint—I love painting details and I just couldn’t get the art where I wanted it with acrylics until I realized I could dilute the paint with lots of water, just like I did with watercolor. That’s when my art shifted for me and my art flowed, without falter, directly from my heart out through my brush. And my style is that and the combination of my two cultures—the clean lines of Scandinavia and the more colorful U.S.
I received my first commission after an exhibit in Virginia at 25 of a half-shaped sunflower, which led to my first large triptych statement piece for a living room. Since I’ve exhibited in over thirty national juried art shows in places like Manhattan, Hamptons, Washington, D.C., and became more focused on commission-based work for pet portraits and bridal bouquet paintings nearly a decade ago while climbing the corporate PR ladder.
What was your inspiration to begin painting pets? How many pets have you painted over your career?
Lola, our rescue cat who persistently came to our patio for weeks until we let her in, made me dare begin painting pets (she’s always with me in the studio and even has her own hashtag on my instagram). I say dare because to me painting eyes is like trying to capture the soul on canvas and that’s a lot of pressure, but hers are so deep and soulful I wanted to try my hands on it.
There are many painters who paint pets, but I want to capture their soul, their personality, their essence. That’s why I love hearing how many are moved to tears when they unwrap their paintings, or see their loved ones open their thoughtful gift. It’s about making that special love you share with your pet last forever with an original painting.
I work the same way as the old masters, one brushstroke at a time, without any shortcuts. I truly enjoy painting details and providing a realistic portrait. Each pet portrait takes 40-80 hours over a stretch of a few weeks.
I’m closing in on my 100th commission. Each starts with a customer’s desire to want something unique and ends with a painting that has more meaning, backstory, layers of culture, depth and generational mileage than maybe anything else in their home. I work closely with clients and many follow the process via instagram (www.Instagram.com/StudioEriksdotter). I even paint live sometimes.
Your paintings beautifully capture the spirit and individual personality of each pet. How are you able to add such personality to your paintings? Do you meet the pets before you paint them or get insight from their owners?
I paint pets from many photos and stories clients share with me: high resolution photos taken in daylight for accurate coloring, and a great facial pose. I often laugh and cry from the stories they share. Then, I “tap into” my new furry friend likeness and personality. I study their pet and let his/her character come to me.
I often sit in silence and just feel their pet’s spirit; I can feel their pet with me while I’m painting—it’s almost like they assist me in the studio. I truly love every moment I spend with them. The client consults on the background color to compliment and highlight the pet’s fur, and add to their personality or match the home decor. Paintings ship worldwide for free and I offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
What is a typical day like in your studio?
My studio is in my home in Reston, VA where I live with my husband, Casey (another creative), our toddler, newborn, and our cats, Lola and Rasmus, who often keep me company in the studio.
If you’d walk into my studio when I’m painting, you’d find me sitting cross-legged on my husband’s old guitar chair with my face about 12 inches from the canvas. You’d see me wearing my, add a little fun to my life, soft pink reading glasses.
You’ll see my arm-support attached to my wooden easel to keep my arm steady when I paint those tiny details. You’d see me mix my paint on a palette paper laying on my desk. I clean my brush often and when I shake off the excess water against the mason jar edges it makes a cling-cling noise that I swear will wake up my toddler and newborn if they’re sleeping. I love that cling-cling noise though.
You’ll see my abandoned cup of tea beside my big monitor filled with photos of the commission I’m working on. There will often be a main photo for the pose, and a couple of other supporting photos to make sure the colors are just right. You’ll hear a slow-simmering Swedish or British dramas keeping me company—think Downton Abbey, Outlander, Pride & Prejudice, Call the Midwife or Endeavor. ND