Art, // April 8, 2015
Nanci Erskine — ARTIST
Interview with artist Nanci Erskine —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Nanci Erskine, a painter living in Colorado. I’ve lived in several other states, pursuing a teaching career, and ended up here about 20 years ago. My studio work is primarily oil on canvas, drawings and prints.
2. Why art?
I never found myself heading in any other direction. But it’s not like I came from a family of artists. There were some detours along the way, but with enough positive reinforcement, I kept going at this. It really helps to run into inspiring teachers and mentors. I’ve always had the suspicion that if I wasn’t painting, I’d be writing. Painting is visual fiction.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?
Not sure what that really means. But when I was young, I think people thought of me as the kid who liked to draw and paint. I remember a teacher praising me for a lovely drawing of a lemming in 6th grade. I gravitated towards studio classes in high school, but it wasn’t until then that I had actually met anyone who was a serious role model. (My teacher at the time was getting his MFA at San Jose State). I also prefer to think of myself as someone who paints, etc., rather than an “artist.” One is about the work, the other seems to imply some special status or personality traits.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and media(s)?
I’m attracted to tangled and layered environments. In the past, these were more industrial settings or landscapes. Now, grasses, vines, dense undergrowth. Complexity with some hope of moving through it visually.
6. What are your favorite art work(s), artist(s)?
Certainly there have been some artists whose work I have and do admire greatly, but it’s no short list. Plus, my tastes are somewhat eclectic. I’m repelled by bombast, gimmickry and trend. I admire conviction, technical skill, soul, and an aspiration to the seemingly unattainable. Could be a Mark Rothko, could be a self-portrait by Rembrant, could be a Japanese woodblock, could be a Darren Waterston, a Vermeer jewel, or some beautiful work by Julian Hatton that I just saw in NYC. This is no list per se, just examples of this kinds of visual experiences I like.
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
Here’s a good comment from a juror re: some earlier industrial themed work but I think the same qualities still apply now:
“Quite memorably in the brooding images by Nanci Erskine, the viewer senses a vague disquiet, at the same time we are drawn to the vaporous twilit scene- it is as though the artist seeks to transform the industrial wasteland into a Whistlerian “Nocturne.”
8. What do you like about your work?
I like that it constantly challenges me and gives me a reason to keep at it, because there’s always something I can do better. I also like how it can quiet the mind.
9. What advice would you give to other artists?
Don’t settle for easy- Be persistent, be humble – Work hard even when no one is looking.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I’ll be well into my 70’s in 10 years, which is kind of a shocking thought. Not much time left, so if the joints hold up, I’ll try and keep drawing and painting on some level. I already find myself doing more work on paper- and being more deliberate about how many larger paintings I tackle.