. Erika Johnson’s eclectic, fascinating art reflects her life. She lives now on the Gulf Coast and her fantastical specimens of sea life resonate this. She has expanded her interests and art into a wide variety of subjects and mediums. Her works are as diverse as her background has been. Erika spent her first few years living in the projects of Biloxi. Her greatest influence was an African American woman, Ola Mae whom she adored and with whom she spent her days. Ola Mae taught her about right and wrong and loved her unconditionally. Then she was transplanted to Houston’s inner city where as a minority, she experienced bullying. Her early years were chaotic and unsettled. She learned about the variety of spices which are inherent to a multicultural society. This knowledge enabled Erika to relate to and communicate with people from any circumstance in life.
At the age of six, Erika walked to the public library to draw images from Dr. Seuss books. When she first saw Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, his beautiful use of watercolor and ink illustration mesmerized and inspired her. As a 7 year old, Erika drew an abstract line drawing and filled it with criss cross lines and then used every color of the rainbow to create a mosaic. A man offered to buy it and she sold her first work of art. Erika remembers, as a preteen, creating abstract paintings by pouring acrylic paint on one side of the paper, pressing it together and creating art.
Her first oil paintings were created in middle school when she took a class at a local art store in Dayton, Texas. She used those skills to create paintings of dancers torsos and legs in stances, which were inspired by her adoration of Mikhail Baryshnikov, the famous Russian ballet dancer. Erika also experimented with some abstract oil paintings by painting her feet and stomping them on the canvas and adding paint splatter. She was in Oklahoma, briefly, where the art teacher was very structured. Erika’s free spirit balked at the constriction. Her teacher explained that without technical drawing skills she would never be much of an artist. Her most significant art teacher was in her early teens in Mississippi, Mrs Demetropoulos. She taught Erika a modicum about everything from watercolor to hand building pottery. In Mississippi, she felt at home.
Throughout the years between her early dabbling and the beginning of her art career at 35, Erika would experiment occasionally, without any real direction or time to pursue art. Once life and work demanded her attention, her fervor for art was not able to continue to fully develop. In her thirties, her life and priorities changed. In her quest for a creative outlet, she began creating jewelry. While at a festival, she had a booth next to an artist, who was painting the most beautiful and bright watercolor paintings. She decided then, that was what she want to do.
Living in an art rich community, fostered by the heritage of artists like Walter Anderson and George Ohr, Erika got involved with the local art associations and attended workshops. Other than some classes as a child, she remains a self and peer taught artist. Thanks to the internet, she has been able to take classes from artists all over the world. Living American artists that have had an impact on her through educational events are Paul Jackson , Elizabeth St. Hilaire, and Rorbert Burridge. Erika continually seeks to add to her artistic education and expand her repertoire. She loves experimenting, trying new techniques and making up her own. She loves color and uses it to express moods and the emotions it exhibits in a piece. If she were to pick the artist now that she would want to be when she grows up, it would have to be the colorful, fun and whimsical Leoma Lovegrove.
Though Erika may not know what her final creation or art will look like, she realizes it is evolving and developing into what it is destined to become with every brush or pen stroke. She wants to paint and paint... and paint some more. She yearns for art to always be a fun and wondrous experience that she enjoy doing everyday. And while she is doing that her hope is that her bright, bold, creative art and passion will touch lives in some way and help to do good for others. Erika’s hope is that her legacy will live beyond her lifetime through her art and that others would be encouraged to pursue their dreams and know all things are possible.