February Artist of the Month: Erin Babcock White
I want to travel somewhere when I paint. I want to go to rain soaked rocky shorelines and moss covered foggy forests. DREAMY places, I can just feel it when talking about it! – Erin Babcock White
Depending on where you live, February is often a space between spaces. Some years we’re still ankle deep in snow, just beginning to contemplate the approaching shift of the season. In other years, early thaw or even a peak of spring might be seen, as has been the case throughout much of Minnesota this year. No matter the specific rhythms that come and go, the smell of rain or the Earthy tones of uncovered fall leaves are almost always beginning to scent the air.
This is a fitting time for us to showcase the work of Erin Babcock White, a Minnesotan artist specializing in stylistic watercolors that are sometimes accented with acrylics and pastels. Through her incredible balance of color, texture, movement and space, the viewer is inevitably transported to mossy, foggy places; temples of detail and dreamy contemplation. Please join us in learning more about Erin and what makes these imagined worlds become reality.
Erin Babcock White | A Quiet Spot
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Was being an artist always a part of your plan?
I grew up living in a small house surrounded by woods and a golf course – so needless to say I was constantly on some sort of adventure. As far as what I wanted to be, I never had a particular plan back then; I was quite good at living in the moment (which is not as easy now a-days) but I have always been obsessed with trees. Naturally, I was always looking at them as pieces not as a whole so that I could draw and paint them so I suspect being an artist was a part of the plan whether I intended it to be or not.
Describe your art in one word.
How did you become an artist?
As far as becoming an artist…I’m not really sure when or how I “became” an artist as it was a very slow process. Even though I have been painting and drawing for 40 years it wasn’t until recently that I have actually considered myself an artist. I think it’s something I have always been but now that others have recognized my work as being unique to me, I think it’s safe to label myself as an “Artist”.
A profound love of nature is clearly present in your work. What landscapes or specific places have inspired you along your way?
To this day, still where I grew up inspires me; the woods outside my window and all the rolling paths off my dirt road. Other inspirations are the North Shore of Lake Superior, one of my favorite places and now as an adult, my cabin in Wisconsin which is loaded with old scrub oak and rocks just full of texture. I also read lots of fantasy novels as a kid, so I would try to paint landscapes as I would envision them in my books.
What’s more important: color, concept or content?
COLOR! I almost never have a planned concept – I just start and add content as I see fit. Color is always where I start because I want to paint an atmosphere of some sort and color always brings out emotion for me. I lay out my color palette first and off I go. The last thing I do is usually the color Black. That’s one of the most fun parts – adding the black details at the end completely transforms the painting. I have to hold back from adding the black too soon, it can be challenging.
What artists or artistic movements have inspired or influenced your work?
Maxfield Parrish was and still is my favorite artist. My kids notice “Maxfield Parrish” sunsets because that’s what mama always called them. All my life his art work has adorned my walls.
What is your creative process and technique?
It seems I’m moody when it comes to creating. It happens only when I’m happy and feeling confident. Usually very late at night or very early in the morning when everyone else is asleep. I will start with one object. Since trees are my favorite, I will paint one large focal point tree in the forefront and add everything thing else around it. If I’m feeling good about a painting, it’s a “high” and I have trouble sleeping and concentrating on other things. It goes both ways though. If a painting isn’t going well it really can effect me in a negative way and I have to force myself to keep working on it. Half way through on almost every painting I do, the doubt comes in and I have to back off and tuck it away for awhile. I always finish, though, I only have a few paintings I have started and not finished. I never practice or experiment, I just go for it. I only paint a few paintings a year so when I do, I really do get taken away into the world of what ever I’m working on, seeing it in my head and constantly thinking about it.
What other themes do you explore through your art and what do you hope to explore more in the future?
I would like to try more washes, being such a detail painter, these seem intimidating to me. As I said earlier, I don’t experiment, possibly because if it isn’t successful it affects me so much. That’s what I want to work on… forcing myself to explore without being afraid. I think I will always do nature – it’s what works for me, I’ve done people and animals, still lives but it’s not as much fun because I want to travel somewhere when I paint. I want to go to rain soaked rocky shorelines and moss covered foggy forests. DREAMY places, I can just feel it when talking about it!
Is there a cohesive narrative between your bodies of work? Or does each piece stand individually?
I want my paintings to bring on dreams of another place and time – maybe something you’ve seen in a dream or a place you explored as a child and have never forgotten. I want people to consider looking at things in pieces, not always as a whole. This is the narrative I think they all seem to have – to notice the details that are right there, you just have to look closely.
What are you currently working on?
I have just recently purchased a business so I haven’t had much time to create – though because of my work I am daily surrounded with art and have been blessed to work in the art industry for nearly 30 years. In other words, I have much inspiration-also the weather is getting warmer, the fog is coming back and the sun is coming up earlier. That always gets me in the mood to paint, so off to the forest I will go!
Thank you, Erin! Amid the winter thaw, your artwork is a happy reminder of things and even dreams to come. As always, each piece pictured within this post can be found within the Community Art Showcase, one of the core engines that help us run Art Force MSP. We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the mind of an exceptional artist. We certainly have!