Erika Norris is serving up bite sized artworks you'll want to see closer. Hear about her practice, experience and inspirations.
all photos provided by Erika Norris
Who is Erika Norris?
Erika Norris is a visual artist based in Tacoma, WA. She works in colored pencils, paper cut outs and does web production/design on the side. Erika says that she always wanted to do something creative with her life and as she became older she was drawn to the visual arts. "I fell in love with the act of translating research into a visual language" says Erika.
She has a BA from New York University and an MAFA from Goldsmith’s College through LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore. She's also taken a bunch of workshops and short courses around art business and art making. She recommends; “Working in a Series” by Lisa Call.
Erika Norris has tried out many mediums but colored pencils and paper cut outs have won over her heart. She learned how to draw by copying pictures out of magazines with a mechanical pencil and when she was introduced to colored pencils she fell in love. From a young age she has taught herself and when something wasn't working the internet could fill in the gaps.
As a kid she loved crafts and making mod-podge boxes as gifts for friends. That interest came out during grad school as she became interested in sculptural collages. Those explorations led to her ingenious book cutouts.
Erika's main subject matter is food; "I am really inspired and interested in the underlying reasons and experiences we have with it from nostalgia to fear. I tend to get a lot of inspiration from my own experiences with food, but also from reading and research into sociology, mental health, and diet culture" says Erika.
Her love for food artwork explores our relationships with food so for inspiration she often draws from social media, traditional media, advertisements, cookbooks and current food trends.
Her conceptual inspiration is a blend of personal experience and reading into the diet, wellness, and self-help industries.
Color Pencil Drawings
If you've seen Erika's colored pencil drawings in person then you know they are very small:
"I like the intimacy of the smaller works and feel that there is something personal in their delicateness that draws people in. I love watching people get so close that their noses almost touch the art in order to take in all the details"
When she's worked on larger works she feels that the intensity disappears as the viewer stands far back from the work. She also struggles with the speed of creating her work. Realism fine art takes a long time. It is meticulous and thoughtful. So there are some practicalities to making smaller works such as being more profitable and staying motivated.
Her miniature drawings are sold in a series. One image will be the dessert whole and then progressively with each image the dessert will be eaten. Her drawings are mounted on wood panels. By selling her drawings mounted and in a series she can keep the intimate size of her works while providing the collector with a lifelong treasure.
I've never seen anything like Erika's cut outs. They blow me away and they are very hard to explain. You really just have to see them.
She creates her cutouts by following rules for herself as she approaches a cookbook, National Geographic or fitness magazine with scissors.
she starts with what size she wants the spine of the book to be (typically 1 inch)
Looks at each page of the book/magazine
if there is no image or main subject that touches that 1 inch then she takes that page out
If the main subject touches that 1 inch spine or goes into it then she cuts around that subject
This method results in all the cut outs stacked on top of each other in a beautiful collage sculpture held together by the spine of the book (see above).
This is a very process inspired piece of artwork. "I really enjoy the process because it always gives me an unexpected result and really forces me to let go of trying to control the outcome of a piece" says Erika "It feels like such an opposite experience for me than my photorealistic drawings."
Struggles & Goals
As a shy introvert marketing is her biggest obstacle to her art practice. "I have been taking a very long break and posting irregularly because I had so much anxiety around creating content that I started to avoid making work,'" says Erika. "In a way, my brain was telling me: if you don’t make anything then you don’t have to market it."
When it comes to making art, time is the biggest struggle. Like a lot of fine artists she is frustrated with the pressure to be completing things all the time; "there is a lot of social pressure in the form of ‘hustle culture’ that tells us to always be making and producing, but that is antithetical to my art and my process." To stay motivated she has started working on more than one series at a time. Having a series that takes less time helps to counter act the pressure to finish the highly detailed slow series.
The colors of her work keep her motivated and inspired. She loves the constant challenge of finding the right combination of pencils to bring a subject to life.
Her best advice for people wanting to become artists is to focus on what you are doing and resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. "Instead, I try to focus on the bigger picture and on doing things in ways that feel authentic to me and the way I work," says Erika,
Her goals revolve around having shows and installations:
"I would love to create an installation that really plays with all our senses in addition to my drawings. Also, I have always wanted to use scent as a part of a work or show."
Go buy her work right now. Click here.
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You'll want to keep an eye out for this artist.
Thank you to Erika who agreed to be interviewed for this post :) <3