It’s obvious I love doing interviews, showcasing other’s special talents, whether these are creative talents, parenting talents or otherwise. It’s hard to know where to start with Erin Wetzel. Erin is an illustrator and portrait artist living in Washington state with her young family. She is certainly a talented artist, with a unique and humble point of view. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve found layer upon layer of wisdom and intelligence that I had no idea were there from the little snippets I gleaned from her Instagram gallery. Her writing is beautiful and honest, unpretentious, and always stirs you in ways that you need to be stirred. She makes the everyday exquisite in its simplicity, or rather shows us that it already is. What a gift, because our perception is everything.
Dear Erin, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?
While I have been creative my whole life, it wasn’t until about three years ago that I started exploring my current style of watercolor and ink portraiture and illustration. Most of the things I’ve learned have been through trial and error or from talking with other artists. I am most inspired by The Everyday, finding extraordinary beauty in the humdrum of ordinary moments.
You can see a compehensive gallery of my work on my site: http://ekwetzel.com/artwork/
What part of the world do you live in?
How many children do you have and how would you describe them?
Phoebe is a 4-year-old with a big heart for dancing, slugs, and being a big sister. And Baby Wetzel is our newborn (birthdate & name TBD). [Erin’s second daughter, Clementine, was born shortly after she gave this interview].
What are your core family values?
We believe that the virtues of God permeate the world in ways that are accessible to anyone.
We believe in grace, generosity and humility.
We respect the beautiful power of the individual and believe that people are naturally creatures of connection and creativity.
How do you spend most of your days?
There is no typical day for us, but there are rhythms we move between from week to week. We do lots of cooking and baking, but I’m a terrible gardener and our yard is more often than not a tangle of weeds. We read a lot, but we also love video games, like the Toca Boca games on the iPad, or Bioware games: Dragon Age and Mass Effect. We love to explore the outdoors, especially Tacoma’s rocky beaches or our Pacific Northwest woods.
What is your favourite thing to do as a family?
Mostly, our favorite thing is to just be, at home, together. Sometimes we goof off, or play a game, or dance…but as long as we’re all engaged, that’s what fills us with joy.
What are you passionate about?
Helping people. Making the world a better place. Leaving things a little more beautiful, a little more whimsical, a little more connected than I found them.
What inspires you?
Can you tell me a bit about your work as an artist and illustrator?
I focus on portraiture and scenes of relationship and whimsy. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot with animal/human hybrids. I think that putting an animal face on a person’s body helps make people laugh, but, on a deeper level, it also pulls at an innate need for connection inside of us.
Let me explain what I mean.
We are all separate beings, moving through life, surrounded by “others.” When you see something beautiful in an other, that draw towards beauty is like your spirit saying: “I see something inside of you that echoes within me. We are not alone. We are the same.”
Art is all about speaking the language of Beauty. It connects us. With my art, I take people (others) and give them animal faces (which makes them really, truly others, because animals aren’t humans). Even so, people STILL identify with these visual representations and find connection and beauty in them. I think they help us realize on some intuitive level that we are all connected to something bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than any one of us alone.
This is why I believe art can bring hope: because it reminds us how beauty permeates even the most innocuous of moments; art reminds us how to look for it; and, when we carry that beauty inside of our hearts, it connects us to an underlying faith that goodness will conquer in the end.
Did you life goals or career aspirations change once you had a child?
When I became a mom, I started asking myself all sorts of hard questions about what it looks like to be a good parent and spouse. It was a winnowing experience for me. Parenting with a wide open heart threw me into the fire and burned away a lot of fears and inhibitions.
I never used to think about what my dreams were or what my purpose was…I was content to just bob along through life. When I became a parent, I started to realize that, in order to support my child as she becomes the person she’s meant to be, first I had to have the courage to do the same. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I wanted to be a role model.
So, in a way, parenting opened me up to deeper love than I ever realized before, both for my daughter, but also for my husband and for myself.
What are your dreams for your work as an artist?
Abstractly: I want my work to give people hope. I want it to make them smile and remind them of the ever-present goodness in The Everyday.
Practically: I’ve always wanted to make a children’s book, ever since I was a child. Most of my life, I thought that just meant finding the right story to tell. But, now that I’m an illustrator, I’m exhilarated to find the right pictures that speak even more poignantly than words.
Some day. When the story is ready, it will find me, and I will shepherd it as best I can.
Thank you Erin! Friends and readers you can find Erin at ekwetzel.com or on Instagram @ekwetzel and on her art account @ekwetzel_art on Twitter @ekwetzel, and her Etsy shop Ekwetzel (briefly closed while she welcomes baby Clementine is now open again. Use code: KISSES until January 23, 2016 for 10% off). She is a must follow!
This interview is part of my Creative Mother series, find the rest here.
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