Feature: Good enough to quit competition

Ingrid-Silvia Erikson.
Ingrid-Silvia Erikson. Source: Private collection

Jerry Mercury and Estonian artist Ingrid-Silvia Erikson talk about quitting one's day job to pursue art, its challenges and how to be inspired by competitors.

A canvas with disturbing images, or a canvas with one or two random paint strokes, or an outright slashed canvas, or why bother – you can just get some artist's feces in a tin?  Which of these artworks are you ready to buy at the highest price?

Welcome to the world of art! In addition to the hierarchical structure of relationships and competition that exists in any professional community, here you will also encounter toxic ideas, for example, the idea that the further art is from realism, the better it is. Creating works in a realistic manner is considered by many as uncool as writing poetry in rhyme.

However, there is an exception to every rule. Having lived in Estonia for over a year, I happened to see this exception with my own eyes. It was during the Medieval Days Festival in Tallinn in July 2023 when walking among the trading tents I saw in one of them simple and touching portraits of animals. They immediately caught my attention. I wondered how an artist depicting animals in a realistic manner can survive in the harsh world of contemporary art?

Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Ingrid-Silvia Erikson. I'm from Tallinn, Estonia. I paint and draw mostly animals and nature, people as well. I aim for realism.

Did you study anywhere to become an artist?

I didn't study arts at university, but in high school I took art classes once or twice a week at the Kullo Hobby Center in Tallinn.

What is your education and what are your hobbies?

I have a bachelor's degree in applied chemistry and biotechnology. I don't have much time for hobbies anymore. But I like to sew. Most of the clothes I wear I make myself.

When and why did you decide to become an artist?

I guess I have always been an artist - since I was very young. Everybody who knew me at that time felt that there was an artist in me. But I stopped doing arts soon after graduating from high school. And now I'm back at it. Being an artist is the best occupation for me – it suits my somewhat calm personality; I don't get bored by it and I love every art piece I create.

You mainly draw and paint animals. Does it have to do with environmental problems and a desire to protect animals?

It rather has to do with my love for nature. When I think of animals, they remind me of empathy and caring for each other. However, environmental problems are really important to discuss and solve.

Do you have pets? What is your favorite animal?

I don't have pets. I had pets when I was younger. My favorite animal is the otter.

"Little Nene." Colored pencil. Ingrid-Silvia Erikson. (2022) Source: Private collection

Why do you choose realism? Do you think realism is popular now?

- I choose realism because I enjoy working in this style and love the end result the most. I don't know why that is, but I think that at the moment realism is not popular among artists in Estonia. And that makes me a bit sad. But I wouldn't say there isn't any interest in realism among art buyers in Estonia.

There's an opinion that realism as an art style is something superfluous because photography has taken over its function. What would you say to it?

In realism you can combine different elements, add more objects and leave some out as you wish. Painting gives so many possibilities and you are free to use your artistic lens. I also think that every artist has their unique style of painting realism, whether it be distinct brushstrokes, compositional preferences, etc. An artist puts their soul into their creation and it's valuable.

Why did you eventually choose to become a freelancer?

Because I considered myself good enough to take a risk. I enjoy drawing and painting very much. Also, my partner has been very supportive on my way to becoming a freelance artist. Mostly thanks to him I got the support to take that leap.

What kind of job did you have before?

I worked for some years as a senior specialist at the Agricultural Research Center in Tallinn, until October 2022. There I was responsible for making solutions of different compounds used in pesticides and herbicides and did many other tasks related to analytical chemistry.

Was it scary to quit your previous job? Many people are afraid to quit a so-called "normal" job and start freelancing.

It was scary for me at first but at the same time I was very excited to start my journey as a freelance artist. I think it's one of the best decisions I have ever made.

"Baby squirrel." Charcoals. Ingrid-Silvia Erikson (2022) Source: Private collection

How do you promote yourself?

I try to be active on social media (Instagram, Facebook, just starting on YouTube). And I have a website. It's also important to participate in markets and search for more opportunities to make yourself noticed.

How do you think society should change to reduce or eliminate the barriers that artists encounter on their way?

I can only say that society should always talk more about art and its value. Art is important to people; it creates atmosphere and mood. I'm convinced that it can help to improve mental well-being as well.

Some people believe that they can never become artists because, as they say, they have no talent. What do you think?

I think that anyone can become an artist. It mainly depends on the willingness to devote oneself to creation and improve in it. What can really stop your progress is comparing your work with the works of others. It can discourage you and hinder your self-improvement. A good approach is to look at other artists' work as a source of inspiration, not as an object of competition.

What would you tell people who are eager to quit their "normal" job and become freelance artists but feel afraid to do so?

You should have some sort of economic security to take the risk of becoming a freelancer, otherwise you will soon be broke. Starting out as an artist is hard because at first you have to make a lot of investments. You should take into account that building your career can take many years before it really becomes profitable. And, most importantly, believe in yourself.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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