Artists Profile: Erik Custer September/October 2018

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Title: Painter and Photographer Age: 39

Many of our readers will probably recognize the name of your first art “teacher.”

People always think I’m joking when I say that I learned to paint by watching Bob Ross. But it’s true. I spent many Sunday afternoons watching him on PBS before I ever got my first paint set. And while I no longer paint stylistically like him, you can see many of his techniques in my work still.

What other types of art memories do you have from your childhood?

I grew up in Gretna, so there wasn’t a lot of art happening there, but my high school art teacher was a great influence. She would indulge my odd creations and encourage me to go further.

Another great memory was visiting the Mystic Art Fair in Connecticut. I have family there and we would visit each year. If the fair was happening at the same time, we’d wander the streets looking at hundreds of different artists’ work.

Then, you took your talents to Central Virginia Community College. What did you study there?

I earned an Associate’s Degree in Communication Design. This was right as everything was beginning to convert to digital, so we learned a little about the old way of doing things while getting an introduction to the new digital tools.

Where did life take you next?

After CVCC, I started working for Dan River in Brookneal where I specialized in creating the patterns that would be printed on fabric. Working for Dan River gave me the opportunity to learn much more about art and production. It also allowed me to teach myself new software like Photoshop and Illustrator.

In 2006, I started working at Parkland Direct as a Prepress Technician. Here I learned more about graphic design and how to work across a variety of software.

You have such a diverse portfolio of collections—they are so different!

I’ve never really been able to label what sort of artist I am, or want to be. I try to let the ideas and inspiration take me where they will and then find the best medium to convey those things. I may not always be successful, but I’d like to think that I’ve not become stagnant in my creativity.

Right now, you are focusing on your Canvas Collection, on display at Riverviews Artist’s Co-Op Gallery.

The paintings featured in June at the Co-Op Gallery were part of a series of landscapes and florals that I had begun. I’m continuing to work on the series as I’m really enjoying the process of creating them. But I’m also really surprised at how many people have responded to them.

There’s also a neat story behind your creation of the Time and Memory Collection.

The Time and Memory series was inspired by my girlfriend. She had told me about when she was a Marine in Iraq using coloring books to destress. So of course, I decided I wanted to make a coloring book for her. Something fun and personal. Unfortunately, as I started making the book my own ideas got the better of me and the coloring book took a backseat as the pieces in this series emerged.

Photography has also been a big part of your art through the years.

I studied black and white photography at CVCC and really enjoyed taking pictures. But it wasn’t until I purchased my first digital camera in 2005 that my love of photography really took off. Not having to deal with film allowed me to be much more experimental. You can see this in my series of photographs inspired by the song “The Passenger.” The effects you see in the photographs were done practically and the only digital alterations were for color.

How have you found a sense of community in the local art world?

Working a full-time job and balancing that with trying to create art make it hard to keep up with everything that is going on, but two years ago I joined an art journaling group. The group was founded by Lillian Brue and we meet each month. Hanging out with these ladies each month has given me the opportunity to connect with the art community. Where I am today is very much because of what I’ve learned from being in the group.

What types of things inspire you to create?

My inspiration can come from a conversation or just wandering around Lynchburg. The best example would be my current series of paintings.
I was working on a geometric piece that just wasn’t working. My girlfriend and I were at First Friday and talking about different styles and subjects.
She mentioned how much she enjoyed floral paintings. I realized I’d never done anything like that, so the next day I painted flowers over my failed painting. I enjoyed the process so much I kept going. And I’ll keep going until another conversation sparks a new idea.

Looking forward, what are your goals for your art and/or your art career?

My art goals are pretty simple: to just keep creating.

As for my career, I’ve always had the dream of being featured at the Academy or Riverviews.

My other goal would be to meet more people in the local art community and hopefully help them in the ways that the community has helped me.

How can readers get in touch with you or see your work?

They can find me on my website at epluscstudio.com. Or if they want to follow what I’m doing currently, my instagram is eplusc_studio. And I can always be contacted directly at custere.art@gmail.com

Photos by Ashlee Glen

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