Maker: Erica Thune

Publisher’s note: Lea Black is a professional photographer and a member of Makewell, a community of more than 1,000 creatives, makers, and entrepreneurs around the Midwest whose mission is to “equip the makers and dreamers by sparking ideas and igniting action.” Lea photographed Bismarck artist Erica Thune and visited with her about her artistic inspiration, process, and evolution.

Lea: Tell me about your work and what inspires you.

Erica: My work is all abstract. It’s based on my life experiences, the people I meet, the experiences I have, the encounters, and the feelings absorbed in all of this. It is essentially my day-to-day groove and my life experiences thus far. I am completely inspired by everything around me. My art is a constant translation. I have come to realize that the seasons affect me more than I thought they did. I try and keep it to myself and as authentic as possible so it doesn’t feel like someone else’s. What I am doing is basically a reflection of how I am feeling. I make a lot of bad art, but all the pieces I make inform the direction that I am taking, so even the bad pieces end up being valuable to my process. 

Lea: Describe your process.

Erica: My art is essentially all in the process. I’m fully immersed in the entire process until I perceive I am finished with the work. I never know where the piece is going when I begin; the process is translating myself onto paper and canvas. There’s no planning ahead of time. I keep adding color and mark-making and continuing the process until I feel like I’m satisfied with what I’ve made and it feels whole and complete.

Lea: What is most satisfying about your work?

Erica: I feel extremely satisfied when I feel like I have taken a new direction with my work. I always feel like it parallels taking a new direction in my life. It’s satisfying to feel like I have moved forward in my work and my life. I am making a change.

Lea: Talk about the evolution of your work

Erica: When I was in college and just starting to do my own thing, I thought I had found my “established style.” I laugh now at my “established style” when I look back and realize how much it has changed. I have respect for where I was then in my art and my life, and how it led me to flourish into what I am doing now. At one point of time, I thought that I was producing my best work yet, and in retrospect it’s humbling to see how far I have come. Five years ago I had no idea where I would be now, and I think that’s true about the next five years, I don’t really know where my work will be and I find that really exciting. I have come to realize that it will always be changing.

Lea: What is most challenging?

Erica: Not to get caught up in what will sell and staying true to what I am authentically making. I’m usually pretty good about staying true to myself, but sometimes you get caught in “Will it sell?” or “Will people like this?” or “Is it a bad turn?” The challenging part is staying true to your work, trusting the process, and knowing it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. 

Lea: Do you consider this your life’s purpose?

Erica: I think painting and putting art into the world is my purpose. I spent a lot of years feeling lost. I didn’t know what I was going to do, I didn’t feel like I fit into any specific category. A lot of people I knew were taking a conventional path, but none of that felt like it was really me. This is the only thing that felt like it was real or true for me. I completely feel like this is my purpose.