Erin Wicker, also known as erin the great, is a local children’s book illustrator and purveyor of the whimsical. Her illustrations invite viewers into a world of detailed fantasy, where it is easy to get lost in her vibrant colors and imaginative characters. “I can distinctly remember coloring and thinking this would be the greatest job ever. I think that’s my process. I make a coloring page and then I color it,” says Erin.
I sat down with Erin in her home studio in Glenwood Park to speak further about her illustrations, her gnomes project, connections with the film industry, and having the greatest job ever!
AAR: How did you decide on the name “erin the great”?
erin the great (ETG): One time, my boyfriend, now my husband, and I were going out to a show. We decided to dress up, and we went to the fabric store. I got some shiny silver fabric, and he got burlap. He made a monk outfit and shaved his head. I made a super hero costume with a cape and a mask. We went out dressed up on a normal night. Everyone was like “J.R. why are you wearing a monk outfit?” Then they would see me and say, “Erin the great!” and give me a high five, like it was a normal day. That’s why erin the great. That’s me!
AAR: What or who has been the biggest inspiration for your art?
ETG: Fairy tales hold a special place in my heart. My dad used to make up stories, inspired by the Greek myths, but that included me and my siblings as the main characters. We would gather around on the floor, by his bed, and listen to the next chapter of the story. Sometimes he would let us chime in with ideas. It was something I looked forward to every night. Also, childhood memories. I try to recreate the magic I felt when playing in my backyard and exploring my neighborhood.
Artists. Especially the artists whose work has a childlike presence that mingles a little with nightmares. Tim Burton. Edward Gory. Jim Henson. I love that Dr. Suess makes up his own words. It's hard to narrow this down, so I'm just going to stop there, with that teeny tiny list.
AAR: What three words would you use to describe your art?
ETG: Magical. Narrative. Anthropomorphic.
AAR: What is your favorite tool to use to create your art?
ETG: Micron pens are so satisfying to use because they make clean lines. Did you know they have a .20 MM size tip? It's so itty bitty.
AAR: Your work has been described as “children’s art” or “art for children.” What initially drew you to this style?
ETG: Because I can do whatever I want with children's art—I can create the world that lives inside my head. When I paint, I am constantly reminding myself to break the rules. Without knowing it, I will automatically think that a cloud in the sky is white, but why can't the cloud have an expression of frustration while playing solitaire? Also, how about I paint that cloud yellow with purple polka dots and add a little sheep swinging from the cloud? All of this is completely acceptable in children's art and I love it.
AAR: You’re debut book, Man in the Moon: Evie and Knox Stories, was published in 2014. How did you and the author, Kelly Silverman, met?
ETG: We met at a film opening. Both of our husbands work in the film industry. Her husband is David Silverman. He does a lot of work as an extra, and he’s in the upcoming season of The Walking Dead. My husband writes films. He co-wrote a short filmed called Closet with a DP. David starred in and produced it. My art was decorating one of the rooms. David told his wife that he should meet me because my art would go well with her books. So we met. We were both seven months pregnant, and we ended up having a meeting. I liked her writing, so we deiced to team up and come out with books. Our babies ended up being born ten days apart, so Evie and Knox stories.
AAR: In addition to your illustrations, you also make gnomes. What inspired this project? When did it begin?
ETG: I've been managing a gnome hostel since before I can remember. I can see magic. That's why the gnomes like me and come to visit. I have a cat and a troll just to scare the population down a bit.
AAR: You were part of the 2014 Art on the Atlanta BeltLine Project. Describe your project and the experience?
ETG: Well, I hid 100 gnomes on the BeltLine. I know that some people are on the BeltLine for exercise and some people use it to get to work. I wanted to jerk those people out of their routine by bringing some magic to their day. I also love interactive art. When someone found the gnome, they were supposed to re-hide it, and post clues on social media. It didn't quite work out. I think all the gnomes ran away.
AAR: The local/independent art scene in Atlanta, has really grown over the last decade. How do you feel Atlanta best supports local artists?
ETG: There are lots of shops throughout the city that exclusively sell local artist's work. Atlanta is home to many festivals all year long and all around town. The farmers markets even host artists on occasion. All have been very supportive and welcoming. Shout out to Homegrown Decatur. They have over 200 local artist's work in their shop. Art on the Atlanta BeltLine is such a cool exhibit they do every year. And the #FAFATL is just about the sweetest, most generous project I've ever been a part of!
AAR: You’re making new gnomes for #FAFATL. Has that impacted any other aspect of you art? Have you been able to translate the free art into sales?
ETG: I think it’s getting there. I have met several strangers, who have been “gnomed” by me. People are re-hiding them and some people are keeping them. So, that has been really cool to see in real life.
AAR: What brought you to Atlanta?
ETG: I moved here because we wanted a new city. We were living in Memphis before. My husband had graduated from Nursing School and we had family here.
AAR: Aside from your art, what other creative outlets do you enjoy?
ETG: Music. J.R. and I started the band Imagination Head about eleven years ago. We came out with our fourth full length album Chromataverse in 2015. We wanted to make music videos for each song. I made these instruments for the video, Moon Sings Dance, out of chipboard. Unfortunately, we lost the footage, but the instruments look really cool. I did make the music video for our song Moon by filming the process of a painting. Although, my band is homeless right now because the Thunderbox closed down. https://youtu.be/RMraY5vWUs.
AAR: If your art were a film, what film would it be?
ETG: How come they haven't made a movie of Oryx and Crake? Actually, maybe that movie Fantastic Planet. Yeah. That one.
AAR: How did you hear about Action Artwork Rental? Why did you decide to sign up?
ETG: I talked with you at a picnic! I think I gave you my card. My husband is a screenwriter, so I am always interested in the film scene in Atlanta. It's exciting to watch it grow.
AAR: You mentioned having your work displayed on the set of the film Closet. How was that experience?
ETG: I wasn’t really involved. They just asked for art for a little boy’s room and let them use mine! It was cool to see my art at the premiere.
AAR: What is on the horizon for erin the great? Are you working on any exciting new projects?
ETG: My newest book, Where's Wilson?, is releasing in January of 2016. I am also working on a ten piece watercolor series titled "Take Five, Fairy Tales" about what happens when the characters take a break from their story.
If Erin has taught us anything, it’s to be on the lookout for the unexpected magic that exists all around us! You can keep up with Erin and all the exciting work she has coming up by visiting her website at http://www.art-by-erin.com.
That’s a wrap!
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