Erica Wagner

5th September  2015


The Hawthorn Artists’ Society welcomed artist and HAS member Erica Wagner as the Guest Speaker in the Artists’ talk series, which followed the Annual General meeting on Saturday September 5th.

Erica spoke passionately and from the heart about her journey as an artist starting with her love of drawing at school. She married at a young age and following the births of her two children, worked to support her family. For the last 27 years, Erica has edited and published books for children and young adults, nurturing the creativity of authors and illustrators within the complexities of a busy business schedule. Her blended extended family now includes four grandchildren as well.

While not having any formal art education, Erica’s love of drawing has stayed with her to the present time. She has pursued her desire to expand and broaden her oeuvre, and has used this fine ability in the realm of painting.

Over the years, Erica has worked with a number of influential artists such as Yvonne Audette and her inspirational approaches to drawing the human figure, Richard Birmingham and his expressive and experimental approach to painting, Geoff Dupree’s disciplined understanding of colour, Emmy Mavroidis’s fluid mark-making and explorations of movement, Mark Dober’s direct and expressive landscape painting and international (Australian) artist, Heather Betts’s haunting imagery; all of whom have given her inspiration, skills, knowledge and ultimately the confidence to forge ahead as an artist in her own right. 

In her painting, Erica explores many ideas both physical and from the real world, to delving into her imagination and memory for more abstract and metaphysical works. The painting ‘Owl’ came out of an experience when an owl flew straight at her.

The variety of vibrant colours, rich textures and diverse forms in the Australian landscape both wet and dry, allow Erica to explore a variety of media such as charcoal, watercolour, pen and ink, acrylic and more recently oil paint. Erica also  transforms old paintings into new works using the collage technique, referencing Matisse in her cut-out dancing figures.

Erica  enjoys working outdoors on site, finding inspiration in the aridity of the northern desert regions of central and Western Australia, the gorges and landscapes of the Pilbara and Kimberley in WA, the desert regions in the Mallee and Wimmera, Wilson’s Promontory, Barmah Forest and Tarra Valley in Victoria are some of her favourite locations. In these places Erica uses different media ‘to evoke the sense of the place’ an example being ‘Tarra Valley Forest Drawing’ where she has used  the versatility of charcoal to create the strong tonal variations found in the delicacy and diversity of the forest-scape.

Working from memory, or working on site and not retouching or developing further in the studio, Erica is now trying to be happier with the immediacy of what comes out on the paper or canvas. The example of  ‘Shadows and Light at Kennedy Range’ was painted on site with the trees added when back in the studio, whereas in ‘Diamond Gorge Reflections’ (Mornington Wilderness Camp), Erica painted from memory after taking a canoe trip down the gorge, trusting the integrity of the original compositional design and the mark making, as defining the majesty and power of the rock formations and their beautiful reflections under the water. 

Erica has been inspired by Aboriginal rock art painting in the Kimberley. On a recent trip in May/ June this year, along the Munja track out from Mt Elizabeth Station, a remote and beautiful wilderness region, the strange silent painted figures overlaid in white and red ochre, images which have survived the ravages of time and weather, have been fuel for more recent large works on canvas where the figure is emerging but not delineated - the gentle soft palette and strong gestural marks suggest, rather than define.

Hawthorn Artists’ Society thanks Erica most sincerely for speaking in the Artists talk Series for 2015. We look forward to seeing more wonderful artwork into the future.