Photo of Erin Milan in her studio courtesy of the artist.
10 QUESTIONS FOR ERIN MILAN | PAINTING THE FIGURE NOW
Erin Milan was born in a small town in Kansas. She graduated from Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles where she studied painting. After a hiatus from painting to focus on having children and on family, she is painting full time from her studio on Mercer Island, near Seattle. Milan’s high realism figurative oil paintings explore desire, nourishment, and loss, and what it feels like to be human. She hopes her work expresses the value of the human, and especially female, form. Her work has recently been exhibited at RJD Gallery in New York, the new Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art, Sirona Fine Art, as well as Suzanne Zahr near Seattle for a solo exhibit.
1- What is different from your work than others when painting the figure now?
This work is tighter, closer to hyper-realism than other work of mine. It's a gentle painting, not meant to shock, but to draw the viewer into a quiet, reflective space.
2- How important is process versus end results?
My recent work has been very focused on a specific end result I'm hoping to achieve, and so the process reflects that in that it is disciplined, rigorous, and deliberate in all aspects, from the shooting of reference photos to the actual painting.
3- What is your ultimate goal when painting the figure?
My goal is always to present the figure in a way that embraces its humanity with authenticity and vulnerability. Like all artists, I'm trying to come to terms with what being human feels like.
4 -What do you like best about your work?
I'm pleased with the technical achievements (brushstrokes, edges, color, etc). I think the work succeeds as gentle affirmation of the value of our humanity and of particularly the female form.
5- What do you do you like least about your work?
Hmm. When I go toward realism I always regret the loss of painterly, experimental marks and choices. Right now it's a balancing act that I'm not quite nailing.
6 -Why the figure?
I started painting the figure in college, and never looked back. At some primal level the figure is just viscerally fascinating. Skin, muscle, hair, bones... you could spend lifetimes painting them and not run out of new shapes and colors and textures. Thematically the figure is the most direct route to making work about the human experience, which is always what interests me most.
7- Which are your greatest influences?
Although I paint nothing like him, Chagall is my favorite artist. I love a lot of favorites, like Van Gogh and Rembrandt and Rothko and Andrew Wyeth. Recent influences include several female painters like Lee Price and Aleah Chapin.
8- What is your background?
I studied painting in college in California. It was a little unique because it was a Christian school that didn't allow nudity for the models during life drawing and painting! Luckily the professors supported the real deal, and we often went off-site to further our studies. My painting instructor is a superb painter, so even though I didn't have the most prestigious education, I gained a very solid foundation. I've continued to learn on my own via lots of practice, looking at other artists, and workshops since.
9- Name three artists you'd like to be compared to in history books.
Lucien Freud, Aleah Chapin, Edward Hopper
10- What is your favorite work in the exhibition besides your own and why?
This is SO HARD TO CHOOSE. It's a tie between Eloy Morales's "Floating Baby" because I've been in awe of him for a long time and Judy Takacs's "jubilant older woman". I guess I've got the spectrum covered with those two.
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