Tahlequah Daily Press

June 3, 2014

Young artist stretching her wings in oils

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Art is part of everyday life, even for people who don’t think of themselves as artists. For her part, Erin Owen started as a dabbler.

“There are a lot of artists in my family, so I’ve always been encouraged to make art, but it took a while before I took a personal interest in it,” said Owen.

Eventually she realized art can be whatever you want it to be: “therapy, communication, expression, a story, a career, a lifestyle, a conviction. So, of course, I got hooked.”

In high school, Owen traded band for art.

“I started making art in high school, so it’s been about 10 years. When my oboe playing didn’t work out. I needed another creative outlet and drawing turned out to be a much better suit for me,” she said. “I was a shy kid, and art was a way to get out all of that teenage angst and work through emotions.”

A graduate of Edison High School in Tulsa, Owen grew up visiting museums, art shows and art fairs, and met a lot of real artists.

“For a smaller city, Tulsa has a lot to offer in the art community. Growing up, it was always impressed on me that art was a normal component of society and a respectable career,” Owen said.

When she was 18, Owen visited London, Paris and Rome.

“It was a really good point in my education to be exposed to a huge number of paintings,” she said. “Seeing those masterpieces in person is a unique experience. Somehow I skipped the Louvre, but I got to see the National Gallery in London, The Musee D’Orsay, and the Vatican. That trip had a serious impact on my artistic development.”

In college, Owen has learned from an outstanding collection of instructors who are also amazing artists, including Sylvia Nitti, Lance Hunter and Mark Hatley. This past December, she graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree from Northeastern State University.

Most of her paintings portray female figures, but the real subject of the pieces is the emotion and story behind the character.

“Realism is important to my work, but I love incorporating patterns and playful motifs into paintings. I often use abstract backgrounds that engulf the figures in a dreamlike fury,” she said.

Oil painting is her main medium nowadays, because of its versatility. She believes oil paints have unmatched advantages for creating depth and realism. Working with soft pastels is a favorite, because of how expressive they can be.

“Before I studied technique, my style was very different. I used to draw surreal and odd subject matter with distorted figures. It showed a lot of turmoil and depression,” Owen said. “My emotional maturation mirrored my growth as an artist. The more stable I became, the more emphasis I placed on realism.”

Art has become her strongest form of communication.

“A work of art synthesizes ideas, events, and abstract thoughts. It is an essential form of communication,” she said. “Artwork can help people feel connected and often supports understanding and tolerance.”

Art today will reflect to future generations that there was no current trend in the arts, she said.

“Modern artists have an exciting spectrum of varied styles. I think that says something about the individuality of our age,” said Owen.

Owen encourages students of fine art to work hard, be persistent and maybe keep a day job.

“It is possible to have a satisfying art career,” Owen said. “It’s important to stay focused on your goals, rather than dwell on your letdowns. Artists encounter plenty of criticism, rejection, and personal frustration. After learning from your experiences, move on and don’t let them interfere with your creativity.”

Currently, her art is available at Dos Okies Gallery downtown. To find her online portfolio, visit erinowenart.tumblr.com.

The weekend of June 13-14, Owen will be participating in Arts on the Avenue.

“I recently had a great weekend at the Blue Dome Arts Festival in Tulsa and met a lot of interesting people. My favorite thing about festivals is being able to meet my fans and have personal contact with the person purchasing my art,” Owen said.

She’s a member of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. She won two first-place awards at the 2013 Northeastern Oklahoma Area Artists Show, in the adult painting and the adult graphics categories.

She’s now working on a concept for a series of paintings incorporating narrative songs into the subject of the pieces.

“It will be a large project that will take around two years, but it will be a unique body of work when it’s complete,” she said.