Bridge Over Troubled Water: Erick Rodriguez
By Derrick White
“When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes.”
According to webmd.com, a large majority of Americans are reporting high-stress levels due to financial concerns, inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine suggests a new poll from the American Psychological Association. “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope,” Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., the association’s CEO said. The top sources of stress were the rise in prices for everyday items due to inflation, namely gas prices, energy bills, and grocery costs followed by supply chain issues and global uncertainty.
I do not have an answer for these woes but a Band-Aid remedy that helps me is becoming spellbound in the zone of viewing and creating art and if you want to get hopelessly lost in looking at art and be transported light years away from the current problems of this world, have I got the artist for you. Local artist, Erick Rodriguez’s work is so intricate it will mesmerize you and block out everything else. Erick first attended Tyler Junior College and then recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at Tyler. His small-scale drawings are stunning and the more you look the more complex and spectacular they become. The work is full of surprises and creates awe in the mind of the viewer. Erick explains, “My style utilizes abstraction to develop representational and nonrepresentational pieces. I aspire to amaze and inspire people, and I attempt to honor the time they spend looking at my work. It must function but also offer the greatest level of detail I can produce. Every minute I spend creating is time I am not spending with family, and friends, and doing other things I enjoy, so I operate within this awareness and carry the intensity of the greatest and worst memories of my life to try to create something worthy of choosing art instead of everything else, and I apply the same commitment to the viewer who has taken time out of their life to have a mental conversation with one of my artworks, however brief or extensive, I hope the intensity I create with comes through for them as well.”
Rodriguez works with traditional media including pencil and ink on paper and oil paint on canvas. He has been creating as an artist since childhood. Erick remembers, “Since I was about 10 years old, I knew I wanted to be an artist. It was what I would stay up late at night doing, in school I would doodle and draft stories constantly, and at home, I would draw pictures from books, try to illustrate my stories, or make portraits and caricatures of my family. At a point, I noticed I could see patterns while I was drawing and I only had to choose which ones were worth pursuing, but I was limited technically and knew it would take years (which turned out to be a decade) to get to a level decent enough to show what I saw. I was obsessed and determined to find out whether I was good enough to do it and there was only one way to find out.” He continues, “Art has often been a bridge to connect with people, which is convenient since I am a bit of a hermit. I feel grateful to be able to meet kind strangers and make good friends along my travels. I frankly used to resent myself for being so consumed by my need to be an artist that the people I wanted to impress the most were the ones I ended up neglecting, but now it is an art that has allowed me to find my way back into the world and out of the labyrinthine thought tunnels I secluded myself in for so much of my life.”
Erick discusses his struggles with perseverance stating, “Waking up every day for 10 years convincing myself to keep going even though I kept ending every day feeling like a failure. I constantly failed to create what I imagined, pushing myself relentlessly to be perfect, being brutally hypercritical, spurning healthy relationships, and my physical and mental well-being to chase after something I was convinced would fix me. The most frustrating day was when I made the first drawing, finally proving I could do this. I reached my dream only to wake up the next day feeling as empty as I had all the years prior. I had spent my life chasing after something it turns out I did not even really want, constantly thinking I was tired of being me until I finally understood I was tired of being someone I was not. I thought to become the artist I wanted to be I needed to be ruthless and relentless, but it turned out I could have chosen peace at any point; I did not have to earn it. It was not until I reconciled the child who freely made art out of love with the teenager who made it out of a sense of responsibility to the art (but also desperation, anger, and pain) that I truly became an artist. If art is self-expression, then we must be in touch with our deepest self and allow it to speak, to create the truest art we embody.”
Erick Rodriguez finds inspiration in art history and specifically in artist Kurt Seligmann (former Swiss-American Pop Surrealist painter and engraver known for his fantastic imagery). He explains, “I had the assignment to copy Seligmann’s painting ‘Game of Chance No.2’ for a university painting class. I never got tired of looking at the painting and just attempting to trace his brushstrokes gave me tremendous admiration for his creativity and proficiency. It was a humbling and inspiring experience.” Find your own humbling and inspiring experiences by looking at or creating art. Try becoming mystified in the exploration of viewing or the experimentation of producing, and it may just get you to the other side, away from what ails you.