At the very end of Boucherie Road in West Kelowna, where the lake and the sun collide, Erica Hawkes puts the finishing touches on a sushi lunch.
She folds the hairline-thin carrots in with uniform red pepper squares and cucumber stacked like railroad ties to form a composition lovely enough for canvass. Thankfully, this is one artist with a practical vein and it doesn’t take long before we’re sitting down to eat at a kitchen table flanked with three pencil-drawn portraits.
The detail on one’s beard is particularly impressive, each hair separate from the last.
“I call him the prophet. It’s just because he kind of draws you in; he’s got that look,” says Hawkes. “He’s just an old man from Russia I found in a book. I really liked his whiskers and thought they would be fun to draw. They took a really long time.”
Time is something Hawkes spends wisely. Growing up in Prince George, with a stay-at-home mom and strict rules around television, there were hours to learn to be creative, trapped indoors by mosquitoes and snow.
Hawkes learned to build her imagery early. There’s a turtle she met in a dream once on her bedroom wall to prove it.
“I love the turn-of-the century artists like John Singer Sargent. They always had a theme and a reason to what they were doing. It just makes you more interested in the content and the story or the idea behind it,” she explains.
Her turtle is part of a portrait of a young girl, almost a period piece, with the turtle floating above her head.
Daughter Ella’s favourite painting, meanwhile, is a red acrylic done from photo manipulated flowers. It fits the five-year-old’s colour palette—hot pink, reds and purple, she says.
This particular piece is part of a graphic design-inspired, monotone collection.
From Japanese minimalism to black and white photographs there doesn’t seem to be anything Hawkes won’t tackle. This is what happens when you spend a lifetime training to become an artist, but only launch after winding through several paths, she says.
“The galleries are a new thing, so I’m what you would call an emerging artist,” she says honestly.
It might not dismiss the art school in Colorado, design degree in Vancouver, commissions for portraits and stack of books she’s illustrated, but it seems to underplay her experience nonetheless. Hawkes doesn’t seem to care.
Noting she’s terrible at marketing herself, she says she’s utterly thrilled her latest style, “cubist impressionism” she developed to showcase the cities where she’s lived—primarily here and Vancouver—should be easy for the gallery to move. It’s fresh and new and full of colour and life, like the other acrylics and oils galleries are selling these days.
On the other hand, Hawkes leaves one with the impression she could find the time to make anything special and there’s no shortage of unique in her work.
Her first gallery show, Water Land and Sky, will open May 3, 7-9 p.m., #9 3043 Tutt Street. The show runs through May 12th.