Creative potential behind Wildscapes: An Interview with Ehren Fritz Gerhard

Art is work.

Lilidiana Cruz: How do you manage at the same time lines of work that demand as much as the creative process of an artist and university classes?

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: When I’m teaching is really inspirational for me. Sometimes it’s exhausting but most of the time you leave and you’re inspired, they had a great conversation. It makes you wanna make more work and you’re seeing your students do creative things. So teaching kind of really makes me wanna get in the studio more and it also makes me think more about the decisions that I make as an artist because, to teach it, you really have to be thinking about it closely. You have to have a passion for it and you have to know what you’re talking about. So teaching, it really helps you learn it more. Like I noticed right off the bat when I was in grad graduate school for my MFA I started teaching two D design and I really started thinking way more about my compositions and my color and, and all the decisions that I was making there. That really helps.

I teach night classes at the universities right now. The reason for that is to work with, to divide my time with my family, the family is really more difficult because, I have to work late at night after everybody’s asleep, is normally the best time for me. Then having to force myself to go work in my studio, it’s not fun a lot of times. It’s like I have to go do this or else I’ll be, get behind. So for me, art is work.

If it’s a hobby and things like that and you don’t have to put the pressure on yourself for an opening or a solo show. It can be a lot more of a release and it still always is. It’s rewarding but you do have to force yourself to go and do it and for me I have to. It’s hard to go and tell my wife, okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, honey I need the time this time, and have her support not being able to hang out or do things at night or in the morning.

Diversify your talent.

Lilidiana Cruz: What is the best advice someone has given you in terms of your work and art?

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: I guess for so they wouldn’t be specifically for my art. I can’t remember like a specific thing because I’ve had a lot of mentors over the years and in a lot of different directions and you kind of have to pick and choose different pieces of each teacher and mentors methodology that you wanna apply that works for you. There’s no cookie cut template to becoming an artist, you have to kind of find what your personality is, how you like to work.

People used to tell me I was too nice and I was gonna get taken advantage of the other, it was good advice to safeguard myself, and have respect for myself because as an artist, when you’re starting off, you’re desperate and you’ll take anything that you get an opportunity and people in power different situations, a gallery or a dealer or curator or something like that will see that and they’ll, try and get something at a discounted rate or try and sign you into a deal that may not be as good for you. The best advice that someone gave me in terms of work and artwork and developing my craft was when I left Florida Gulf Coast University. It was obtain a variety of skills in wide ranging fields, like diversify your talents as much as possible. Don’t just focus on one thing.

But, being an artist takes business savvy, you have to know how to run a bus, you’re selling your art, work its business. A lot of artists that are successful, end up spending more time running their business and marketing and emails than really working in the studio. You really have to social media, all that stuff. You have to be a social media, your own promoter, your social media specialist, your email list and make the work and transport it, you have to do everything.

Knowing a lot of those skills, I worked at a lot of different jobs over the years from receptionists. Doing accounting, computer work, conversation, presentation skills, being able to talk about your work confidently. Having all those different skill sets is really what’s gonna help either being, being an artist or just being, a successful person in, general. The more skills that you have in a wide range of things that you’re experienced with is gonna help.

I always encourage my students to look at Arts Administration because it’s often overlooked. We think, you’re gonna either sell your art, you’re gonna work in a tattoo parlor or to be a street vendor, muralist, designer, a graphic designer… these positions that you think for arts. But really there’s all these arts facilities, galleries, museums, non-profit art centers, all around everywhere, especially in Florida.

There seems like there’s more than anywhere in the country. There’s five of them between. Naples, has a visual art center. Fort Myers, Sanibel, Captiva, Cape Coral, Bonita Spring, each one has its own art center. So they need people that to run it. They need people to have arts experience, to work in the galleries, to handle artwork, to teach classes, to do all these things that are behind the scenes that you don’t realize that as an artist, you’re extremely valuable because you have experience with the medium. It’s a good way to be involved in the arts and be creative. You may not be making artwork, but all those that experience is really helpful.

wonders of nature

Detail: “Tunnel-Vision”.
Photography by: Lilidiana Cruz Pazos

Latinos are especially supportive of the arts.

Lilidiana Cruz: What do you think about the level of interest of Latinos in art in areas as different as Spain, Arizona and Florida?

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: I like this question a lot. I thought it was really nice. I mean, it’s great because you’re directing at trying to get the local culture , and of Latinos and to come out and see and get involved. Working with students over the years and just seeing the types of demographics and students in classes that I’ve taught and being exhibiting work in Arizona and in Spain, I had a solo show and I’ve generally as a culture, I found Latinos to be especially supportive of the arts, like more, almost more so than Caucasian American especially.

From my experience and people I’ve met,there’s a lot of different factors in it, socioeconomically, the family, where they are, what their story is. I feel like middle class Latino are exposed to a lot of it. Culturally, there’s more appreciation for it. Through grandmothers to mothers or just having artwork in the house, seeing it in the churches, Catholic churches for example, seeing kind of and just an appreciation for artists, especially in Spain and Europe generally.

In Spain, they regard artists really highly. You say, oh, I’m an artist and it’s, oh, Wow! Oh, that’s wonderful! Wow, that’s amazing! They think it’s really, really neat. Where in, in the United States you say I’m an artist and say, how do you make money doing that? It’s really skeptical they think, it’s a really completely different, you’re looked down upon, I’ve felt that in certain situations of having to defend myself and what I do and things like that because people say, how are you gonna make money? That’s normally the first question and parents can do to the children as well.

Cubans, they’re such a great art support of the arts too. I found, for artists that I’ve met, that people have come from really low economic backgrounds and risen to really great heights. I had a student yesterday who just recently changed to art major and her parents didn’t want her to be an art major, but she decided on her own. They said you’re not gonna make money, you don’t do that, do something you can make, you know, there’s no doubt that it’s difficult, but if you do have skill in it and you work hard and you, diversify your talents, there’s so many different avenues to do.

Arizona and Florida, I would say are similar. In western Arizona, Latinos and much more Mexican-influenced Chicanos, have a good mural program as public wall art there. The exposure to seeing things in western Arizona is a big thing, because you see it everywhere on the highways, at government buildings and bus stops, all the time. They are huge, robust government-funded programs that pay artists to make public works of art. In Florida not so much. We’re trying different cities but Cape Coral in particular is working on it. They’re developing it, trying to do it. We’ve got Fort Myers and Naples, they’re doing a big one downtown Fort Myers. So we’re doing it, it’s slow and steady but, it’s happening.

I taught after school programs and a with kids of farm workers and like thinking about what their home life is and, some of them were so creative. It was a really great experience. To have that exposure, have a supportive environment for children to express themselves makes it grow and it continues. Even if it’s just a grandmother that paints or knits and does something creative, that passed down through the generations, that just being exposed to it makes you appreciate it. And in some respect. It doesn’t matter if it’s, folk art and craft, those are all extremely important for just to help children be more creative and, and think about the beauty of their world.

Make things for the most important thing.

Lilidiana Cruz: You can be the influence that makes many children today desire or become artists in the future. What message would you give to those children and their parents?

Ehren Fritz Gerhard: It ties into some of those other things with the advice that I’ve been giving given, certainly helped me. But I would say for parents, having that support blind face. Support your children no matter what and push them into doing. If they’re interested in it, just continue supporting them, they’ll figure it out.

In terms of the artist of just being confident that you’re gonna make it putting that out. It’s easy to get negative about yourself and say I’m not good enough, I’m not gonna be able to do it. Just throwing yourself off of the cliff into the abyss of the art world and try figuring it out. You have to have failures to learn. It’s a difficult field to find your way in to, especially going to school or teaching, you’re learning it yourself, studying under certain artists. There’s so many different ways to go, university route, private academy depending on what you wanna do.

Even art school doesn’t necessarily prepare you for becoming a successful srtist, although it can, by developing your artwork and how you make work. A lot of those logistics of commercializing your artwork aren’t really taught in school because you’re trying to learn a methodology of how artists think and how to create unique artwork that challenges people’s perceptions. It’s not academy style, like a private academy where you a traditional sense that learning technical observation, drawing, figure, drawing portraiture, those types of things is limited where you become a master in that, in that technique and you still have to know what to do with it or who you’re gonna work for commission portrait this or that. It’s still very difficult to market self, market yourself and, get the word out there.

For the children, to be confident in themselves, to just do it because that there’s a lot of people who are extremely talented that I’ve known over the years that don’t do anything with that talent or end up doing something completely different. But if that’s what you wanna do, that’s great if you’re not interested and you want it to be a hobby. That’s ok too. It’s just having that support and, making things for the most important thing.

Scroll to Top