Recent U of R graduate creates pandemic-influenced art
It’s a fairly common trajectory for early-career artists: earn your BFA and start planning for your first post-school solo show while the ink is still fresh on your diploma. But for recent University of Regina graduate Erickka Patmore, the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to consider those plans in a new light.
“I definitely knew I wanted to do a solo show as soon as possible after my bachelor’s degree, but I had no idea what I was going to make it about,” she said. “And when COVID hit, I started using art to process what was going on.”
Patmore, a mixed-media artist, had been exploring screenprinting and copper etching before the pandemic. But she soon found herself without access to her normal spaces and materials, and had to return to the old standards she had on hand.
“When COVID hit, I kind of had no choice but to dive back into painting,” she said. “I hadn’t painted in a really long time, but that was all I had, so I just started painting on my porch. And since I’m a very mixed-media person, I find it really tough to just use one medium in a work. So I incorporated a lot of collage and stuff into the paintings too.”
Patmore had not done much painting since one of her early University of Regina classes, but she said this was exactly the right time to pick it back up.
“I worried about it at first, because I learned so much in the intro class about how you’re supposed to paint,” she said. “But once I figured it out again, I got less stressed about it and explored it and really learned to love it.”
For Patmore, taking up painting and preparing for her show helped to give structure to weeks and months when she didn’t know if she would be staying in Regina or moving back to Manitoba to be with her family.
“In April, I moved into an apartment … but I wasn’t sure if I was going to go back to Manitoba or not, but I have a job I needed to come back to,” she said. “And I was the same as everyone, going through it, trying to keep myself busy and keep a routine going. I really like being busy and I like to be outside and around people. So I had a lot of pent-up energy that I wasn’t really able to use socially or help anyone. So I just put it all in my art – there’s a lot of frustration there. I was frustrated and I was scared, and I had no idea how it was all going to unfold.”
Now that she is putting the artwork she has been working on throughout the pandemic into the show, Patmore is looking forward to sending a message to viewers about coping with and processing the events of this year.
“With the show, I just wanted to show people that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes,” she said. “You don’t need to expect to have it all together in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t want people to feel like they need to have the same high expectations they put on themselves before the pandemic. It’s really important to process your feelings, especially if you’re going through a collective traumatic event like this. It’s not very healthy to just keep it all pent up in your head.”
And while Patmore is currently enjoying her work on the show, which will run until the end of September, she is already looking forward to what the next steps in her career will bring. As a recent graduate, she says she is still developing her signature style, and isn’t ready to pigeonhole herself into one area yet. While she is still interested in becoming a tattoo artist – the ambition that spurred her to apply for art school in the first place – she is now more interested than ever in expanding her horizons.
“I want to try as many things as I can, as many media as I can,” she said. “I want to experiment until I find a style I really, really like. Ever since COVID with these paintings, I’ve really developed a kind of abstract thing I didn’t have before, and I want to keep pushing it. I’d love to make paintings that are six feet tall. And once I figure out something that’s working and can give me a recognizable style, I want to get it up there.”
And, as she starts to plan ahead, she knows she is on the right track as an emerging artist.
“If you can find a passion, it’s worth working your butt off for it,” she said. “I know it’s not a super straightforward career path, but I love what I’m doing, and I’ve barely started.”