Flourishing after graduation

A painting of two abstracted faces by recent University of Regina graduate Erickka Patmore

U of R graduate Erickka Patmore reflects on painting in a pandemic

Making your way as an artist after graduation has never been an easy task, and the pandemic has undoubtedly added layers of complexity to that period of change. Erickka Patmore graduated from the University of Regina with a BFA in print media in April of 2020, and along with her graduating class constructed a virtual show of their grad projects in place of the standard grad show. While she enjoyed the experience, it was disappointing after looking forward to the grad show throughout her entire degree, but realizing how adaptive she would have to be has sprung her into action.

Patmore said she contacted the CPR Historic Center Gallery in Virden, Manitoba, because “Virden was really close to where I went to school and I actually got an art scholarship from them. I emailed them and said ‘Hey, remember me?! I’m done art school now, do you need anyone for a show maybe?’

“By the time this email exchange happened I had a couple of paintings going so I put this little proposal together with a couple pieces I’d done already, some in the works, and a plan for how to build it around the theme of how covid has impacted me, and they liked it! I sold my first piece through that show.”

Gallery shows are difficult to facilitate in a regular fashion right now, but Patmore found another opportunity to display her art through The Junction’s group show “Every Nook and Cranny” this past December.

“We had a virtual reception over Facebook Live and people were buying art through the live show,” she said. “It was a really nice opportunity to be featured on their page and I wound up selling one of the two pieces I brought in.”

Another unique experience Patmore added to her CV last year was creating an instructional video for the Saskatchewan Library Association called “An experimental painting workshop with Erickka Patmore” for their Culture Days. “I pitched a workshop about intuitive, expressive painting with colour matching for your emotions that I based it on this thing I did through counselling in high school. I made the video, and they gave me money so now that exists on YouTube forever!”

While these achievements were a thrill to experience, they didn’t come easy, and Patmore pointed out the difficulty of prioritizing her mental health through the process. “My focus in 2020 was trying to build myself some good habits. Like, I wasn’t worried about getting as many gigs as possible, I was focused on getting myself a good foundation.” 

One foundational aspect Patmore put considerable work into was the ability to promote her own work. She mentioned it’s helpful to think of being an artist “as you being your own business, so you have to get yourself out there. Go to the galleries and make yourself known as a person and, if you can, reach out to them directly.” Another angle of self-promotion is through social media, which Patmore has done both through her newly constructed website and her use of social media platforms like Instagram. She spent 2020 building a following, writing blog posts for her website, and focusing on consistency and follow-through in her practice and habits.

One of Patmore’s 2021 goals is to get a posting schedule going for her Instagram page, @erickkasart. For her, that looks like “Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I’d do a post, and then two or three days a week I’ll make an Instagram reel about what I’m working on. I’m really just posting what I happen to be doing – the key is that I don’t care if it’s ‘internet-worthy’, I’m just trying to show people the life of an artist and sometimes you don’t make shit that’s very good!” Through posting her work so frequently Patmore has seen an increase in commissioned pieces; at first from close friends, but now spreading to acquaintances of acquaintances as she works to establish herself.

Since Patmore graduated during a heavily locked-down period of this pandemic, I asked her for some advice for the BFA graduates of 2021 who will likely be in a similar position. To start, she emphasized making the most of the professors’ expertise, as she places great value on the skills they taught her from the first course to the last. She also mentioned that while the students’ grad projects are likely a top priority right now, they should “try not to treat the grad project as the defining point of your art career.”

Another point Patmore touched on was that it’s normal to have a difficult time finding your style and working the techniques learned into your individual artistic process. She joked that she’s had pieces she’s restarted 80 times over, and she uses those trial runs to explore new techniques more casually. “Don’t make your art super super precious because you’re just trying to make it better. Don’t treat everything as your magnum opus – if it turns out shitty but you learn something, you’re still further ahead. The more art you do the better you know your art, and the better you know the directions you’re able to push in. You have to find the fine lines of what you like in your art somehow, so honestly bulldoze over them and then reign it in to find where your sweet spot is.”

Patmore credits her focus on building a strong foundation for a large part of her success following graduation. Self-discipline and consistency are never easy, especially at first, but just like with art they get easier with practice and the benefits are more than worth the cost. After receiving more than three times her regular commission requests last year, Patmore said through a smile that “It’s nice to be putting myself out there and trying this, taking that risk, and seeing that it’s going to pay off if I keep working at it. It’s a challenge, but I like the challenge.”

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