Local illustrator Erin Camarca’s medium of choice is colored pencil, and the Southwest’s strange beauty is her subject. These pencils add to the delicate, slightly sinister flavor of Camarca’s fanciful drawings; oil paint would probably be too harsh and bold. Camarca lives in Durango with her husband, son and horses (she’s been here for 35 years). Her art is Western inspired, though she is by no means a “Western artist,” illustrating tourist-appropriate cowboys on horses or desert landscapes. Her work is much weirder. She will be signing her first illustrated book, “Rattlestiltksin,” at Maria’s Bookshop on Friday, May 13. Written by Eric A. Kimmel, the book is a reimagining of the classic tale of child-snatcher Rumplestiltskin, with a Southwestern setting and Spanish vocabulary.
There are lots of references to both the American West and folktales in your work. What are some of the mythologies you draw from? There’s references to all sorts of mythologies from around the world. I’m mostly inspired by the animal side of mythology, the beasts. A lot of them do happen to be Greek, and I do a lot of research for each piece. I feel like the frontier spirit – in Durango especially, and also the West in general – is being lost to a great extent. I’m trying to capture some of it. My art comes from feeling a loss or a nostalgia for that.
What are you working on now?I recently had my first baby, so finding time to illustrate has been difficult. Things have been a little bit on pause. You expect to do the same kind of work – and then your life changes. I’m just kind of getting back into it. I’ve completed two pieces so far this year, and they’re up now at Maria’s.
Who are some of the illustrators who have inspired you? The old pre-Raphaelite art. Those George Stubbs racehorse paintings. Brian Froud, the fairy books. And Michael Hague.
Tell me about “Rattlestiltskin.”It’s the first book I’ve illustrated. I don’t know the author, but I was contacted by the publisher and hired to do the illustrations for his manuscript. It took me nine months to complete the book, and it came to 34 pages of illustration. That’s the most I’ve ever done in that time frame, the most prolific I think I’ve ever been.
You use mostly colored pencils, which seems like it would take a long time and isn’t the medium of choice for a lot of working artists. Why is that a medium you love?I’m really comfortable with it; I started when I was probably 7 years old. The pencils allow me to do the detail I really like, and I feel my technique has become competent that way. I’ve been noticing colored pencils are becoming more widely accepted now. I’ve seen them in galleries and stuff. It’s thought of maybe as a more temporary medium – like, oil paintings last for hundreds of years. But there’s so many other mediums out there now; mixed media and digital has its place in the art world. So why not colored pencils? But “Rattlestiltskin” is actually all watercolor. I was trying to make sure I could get it done within my contract, and what with the shading and building up of layers, colored pencils take too much time!
Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer