Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Dec 16, 2021 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I first discovered an extraordinary artist, Erica Bradshaw, in a local coffeeshop (you can't be surprised!), Great Grounds Coffee. Her use of colors was not only beautiful, but made me want to stop and look more closely. Little did I know that when I explored her socials (especially her gorgeous instagram!), I would fall into an Alice-like rabbit hole of delight. 

Erica is a mixed media artist from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her colorful, whimsical illustrations are filled with curiosity and wonder for the natural world. Oftentimes, her work reflects a child-like wonder and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to immerse themselves in the tiny, but significant moments we can find in the environment around us. With the subject of her paintings being animals and nature, Erica is passionate about also incorporating thought-provoking themes into her work, such as the importance of environmental awareness, conservation, and protection.

Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw

Without further ado, the art and words of Erica Bradshaw...

Please tell us about your new book, Their Home, Our Landfill...
My first book is called Their Home, Our Landfill, which I wrote, illustrated, and self-published in 2019. It is about how animals interact with pollution in the environment, and encourages readers to adopt ways of reducing their plastic usage long term.

I am in the progress of creating my second book, Alphabet of Amphibians, which I hope to be released in the next year. It started as a project on social media, where I completed 100 paintings in 100 days from January to May 2021. 

Alphabet of Amphibians Frosted Flatwoods Salamander. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Alphabet of Amphibians Frosted Flatwoods Salamander

Their Home Our Landfill Interior. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Their Home Our Landfill Interior

Their Home Our Landfill Spot Illustrations. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Their Home Our Landfill Spot Illustrations

How long have you been an artist?
I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. Art has always been a constant for me, and I was fortunate enough to be encouraged to follow this passion since as early as my first finger painting. My art followed me through all of my schooling-I remember my first piece in a real show was at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts when I was in second grade. This came full circle when I had a piece of work included in the West Michigan Area Show at the KIA in 2020. 

Erica in 2nd grade KIA show Orange Pastel Flower. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Erica in 2nd grade KIA show Orange Pastel Flower

2020 West Michigan Area Show at the KIA. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
2020 West Michigan Area Show at the KIA

Is your art your full-time career?
I am currently a full-time artist! Still feels odd to say, but I recently finished school with my BFA in Illustration from Kendall College of Art and Design in May 2021. After doing public art initiatives and murals around the Grandrapids/ Kalamazoo area during my last semester of school, I made the commitment to myself that I would jump straight into full-time freelance work; at least for my first year out of school. I'd say it's going well so far! Since then, I have completed projects for the South Haven Center of the Arts Bike Rack project, Lansing Art Gallery's "Art Path", Downtown Grandrapids "Chalk it up" event, Lions and Rabbits Grand Rapids Barricades Initiative, and more!

Mural Photo-Photo taken by Brian Esler Photography. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Mural Photo-Photo taken by Brian Esler Photography 

Lansing Art Path Sun Illuminating photo Slides. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Lansing Art Path Sun Illuminating photo Slides

Chalk Mural for Downtown Grand Rapids Chalk it Up. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Chalk Mural for Downtown Grand Rapids Chalk it Up

Bike Rack Mural for South Haven Arts. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Bike Rack Mural for South Haven Arts

Custom Chalk Mural for The Rutledge Grand Rapids. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Custom Chalk Mural for The Rutledge Grand Rapids

Lansing Art Path Sculpture. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Lansing Art Path Sculpture

Do you have favorite places you like to create?
When I can, I enjoy Plein air painting outdoors but with unpredictable Michigan weather, I am often in my studio! My studio is in my living room of the 500 sq. ft apartment I live in. I painted a colorful mural on the wall to help with brightening up the space, which seems to do the trick for now. Some day I dream of having a studio space that is surrounded by windows, and if it was in the middle of a forest- I wouldn't be mad about that!

Erica's at home studio space. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Erica's at home studio space

What does a typical day look like? 
Good question! I am still figuring out a routine after graduating and being out of school for the first time in my life! I don't have much of a typical day, but that is what I enjoy so much about being my own boss. I am able to create what my day looks like. Somedays I will feel in the mood to paint/create for what can be nearly 12 hours straight, others can be photographing pieces for my online store, planning social media posts, or gathering inspiration. This past year all my work during the week had led to displaying at art fairs, markets, or shows where I sell the work I was able to create in the previous week(s).

Erica Bradshaw Working in her Studio Space. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Erica Bradshaw Working in her Studio Space

Mixed Media Frog Painting. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Mixed Media Frog Painting

What materials do you prefer?
Watercolor has my whole heart. If I had to give up every other medium to keep watercolor I would. The versatility is amazing--granted I don't think I use it in the traditional manner. Many times I start with washes, and textures like dry brushing, and salt resist as a more abstract approach and then dial it in with a more opaque, detail-oriented application almost as if it is marker or pen...but with a brush. However, as a mixed media artist, it doesn't hurt to add some colored pencil and or chalk pastel over top, as well!

Watercolor Mixed Media Painting Peacock. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Watercolor Mixed Media Painting Peacock

Where/How are you inspired?
I am endlessly inspired by the little things. If you saw the pictures I take on my phone, it is filled with photos of mushrooms, ferns coiling at the top, light shining through leaves, moss spores, tufts of grass, flowers, bugs, and generally framing life as it would appear if you were a small field mouse. I find it inspiring that nature is so complex and foreign-feeling on a micro-level, but when zoomed out as we see it on a daily basis, it's something so familiar that we often take for granted.

Prints of one of Erica's pieces inspired by the little things. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Prints of one of Erica's pieces inspired by the little things

Inspiration. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Inspiration

If you were not an artist, what would you do?
I think I would honestly be somewhere involved in environmental sciences, conservation, animal rehabilitation, or involved with a company like 4 Ocean cleaning up beaches and waterways. Sustainability in every sense is something I am very passionate about, and practice within my own life, but I am so impressed by the people that are out there doing the work to help protect our environment.

Treehugger at heart. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Treehugger at heart

How can our readers find and purchase your art?
Michigan locals can find my work in person at markets around Southwest Michigan through the summer/fall months, and year-round at my booth in Retroflection Vintage Shop, of Portage Michigan! 

Anyone else can find my work on my online store at Home | To Draw Attention  or contact me directly on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter  and email todrawattention[at]yahoo.com

Erica displaying her work at an outdoor Market. From Artist Spotlight: Erica Bradshaw
Erica displaying her work at an outdoor Market

 Erica Bradshaw
Erica's Booth Space at Retroflection Vintage shop

I also have a Youtube channel that highlights the behind-the-scenes process of projects
 

All photos courtesy and copyright Erica Bradshaw