Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” And Einstein knew intelligence, and, depending on your point of view, his hair seemed to suggest all he ever did was have fun.
Erika Lujano, our maker for the month of September, has let her intellect out to play since she was a little girl. The result is a lifetime following a winding path with many quirky, colorful detours to her true passion.
“Since I was a child, I was very interested in doing creative things. I took photos of my dolls, cut paper, decorated my room with crafts, etc. When I was a teenager, I dreamed of being a writer. I wrote poetry and short stories. I was even in a literary workshop,” she relates. “But the true encounter with my passion was when I went to the university to study arts. There I really found a space in which I felt happy with the various techniques that I was learning. I really enjoyed all that stage because I obtained the tools for my artistic work. I specialized in photography and that is how I learned about antique photographic processes such as cyanotype, a fundamental technique for the creation of all my artwork.”
Art has made me know myself and my professional abilities more thoroughly.
In a dream, maybe?
So what is cyanotype? “Cyanotype is an ancient photographic technique. I learned this technique in college 13 years ago,” Erika explains. “I really got hooked on this process. It's almost magic to see the image unfold and the Prussian blue is wonderful.”
Cyanotype is a photographic printing process. The “cyan” comes from the print, which comes out cyan-blue. It’s also over 170 years old; “ancient” in photographic age.
“I am a full-time artist and it is an activity that I develop in a professional way. I started working cyanotype in a classic way making prints only on paper. But over the years, I [was] experimented on a variety of supports, such as textile, wood, glass, and dried botanical leaves. It was trial and error experimentation for a couple of years, but I was determined to achieve quality prints on different substrates. I like to mix different disciplines to build my work of art, experiment and use a variety of materials.”
She’s no stranger to criticism, either. It’s part and parcel in the world of art, perhaps, but Erika believes in her ideas. “A short time later, I was mixing textile cyanotype with embroidery, which caused many criticisms of my work. Purist people did not conceive that I would intervene in cyanotype. I didn't give it much importance, I followed my instincts and continued.”
She makes it sound easy, but following one’s instincts, particularly when your vision is unique, takes courage.
Erika considers her artwork to be her purpose. “Making art is a primary need in my life, I am passionate about it, I enjoy it and it is undoubtedly part of my purpose. It inspires me to be able to create without limitations, always at the mercy of my technical development. Art has made me know myself and my professional abilities more thoroughly.”
Erika has described herself as a visual artist. In her own words, she describes visual artists as those who focus on the production of work in photography, video, and animation. “I use the title of visual artist because that was my academic training, I specialized in photography in digital and analog processes so my introduction to art was under that premise.”
Does she have an artistic philosophy? She hasn’t said so directly, but she does emphasize mixing it up. “The development of my current work is under a variety of visual techniques such as plastic or a mixture of both. Currently, I work analog photography with old painting techniques. I make artist's books mixing plastic techniques and images. I make small textile sculptures [that I intervene] with embroidery.
“My work has evolved over the years, and I firmly believe that artistic disciplines intertwine to create mixed media works. I like to break with purist schemes. I prefer to investigate and create from my explorations. I have managed to create pieces in different media and formats.
I make my artwork represent technical and creative freedom.”
I believe in one's own voice and that each person has a lot to express.
As a full-time artist who has made a business of her work, the pandemic has also affected Erika profoundly. “Before the pandemic I gave classes and face-to-face art workshops and had a studio-showroom with my husband in Mexico City. We had to close. With the pandemic I focus on my online store and sales of my personal work.”
But the changes, she relates, have also been positive. She has even found inspiration in it. “An advantage is that it allowed me to dedicate much more time to my personal production, to relate the confinement in some works or even to reflect on some terms such as home, security, etc.,” she says. “Now I work all the time from my studio in Cuernavaca, a peaceful city. I enjoy my time much more now, close to my family and producing my work in calm.”
The pandemic may have also lessened her exposure to trends or competition in the art world, but Erika doesn’t mind it. “I don't think much about trends or competition. I usually produce my work from a very personal point of view, with personal questions, themes that perhaps connect with some people. I believe in one's own voice and that each person has a lot to express.”
Having pursued creativity and art in one form or another since her childhood, and now focusing on it as a business, one might wonder if Erika still finds it exciting. She doesn’t hesitate to say yes. “Due to the pandemic, I had to adapt to giving some online workshops, learning to convey the enthusiasm and passion for artistic analog techniques through the screen and even showing through the camera how certain forms of work could be achieved. But the joy, the comments and gratitude of the students make it all worthwhile.”
And has the pursuit of her passion taught her any important life lessons? Again, it’s a yes for Erika. “Without a doubt, one of the most important lessons is to be yourself, stop being afraid to express what we think and feel, listen to our inner voice, believe in yourself.”
I enjoy my time much more now, close to my family and producing my work in calm.
“Today Cyanotype is a much more visible technique, there are many artists working with it in different formats and mixing it in different ways, it is more common to see it in conjunction with mixed techniques.”