ERIC MECUM artist
Born in Livermore, California, 1968, Eric Mecum is a self-taught painter who has been painting off and on since 1988. Initially reluctant to admit himself an artist, he first began painting by copying the clean lines of prints.
While attending a small community college in California, he came across the works of Robert Cottingham in the book ďRealists at WorkĒ (Watson-Guptill Publications). Cottingham, a leading member of the realist movement, focused his work on painting storefronts and neon signs, and Eric saw the similarities in his own work and the clean style of the compositions.
In Sonora, Eric found inspiration in the abundance of neon signs to use as subjects. The old SunLite signs fascinated him. Over the years, his collection of reference photos inflated faster than he could paint.
He spent 13 years in Fresno, California, a town full of neon signs but not much of an art community. So from 1997 to 2003, Eric temporarily set down his brushes to pursue the creative outlet of designing custom-made electronic guitars.
Upon relocating to Chicago in August of 2003, he found the inspiration to again pursue his painting talents with a new-found passion. He has started using oils, but on occasion, will go back to his familiar acrylics.
I was born a painter! I know this, because after years of neglecting this talent, itís still what I do. As you can see in my images and compositions, Iím a painter with photographic tendencies. Iíve always admired the ďsecond viewingĒ of a painting. When you view a painting up close, you see a variety of things it reveals about the artistís own experience. This is what keeps me from just taking photos.
The idea of being an artist is a tough sell. It has been so romanticized over the years, breeding thousands of wannabes and everything seems to have already been painted. Walls are covered in artistic crap!
Subjective?! Maybe, but crap is crap. Even some of my own work qualifies. I wonder every day if Iím adding to the collection of crap. Perhaps we need another Bonfire of the Vanities! Itís one of the biggest dilemmas I have with my art. I always ask myself, ďWhy should I paint this? What do I have to offer? I will never be exceptional, mediocre at best.Ē Yet, I still paint because I constantly see and feel. Iím humbled and energized by my art.
From my first Da Vinci painting at the Louvre, Vermeer at the Met, Mark Tansey at the LA County Museum, the San Francisco MOMA, the colors of a Degas, my very first exposure to Egon Schiele, Lee Bontecou at the MCA, John Singer Sargent, Francisco Clemente, my first walk through the Art Institute of Chicago, Keith Haring, Steven Keene, Edward Hopper, Chicago artist Emily Rapport, Photorealists, the unknowns, the studios, the galleries, the smell of oil paint Ė these are the experiences that drive me! These inspirations are what I love about art and what have me addicted. Even with the imperfections and dissatisfactions present in my own work, in this over-populated world I want to someday create a piece that will pull viewers in like the artists and paintings above pulled me in.
All painting styles interest me, but currently realism is what I do. I love urban landscapes, the shapes found in man-made things, the views of what humanity has built, the history. Chicago sparked an interest in painting people, something that never interested me before. But like the buildings, there are people everywhere. My composition is always on the fence of perfection or confusion. Iíve painted with the smallest brush, and Iíve danced in front of a 12-foot wide canvas. Both work for me. You can hang ten of my pieces and ask which ten artists painted them. Iím still searching, just beginning to grow as a painter. If itís crap, we can always burn it later, and enjoy the warmth of the fire.