Erin Hammond is one of those rarely gifted artists born with more than one extraordinary talent and she has been pursuing her passions for painting and acting from an early age. Armed with a fine arts degree in painting, sculpture and theatre from the University of Wisconsin Parkside, she took the first leap of faith and found moderate success modeling and acting in independent films. Then, after seeing younger brother, Kevin Hammond’s career as a solo singer skyrocket shortly after moving to Los Angeles, she decided to try her own luck in the city of angels.
But although she might have been ready for Los Angeles, Los Angeles wasn’t quite ready for Erin Hammond, or her unique style of expressionist, multimedia art. After five years of struggling through the perils of being a starving artist and surviving as a single mother, her perseverance finally paid off. Not only is her work shown at the city’s most popular venues and attracting prestigious buyers from around the world, Erin Hammond is making her mark in the acting world as well. Through the depths of her darkest days and the heights of her rising career, she has learned that the secret to true success is always staying true to yourself and never selling out. No matter what.
Jana Ritter: Many people have artistic interests, but not everyone decides to pursue their dreams. What led you to take that path?
Erin Hammond: My dad was a musician and he was always encouraging us artistically. I’m the oldest of seven kids and he would always hold coloring contests for us or have the entire family singing together in talent shows and fun things like that. By the time I was in grade school, art had become so comfortable for me that I was chosen to be the art teacher’s aide helping other students in the class. In high school I spent most of my time painting and started working on large canvas pieces, and I just kept improving my skills and building my confidence as an artist.
But it wasn’t until I sold my first painting to a gallery in Wisconsin when I was just a month out of college that I realized I could actually make a living doing what I love.
JR: How would you define your work? What distinguishes you from other artists?
EH: As far as generic styles, I best fit in the categories of Emotionalism, Romanticism and Contemporary. But what distinguishes my style is that I experiment with a collaboration of many styles. Also, many artists and viewers often look at the finished concepts of art and the beauty of subjects in their final, perfect form. I like to focus on the unfinished elements, explore the imperfections and find beauty in the process – the reality of our human experience.
JR: Much of your work focuses on women as your subjects. Why is that?
EH: I think having worked both in modeling and acting, I became really fascinated by the human body and exploring the perfect imperfections of the female form. We are unfinished beings, always in the process of completion and I try to reflect that concept through my paintings with techniques such as overlapping with paint and pencil lines, and overworking some areas and leaving other areas unfinished.
JR: What are some of the underlying emotional themes in your work?
EH: For a long time I always felt pressured to be and to feel a certain way. It took me going through a really difficult, dark period in my life to realize it’s okay to feel different emotions. So a lot of my work expresses pain and emotional struggle, but also the serenity that comes with accepting what is and being true yourself no matter what.
JR: Has that theme translated into your commercial success as an artist? Painting what you want versus what sells?
EH: At the beginning of my career I felt more pressured to paint “happy” pieces because I was told that is what sells. Whether we like to admit it or not, most artists still need to make a living at the end of the day and so it can be hard not to succumb to what other people want. Then I discovered the reality is that every individual gravitates towards different pieces of art depending on what they are feeling at the time. Fortunately, I soon realized that the pieces I want to paint end up being the ones that sell the fastest.
JR: What is your most popular painting?
EH: “Oppression” is my favorite piece and I painted it during my darkest hours. It’s very raw and emotes emotional pain but also the feeling of hope and being able to overcome our worst days. That painting seems to affect people the most and it’s the one everyone wants to buy – ironically it’s the one I don’t want to sell.
JR: Your work has been shown in a lot of major venues around Los Angeles and is attracting buyers from around the world. How did that all come about?
EH: Things definitely didn’t happen overnight. My brother moved out here before me to pursue his music career and it didn’t take long before A&M Records signed him and his career really took off. So I guess I was expecting to move to Los Angeles and things would quickly fall into place just like that. It didn’t turn out that way at all. Not only was I really struggling with my career for the first three years, my marriage ended during that time as well. I had married someone from back home when I was 22 years old, we had a son together and we came out here together. Suddenly I was a single mother working odd jobs just to survive and pay the bills. I was still painting and showing my work at events like the Art Walk Downtown, but you can only go on for so long without selling anything and not get completely discouraged.
Then one day I went to apply for a retail position at Fluxus and things suddenly started turning around. I got talking to the owner about my art and she agreed to put a few of my paintings up in the store. Rather than getting hired for the sales job, I ended up selling over 30 paintings to their customers. Clad Home also displayed a few of my pieces in their store in Silverlake, and then I started doing a lot of pop-up shows with RAW, Project Ethos and at other popular events around town. Soon I found representation with Art Space Warehouse and through them; my work has been sold to major clients such as the owner of Porsche, TV production companies and a number of private buyers around the world.
JR: Your paintings have also opened doors for some acting opportunities as well. Tell us about that.
EH: One great experience was being hired as one of the featured artists to paint a huge mural for the music video Gracefully by Vintage Trouble. I ended up landing a part in the video as well and that has led to other opportunities such as on-stage performances with different musicians.
A few years ago I was commissioned to design a poster for one of John Stark’s theatrical productions. He happened to check out the other work I’ve done as an actress and he recently offered me a role in his upcoming film, Death of Angelique Vity. I’m very excited to work with him.
JR: What other projects do you have on the horizon?
EH: I’m getting ready for a few shows coming up in September. One is at the Jeanie Madsen Gallery in Santa Monica and later in the month I’m going to be the featured artist at Jenny & Jimbob in North Hollywood.
Once I know the exact dates, I’ll post the details on my website.
JR: What do you ultimately hope people will learn from you and through your work?
EH: I would like to be a reminder that your beginnings don’t determine your outcome. Never give up your dreams, never settle and always embrace who you are rather than trying to become someone you’re not.
Erin Hammond’s signature style of embracing and expressing the raw and sometimes unflattering parts of life, is also taking her beyond the bounds of Los Angeles. Not only has she showed at major venues such as Kunstwarenhaus in Zurich Switzerland, Affordable Art Fair in New York City and the Netherlands, and the Love Art Fair In Toronto, Canada, she has also completed 43 commissioned pieces for clients in California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland, New York and London. In just the last year alone, she has sold over 90 paintings internationally.
To find out more about Erin Hammond, her collection of work and her upcoming shows, go directly to: www.erinhammondart.com