We are going to talk about one of my older works today “Creativity and Sterility.” If you are part of the Edmonton arts scene you’ve likely seen this piece at a few galleries, and every other summer at ArtWalk. You might not know this was originally going to be the first of many pieces for a playing card set. She was the queen of spades and still is to me.

Queen of Spades

It’s weird talking about this piece, I’ve had it for so long, it’s surreal I’ve never really shared this in detail until now.

I remember how challenging the piece was, and how afraid I was to work on it. Portraits are hard. Skin tones are hard. It’s never really been high on the I love to do this list. I think that’s why I haven’t done many throughout the years.

There was an event I keep recalling that might be what inspired the project.

At the time I had worked for a gallery in sales, and as their picture framer. A client brought in a few custom playing cards they wanted framed. The cards had some custom filigree elements and pin stripes. It was very automotive inspired. Something my Dad would have freaked out over. Anyway, as I’m framing these cards the wheels started turning and I got to thinking “I could make my own”.

This was so early in my artistic career, looking back I know it was way too ambitious for my level of skills at the time.

I hadn’t even thought about graphic design as a career option at that point. I had no idea what was involved in printing, or even how to properly photograph my artwork.

Naive little Justin…

I ended up creating a few drafts that weren’t that dissimilar to the finished project. Sadly those have been lost to time. I literally just went through all my old sketchbooks, and notes.

I have moved 4 times since then. Who knows where they ended up.

Creativity and Sterility in progress

I did find this old photo! From about halfway through the process.

The Symbolism

The Upper Half of the Queen of Spades

The Upper Half

This side represents your dreaming mind. Eyes closed and portrayed in full colour. It is essentially your untapped creative potential.

The Chickadee represents courage, good luck, and curiosity. Everything you need within a dream to express yourself freely. The birds and feathers are also representing the behaviour of dreams darting from one place or idea to the next.

The butterflies symbolize both the memory of the dream and lucidity of a dream. A popular and common theme in my work.

The monarch butterfly is also a symbol of transformation and new beginnings. Each dream has the potential to be new and to inspire.

The Lower Half of the Queen of Spades

The Lower Half

As you might have guessed by now this side represents your waking mind, and how its influenced by your senses and your memories. Portrayed in black and white, with hints of colour throughout. It is the world around you influencing your creativity.

By making the eyes, the same colours as the stars scattered around the piece. You are being influenced by the dream even while awake. The stars mirror the locations of the butterflies and birds on the opposite side. Drawing parallels between the dream and reality.

The smoke and haziness represents that as the day progresses, it is more and more difficult to recall the dream from the previous night.

In a nutshell, this piece represents the waking mind and the sleeping mind and its relationship with creativity. It is most certainly not the queen of spades anymore.

Credit Where Credit is Due

If it wasn’t for my friend Lina Stadler for allowing me to reference photographs from one of her shoots with Lisa-Marie McGinn. This piece may never have gotten off the ground.

Even though it’s been quite a few years. Thank you!

Final Details

Creativity and Sterility – Framed

The original measures 16“x”22 inches. It was created with a combination of watercolour, ink, and coloured pencil.

Framed to conservation standards, triple matted, and set in a modern high gloss wood frame. It is still one of my favourite framing jobs I have ever done.

The outside measurements of the frame are 25.75“x31.75” inches.

The original is still available for sale as well as a variety of print sizes.

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and learn more about my work. Without your support this would be really difficult to do.

Stay Creative,

Justin Erickson


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