Copyright 2010 Kerne Erickson -----------------------------------------------------------
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Paint on canvas, layer upon layer, with primitive tools in a modern age, artist Kerne Erickson combines the past and present as he ponders the future.

The work of Kerne Erickson is unique. He has developed a distinctive style that is immediately recognizable, but difficult to relegate to any typical stylistic category. A master of Retro Realism is a phrase that comes close to being appropriate, but he has wide influences.  The works of Chuck Close, Wayne Thiebaud and Roy Lichtenstein are as much an influence as the landscapes of Maurice Logan, Emil Kosa and William Wendt.  To him, orange crate label art has a place alongside the works of the old masters. A fascination with the nuanced penumbral area between light and shadow, and the resulting glow, is a constant in his work.  Fundamentally, he is concerned with traditional realism and is responding to scenes that have become vivid to him, whether by observation or through construction within his imagination.  At the same time he is equally intrigued by letterforms and graphic design, which he often integrates into his paintings. He does not just paint how things look. A viewer can sense that he also knows how things work; how they were designed and constructed.

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Born in Wichita, Kansas in 1946, Kerne Erickson came to Los Angeles to attend the Art Center College of Design, on a scholarship from General Motors.  However, his interest in automotive design and cold climates quickly faded as he was exposed to the Los Angeles art world and the brilliant California sun. Graduating in '69 he began working as a freelance commercial illustrator/designer for what was to become a long list of corporate clients.  After moving from the Hollywood Hills, with stops in the flatlands of Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, and then the mountains of Julian, in 1976 he finally settled in a hillside community at the southern edge of Mission Viejo where he currently lives and works.

Interest in painting images gradually replaced commercial work, and over the years, his response to the relentless advance of the computer age has been to increasingly embrace the simple act of creating with primitive tools of "colored dirt and sticks" (paint pigment and brushes).  Pastel, watercolor, and oil remain secondary to acrylic, his general medium of choice due to its versatility and superior permanence.   While seeking to maintain the discipline of traditional realism, he is also concerned with the expressions and abstractions contained in each brush stroke.  The tension between the established visual reality and a sense of the designed, layered, and subtly nuanced paint surface imparts a thoughtful, metaphysical quality to his work.

Erickson's versatility has allowed him to pursue parallel interests and opportunities that have arisen.
Looking at his series of vintage themed paintings, many have assumed he was a popular artist working in the 30-40's and long since deceased.  Each of these retro paintings was accurately researched and developed from various historical ephemera, and then synthesized into a scene from the past as seen through modern eyes.  Many have period style lettering designed and painted directly onto the canvas, the end result resembling old travel posters, which then have been reproduced and distributed around the world.  For Erickson, as a counterpoint to our modern, often frenzied age, they provide a place to ponder, escape, and gain perspective for the present and future.

Other people, seeing him with huge brushes painting high on a ladder or scaffold, assumed he was a muralist, such as when he was adding the finishing touches to a 120 ft. mural for California Adventure/Disneyland. While never actively seeking mural work, a few interesting commissions have given opportunity to break out of the confines of the picture frame and to transform an entire wall into a vivid visual presence.

In a dramatic contrast of scale, other times he can be found under a straw hat painting a small study in plein air. While these paintings are enjoyed as a pleasant diversion from studio work,  they form the foundation of observation for everything he paints.  Absorbing the interaction of sky with earth, the transition of light into dark, and the penumbral glow that brings visual energy to a simple scene is crucial. Speaking of his experience, Erickson says that, "Painting for me begins with a simple attraction to a particular scene, and a desire to do something in response to that attraction.  Often I paint. Sometimes I just look, caught up in the moment, feeling...this is important.   A painting can never actually equal the moment, but it is my record, my response."

Actively painting daily, his current works range from the old El Rancho Escondido in the pristine hilltops of Catalina Island to the modern day urban scenes of Southern California.