Edible Paintings: A Profile on Eric Wert

If you take a closer look, we are surrounded by art. Even the food we eat can be transformed into a mixture of colors coming together on a canvas to create a painting on a wall. This is exemplified in Eric Wert’s pieces. His work is not only life-like, but also makes some of us reconsider eating certain vegetables we probably wouldn’t look at twice. This Portland artist is not only continuously developing his aesthetic but also capturing our stomachs with his detailed paintings of fruits.

Your Locavore piece on your site makes consuming vegetables look appetizing. What was the inspiration behind this piece?   

Eric Wert: Some of my strongest artistic influences are Dutch Baroque still life painters from the 17th- 18th century, like Frans Snyders or Jan De Heem.  The Locavore was an attempt to present a contemporary version of those classic cornucopia compositions.  The subjects of the locavore are all from a local farmers market, or from my own backyard.  Fruits and vegetables are often considered the most mundane subjects, but when you look closely at these natural forms, they unfold in ways that are endlessly fascinating.

How long have you been an artist?  

EW: 22 years?  That doesn't sound right.  It's gone by really fast. 

On average, how long does it take you to complete a project?  

EW: The paintings take as long as they look like they take.  Probably longer.  There are no fucking shortcuts.

What made you decide to become an artist?  

EW: Originally, I wanted to be a scientific illustrator, as a way to combine my interests in art and natural science.  After doing this professionally for a few years, I realized that my interest in observation is not exactly scientific.  I became interested in how a subject can begin to take on many associations, and become more mysterious and unknowable upon close observation.  This approach is, I suppose, more poetic than scientific.

 There is a lot of detail in your work. The artwork of food you create looks so life like.  How long did it take you to develop your aesthetic? 

EW: I think an artists' aesthetic is always developing and evolving.  It's taken 22 years to get to this point, but it feels like I'm just getting started.  I can finally paint well enough to see how poor my skills really are, and how much more work there is to do. 

What is your process when creating a new piece?  

EW: Well, it's hard to boil down months of work into a short answer, but my paintings are constructed through an indirect process, with colors being built up slowly in layers.  This allows for very luminous color, and the time to manipulate elements carefully.

If it were up to you, how would you paint your ideal city on a canvas?  

EW: I would replace all the buildings with trees, all the people with frogs, and paint a forest.

What’s your favorite part of being an artist?  

EW: It depends when you ask.  There are long difficult days in the studio where I would be hard pressed to find an answer to that question.  What I enjoy the most is the opportunity to take the time to deeply observe my subjects.  It's usually only after days or weeks of painting a leaf or a tomato that I feel like I'm actually beginning to see it.

What does art bring you?  

EW: My art brings me lots of headaches, but experiencing art in general is the most important thing in the world.  Its how I understand that my own individual point of view is only one small fragment in an unending kaleidoscope of perspectives.  Art helps me to appreciate how big and strange and great the world really is.