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Artist by Nature
I had the chance to meet Erica during the South by Southwest Festival in Austin in 2015. I already knew her work by then, and I always loved the way she depicted nature and animals, with a slight touch of fantasy, and sometimes fantastic… I was lucky enough to commission her to create an artwork for an official Dragon Age Inquisition art show in Paris, and it was great to work with her ! She was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions for Geek-Art, and it was really interesting to dive into her beautiful work.
1/ could you please introduce yourself to our readers ?
My name is Erica, nice to meet everyone! I am a freelance illustrator and tea addict. I’m also known by the handle HookieDuke, and for my fantasy drawings of flora and fauna.
2/ what is your school / professional path (school, university etc)
I attended KCAI (Kansas City Art Institute) for a year, but moved and had plans to attend MCAD. I could not afford it, and chose to work as a designer for several years while I started moving into freelance illustration. After a while I quit my design 9-5 and went all in on freelancing full time. Since then I have opened my online shop, published a collection of my work, and started exhibiting at conventions.
3/ how did you know you wanted to become an artist ? What decided you ?
In junior high I really clearly realized I wanted to make art. I had always been really crafty and musical, but when it occurred to me that I could learn to draw, and enjoy it, my focus was determined naturally. It was a bit similar when I realized, many years later, that I wanted to be an illustrator. I had encountered an Envy poster and fallen in love with it, and it turns out it is relatively easy to get into making band posters if you want to.
4/ how is it that you decided to « specialize” yourself with nature and animals ? What inspires you in them, what message do you want to bring through your art, especially through the sometimes « macabre » (but beautiful ^^) aspect of it ?
I grew up in a place that was really beautiful and had lots of opportunities to go exploring. My mother and grandmother also always kept many pets, and a variety of kinds of pets. Growing up surrounded by mountains and a lot of really rich, enchanting wildlife literally in my backyard and my home is built into who I am. There is a lot of love and reverence for these things and the magic they possess on their own as well as that which we assign to them through folklore.
The macabre aspects of my work are equally in line with this I think. In the most basic sense the macabre is built into life, and it plays a huge role in our lives and cultures. I find it fascinating, and drawing it is a way of sharing how I feel process those moments or emotions.
5/ what would be your artistic inspirations, in your work in general and on a daily basis ?
There are really so many. Art Nouveau is a huge one, but so is animation, manga, cinema, music, writing. As well as my cats. Haha. There are few things that do not inspire me.
I have admired CLAMP (note : the famous female mangaka team), Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki, anything in a natural history museum, and film since I was a kid. I am deeply inspired by lore and the occult and include themes related to them in my work regularly.
6/ what would be the artwork you are the most proud of, and why ?
I am not sure there is any specific stand alone piece that I am really proud of. One time I have produced some sets of work, and when viewed together I think I like them the most. But there is not singled out favorite.
7/ what would be you relationship with pop culture in general, how did you discover it and what kind of media do you prefer in this field on entertainment ? What do you think about pop culture in 2020 ?
I am not sure how I would judge my relationship with pop culture. It isn’t a huge focus of mine and I don’t worry about keeping up with the latest fandoms. I am online a lot managing my social media for art, and that is where I get the most info on pop culture. I either see something I think looks good and watch it on my own, or am recommended it. I don’t include pop culture into my work as a lot of illustrators do, so my relationship with it is mores one of enjoyment than professional and I appreciate that. I definitely am a fan and enjoy a lot of pop culture and enjoy drawing it. It is a lot of fun and in 2020 specifically we could use more fun. As far as the pop culture of today, I have not kept up to be honest. The political and pandemic fears of 2020 have an obvious effect on everyone, and yet creators are out there pumping really fantastic and amazing work out is beyond impressive.
8/ what would be the dream job, if you had to work on an official license / universe ?
I have two gut reactions to this question. This first is always “SO MANY” and the second is “But I know in my heart it is a Miyazaki film. However there are a lot of really good films out there I would be so stoked to do licensed work for. A lot of them are the more obvious dark horror or horror films, but movies like Melancholia, Antichrist, Akira, Pride and Prejudice, Blade Runner, the list keeps going. Truly.
9/ could you tell us more about your technique ? The way you work ?
I work primarily in ink, using technical pens and sometimes manga nibs. Typically my work is colored digitally, bit I occasionally do gallery work in gouache paint. I have a really, let’s call it abstract, concept sketch that I will work into a pretty well defined composition and shape, and will fill in details as I go. When an ink drawing is complete it is scanned, pulled into drawing software to be cleaned up and add color.
10/ you recently posted about an amazing book of your art could you tel us more about it, how it started, the time you spent on this project ?
“Ritual” is a collection of some of my art over the past five years. I created a Kickstarter for it earlier this year after the urging of some friends to do so and it was funded! Because this project was a collection of work it sort of feels like it took many years. It is my first book so it is a little special to me as well. Over the last year I have devoted a lot of time to the planning and production of the book, more than I thought I would. It has been a huge part of my life just bringing it into being, not even any of the specific drawings themself. There was a point when the Kickstarter was looking like it really would pass the final stretch goal and I would have to really sit down and finish the tutorial and biography section and I realized how much more the book was becoming than my original vision of it.
11/ what are your projects in the near future ?
I always have client projects coming up and know there are some hopefuls out there. But I am planning on completing an Oracle deck and a Tator deck in the next couple of years and am really excited about them. <3
12/ Please tell us about your online shop !
My online shop can be found here: https://ericawilliamsillustration.com/ and features a variety of my prints, as well as some other items that I produce myself. I also have a Threadless (https://hookieduke.threadless.com/ and (https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/hookieduke/) Inprnt profiles for some of the things that I don’t carry in my own shop.
It has been closed for the past month while I moved but is recently reopened! Please visit it if you have a moment.
13/ what would be your advice for young people who wants to work in the art / illustration area ? To the young generations ?
Trust in yourself and your ability. Make lots of friends. I know a lot of people, myself included, that feel imposter syndrome or who second guess if people like their work. Make the things you want to see, tell the stories you want to hear.
In short :
Your favorite book ?
TOUGH. Really tough I have a lot. I don’t think I can narrow it down to one. I own three copies of Pride and Prejudice and two of The Golden Bough so they probably win as influences.
Your favorite movie ?
Another hard pick. I think Howl’s Moving Castle, but I could pick a winner from more narrowed categories more easily than I could one overarching favorite.
Your favorite video game ?
Presently, Nier: Automata. That game was stunning and such a joy. I am hoping for way more time to play video games in 2021.
Your favorite comic book ?
Can I cheat and use manga instead? CLAMP, all of it. Big nerd for their work. I never collected comic books though so I don’t have a specific American comic that stands out the way my other ‘favorites’ would.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer our questions Erica ! As for your impostor syndrome, believe us : your art is truly fantastic, and we hope our humble article will bring you more followers. As for you who read those lines, thanks, you can follow Erica here :