• Editorial and Interview by Emi D

Featured Artist of the Month-Brianna Erdman

Both Beautiful and Educational

Like many of us with chronic illnesses Brianna has been sick since the beginning, the most obvious being cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS). Unfortunately, that didn’t answer everything that was going on. In the middle of her junior year she became very sick. She came down with a stomach virus that would not go away. After being in and out of the doctor’s office for a week she started to feel better and thought she was finally on the road to recovery. Just a few short days later she woke one morning feeling completely lightheaded and dizzy, so much so that she couldn’t even get out of bed. After going to see more doctors she was finally diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). As time wore on, she has been more capable of managing her symptoms, and some time after her POTS diagnosis she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) Type III.

What drew you to art? When did you start?

I honestly don’t know what drew me to art. I have always been a creative person that was always interested in craft projects and liked creating wacky things as a young child. So, I guess art was just meant to be! As far as when I started, ever since I could hold a crayon or marker in my hand, I do not ever remember a time where I was not drawing! Art class was always my favorite class in school, and that has not changed.

What mediums do you work with? How would you describe your subject matter? What themes seem to occur/reoccur in your work?

I work with many mediums! For a long time I only liked pencil and paper, but I have definitely expanded my horizons. I have gotten into polymer clay, paper mache, and even magazine collages! I also really enjoy working with pen and ink. Currently, I have really been into painting. I find it very relaxing and easy.

I love to draw many different things, but I find that I always go back to plants or animals. I have drawn and painted people before, but unless I am having a really good day, I usually cannot sit in a chair long enough to draw them. I find drawing or painting people takes a lot of time for me, especially if it is someone I love. For a long time I drew wolves. They are, by far, my favorite animal to draw! They are usually one of my warm-up sketches.

For themes, as I look at my art work, it is all generally realistic. I like drawing cartoony things, but I always tend to go back to drawing realistic pieces. I would say that it is just part of my artistic style.

Tell me about your piece. Is there something in particular that you wish to convey with this artwork or perhaps emotions or ideas that you running through your head at the time?

Ah yes, the zebra! This has been one of my most personal pieces. Originally, it was just supposed to be a normal painting of a zebra, but I felt the need to convey what EDS is really like for all of the people that don't understand. So I came up with the idea of putting the "struggles in the stripes". After finishing the piece, I really felt that it had captured what living with with EDS is truly like. Of course, I don't suffer from every symptom on the painting, but many other "zebras" (a word used to describe people with EDS) do. This piece was really just a way for me to show others some of the awful things people with this chronic illness suffer from. Still, it is impossible to completely understand what it is like, unless you go through every day with it.

What does art do for you?

Art is an outlet for me. I use painting and drawing, (or just being creative in general), to get me out of a slump where I am feeling sorry for myself. I use it to lift my spirits, and express my emotions without words. It had helped me before all of this had happened, but now more than ever before.

When people ask you what you do, how do you respond?

Honestly, I just like to be a kid. Before getting sick I did work a part time job at a bakery (best job ever, but I brought home way too many sweets). As far as what I do to keep myself able to go through life? I just "roll with the punches." Seriously if I spent all of my time moping about how awful it is, I would get absolutely nowhere. I hang out with friends when I can, go to movies, sun tan, I just like to try to live life the best way that I personally can, even if it means doing things a little bit differently.

What inspires you? What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?

I get inspired at the weirdest times. Sometimes I will get an idea in the middle of the night and I cannot sleep until I draw it or write it down. Nature and fresh air inspire me the most. Living in Wisconsin, I had a hard time doing art during the winter. Now that it is summer, I open the window next to my desk and let the creative juices flow. However, if I do not have a good snack before I sit down, absolutely nothing will get done.

What do you think the biggest challenges to creating art are? Do you have one that is particularly troublesome for you?

One of the main challenges I face as an artist is artist block. It is essentially writers block but with art. I will have the urge to make something but then I can't think of what to make, or whatever I did draw never turns out good. It is definitely the most annoying part of being an artist. Another is probably not being able to sit for long periods of time.

Do you have a piece that you are most proud of?

My favorite piece right now is my zebra! It is the piece that I feel most personally connected to.

Do you have advice or life experiences that have influenced your work?

One of my most silly pieces of advice to other artists out there is not to work without a water bottle with a cap. I have spilled water all over a piece too many times. For life experiences, I would have to say never give up on a piece even if you think it is turning out bad, you might be surprised at the end.

What do you want your work to do for others?

I really would like my work to bring others joy when they look at it, but also to bring awareness. So many people struggle with chronic illnesses that are life changing, yet people have no idea what it is like. That chronic illness for me is CVS.

Do you have a favorite motto?

Oo I like this one! I live by the one by Mary T. Lathrap "Don't judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes." This relates so much to chronic illness because so many of them are invisible struggles. If someone is acting a certain way, or doing a certain thing, you have no idea what they are going through so you shouldn't judge them because you know nothing about them.

What three things never fail to bring you pleasure?

Family, Friends, and good Food.

Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

Yes, I am currently working on getting a copyright for the zebra painting so that I can make shirts! Super excited about it!

Are there different skills or techniques that you are hoping to learn/try in the future?

Of course! As an artist I am always wanting to learn new techniques, or a different way to do something. I really would like to learn hand lettering/calligraphy.

If you could have an art class with any artist in all of time, who would be your top 3 and why?

100% Bob Ross, I love that guy and his happy little trees. The two others would definitely have to be Chuck Close and Georgia O'Keeffe!

Briana is a finalist in the Ehlers-Danlos Society Art Contest on Instagram to Vote go HERE and one "LIKE" equals one vote!

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