Dope Art: Colored Pencils?

Art is everywhere. Dope art is not.  Everyone produces art, and it all has some value. But there is the art that take things to the next level. When you come across some dope art, or a dope artists, it elicits emotion.  Good art can make you happy, whereas dope art can take that happiness and turn it up to 11.

But what is it that turns good art into dope art? And once an artist moves on to the stage where their art is now considered “next level,” how does that artist stay motivated?

We linked up with Erin Fox, a Portland based artist who uses a medium we don’t usually equate with dope art: colored pencils.  Erin’s been doing some amazing work with a medium that most of us discount as being capable of producing real art.  But not only is Ms. Fox producing art with colored pencils, she’s producing dope art.

Colored Pencils can make dope art


When most people think about colored pencils, they think arts and crafts time or scrapbooking. But you’ve taken colored pencils and created some really visually stunning artwork. What drew you to this medium?

Yeah, for sure. People tend to equate crayons and colored pencils. (Not that crayons are terrible, but they kind of are) Colored pencils are something you use as a kid then grow up to use “real” art supplies like oils. I struggled for years justifying focusing on this medium for that very reason, which is absurd. I love colored pencils and can easily manipulate the colors to what I want through a pencil much easier than a brush. I love blending colors, probably my favorite part of any piece and if you look at all the other mediums colored pencil is the most straight forward and immediate. There’s no layering and waiting for it to dry with oils or having to work fast enough before acrylics dry creating a blocky gradient. For me, it’s the easiest to manipulate.


How would you describe your style?

I play with colors. How they bend, interact, pop among other colors, psychedelic. I say psychedelic often because that’s what psychedelic is- colors playing with each other in an overall moving pattern. My style does vary a bit,  I’m constantly growing as an artist and finding new ways to represent this interaction, but the focus is always how the colors interact with each other.

Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from? Do you just sit down and start drawing? Or do you start with a plan?

More recently I’ve been inspired by Cascadia, the natural beauty of this bioregion and its Native history. I also draw a lot from Russian folk art, Indian art/architecture, which again are very color heavy and detailed. I recently returned from India where I was experiencing living in colors, Jodphur (the blue city), Jaipur (the pink city), Varanasi, etc. Seeing how they use patterns and colors and how I can build off that. When starting a piece, I almost always just sit and start drawing with no idea how it’s going to turn out. Often I have a small idea that I want to use certain colors, maybe fluid or spikey, but that’s it.

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What’s the worst part about being an artist?

Money. No one wants to pay you for anything but to do it for your portfolio or exposure. But money comes and goes and that’s with anything, and to have the freedom to be myself and create, it’s not that bad.

I notice you don’t name your artwork, is there a reason for that?

Art means different things to different people and I like that about it. Giving it a name implies a certain meaning which, thus far, I do not have.


3155278_orig So you think that naming your pieces don’t allow people to experience the artwork in it’s truest form, somehow making dope art less dope?

Definitely, because then people just focus on what the title is and how it relates to how they see it. A lot of times I’ll see a piece and have an idea about it and create an elaborate story in my head, then see the title and am like “oh, it’s not the creation of the universe, just a poorly drawn tire.” People have come up with elaborate stories about why I have a certain number of dots or bars, most of the time it’s beyond anything I’ve thought of. I do like to hide poems and certain symbols in a lot of my work, but like people to figure it out themselves. I’ll put any and all info on the back of the piece, the poem, the title or number, and signature.

How do you stay inspired to keep making dope art? Are there ever moments where you want to stop?

Drawing is a way I balance myself, depressed? Draw. Happy? Draw. Angry? Draw. Stressed? Draw. Most of my pieces are like elaborate doodles which morph into something over time. So as long as I have something to think about, I have something to draw. As for as stopping, there’s so much going on in the world right now, so many environmental and social issues which needed to be solved years ago and here I am drawing. That bothers me a great deal, I could dedicate my life to direct actions chained to a pipeline somewhere but here I am using up wood and paper which is not sourced sustainably or locally. I listen to lectures while I draw and after 3 hours of Chris Hedges calling for revolution against corporate capitalism, I think, “why the fuck am I sitting here coloring flowers?” I actually think about it a lot, but instead of stopping art altogether, how can I use it for these causes? This is something

A picture is worth a thousand words.  In just one describe your art.



To see more of Erin’s dope art, visit her site: Through The Psychedelic Lens.

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