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Who's Who: Erin Kennedy Chase, Painter and Mom

Chase shares a humble attitude about her Zen-inspired artwork — which incorporates birds and trees into a colorful space using layered paints — and advice to new artists starting out.

Name: Erin Kennedy Chase

Age: “I’m going to be 30 in August”

Occupation: Painter, mom

What’s your story in El Cerrito? I’ve been in the Bay Area for almost nine years now. I kind of hopped around. I lived in Oakland for a bit and then in Mill Valley. My husband and I started dating about four or five years ago. He’s from Berkeley and he was going to buy a house. It was the peak of the market so El Cerrito was kind of affordable at the time. We bought a house over here and within a few months got married and have been happy ever since.

Before here where did you hail from? I went to school in Seattle. I came here to continue my education. I got an A.A. at the Art Institute (of Seattle) and then I got my B.A. in visual studies at California College of the Arts. I grew up in Sacramento; my whole family is in Sacramento.

I’ve always been into art since I was little. In high school I really just dove into it. My teachers were great: They helped everyone in the advanced classes who showed a serious interest in art prepare a portfolio and submit it to colleges for scholarships. I would say that’s kind of where my artistic abilities took leaps and bounds with their help — they were amazing teachers teaching all kinds of different mediums and techniques. Then I pursued video in college — visual studies is art history, philosophy, that kind of stuff.

Once I graduated, I said, “OK, I am done with writing papers now, I want to actually pick up a paintbrush.” I missed it. I wanted to use my abilities to do something that was relaxing.

It kind of took off from there. I produced a small body of work and had a little show at a gallery in Mill Valley and just took it on as kind of a full-time hobby and now kind of a mini career — if I had a career outside of being a mom.

What would be your advice to other artists starting out — people who want to pick up a paintbrush but feel unmotivated or are caught up in jobs and other aspects of their lives? I would say don’t be afraid. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m going to paint. If I like a color, I just apply the color to the canvas and move it around. Just pushing paint on a canvas to me is relaxing. I use mainly acrylic, and you can just paint over it if you don’t like it.

Is the process itself the reward, too? Definitely. I still feel like I’m experimenting as far as a final style. I almost call every piece I do homework. It’s a study for me, working with paint and materials and seeing what happens. I would consider every painting I do an experiment.

I feel like people get so attached to what they do creatively if they like it. My advice would be to give your stuff away or sell it really cheap. I try to make my stuff as affordable within a price range that anyone decorating their house or something could just buy it and just try to cover cost and materials, because it keeps you doing it more. I think some artists get too much of their ego going and that’s not what it’s about — just give your stuff away once you’ve created it and get over yourself. 

Editor's note: An is being held tomorrow, July 8, at 7-9 p.m., at gallery, which is currently hosting an exhibition of Kennedy's work. Some photos of her paintings, along with more information about her work, can be seen in the photos and accompanying captions attached to our for The Glenn Custom Framing.

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