Guest Artist Erika Barriga

Hi!  Today I am so excited to introduce Erika Barriga!  Erika is the creator of fun, whimsical watercolor illustrations!  Erika is great about sharing tips and all things watercolor!

ZEM Brush Ambassador Erika Barriga is a freelance watercolor illustrator. Her beautiful pieces are whimsical and playful, perfect for kids and kids at heart. She has shared some of her story about how she got started, how you can find time for art and what she loves about watercolor. Find more of her artwork and courses at   Erika also has a YouTube channel where she shares all kinds of arty goodness!

Your mermaids are the cutest, can you tell me more?

I love art challenges and when I found out that MerMay was a thing, drawing mermaids in May, I was all about it.  Also, I don’t see brown mermaids at all.  I started out drawing myself and my babies as mermaids.  The curves, the colors, etc; mermaids are so much fun to draw and paint.  This is going to last for awhile.

You often work in watercolors, yes?

Yes, I started out with wanting to work with watercolor but I thought it was too difficult. Instead, I worked with digital art but working with watercolor and getting that organic feel in my art was always in the back of my mind. Eventually I decided to just go for it and I've been in love with it ever since.

What is it about that medium you like?

I love the transparency of the layers, how portable it is and how unpredictable it is. Watercolor is its own language, there is no other medium like it and although it can be difficult at times, I have fun and I'm always learning. Working with different washes is exciting because you can actually see the colors mixing on the paper and depending on where they land in the color wheel, you'll get different results. I find that I need a plan of action before I dive in and that helps to make the process more enjoyable as well as getting closer to the outcome I want.

What do you have in your kit?

It is so easy for me to take my watercolors wherever I go.  I have a small metal palette with around 18 wells, all of my paints are from tubes.  I tend to paint small and I love multi-purpose brushes so I have less to carry around.  My top 3 is a round brush no. 8 6001 synthetic brush (coming soon) 6), Cat's Tongue brush (no. 4) [link] and a bigger brush for backgrounds.  6200 Green Sable Synthetics Round Brush size 10 is a great choice for big washes.

What advice would you give to creative parents with young kids?

Don't work when the kids are around! Haha, but seriously, I do try to work in smaller blocks of time and when they are occupied with something else. If they are busy having their own play time or watching a movie, I will step away and work for an hour or so. Of course there are times when I opt to just cuddle with them too, it's a delicate balancing act but it's possible.

How can they find time to create?

Really look at your day and see how you're spending your time.  Delegate certain chores or other deliverables to others.  Swap watching the kids with a friend, I have a friend who has play dates with our kids and I can go to the library.  It's amazing and we both appreciate it so much.  Incorporate your creating time with your kids.  Draw together and explore just like you would in your sketchbook.  You never know, you could stumble on an idea that can grow from there.

What got you into art?

I think being an only child growing up fueled my storytelling.  I was always making up games with special rules, drawing maps, writing stories and then illustrating those stories.  I remember having a little white rectangular basic watercolor palette with 6 colors in oval wells.  That was my very first introduction to watercolor and throughout school, art was always my constant.  I love how art can communicate with all ages, especially picture books.  Being able to be a part of that cycle is exciting.  Seeing my kids, 5 and 2, tell me what animals I've painted or what is going on in the story, that makes me so happy.

How did you know what type of art you wanted to do?

I discovered the type of art I wanted to create by looking at the art I loved.  Identifying what was drawing me to it; illustration style, subject matter, materials, etc.  Keeping what you love the most and discarding the rest is how you find your style.  It's continually changing and it's interesting to see where you end up.  You may find my digital work to be very different from my watercolor art.  However, they are consistent in that they are playful and from the heart.