Write On! interviews artist and poet TAK Erzinger.
TAK Erzinger is an American/Swiss poet and artist with a Colombian background. Her poetry has been featured in Bien Acompañada from Cornell University, The Muse from McMaster University, River And South Review, The Welter, and more. Her debut chapbook, Found: Between The Trees was published by Grey Border Books, Canada 2019. Erzinger’s most recent poetry collection, At The Foot Of The Mountain, Floricanto Press, California 2021, has been announced by the University of Indianapolis, Etchings Press as the Whirling Prize winner for 2021 for best nature poetry book. Her first audio drama, Stella’s Constellation, was produced by Alternative Stories And Fake Realities Podcasts, out of the UK.
Erzinger got her start as an artist in Baltimore, Maryland, where she began exhibiting her paintings in boxes. Early in her career, she was fortunate enough to have her artwork at The American Visionary Art Museum as part of their ‘Love, Error And Eros’ exhibition, where her work sold thereafter through the museum shop. At that time, she was also commissioned by Latina Magazine to create a two-page spread with her cigar box art. Recently, her work has evolved, focusing more on illustration. Her Latin background has a strong influence on her colour choices. She enjoys experimenting with illustrations and text. Most recently, her work has been published or featured internationally at Ponder Savant, The Unity Anthology (Barrio Blues Press), Fishfood Magazine, Paris Lit Up Magazine, Write On! Magazine and more.
She lives in a Swiss valley with her husband and cats.
WO: What type of art do you specialise in?
TAK: I work in two types of creative mediums: art and writing. I create mostly conceptual illustrations and paintings. I use mixed media: paper, watercolours, pen and ink, markers, acrya-gouache, acrylics, collage and sometimes canvas and oils. My artwork is metaphorical with my thoughts and/or imagery taking the place of realism. I strive to create pieces that are confrontational and, even though they contain elements of reality, my aim is to convey a certain mood through metaphor and subjectivity. I want to tell a story in each image that is left up to the viewers’ interpretation.
I write predominantly poetry and have recently begun developing my prose writing.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about what you are working on at the moment?
TAK: I’m working on three projects simultaneously. The first is the creation of a series of portraits of women who have influenced me throughout different stages of my life. I’ve also written a children’s book manuscript about the mourning process, based on a historical incident and I’ve begun to illustrate it. Finally, I’m halfway through writing my first novel, about a mother and daughter fleeing their old life.
WO: What inspired you to become an artist and what inspires you now?
TAK: I’ve been attracted to art since a small child. My parents were friends with a lot of artists, and they exposed me to many different types of artistic styles and work.
However, as a teenager, I was often left alone. My mother moved away, and my father remarried and was working a lot. It was at that time I had a good friend who was an art student and he taught me about mixing paint and how to prime a canvas. Through him, I began experimenting with drawing and painting. I would spend hours copying the works of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Frida Kahlo, to name but a few.
Today, I draw my inspiration from a combination of sources: nature, art nouveau and literature. Nature, because I live in a rural setting in a small village in the foothills of the alp Scheidegg in Switzerland. Part of my weekly routine is to go walking in the forest that leads out from where I live. Art nouveau, because its central idea is focused on bringing nature back to modern life – an idea I find very appealing, and one I personally strive for. Literature, because I’m an avid reader and quite often jot down quotes that strike me, and then centre an illustration or piece of art around that idea.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme ‘Nature, Inspiring Creativity: Past, Present And Future’. With that in mind, how has nature had a direct impact on your inspiration? Are there any particular art or creative works based in nature that spark ideas for you whenever you experience them?
TAK: My early life was one of displacement; I lacked a sense of place, a sense of home. It was not until I moved to Switzerland that I found my forever home and that happened to be in the heart of nature. It was the first time I ever truly felt safe and calm. It was here I could finally begin to develop myself as an artist and writer, surrounded by nature and love. It’s in the natural world where I feel the most at home, the most at peace.
This love of nature was already present in me as a child, because I’ve always felt the freest when I’m outside; whether running wild on the beach, stealing blackberries from our neighbour’s garden, or watching the ants in peonies. As an adolescent, the dramatic and sensual landscapes of Georgia O’Keefe and the poetry of Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver and Emily Dickinson captured my heart and imagination.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring artist?
TAK: Two things I have learnt: first off, to keep developing and learning from your artistic process. Rejection is not the last stop. Figure out how to improve when a piece of writing or art is not accepted for submission. It’s not personal, even though it sometimes feels that way! Secondly, be open to new opportunities, but also cautious about where you place your trust. As your success grows, people will crawl out of the woodwork, wanting to attach themselves to you and they may not always have your best interests at heart.
WO: What are the biggest issues (if any) you have to navigate as an artist?
TAK: I think it would be imposter syndrome. It’s taken me a long time to accept the fact that my artwork and writing appeals to other people. To truly appreciate the value and beauty of my own work.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
TAK: My artwork will be featured at the exposition entitled ‘art-thur.ch’ in June 2022 in Switzerland. I am also currently hoping to get my children’s book manuscripts and illustrations completed to send to agents in the autumn. Lastly, I hope to finish my novel by next December.
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
TAK: A unicorn, because they resemble horses and as a young girl, I rode horses, and as an adult I had a therapy horse. Both were very healing experiences for me. Also, because they are a mythical creature associated with magic, power and positivity, as well as a symbol of justice.
You can find out more about TAK Erzinger on her website: takerzinger.wixsite.com/poet, connect with TAK on Instagram: instagram.com/takerzinger, on Twitter: twitter.com/ErzTak and on Facebook: facebook.com/poetryvagabond.
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I've always felt the freest when I'm outside; whether running wild on the beach, stealing blackberries from our neighbour’s garden, or watching the ants in peonies.