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Exit Interview: ABN Chats With Erik

July 19, 2010

(c) Bravo

In episode 6, the judges eliminated Erik Johnson from the show for his lack of contribution to the blue team’s “Scales” outdoor art project. In this Q&A with ABN, Erik reveals further insight into his behavior toward his blue team counterparts, his thoughts about his time on WOA, and his plans for the future.

Here’s more information on Erik from the Bravo website:

“Erik, new to the fine art industry, plans on shocking and shaking up the art world with his unique perspective. He first found his passion for filmmaking while creating the short film “The Ghost of Christmas Presents,” which debuted at Cannes Film Festival in 2006. Though he has no formal training, Erik is excited about experimenting with all mediums. On his path to gain a broader depth of experience in the art world, he ultimately hopes to improve his cinematographic creations. As evidenced in his films and most recently, his paintings, Erik seeks to provoke thought with his unusual and often dark creations.”

-Interview by Kate Stieren, ABN Editor


ABN: Looking back on it, what was your reaction to the episode?

Erik: “Pretty much the same as it was when it all happened. I’ve had some time to think about it and process it. I had made the comment about art school graduates having their heads stuck up their asses. That wasn’t taken out of context. I said it, but what I was referring to is these specific art-school kids that got their heads in their asses and have this pretentious feeling of entitlement doing art, definitely was not something that everybody who went to art school as a whole as having their heads up their butts. There are plenty of untrained artists with their heads in their asses too. That’s something that I wish I would have elaborated more on. Really my reaction was really the same as when it all went down.”

ABN: Was there anyone on the show that you could relate to that was trained but wasn’t at all pretentious and was very open to all artists and not just people that have been educated in art?

Erik: “Yeah, the other 10 contestants that weren’t in my group. I was really surprised to make any friends going out there. I pretty much expected to deal with the pretentious attitude.  It was really a relief not to. I made 10

(c)Bravo

really, really good friends and all of those people were really open to understand where I was coming from. It’s like I’ve been playing music for years, again I wasn’t trained with that, I didn’t learn how to read music, but I’ve talked to a lot of trained musicians who are like, ‘Man, I’ve learned everything I could and forget it.’ I think for a lot of them, talking to me was a way of seeing things from a new perspective, or that perspective that they had before they were so trained.  I noticed a lot of approaching the challenges based on ‘Oh my God, what are the judges going to think, what are they going to like?’ As much as I wanted to please them because that would further me in the competition, I just couldn’t approach it that way because there was no way for me to figure out what they would like and anticipate that. I really got to create what I was feeling and my life experiences. I felt a tremendous freedom there. That’s what I’m getting at with the other 10 artists, besides the ones in my group. That was kind of cool for them to be around too and they made that known to me.”

ABN: How would you respond to critics that say you weren’t being a team player in last night’s episode?

Erik: “That’s easy to say when you’re not there and you’re not having your ideas rejected. I’ve been in a band for years and in that sense, music is art, and I’ve been involved in group efforts. That was the first time that I’ve really

The Blue Team (c)Bravo

had to deal with attitudes like that. It’s the frustration, that unraveling feeling of ‘Wow, nothing I say is getting through.’ Most of the times, I wouldn’t finish my sentence before my idea was shot down. If somebody were to judge me for that, that’s fine. That’s the fun part about critiquing, you’re entitled to that. I behaved the best way I know how, and I can’t say I would do things much different.”

ABN: Were you surprised to last so long on the show considering you were the only untrained contestant on the show?

Erik: “Yeah, I was really surprised to last that long, and extremely grateful too. If you watch the last episode, the Audi challenge, when they announce who’s staying and the rest who are  safe, you can see the look on my face, that sigh of relief. Every time I was safe, I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m still here.’ I felt extremely lucky because I couldn’t anticipate what the judges would think, so I was basically making work that I felt was good for me and I kept my fingers crossed.”

ABN: Do you regret anything that you did on the show?

Erik: “Besides the clown painting, which is obvious, the comment about the art school graduates with their heads in their asses, I should of elaborated more on that. I can tell you honestly that comment was not edited down. That’s the way I said it. It just didn’t come out right. I cringed a little bit last night when [I said it]. I was like, ‘Aw man, I’ve got to make some apologies.’ Really, I don’t think I would change anything. I behaved the best way I know how.

“My biggest lesson [came from] Jerry Saltz. It’s really hard to admit when you’ve been wrong. Me and him may not agree on art, but the main thing I would do differently is just shut up and listen to what he had to say. At the time I felt like he was pressuring me and discouraging me. After coming home, [I realized] that guy was just trying to push me to be better than I was being because he’s awesome … It doesn’t mean I have to apply what he’s saying, but at least just listen to it. It was the first episode with my clown painting and when it aired, he had made the comment that about the expression in my portrait was ‘neither here nor there.’ It was like one of those light bulb moments going off in my head. I was like, ‘Man, if I would of just shut up and heard that, that would have been worth its wait to go home.’ I wish I would of just been more open to that instead of taking the improvements personally.

“I’m never trying to be better than anybody else; I’m just trying to be better than I was yesterday. (Jerry) was like the hard teacher that pushes you because he knows you can do better, he knows you can be pushed.”

ABN: What was going through your mind when you were in the hotseat and you heard the judges’ decision?

Erik: “That’s the funny part, being in the bottom twice, I was really feeling bitter about the judges and going home. For what they had to work with and what they had to see, I can’t say I blame them. I still wanted to be there. I didn’t want to be sent home for someone else’s piece, but what were they supposed to do? Take all that fighting and the personal thing aside, my vision wasn’t in there. Yeah, I helped out with it, but who would you eliminate?”

ABN: Who did you think was going home when they said it was between you and Miles?

Erik: “When they said it was between me and Miles, I kind of knew at that point. I don’t think there was any way they were going to get rid of him right there for that. Not to be bitter about it, but I think that he made a bad piece and he got a free pass for falling down on me. Someone said that this was a continuation of my last piece and if this isn’t structurally sound I’m getting sent home. It was fine. It didn’t win and I left. I really kind of knew what was going to happen.”

ABN: Did you feel that being a self-taught artist hurt you on the show?

Erik: “No, I think it gave me a tremendous freedom not approaching challenges based on what I thought the judges would think about my work. I think it made me a bit of an underdog. I think I’m pretty comfortable with the underdog part. The first episode when I was saying I was untrained and Jerry was giving two strikes, I was really pissed at the time. (When the episode aired), I was really happy he did it because that kept me from saying it continuously during the rest of my time there. I’m proud of the fact that I’m untrained, but I could see it, in hindsight, where I was leaning on that as kind of a clutch. I think being the untrained artist was cool, it made me stand out and it gave me this tremendous freedom that I don’t think most artists have in that respect.”

ABN: How has the show influenced you as an artist? And from a business point-of-view, how has it influenced sales of your work?

Erik: “I still haven’t sold anything. I put my film up for sale last night on my website. I’ve had some people show interest. I’m in the process of getting my website up to sell and take credit card orders. I’ve kind of avoided the whole sales thing to see how this would pan out. I’d really love to put food on my table based on creating things. I’d love to eat and keep a roof over my head by making things that other people can enjoy. I think the show gave me the confidence to think that my work can hang with other peoples’.”

ABN: Do you still want to pursue art as a professional career?  You said something on the show about this being your last effort in the art world.

Erik: “I said it was my last-ditch effort and that was 100 percent how I felt at the time. That lasted about two hours. I said, ‘Screw that, I’m gonna make shit.’  I’m still pursuing it.  I’ve been busting ass on my short film. I just completed one called ‘Ugly’ that’s for sale on my website. I’m outlining my next one. That’s been my ultimate goal all along, do what I can to earn a film career. I’d love to show in galleries. Really, career-wise, I want to make movies. I can express myself through every medium I do from music to painting to making stuff. In my last film, I pretty much made all my props and my masks. I feel like I can roll everything I do into one medium.”

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