Stepping into a still life experience: Interview with artist Erika Stearly


By Ekaterina Popova (Originally featured in Issue 16 of Create! Magazine)

About Erika  

A lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, Erika Stearly makes paintings of the spaces where people live. Her paintings, which are both fictional and biographical, have recently been included in invitational exhibitions in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Dallas, TX and were featured in a solo exhibition at the Boxheart Gallery in Pittsburgh in early 2019. 

Ms. Stearly has received numerous awards in support of her work, including artist grants from the Puffin Foundation, the Black Rock Arts Foundation, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she completed her MFA in 2014.  She was the 2015 Emerging Artist in Residence at Penn State University, where she taught painting, and a 2018 Visiting Faculty Fellow at Kutztown University.     

Editor Ekaterina chats with Erika about her story and how she came about painting interiors.  

Kat: Were you always interested in art? What was your early work like?  

Erika: I have been painting and drawing for as long as I remember. When I went to Kutztown University and was painting, it felt like we were always painting still lifes. At the time, I was really interested in painting objects when I was learning about the elements of art and how to render a work of art.  

There was a period of time when I started depicting rooms. I still thought of it as a still life arrangement, but one we could walk around in. Its a still life you get to experience. There is a distinction between where the objects are and the viewer is.  

Do you remember the first room you decided to paint?  

I participated in a summer intensive at Tyler School of Art. I painted a room that I have been in, but I was trying to paint it from memory. I had used a bunch of collage items to approximate what I wanted in this room. Its a pretty awful painting, but its pretty meaningful to me and I still keep it around.  

I need to collect a lot of materials to come up with the paintings I wanted to create. At the time, I was collecting Ikea catalogs and other sources which resulted in the paintings feeling very plastic and pristine. They didnt look like the houses my friends and I were living in.  

After that, I started making paintings of actual spaces. I posted on Facebook that I was working on a project and asked people if I could come and take pictures of their house. And people would invite me over and I would paint their homes. I started naming the works after street address. And Ive been doing this for the past ten years.  

Recently, Ive been looking on Craigslist to see ads of homes and images of lives in spaces for inspiration.  

How do you keep things fresh in the studio? 

Its very malleable on my end. I dont think art should be scary or confusing to people.  

When I paint spaces, even if they get gestural or fluid and suggestive, but people can still recognize objects. Once they get a clue, whether it be a chair or a window, they are able to figure out whatever else is going on. They are able to make sense of the images and come up with their own story.  

I can get people to be interested and engage with my paintings even on that level, even if Im thinking about something else entirely.  

Do you think about something specific when creating the spaces? 

I donthink of anything very profound, the process is very meditative for me. I listen to a lot of podcasts or storytelling. 

How do you stay inspired and are able to stay so prolific? 
I built a traveling studio kit, actually several different versions of it. I will paint in libraries, or any place that you can have your own table.  

Also, I color and paint at the bar. I have a small palette, paintbrush and a handful or markers that I keep with me.  

When I was in graduate school, I had a lot of studio time but it would sometimes be long periods of time before I see another human being, so this was a great way to socialize. People are very kind and curious, and sometime I will invite them to come color with me.  

Whats in your studio kit? 

Bathroom disposable water cups, Palette, Markers, Paint  

What are you excited about at the moment? 

The initial idea for me was that I was going to go to grad school, be a professor and teach, but over the past few years I have learned that Im meant to be on a different path.  

When I decided that Im definitely not going back to academia, I made a goal for myself that I was going to sell a certain amount of work and I have already hit that goal. Im so proud of myself! 

Isuper proud and excited for you too! Its the best feeling in the world to take control of your art career. 

Follow along Erikas journey on her instagram at @erika_stearly 

Learn more at 

Select paintings are available for purchase at 

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Online art gallery PxP Contemporary brings affordable art straight to your home

PxP Contemporary CEO, Alicia, was recently interviewed by Latinas In Business! Read the full feature here.

One simple hack to invest in art you love without breaking the bank: How to buy art with a payment plan

One of the reasons that I launched PxP Contemporary (and enjoy running the business) is because I love the experience of acquiring new art for my personal collection. Whether it reminds me of a special moment in my life, helps me support an artist who I truly admire, or adds personality to my apartment, each piece tells a story or evokes a certain mood. Both Kat and I wrote more about how we each got started with collecting in a blog post on Create! Magazine last year, but essentially, we both agree that building up a budget over time allowed us to make investments on the pieces of art we truly wanted to own. That said, even now, we don’t always choose to pay for artwork in full right away. We understand being cautious with spending in uncertain times, which is why PxP offers payment plans to help collectors be able to continue buying the art they love.

Scott Hutchison Art

Depending on which work or works you’re interested in, we offer several options for payment plans. For pieces that are $1,000+ or multiple pieces totaling $1,000+, you can take advantage of our partnership with Art Money. You’ll pay an initial deposit for the artwork to the gallery and then split the rest of the balance evenly over a ten-month period interest-free (these payments will be handled by Art Money). In order to proceed with this option, you’d simply let us know the work(s) you’re interested in and then create your account with Art Money. Once they’ve verified you, we’ll get the initial deposit squared away and you can have the artwork sent to you immediately! 

For works under 1k, we offer something similar, but the payment plan would be directly with the gallery instead. So, if you want to purchase a piece that is $800, for example, you could put down $200 as your deposit and pay $100 over the next six months, $200 over the next three months, or $300 over the next two months. We can either send you a new invoice for each installment payment or if you’re comfortable with sending us your card information, we can process the payments on our end and simply send you the receipts. We always try to be flexible with whatever works best for you.

Seth Remsnyder Abstract Art

The main difference between the two options is that by working with Art Money, you’ll get the artwork immediately, whereas with us, we won’t be able to send the piece to you until it is paid in full. Please reach out with any additional questions! Drop us a line at if you’d like to discuss payment plans further.



*Pictured artwork: Hothouse Jellyfish by Jenny Brown, Plastic III by Scott Hutchison, and Bouquet 3 by Seth Remsnyder

Summer Magic Exhibition: A collaborative project between Create! Magazine and PxP Contemporary

Create! Magazine is thrilled to invite visual artists to submit their work for an online exhibition in collaboration with PxP Contemporary. 

This open call is an opportunity to submit your work for consideration for a curated virtual group show. If chosen, you’ll have your works listed for sale through PxP Contemporary and be promoted to our broad audience of international readers and followers. Select artists will be invited for exclusive online interviews which will be shared via Create! Magazine’s online channels. 

Submit here.

Finding purpose through the darkness: Podcast interview with collage artist Jenny Brown

On this episode of Art & Cocktails, Kat talks to collage artist Jenny Brown about her journey and how she discovered her artistic voice, overcame adversity, let go of the shame surrounding her dreams, and gained clarity in her art career. 

This episode includes conversations about:

  • Discovering your creative calling

  • Student loan debt and financial struggle

  • Overcoming depression and more

Listen here!

More by Alicia Puig, Creator, Curator, & Writer

Alicia was recently interviewed by Anisa Benitez, founder of More By Her. Read the full feature here

More by Her serves as a platform and community to highlight women & non-binary people shaping culture. We are dismantling the ‘starving artist’ stigma one story at a time. Here we feature people across a spectrum of creative careers, in addition to their work. #ThrivingArtist

Our intention is to:

  • Strengthen the pipeline of womxn in the arts and creative fields through storytelling that provides others, especially girls, transparency into what a creative future could look like.

  • Shift unequal power structures and cultural beliefs by promoting creative womxn and supporting their work.

  • Show the diversity of creative paths and thriving womxn following them.

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