Creating the Canvas of Your Life: A conversation with two emerging artists – Erica Campitelli

In the summer of 2021 I met Erica Campitelli in Toronto at the five year anniversary of Canada Career Counselling. Erica paints abstract art in addition to holding down two other jobs. I was moved by seeing her beautiful pieces on Instagram, and learned how for Erica, art was a hobby turned business.

According to Erica, her art business was never planned, it just happened. One thing led to another and she kept returning back to her art. Art continued to be a draw for her despite setbacks and periods of time constraints. It made me want to dig deeper into how we can learn from Erica about how to fit in time for our passions amidst busy working careers.

What struck me about Erica Campitelli is her deep level of self insight and humility. She describes art as fueling and motivating her. It is relaxing, and comforting to return to. It is always there for her, when she needs it. She describes being able to get lost in the process and find a sense of “flow”. Erica states that she creates art first for herself, then if people are interested in buying what she’s created, that’s when she’ll sell.

 

How were you first drawn to creating art? 

Erica credits her mother for encouraging her art at an early age: “She would get me to sit in the kitchen and have me colour while she was cooking. Later, in elementary school, I went through a stage where I was very into tracing. I liked how I could represent what I wanted to accurately. She encouraged this, as it would ease my stress. I never felt like I was an artist. I honestly never measured up to my expectations, and often still don’t. I was a perfectionist and so tracing provided me with the aesthetic I was after.”

Erica had a phenomenal art teacher in high school who inspired her. She was free spirited and unlike any person she had ever met. This was followed by meeting her best friend Rebecca Banfi, an abstract artist who helped draw Erica away from perfectionism, and remind her of how much she loved art. They would share their love for art by going to galleries together and painting side by side. She encouraged, supported and pushed her to be creative and keep practicing. They still encourage each other to this day.

 

“Finding abstract art actually helped me with my perfectionism; to find acceptance with the imperfections, and of course see the beauty in them. I wanted to be like the greats, I wanted to get to their level of expertise and accomplish what they had. Although out of reach as a child or youth, as an adult you learn how attainable it can actually be. You see how when you want something bad enough, you are able to go after it, and work your ass off trying to achieve it.”  – Erica Campitelli

 

Erica feels art is a wonderful form of therapy.  It helps her de-stress and express her emotions. “I paint to be with myself, and to spend quality time alone, letting my mind wander and be in the current moment. It’s how I express myself, with a medium I have grown accustomed to, not unlike journaling or singing. So, although it’s not my main income, I am able to say I am pursuing my passion, and doing something I love. It’s a process, and I’m still learning and willing to learn from whomever is willing to teach me.”

The Circus 36 x 36″ by Erica Campitelli

Tell us about your main jobs and how you carve out time for your art?

Erica works two jobs, as an Educational Assistant and an Administrative Assistant at Canada Career Counselling.  She finds time for her art on the weekends. “You find time for the things you love. You make room for it on your schedule. You alter your to-do list, moving items to the bottom, as you make way for your preferences, prioritizing your higher wants and needs. Laundry I would say gets lower and lower, as well as baking, which used to be another hobby I enjoyed.”

 

You mention a quote by Thomas Merton that resonates with you. He states that, “art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”. What does it feel like to be in this “in-between state”? 

“Reaching the state of flow is incredible, as you are one with the canvas.  Your art is coming through you.  I compare it to getting lost in a film or a book. And so, I believe the ability to lose yourself and find yourself to be gold.” – Erica Campitelli

I can relate to Erica as I feel a similar state when I write.  When I was writing Losing Cadence and Finding Sophie, I could see a movie unfolding in my mind, and I felt as if I was watching it as it played. This state of flow is similar to what Erica described and is something I hope to achieve again.

Erica explains: “When creating, you are so consumed with what you are doing, the whole world around you disappears. Since I am never knowing where the paint will lead, I stick to taking one step at a time, letting one stroke guide the next. I listen to myself, following my inner wisdom, my instincts, in what colour to choose, and what brush to pick up. I use trial and error, and I refer to the phrase ‘sometimes it gets worse before it gets better’. I continue and keep going until I happen upon a resting phase.

As for losing myself, I do get lost, for hours it seems. I couldn’t tell you how many times day has turned to night, or how I’ve gone from being freshly washed to being absolutely covered in paint, and not exactly knowing how I got there. Time passes and I reawaken in the present.”

 

Pampas Dreams 16 x 32″ by Erica Campitelli

 

What has been your greatest challenge when it comes to each of your own work-life wellness, and how have you worked at overcoming this challenge?

“Setting boundaries, having realistic expectations for myself, and seeking out help if I need it are some of the challenges I face. Taking walks for fresh air, having quiet time, having time alone, getting rest, and keeping weekends low key have helped to overcome feeling overwhelmed.”

 

What is one book you’d recommend that has inspired you in some way?

The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo – when feeling called to, I will open it up to the page that reflects the day we are on in the Gregorian calendar. It’s not a book you read cover to cover in one sitting, it’s light, and allows you to take your time. I would label it a self-help book. It’s there to offer wisdom for when you need it most, but done so in doses.”

 

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Starburst 36 x 36″ by Erica Campitelli

 

Erica is an emerging artist born in Toronto, Canada. Abstract painting is her way of being present. It allows her to shut out all distractions while she explores colour and motion. In the studio she gives no consideration to time or its constraints. And, while she never starts with a pre-conceptualized vision, once a painting is complete she can make sense of it and find meaning. With a canvas she takes something that is blank and creates a personal narrative. Whatever she is wrestling with gets sorted, resolved, alleviated or elevated. Painting is a form of meditation, an escape, and ultimately her therapy.

You can find her on Instagram and on her website ”artbyair”.