Erika Stearly makes paintings of the spaces where people live. Inspired by vintage home remodeling magazines, real estate listings and friends’ houses, her paintings are documentary. They tell a story of everyday life.  

Using a combination of watercolor and acrylic paint, Stearly quickly sketches in the setting. Despite being loosely rendered, exaggerated and often brightly colored, the collection of domestic items depicted still manages to evoke the sense of a particular place. Stearly’s paintings are often titled by street address or named after the people who live there. The fluidity between abstraction and representation creates a unique feeling of nostalgia.

Her work has been featured in exhibitions around the country, including the Affordable Art Fair NYC, Superfine and a solo exhibition at the BoxHeart Gallery in Pittsburgh in the summer of 2023. Ms. Stearly lives and works in Pennsylvania.


Instagram: @erika_stearly  

Original Art by Erika Stearly

What initially compelled you to pursue art?

I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember, and it’s always brought me joy. I can’t imagine a life without a studio practice, and surrounded myself with people who respect that. Some of them understand the importance of art making because they are creative folks themselves, but other people recognize that I am a happier, more pleasant and fulfilled human being when I spend time in the studio.

Who or what in your life influences your practice the most?

When people say, “Oh, your work must be inspired by van Gogh,” I tend to explain that we don’t teach people the language for talking about art. Generally, people have a favorite band or a favorite type of music, but even I feel a bit put on the spot if you ask me to name my favorite painter. Van Gogh is an artist most people can name, and we both have a strong sense of mark making and color and depict scenes from everyday life—but I don’t wake up and paint every day because some guy made a bunch of paintings 150 years ago.

In this particular era of life, daily life with a toddler has more of an impact on my studio practice than anything else. I make my paintings and run my business from my kitchen, so I have to be strategic about what tasks can be accomplished and when.

Original Art by Erika Stearly

What do you feel is the key concept that connects your works?

I consider myself to be a painter, rather than an artist, because the work reflects the traditions, philosophies and materials of the discipline of painting.  

Tell us about a moment that ultimately made you look at your art and/or practice differently.

Deciding to run my studio practice as a small business marked a huge turning point for me. Yes, I am an excellent painter, but I run a small business that specializes in selling paintings by Erika Stearly. I enjoy the challenge of developing new skills in support of my small business and have gained an unshakable confidence in myself. Rather than trying to squeeze my studio practice in around the margins, I have integrated life around the fact that I am a painter.

What does your art give you that nothing else can?

Joy! A sense of accomplishment. Enough art supplies to open a small business in art supply sales. Invitations to fancy cocktail parties. A social media following large enough to boggle the mind. Obscure knowledge about pigments and color theory. An annual bill with the post office that is my single largest expense year over year. Employees! A general idea off the top of my head of shipping costs to half a dozen countries. More money than any other career I’ve pursued. Connections with collectors and creatives from around the world.  

Original Art by Erika Stearly
Original Art by Erika Stearly