Eric Spaeth’s Vivid Street Journeys

by Sheila Julson

Contemporary watercolor artists have taken the medium to new heights over the years, and Oklahoma City artist Eric Spaeth is no exception. He’s the grandson of Oklahoma-based watercolor artist Simone Hulett, whose work has been shown at galleries and studios throughout the state. Spaeth describes Hulett’s work as classically abstract, more structural in technique. “I took a lot of my inspirations from her,” Spaeth says.

Although Spaeth was influenced by his grandmother’s classic style, he’s become more experimental. He combines photographic images with his watercolor art, which adds depth and texture to his bold, striking depictions of street life.

Spaeth began his art career in ceramics and specialized in raku-style wall art. He studied art at Oklahoma State University and earned a two-year general studies associate’s degree. He later moved to Boulder, Colorado, to study art at Fort Lewis College.

From Colorado, Spaeth moved to Minneapolis, a city that has for years experienced a thriving arts scene. He worked full time at a job in water treatment and spent much of his time off working on his art. During the economic downturn in 2008, Spaeth lost his job, and even became homeless for a while. On the streets, the scenes that played out on Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis’ main drag, intrigued him. “It was a busy street with a very urban feel—lots of people walking, lots of bars and cocktail lounges and bright neon lights,” he recalls. “I tried to develop watercolor that would capture the blur of street lights and people.”

Although Spaeth’s experience in Minnesota was an influential time for his art, he yearned to travel and explore his art roots. He returned to Boulder and spent a full year doing art and rediscovering his process. Invigorated by a renewed sense of creativity, he later returned home to Oklahoma City, where he became active in the city’s budding arts scene.

Spaeth decided to experiment with the look of high-fire glazes and the red and blue colors from his previous ceramics works by transferring those visual attributes to watercolor paper. “One of my newer projects that I’m proud of is my abstract digital photography with a single-lens Sony camera. I print the photographic images onto watercolor paper and finish them with polyurethane before framing the piece. It’s a unique process that creates a texture like glass. The end result is very beautiful, almost like crystal,” he explains. “With the single-shot, one-frame imagery, the city life can really come alive in my work.”

There’s a current trend in the art world for modern works, Spaeth observes, and he feels that he’s riding that wave. “Nationwide, this is an interesting time for art. I get many customers seeking ultra-modern art, and there’s a big interest in high-gloss art.”

Spaeth sees an emerging arts community in Oklahoma City. He lives just a few blocks from the Paseo Arts District, an area that has enjoyed a renaissance since the 1980s. He often walks or bicycles to the district from his home studio, and he’s actively involved with Paseo Gallery One. He participates in the Paseo Arts Festival and returns to Boulder every year for an arts show. Spaeth’s work will be shown at the Paseo Gallery One open gallery from July 1 through 30. He also touts Paseo’s monthly gallery walk as an engaging social event where attendees can enjoy a beer or glass of wine while building camaraderie within the arts community. The gallery walk takes place the first Friday of each month, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

“Paseo is a very traditional arts district,” he says. “It’s got everything from ceramic art, metal artists, yarn and fabric artists. It’s a much more centralized version of the art scenes I’ve encountered in Minneapolis and Boulder.”

See images of Eric Spaeth’s work at SaatchiArt.com/ericmspaeth. For more information, call 405-250-6775 or email E.Spaeth45@gmail.com.

Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.

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