Artist Erin Farrell on avoiding boredom, changing interests, and hunting for inspiration

Erin Janet Farrell does a little bit of everything.

The 28-year-old Upstate New York artist has so many artistic hobbies and interests, it’s hard to keep up. She draws, paints, sews, embroiders, makes jewelry, and often immerses herself in photography, graphic design, and collage-making. “I seriously don’t understand how people can say they’re bored. I’m never bored,” she says. “I have too many hobbies to even be bored.”

She and I chatted for a couple of hours on Sunday to discuss all of her artistic pursuits, her inspirations, and her future projects.

Elly Gibson: Tell me a little bit about yourself. I heard through the grapevine you’re an “incredible artist,” which is obviously true by looking at your Instagram.

Erin Janet Farrell: Haha aww thanks! Well, I guess I would start by saying that I have a lot of different artistic interests. Maybe too many artistic interests. I like painting (specifically watercolor), drawing (charcoal is my favorite medium), photography, graphic design, and sewing/embroidery art. Oh and jewelry making and collage.

EG: Hey, I embroider, too! Also, I am absolutely in love with your hand-cut collage art. Each one is so surreal and magical and lovely. Your celestial series is downright beautiful. How did you come across that medium?

EJF: Thank you! I actually started that series in grad school when I was studying design. My original intent was to design a short chapbook featuring poems I had written with a handmade collage to go alongside each one. I ended up scrapping the book idea but continued making collages.

EG: When I saw them, I said to myself, “Man, that’s so cool. I wish I had thought of that.” It’s honestly some of the most unique work I’ve ever seen.

EJF: Ahh, you’re too kind! I only started working with collage in the last two years, but it has quickly become one of my favorite mediums. There’s a lot of fun in hunting for material in old books and magazines and finding those perfect combinations of images. It’s really exciting.

EG: What’s one medium/craft you wish you could do more of but just don’t have the time?

EJF: I’d really like to do more embroidery art. I love to sew and I have all the materials to do it, I just get distracted by all my other interests. Also, the photography project I’m working on now takes up most of my free time.

EG:  Oh, yeah. I totally get that. I would love to embroider all day long, but at the end of the day, I’d only end up with, like, a half-done embroidery. I love it but also it doesn’t have that instant gratification that I get so accustomed to with other types of art.

EJF: Oh definitely. It’s so time-consuming!

EG: Tell me more about your photo-a-day project! Why did you want to want to tackle that particular challenge?

EJF: Just after Christmas I decided to delete the Instagram and Facebook apps off of my phone so I could commit to making more art. I was feeling really unproductive and spending a lot of my time on social media looking at everyone else’s art and not making any of my own. I’d been saying for years that I wanted to do a 365 photography project, but I had always forgotten when the new year started to follow through. I had also just bought myself a new 50mm lens for Christmas and wanted an excuse to use it. It’s been a really awesome and challenging project so far. Some days I really struggle to find subjects that inspire me, but I like that it’s forcing me to be consistently creative.

EG: Omg, I love using my 50mm lens! They’re just little guys, but they really know how to pack a punch. You already know this, but they give shots such cool depth. What kind of camera (+ other gear?) do you use?

EJF: Yes! That’s my favorite thing about it. I use a Canon t5i camera. I have the 18-55mm lens that came with it and a 75-300mm lens. I’ve been using the 50mm for most of my photos lately, but when I can afford to, I really want to get a 35mm.

EG: That’s awesome! I use my old Canon t3i and would LOVE to get a 35mm lens. They’re not as price-friendly as the 50mm though. So how do you go about fulfilling your project? Do you find yourself looking at things from a different perspective walking around town looking for things to photograph?

EJF: Yea that’s exactly why I got the 50 and not the 35 haha. Now that I’ve been shooting with the 50mm for a while I’m realizing what I really want is a 35mm. This project has definitely changed the way I think. I’m constantly thinking about photos, looking for things that I think would be interesting to shoot, and brainstorming new ideas. I’ll see something on my way to work that jumps out at me and I’ll want to kick myself for not having my camera with me. Today I walked around my town and explored some back alleys looking for content.

EG: Find anything good?

EJF: At first, no haha. I was actually really disappointed and going to give up and go home, but then I decided to stop by the old movie theater where my boyfriend works to say hi. I told him I was wandering around town looking for things to photograph and he suggested I check out the second floor of the theater where they keep the movie projectors. He brought me up there and it was the creepiest, most eerie space I’ve ever been in. I got some awesome shots of a really dimly lit hallway that looks like something out of The Shining.

EG: That’s so cool. I can’t wait to see. Do you think you’ll use one of those for your daily photo?

EJF: I think so! I haven’t had a chance to go through the images yet, but I really liked the way they looked so I’m sure I will. I’m actually a little behind on posting photos right now. The downside of deleting Instagram for a month to focus on art was that I wasn’t able to post the pictures I was taking on the actual day I took them. I’ve been posting two a day to try to catch up and I’m finally almost current.

EG: Who/what are your inspirations for all or any parts of your creativity?

EJF: I’m really inspired by old/vintage spaces or subject matter. I really love film noir movies and have noticed that I tend to shoot a lot of really dark, shadowy scenes similar to the lighting in them.

EG: Are you one of those artists who can set aside a time each day or each week to create things or do you have to wait for a stroke of creativity to come to you? Maybe a little of both? I hope that question makes sense like it does in my head.

EJF: I’m definitely the latter. It’s really hard to force myself to be creative if I’m not feeling inspired. I think that’s part of why I wanted to take on this photography project. It’s forcing me to set aside time every day to create and be more consistent with my work which has been a long term goal of mine.

EG: Okay, last question: what have you got planned in terms of future projects?

EJF: Ooh, I actually just started working on a visual journal that I hope to add to on a weekly basis. I wanted to start writing down things about my day, stuff I’m reading/researching, lyrics from music I’m listening to at that moment that inspire me, etc. and mix in sketches/drawings/doodles that relate to whatever I’m writing about.

You can catch up with Erin on her Instagram, @_erinmakesstuff_, and her Etsy page where she sells her collage art, ErinFarrellDesigns.

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