Jillian Beck 2017-09-25 01:08:53
A Life in Color A Houston litigator expresses through spray paint art. At least once a week, attorney Erick Sandlin’s Houston backyard transforms into a makeshift art studio. Humidity and wind, nearby leaves and sticks, and sometimes the occasional paw prints from his dog intermingle with his medium of choice, spray paint, to produce his final product. “I enjoy the process— seeing each painting come to life. I just try to get out of the way,” said Sandlin, a litigator with Bracewell. “As I create, I feel like I’m following the painting instead of trying to force something to happen.” Sandlin wasn’t always one with the canvas. He rarely excelled creatively growing up. But after law school, the new attorney sought out to decorate his first house with his own creations, using spray paint on three large canvases. Friends began to ask him to paint for them, and roughly a year later, he displayed 20 of his pieces in a new coffee shop in town. Now, his work can be found at art shows and in several businesses, churches, galleries, and at ericksandlin.com. How would you describe your painting style? I paint contemporary abstract art using spray paint. Although I have done a few graffiti-style paintings, I do not consider myself a graffiti artist. But I love the style, and there are some amazing artists out there doing impressive stuff. Even though I use spray paint, my paintings look more like acrylic or oil abstracts, which is my goal. Describe your creative process. I usually gather several colors together and start with a general direction for the painting. But that plan is quickly lost as I react to what is happening on the canvas. Even the color schemes change as I go. I have discovered that I cannot control what happens because spray paint is such a fickle medium. Instead, I adapt and let the painting dictate what I do. The hardest part is knowing when the painting is finished. What materials do you use in your artwork? The only paint that I use is spray paint, usually from Home Depot. I also might use paint thinner, tape, or other household materials to manipulate the painting. I use sticks or the spray paint cans themselves to scrape paint around the canvas. Sometimes, I even spray a water hose at a painting to see what happens. Anything around my house and backyard is fair game. Are there any challenges? The challenge about creating pieces is adjusting to what is happening on the canvas. I had to learn that when I like one part of what I have painted but do not like the rest of it, I need to sacrifice the part I like for the good of the whole painting. I spent so much time early in my career trying to save one part while “fixing” the rest of it, and that never worked. It’s all about giving up complete control and letting the painting lead me. What (or who) influences your art? I am most influenced by seeing other creative people work. I have several friends who are great musicians and hearing their songs or seeing them play a show inspires me to create. I also have friends who are photographers and seeing them push themselves creatively inspires me to do the same. Even seeing an attorney make a creative and persuasive argument motivates me. I am galvanized whenever I see anyone doing something in a way that you can tell they were meant to do that thing, whatever it may be. Do you find any similarities between the law and painting? There are a lot of similarities between the way I paint and my legal practice. In my legal practice, each case has its own unique challenges, caselaw, and facts, so I have to be able to adapt. I think painting allows me to see more quickly when adjustments are needed in my legal practice because I have learned to see when changes are needed in my painting as the medium leads me in a different direction. I think my best skill in both painting and the law is my ability to see where a painting or case is going and adjust my actions in a way to get to the best outcome. I also do commissioned paintings in which my clients will give me a certain canvas size, colors, and general style of painting that they want. It is a unique challenge in a creative environment to figure out what your client wants and how to work within their parameters. I think my legal practice has helped me in this process because I am used to working toward my legal clients’ needs and figuring out how to do that within the parameters of the case on which I am working. The biggest difference is that I don’t wear a suit and tie when I paint. Do you have any goals related to your art? My only goal related to my art is to keep pushing myself creatively. I’ve noticed over the years how my style has changed and evolved. Every time I think I’ve reached my limit with spray paint, I discover something new that inspires me to keep pursuing new creative challenges. JILLIAN BECK is a communications professional in Southern California. She previously served as associate editor of the Texas Bar Journal and social media coordinator of the State Bar of Texas. For his spray art, Houston attorney Erick Sandlin uses the elements, sticks, paw prints, and even water hoses in his backyard, where he says anything is fair game.
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