Esther Pearl Watson: The Q&A

By Peggy Roalf   Monday April 21, 2014

Q: What are some of your favorite things about living and working in Los Angeles?

I am originally from Texas. Living in LA is great because there is a wonderful community of diverse artists. There is a positive vibe here and I feel encouraged to follow where my creativity leads. Also, I can eat out of my garden and jog year round!

How and when did you first become interested in art and illustration?

I learned about illustration when I was 18 and going to Art Center College of Design.

What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

I have recently accepted that waiting and failure are important aspects of the creative process. I always thought the creative process was all action or nothing. But there is a definite cycle. Here’s mine: waiting for the right idea, revising the concept, sketching and failing, sketching and succeeding, tracing down, listening to NPR while painting, adding glitter and then varnish.


Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus In the computer?

Yes. I keep a comic diary. I also make “Garbage Zines,” which are full of studio scraps and sketches. And I keep visual notebooks of inspiration and sketches.

What is the most important item in your studio?

Copy paper. It’s what I draw on.

What are you listening to?

Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, or Bill Whiters while painting. Classical in the evenings. I also love Soul Music especially with innuendos (“Candy Licker” by Marvin Sease or “I Ain’t Studdin’ You” by Bobby Rush).


What are you reading?

Pioneer Women: Voices From the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton.

Who and what are some of your strongest influences?

High School yearbooks, movie posters from Ghana, badly drawn coloring books. I like Amy Sillman. I love Texas Regional folk artists like Aunt Clara and Velox Ward. For comics, I love Lynda Barry, Gary Panter, and Austin English. I love drawings by untrained artists, kids, teenagers,school teachers.

Have you ever had a creative block with a deadline looming? What do you do to get crackin’?

I just make some shitty art. Then I warm up and things improve from there on.


What is your hobby?

My kid.

Where do you teach—and what do you like best about teaching?

I teach at Art Center College of Design. Teaching is a great way to give back. You learn a lot from students and researching lectures.

What advice would you give a young artist on selecting an art school or college?

Schools have personalities,  and you want to find one that matches yours. Or at least one that has the qualities you aspire to.


Esther Pearl Watson moved often since her father’s hobby of building huge flying saucers out of scrap metal and car engines didn’t sit well with the neighbors. Her paintings and comics are often overtly narrative, clear but mysterious scenes of houses or figures ornamented with snippets of prose telling just enough to get the viewer’s own imagination engaged, wanting to know more. Some are about family, some about places, all have a rich interior life. Her works without words are just as suggestive of story, exerting a deep emotional pull.


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