Interview with Maine Artist Brenda Erickson

Hi. Barb here. Lots of people have complimented the new banner on my website. It’s by Maine culinary artist, Brenda Erickson.

To see it in its glory on my website, click here.

How did this come about? Serendipitously, as so many things do. When I first got my contract to write the Maine Clambake Mystery series, I was elated–and also freaked out about the food. After all, a Maine clambake is the same, or almost the same, meal every time. So for inspiration, one day when we were at the Maine Coast Bookshop and Cafe in Damariscotta, my husband bought me one of Brenda’s gorgeous calendars. It sat on my desk the whole time I wrote the book, both in Maine and when I was back in Massachusetts.

I  liked the calendar so much, I “liked” Brenda’s Facebook page, which informed me fellow Maine Crime Writer Lea Wait and her husband Bob Thomas were also fans. Brenda had done a map for Lea of the historical Wiscasset that figures in her children’s books.

So when I needed to redo my website for the new series, I asked Brenda to design the banner. I already knew I loved her work, but she blew me away with what she did.

If you love Brenda’s work, too, you can buy it, prints, originals and commissions at her website. Herewith, the interview.

What’s your Maine connection? Were you born here or did you migrate? How did you arrive/stay in Maine?

I was born and raised in Kittery, Maine.  In 1986 my husband and I moved to Arizona to help his mother.  After living in a small town outside of Phoenix for 17 years, we decided in 2003 to move “home” to Round Pond.

Why food? Of all the things you could paint, how did you come by your focus on food?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting, but have never had any formal training.  When we moved home to Maine, I started taking watercolor classes.  Living in the Midcoast, I naturally started with water, trees and lighthouses.  When experimenting with some apples and then onions, I discovered that I really enjoyed still life.  Wondering how to proceed, it came to me one night in those wonderful 3AM dreams, that if I picked a recipe, I’d have infinite choices to paint.  I chose Salsa and then Maine Lobster Bake.  Shortly after, I started receiving requests for family recipes and Recipe Paintings naturally followed.

I know you do commissions of people’s favorite family recipes. What’s the strangest/most interesting/funniest thing you’ve been asked to paint?

Wow, with almost 200 paintings to think about, this is a challenging question.  Every one of my paintings has so many wonderful stories that each is special.  Strangest, I guess would be my own family recipe.  Brewis is a recipe from Newfoundland and was prepared by my great-grandmother Rachael who at 12 years old was cooking on a fishing boat.  It’s made with salt cod, potatoes, hard tack and salt pork.  Cherished by my family, I don’t think I’ve ever sold a print.

Most interesting – hmm, I guess I’d have to say President Obama’s Family Chili.  I picked this recipe off the social network Pinterest.  Because of the painting, I’ve met Senator Susan Collins who has introduced the painting for presentation to the White House.  We still have some contacts and are trying to find the best way to present it to the President and First Lady, so the project continues.  After I painted it, I served it to a mixed group of friends – Republicans, Independents and Democrats. All agreed it is delicious.  If nothing more, it’s been a lot of fun.

Funniest – In 2007 I was interviewed by Don Carrigan for the WCSH6 207 Show.  It was a really big deal for me.  Don and his cameraman interviewed me in my studio for two hours while I painted Bruschetta.  Somehow I did it without shaking too much.  What Don didn’t know was that I had painted and then presented to him, his hamburger recipe that he had cooked on the 207 Show with Rob Caldwell a few weeks earlier.  Don was very gracious but said it probably wouldn’t make the cut for the show, while behind him, his cameraman who puts the video together, smiled with the biggest grin and said: “Oh, yes, it will be in the clip.” And it was.

I know your husband’s a Maine author. What does he write?

My husband, Bob has written 4 books, each completely different and usually about what’s important to him at the time.  His first book, Snooky, Recollections of a Boy from Skokie, started as short stories written for his family, about his childhood.  That was such fun that a dear friend requested he write her story, and he wrote My Piano; My Life.  From there he opened a desk drawer to find it full of poems. In The Poetry of a Life in Maine, he wrote some prose explaining where he was in his life as he wrote the poetry. And finally, The Tall Tales of Carl Munro is about a beloved neighbor who told wonderful tall tales.  We captured his tales in a book about him.  Everyone who knew Carl always has another tale that we missed in the book.

May I also add, that I understand people are amazed how an artist can put colors on paper to express so many emotions.  However, as a watercolor artist, I’m always amazed how authors such as my husband, and you, Barbara, can put words together to paint such clear images that after reading it, I realize I don’t recall seeing the words.  The words went directly to the image in my head.

I guess an example of that would be my painting the mansion that’s in your book. After you described it in words, I then painted the house and we both visualized the same house.  That was very exciting for me.

Where can people buy your work?

The easiest way to see my work is on my website.  I also work many summer festivals and art shows throughout Maine and NH.  I enjoy meeting and learn so much from the people I meet at the shows.  Locally you can buy my work at Granite Hall in Round Pond; Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta; Lisa Marie’s in Bath and Boothbay/Maine Artisans in Boothbay, Lincolnville, Belfast, and Southwest Harbor.

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
This entry was posted in Barb's Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Interview with Maine Artist Brenda Erickson

  1. Lea Wait says:

    What fun to see Brenda here! Indeed, she’s one of my favorite Maine artists (and people), and did a beautiful job on my “Lea Wait’s Wiscasset” map/poster — which we’ll be updating before my next book set in 19th century Maine debuts in 2014. My first purchase from Brenda was one of her “lobster bake” prints, as a wedding gift for my niece whose wedding was on an island, complete with lobster bake … a little like your mysteries, Barb .. but, luckily — the only murders involved were of the hundreds of lobsters who lost their lives that day!

  2. This is so cool Barb, delighted to read about Brenda! I used a Key West artist’s painting for my website–makes it so personal. Now going off to check out Brenda’s website…

  3. ps Barb, there’s something wrong with the link to Brenda’s website

Leave a Reply