Since retiring from her jewellery business, creative talent Erika Rohr has focused her attention on painting. She uses oil paints to create amazing land and seascapes, often working on multiple pieces at once … You can see Erika’s work on display in several venues throughout January …
Hi Erika. Many of our readers would know you and your husband, Frank, from your time as jewellers in the Port Macquarie region. What’s been keeping you both busy since you retired in 2014?
Frank and I were in the jewellery business in Port Macquarie for 41 years. During this time we met a great many wonderful people; they were not only our customers, but now are very good friends.
The first year in retirement was very challenging; besides having a few health issues, it took us a while to get used to not having to open shop. We missed our work, our customers; after 41 years it’s very hard to stop suddenly.
Being retired has given us more freedom and we’re able to spend extra time with our families. Babysitting has become a routine job here in Port and sometimes in Newcastle.
When you are working in a business, you don’t have much time around the house for the small repairs and gardening. That was our main area of concentration – getting the place in order, as we have such a large garden. It took us a few weeks cutting back shrubs, clearing and weeding; it’s constant work. Now we’re happy to relax and enjoy our home and family time.
Your interest in design led to the development of your own jewellery brand, Fides. How have you been able to explore your passion for design during retirement?
Yes, Fides became my jewellery brand; it was a great success. The idea came to me in a dream – it was a spiritual symbol. I wanted to design a piece of jewellery that meant something, so Fides was born. Fides means Faith (in Latin), “F” for faith, “I” infinity, “D” destiny, “E” elements, and “S” spirit. The symbol was a circle containing four interlocking circles, with no beginning or end.
I first created a pendant and from there earrings, pendants, bracelets, even rings in all metals. I’m actually wearing a bangle with the Fides, which was a pendant.
Believing in yourself is the most important part of life. I was going to continue designing more pieces, but instead I started to paint again, which always was my main goal when I retired.
When did you first begin to paint/draw … and can you remember when you first thought there was potential to explore these areas?
I began to draw at school, but had no real outstanding works except my biology drawings of organs and bone structures; my teacher kept my sketches for reference.
When I was in my twenties, I was confined in bed for a couple of weeks due to a bad virus. To break the boredom of being in bed, I started drawing to fill in the days. My first sketches were of a bowl of fruit and my mother shelling peas. They were sketched in pencil, but painting in oils was what I preferred. I decided to take a few lessons in learning the techniques of oil painting – that’s how it all started.
What do you most like to paint – and what materials do you prefer to use?
When we came to Port Macquarie, I started painting small heritage cottages, which sold very well. I developed a love for oils, especially using the palette knife – creating rough textures.
Now I mainly paint land and seascapes from photos I take; I don’t like painting outdoors, especially in oils.
I have painted portraits and animals, which were a challenge.
When we were holidaying in Norfolk Island, I took a few photos and painted a panoramic view, using three of photos to create the painting; it’s 1.5 metres long and 50 cm deep. That was the first time I painted anything so large. I won second prize at Laurieton Art Exhibition last year with this painting.
Oils are the main medium I like using; I have used acrylic and watercolour too. I love the different techniques you can develop with oils, the smooth or rough textures, and you can work with oils to move the paint around as it’s slow drying … That is one of the disadvantages as well, besides being very smelly and messy. Also, cleaning the brushes is very time consuming – after cleaning them in turps, I wash them with soap.
What/who most guides you when it’s time to create a new artwork?
Walking along the breakwall and the beaches usually inspire me to create another painting – it might be the rocks or trees or the waves splashing on the rocks.
Frank often suggests pictures to paint; he is my greatest critic. I am often asked to paint favourite pets, flowers or something special for my friends or family.
Sometimes I have three or four paintings happening – oils take a while to dry – so it can take up to a week before you can finish the final details.
You’ll be holding an exhibition of your work at Masterpiece Framing and Gallery, Hastings River Drive, throughout January and February?
Yes, I’ll be exhibiting my works with a few other artists at Masterpiece Framing and Gallery, throughout January and February. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturdays from 9am – 12pm.
Describe some of the pieces you’ll have on display …
I’ll be mainly displaying beaches of Port Macquarie – Town Beach, Miners, Flynns and a couple of contemporary ones of dolphins – ten paintings altogether. The Town Beach depicts some of the painted rocks on the breakwall.
Where can we see more of your artwork, or find out more about you?
I will also be exhibiting in Laurieton Services Club through the Hastings Valley Fine Art Society from 29th December to the 5th January, where I’ll be exhibiting three paintings.
I have six paintings also on display at the Port Macquarie Art Society in Hastings River Drive, which is open each Sunday on market days from 9am to 12pm.
You can also visit my Facebook page for more paintings and information.
Interview by Jo Robinson.