Classical Figurative Artist Captures the ‘Real’ with His Work

In art school, people told Eric Armusik he would never have a career with his classical figurative style of art. Now he supports his family full time and his art is displayed in parishes all over the country.

“I don’t want to be content with idealizing scenarios,” he shares. “I want people to feel like what it would be like to be John the Baptist in your last moments on that floor.”

Video Transcript

Eric Armusik: You know, when I was starting this out years ago, everybody told me, “You’d never had a career if you painted like this.” I literally had one professor that I really admired tell me that, and it was one of the hardest things I ever heard.

I just never wanted to paint anything other than people. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

I could remember in college, I wanted to do a painting about what it would like to see somebody falling. So I got on top of the woodshed of my fraternity house, and I jumped off it, because I was trying to get someone to take a shot of me halfway through the air, falling. It was a lot of trial and error, but I think it underscores the level of what I’m looking to do — to try to get that authentic look to things. I don’t want to be content with idealizing scenarios. I want people to feel like: What would it be like to be John the Baptist at your last moments on that floor?

Since 2005, Eric has supported his family as a full-time artist.

Speaking to someone on the phone: It keeps you battle-tested, I swear, because it’s just when you think you have control, you don’t.

Eric: There’s failures with competitions that I was rejected from, galleries that rejected me, jobs that didn’t work out. So we had to just sit there and pray — pray rosaries as a family when things got difficult.

We’ve been here for about 19 years, St. Mary’s Parish in Hamburg.

We still can’t explain half the things that worked out for us, little miracles in our lives. I felt almost, in a lot of ways, just like Christ in the river there — just kind of let the river take you where it was supposed to go. I guess I try to stay very in tune to that.

Eric’s work is now displayed in his home parish, and in churches all over the world.

And even when it comes to the saints, there are imperfections. And I think that, in a lot of ways, speaks to all of us. You know, we’re all imperfect, and we’re all trying to do better, and maybe in some way we’re all capable of being saints if we choose to be.

And I really want those people that see the kind of work that I create to understand that these were people, just like us.

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