Oil painter and photographer Chris Aerfeldt joins us to talk about her artistic journey, her sources of inspiration, and finding the self confidence to keep creating even when experiencing self-doubt. Chris focuses on themes of freedom, authenticity, invisibility, and peer pressure. Women figure prominently in her work as larger than life characters, often placed in environments that are seemingly at odds with their activities.
Chris shares how her subject matter is influenced her experience working in the fashion design industry, by older Dutch paintings of women engaged in household chores, and her own background as the daughter of two Estonian refugees. As a result of their experience in refugee camps, her mother was very restrictive, and Chris’s childhood left very little room for self-expression.
“When I was growing up, I felt invisible and squashed,” she says. “Now when I’m painting my women, I want to be seen, I want to feel strong… My paintings are all very large and the women are all larger, much larger than lifesize. So they’re giants, because I feel like… I don’t want you to ignore my women, my women have to be seen.”
From making art to being an artist
Chris started out by doodling in her notebooks at school, often landscapes or other nature scenes that offered a mental escape from her home life. Later, she graduated to making oil paintings on scraps of cardboard in the family garage, but she never considered being an “artist” a viable career choice. Instead, she got a degree in art education.
But after trying and rejecting a number of career paths, she found herself increasingly frustrated and depressed. With the encouragement of her partner, she enrolled in art school.
Working through doubt to self confidence
Despite having made art and working toward being an artist all her life, she still struggles with not overthinking her process and being too self critical. She says that she has to shut out the rest of her imagined audience when she’s working in order to create from an authentic and vulnerable place.
“I think all of us have our self doubts, it’s trying not to let that self doubt rule what we do and rule our lives, because the self doubt can be so overwhelming,” Chris says.