Barbara Ervin Finds Magic in Printmaking



Anderson Artists Guild member Barbara Ervin’s earliest influences were her parents. Her mom painted while her dad, a design engineer, “loved creating things. He had all kinds of machines,” she said.

Ervin also remembers wandering her Greenville neighborhood, digging clay out of the creek bank to make stuff. She has always approached art as a problem-solving exercise, a mysterious process that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. When it does, she says to herself, “That was nice. Let’s see if I can do it again in a different way.”

She attended Erskine College and graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in art education (and later a master’s degree from USC in printmaking). A high school athlete, she lettered in tennis, basketball, and volleyball at Erskine and played for two years on the USC women’s volleyball team.

Most of her jobs were in the classroom. Her first year as an elementary school art teacher involved teaching over a thousand children a week for a grand monthly salary of $700. She taught at every level: elementary, middle school, high school, and college. She retired after 30 years in the public school system and recently, due to the pandemic, stopped teaching at the college level, as well.

Along the way, she had a few other positions, including as a graphic designer of art projects for Royalco and as the director of the Belton Center for the Arts.

But making art has always been a driving force, too. “It felt good to know that it was that important that I had to do it,” she said.

These days, she works out of a studio she designed when she built her house in Belton. “I’m free falling, just doing what I want all day!” she said. “The problem is that I have so many projects lined up—I start several and find it hard to finish.” Her focus is printmaking, an interest dating back to her very first art show in high school, when she used a grocery store meat tray to carve an elephant, onto which she rolled ink and then pressed the design onto paper. A teacher bought the piece for $10—her first sale.

These days, many of her pieces are loose, ethereal monotypes capturing the natural world. She paints images on plexiglass or some other surface, puts them through a press, lays down paper, and “gooshes and squishes it.” When she pulls it off, she has a reverse of the original image.

She also makes etchings and woodcuts, as well as detailed illustrations of kids’ names.

Ervin will discuss her printmaking process at the next meeting of the Anderson Artists Guild on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 2:00 p.m. in the upstairs gallery at the Anderson Arts Center. Note that this is a new time and date for meetings based on a survey of members.

For more information about Ervin, visit https://www.barbaraervin.com/.


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