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Studio Art

Eric Lawing

Eric LawingE-mail:

M.F.A. University of North Carolina Greensboro

B.A. University of North Carolina Wilmington


Plein-Air painting
Painting materials


Eric Lawing was born 1954, in Thomasville, N.C.

Lawing began a lifelong obsession with drawing at an early age, and later added to it the disciplines of painting and most recently music composition.

In the late sixties he began surfing, a pursuit that turned into a lifelong meditative resource and catalyst to serious efforts in drawing and painting. In 2003 Eric became a pilot and realized another orientation to experience space and light, and continued a family preoccupation with flight.

In 1978 Eric married Minda Mclean who was a fellow art major at UNCW.

Lawing received a B.A. in Art from UNCW in 1979, and a M.F.A. from UNCG with a minor in art history in 1985. After graduating he became curator of collections at Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNCG and worked there until 1990. He began teaching at UNCW in 1996 and continues to enjoy the process in 2015.

Lawing has exhibited regularly since graduate school and was awarded a North Carolina Arts Fellowship in 1998, and exhibited in numerous art museum group shows including Weatherspoon's, Art on Paper, and the North Carolina Art Museum's, North Carolina Artists Exhibiton, and solo exhibitions at St. John's in Wilmington and the Greeneville Museum of Art in Greenville, NC. Most recently he was included in a grand opening and year-long exhibition of large works by North Carolina artists, The Big Picture, at the new Raleigh Convention Center.


In the woods there is a constant simultaneous growth and deterioration, and endlessly varied spatial rhythms. My drawing processes have become primarily about formation and destruction, defining and redefining, one form giving away to another. This is especially true of my tree drawings. Process is of primary importance and is as much about subtraction as addition. It is about finding an image and composition that exists within a stage of formation and destruction. If I build too much it looks contrived. If I remove too much there is little definition. I like to find a random condition, with previous layers showing, that provides a new state of form and rythm, a trigger for a new solution and a better drawing.


I was an art major and music minor and played the saxophone as an undergrad. The Paul Klee Notebooks on the relationship between visual art and music were something of a bible for me for quite awhile back then. Klee's ideas on polyphony and the layering of themes and patterns in music, drawing, and painting have always been an influence on my work and on how I teach composition in visual art. I assign music specific projects in design, beginning drawing, and painting classes where one piece of music is used as a catalyst for composition. Critiques also very often push toward the relationship of music and 2D composition, and as all my students know there is always music playing during my classes.

I still believe that Klee was the most successful painter of the twentieth century. His work screams the dramas of humanity. His highly developed visual and musical intellect are combined in his whimsical and wonderfully varied layers of textures, forms, and colors. His paintings are layered with metaphor and narrative that also are hardcore abstract compositions that effectively depict the beauty and tragedy of the human condition.

My recent drawings have taken the form of long horizontal compositions that I imagine as lines of music. I keep thinking of some undiscovered culture whose written music was drawing composition with form and imagery rather than the lines and notes of conventional music. The layers of drawing elements represent layers of music where each layer is somewhat consumed by the next. The woods as subject matter, the competition for light and space, the intertwining of rhythms and forms, and the dramas of life and death are music and I am now trying to to draw it in pencil and in sound.

In the last year my interest in drawing's relationship to music has led me back to music composition which was something I explored in my twenties on an ancient reel to reel tape recorder. Layers of recorded sound would disappear more under each new layer. I played the sax, beat on tables, recorded birds and dogs barking and layered it all. Now there are sophisticated softwares that simulate banks of synthesizers where any kind of sound can be made, rhythms and patterns can be mixed and remixed. A trip to the hardware store to buy paint and materials is all it takes to have the stuff of complex visual compositions. Now it is similarly true to music that with an internet download any kind of music and any complexity is possible.

My initial music compositions have similar titles to my drawings and the memory of the places I go to draw are summoned up while I work. My new point of view gained as music/sound/noise composer provokes a renewed sense of drawing composition where form and content are taking on new meaning for me.