Str’m Art the perfect blend of love, passion and raw talent

by Keith Barber

After years of marriage, most couples can finish each other’s sentences. Charlotte and Erik Str’m finish each other’s paintings.

“When we’re both painting and either one of us is sitting taking a break, I can see the move he’s about to make before he makes it,” Charlotte said.

Erik said he shares the same intuitive ability as his wife so working on collaborative pieces comes naturally the Str’ms.

“Sometimes people laugh and go, ‘Oh God, two artists working on the same piece, you’ll kill each other,’ but we’ve really never had that problem,” Erik said. “We always find a pretty easy middle path.”

In their latest exhibit, From the Ground Up, Charlotte and Erik play upon their strengths and meld their distinctive styles into solo and collaborative pieces that draw inspiration from the natural world.

“We’re trying to incorporate things we’re both known for,” Erik said. “I’m more known for my branches and outlines. She’s known more for her bright flowers and spatial [technique]. I tend to close space up and Charlotte tends to open space up, which is so weird, but that’s why we work so well together.”

From the Ground Up features bold landscapes inspired by the falling of the leaves and the crisp sunny days of autumn.

In the exhibition, Erik makes ample use of heavy lines and bold colors, and he’s simplified his palette.

“Charlotte is in her own way doing the same thing, but she’s letting things run,” he said. “She likes gravity to take control.”

Last week, Erik and Charlotte previewed some of their works featured in From the Ground Up at their in home studio. In one untitled work, Charlotte’s created a spectacular landscape that was simultaneously representational and abstract due to the unique way she layered paint on the canvas.

Erik pulled a large, unfinished work from a back room. He explained that they had been working on it for six months.

While collaborating with another artist on a work can be liberating, it can also feel limit freedom of expression.

“At first we were being too cautious and too light because we didn’t want to step on the other person’s toes,” Erik said.

One day, Erik literally stepped on Charlotte’s big toe during a session in their studio and that seemed to break the ice.

“I make sure I wear shoes when we collaborate now,”

Charlotte said, laughing.

Erik attributed his faux pas to going into a “trancelike state” he sometimes achieves.

“Sometimes you really do feel more like a vessel than the creator of what you’re painting,” he said.

Charlotte and Erik started their own company. Str’m Art LLC, seven years ago, and the business is beginning to take hold. The Str’ms attribute their success to flexibility, versatility and the transcendent connection of two people who love each other and what they do. The Str’ms spend virtually every moment of every day together but somehow, it seems to work perfectly.

“Our business is at home, our home is at home and the only potential drawback is we forget to stop working,” Erik said. “We have to remind ourselves it is a home, too. We can put down the brush for five minutes, but it’s also because love what we do so much that we’re always talking about it.”

wanna go?

From the Ground Up artist reception at the Studio & Gallery, 109 N. Cedar St., Suite 2; First Friday Gallery Hop, Nov. 4 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.