The Heroine’s Journey of Erica Harney

What is the thing that I love most about my work?  The act of working, in and of itself. I am infinitely more interested in the making of art than in “the art world.” The urge to make is compulsive and once I get in to my studio, or “cave,” as I often refer to it, I have a very hard time crawling out.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?   Fitter, happier/ More productive / Comfortable / Not drinking too much / Regular exercise at the gym, three days a week / Getting on better with your associate employee / contemporaries / At ease / Eating well, no more microwave dinners and saturated fats / A patient, better driver /…./ Sleeping well, no bad dreams / No paranoia / Careful to all animals, / never washing spiders down the plughole / Keep in contact with old friends, / enjoy a drink now and then / Will frequently check credit at moral bank, / hole in wall / Favours for favours, / fond *AND* in love…/ No longer afraid of the dark or midday shadows, / nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate / Nothing so childish / At a better pace, slower and more calculated… / Now self-employed…/ An empowered and informed member of society, / pragmatism not idealism / Will not cry in public / Less chance of illness…/ A good memory / Still cries at a good film / Still kisses with saliva / No longer empty and frantic / Like a cat / Tied to a stick / That’s driven into / Frozen winter shit, the ability to laugh at weakness / Calm, fitter, / healthier and more productive / A pig in a cage on antibiotics

(Lyrics by Dan Rickwood / Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood / Thomas Edward Yorke)

What is my greatest fear? I have an irrational, debilitating fear of vomit.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? My carbon footprint is enormous. I drive about 500 miles every week and spend an exorbitant amount of money on gas. I try to make up for it in other ways, but I am massacring the ozone layer. Sorry.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Lucy McKenna is one of my best friends and all-time favorite humans, and a brilliant visual artist based in Dublin. I’ve watched her reinvent herself and her work so many times over the decade that we’ve maintained a close, albeit long-distance friendship. She constantly inspires me and is the person that I can talk to about absolutely anything and everything.

What is my greatest extravagance?  I’m not terribly extravagant– in fact in most cases I’m pretty frugal- but I don’t believe in wearing cheap or flimsy shoes, especially for work. Also, I spend WAY too much money on gasoline.

On what occasion would I lie? Feigning interest in or respect for people or ideas that I disagree with or outright dislike but still have to deal with, for the sake of diplomacy or “getting along.”

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?  Sometimes I prematurely decide I’m done with a painting just because I have a new idea that I’d rather invest in, so I finish it hastily.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?  Being in graduate school at Penn State in my mid-20s was blissful. I essentially lived in my studio for two years and had few obligations and responsibilities other than making work alongside close friends. It felt more like a residency than school.

If I could, what would I change about myself? I like to say that I’m trying to force myself to relax more and get more sleep (but I’m not trying very hard).

What is my greatest achievement in work?  Persistence and consistency. In addition to my studio practice, I also juggle teaching, freelance scenic and mural work, workshops, lectures, etc. My art practice has been rich and far-reaching beyond my studio and has let to interactions and collaborations with innumerable interesting and talented people. As far as a tangible achievement, I single-handedly bought my home in 2016 while making a living solely as an artist. I’m actually pretty proud of that.

Where would I most like to live? I’m actually really happy where I am now, bordering West Philadelphia, and plan to be here well in to the foreseeable future if not permanently. I originally moved to the city in 2011 with the intention of staying for two years but have since made invaluable connections to my immediate community and surrounding areas. However, there are many places that I would love to live for six months or a year, just for the sake of experience. Berlin is near the top of my list, as is rural Wyoming.

What is my most treasured possession? Aside from my cat, Rufus, definitely my house (which also contains my studio). It’s a 1925 Dutch Colonial that has become an art project in and of itself. I’m enamored with it and my beautiful, conveniently located neighborhood.

What is my most marked characteristic? I’m a Type-A, super organized workaholic and am busy all the time. If I’m not doing job/career work, then I’m doing work around the house or working out at the gym. I’m often described as being “ambitious” or a “go-getter” but I can’t conceive of being any other way.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?  Philadelphia itself is an inspirational location, full of natural beauty and incredible architecture from throughout history. One of my favorite activities is to go on long walks and just wander around the city.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite, but when the weather is nice, anywhere with outdoor seating. My favorite place to bring out-of-town visitors to impress them, however, is Morimoto (Japanese cuisine on Chestnut St, between 7th/8th). It’s an experience.

What books influenced my life and how? Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, a set of three short-story horror books for kids published between 1981 and 1991. The illustrations are by Stephen Gammell and they are incredibly gorgeous. I got the collector’s edition of the set when I was about 20, constantly refer to them for inspiration, and use them as a teaching tool for line and value studies in my college-level drawing classes.Who are my favorite writers? Off the top of my head…..Lionel Shriver and John Irving are master storytellers. I also really enjoy Bill Bryson. And- go ahead and call me a cliché (my partner will hate me for saying this) Ayn Rand.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 in A Major Opus 92 (Allegretto), Samuel Barber’s Adagio, Tchaikovsky’s Snow Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker Suite are perhaps the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed. Also, don’t overthink it- Gustav Faure’s Requiem is great music to die to.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?  Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway Harris (from Mad Men) Liz Lemon (from 30 Rock)

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? My family. They’re my champions and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I don’t take it for granted that I have a close-knit, supportive family that have been exceptionally involved in both my life and career and I am aware of how many of my friends and colleagues DON’T have what I have. My maternal grandparents recently turned 88 and 90 and are nothing short of inspirational. My brother Michael and cousin Nicole have always got my back and have always been particularly supportive and encouraging, as well as my aunt, uncles, godmother and all of my cousins in New York and California. My parents, especially, provide me with a tremendous amount of support (both literally and figuratively, in). I inherited my creativity from my mother, who is a dancer and choreographer. She is the one I call when I’m having a meltdown or need advice, and we have very similar tastes and interests so we relate on most levels. My dad is my voice of reason, problem-solver, partner-in-crime. We’ve been doing projects together since I was about six or seven, and to this day he’s the dad that puts all other dads to shame. I don’t thank my parents enough and I’m nowhere near as verbal in my appreciation of them as I should be, so I hope they read this.

And then there’s Theodore, who makes me want to be a better person.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?  I don’t think that my taste in films would have anything resembling unanimous appeal, but I have to say with 100% certainty that Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream has had the most visceral impact on me of anything I’ve ever seen before or since. It’s NOT for everyone though, and it WILL give you nightmares.

What role plays art in my life and work? They’re the same thing.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? While I mentioned my family in an earlier response, my dad has gone above and beyond his parental duties in terms of involvement in my career, to the extent that I should really talk to my accountant about putting him on my payroll. Seriously. He literally built both my website and my studio for me and has helped me on more projects than I can even begin to count.

Whom would I like to work with in 2018?  I’m excited to get more involved with the Lansdowne Arts Board, an arts organization in my neighborhood. I’ve also begun a relationship with YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School that I hope to foster this year. And as always, I look forward to a new year of working with my friends and colleagues at InLiquid, Philadelphia Mural Arts, CFEVA, Cecil College, Alvernia University, Opera Delaware, The Palette & the Page, the Tang Museum and all of the other wonderful local and regional arts organizations that I have sustained ongoing relationships with.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2018? Surprise me!

What project, in 2018, am I looking forward to work on?  My New Year’s Resolution this year is actually to “simplify” and “do less.” My goal is to spend LESS time on freelance work, projects, etc. and more time in my studio. For the last several years my “extracurriculars” such as shows, workshops, theatre work, murals, etc. have dominated my schedule and I haven’t had nearly enough time to just PAINT. While I will continue in these pursuits as they are an innate part of my practice, I need to a bit more judicious and discriminating in what projects I can feasibly take on.

Where can you see me or my work in 2018? Despite my last response, I have three solo exhibitions already scheduled for this year. The first one runs from February 2- March 16th at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY. The second opens April 6th at The Palette & the Page in Elkton, MD. The third one will take place at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, at the beginning of the fall 2018 academic semester.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?  The energy never dies.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? Talk to my friend Melissa Forkner Lesher. She’s a survivor and probably loves art more than anyone I know. See also Lucy McKenna, whom I mentioned in an earlier response. I think everyone would also like to learn about my Dallas-based friend Nancy Rebal, who has been painting for many decades and has been inspiring me since I first met her at the Vermont Studio Center in 2006. I have loads of other phenomenal nominees- too many to list here.

How can you contact me?

Email is my preferred mode of communication: You can also reach me on Instagram @erica_harney_artist. My primary website is: and my portfolio of selected scenic work can be seen at: I also have Facebook: @Erica Harney, Artist, but I check it infrequently and don’t use Facebook messenger

Here follows a message of Peter de Kuster, founder of The Heroine’s Journey 

The Heroine’s Journey Membership

Become a Friend of The Heroine’s Journey 


We’re sometimes not too sure how we get into good friendships. It seems to happen rather mysteriously: we talk of somewhat randomly ‘clicking’ with people. Trying to plan for it sounds like cheating. But in a busy world, the desire to socialise authentically, with interesting, like-minded people, deserves to be addressed directly.

That’s why we created The Heroine’s Journey Friends scheme. Membership gives you the right to invite creative professionals to publish their story for free on The Heroine’sJourney online. Each story made possible by you is anchored around the big idea that when we our quest let’s us travel from a person who interests us to another person who interest them and exchange stories we learn more about ourselves, meet people who can make a difference for you and have more impact in the world with telling our story.  Every month, in your own city or somewhere in the world you can invite creative professionals you like to tell their story for the Heroine’s Journey website.

If you have passion for your work, you will find kindred spirits in this way of travelling.  The stories you will see of creative professionals you have invited for The Heroine’s Journey are guaranteed to be stimulating and reassuring – as well as prompts to genuine connection and insight. Every creative professional you bring forward to have their story free published on The Heroine’s Journey online, you will be offering a great experience to everyone you meet.

We have two memberships programs  I and II

The Heroine’s Journey Membership I  Programme Includes

  • The right to offer 30 creative professionals of your choice each year to tell their story with The Heroine’s Journey questionnaire as free publicity.  The stories are published on the Heroine’s Journey online. Every professional published knows you are the one who made this available for them.
  • The right to update your own story at The Heroine’s Journey – questionnaire and picture – two times each year to keep up with your new events, shows, books, performances, videos.
  • 10% discount on all The Heroine’s Journey seminars world wide

Price is :  Euro 299 for one year 

The Heroine’s Journey Membership II  Programme Includes

  • The right to offer 50 creative professionals of your choice each year to tell their story with The Heroine’s Journey questionnaire as free publicity.  The stories are published on the Heroine’s Journey online. Every professional published knows you are the one who made this available for them.
  • The right to update your own story at The Heroine’s Journey – questionnaire and picture – four times each year to keep up with your new events, shows, books, performances, videos.
  • The right to tell your story in more detail with the Heroine’s Journey questionnaire up to six pages online and add up to ten professional pictures of yourself and your work.
  • 20% discount on all The Heroine’s Journey seminars world wide
  • free entrance to the special The Heroine’s Journey in One Day conference which is held once every quarter in 2018 (the four locations in 2018 are Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona)

Price is :  Euro 449 for one year 

The programmes last for 365 days, after which you will be asked if you’d like to renew your subscription.

You want to become a Heroine’s Journey Friend?  Mail Peter at to receive info how to make that happen.

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