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Multi-talented artist/musician thrives on wildly unpredictable schedule
by Mary Denny
Erica Missey has an unusual goal. She is “negotiating with the universe and our planet” to make days 30 hours long and extend the average lifespan to 150 years. “I figure this would be a nice upgrade,” she laughs. If any one could use increased hours and years, it’s Erica.
Obsessed with cartoons as a kid, Erica dreamed big. “I wanted Walt Disney’s job,” she admits. “I wanted to tell stories through my drawings.”
Although extremely active in high school—she headed numerous clubs, edited the yearbook, and graduated sixth out of a class of 325-ish—she drew constantly on every piece of paper she could get her hands on, including the margins of her encyclopedias.
Rewarded with scholarship money, grants, and loans, Erica chose to attend Trinity where she eschewed most extracurricular activity to focus on her studies full time and work part-time. Still, “I always had a sketchbook in my hand, I was always drawing.”
Although she had been drawing her whole life, Erica says her Trinity art education was “the artistic equivalent of boot camp.” From professors Bill Bristow and Kate Ritson, Erica learned the hard-core fundamentals of drawing, painting, color theory, layout and design, and thematic work. Bristow also suggested she try her hand at caricatures, which she began doing at parties. In the communication department, Erica found Suzanne Williams and Sammye Johnson to be “amazing” advisors. The former shaped her writing creativity, and the latter was “the ass-kicker who trained me to pay attention to details when it came to the written word.”
Pursuing her dream of becoming an animator, Erica began her career with Heart of Texas Productions in Austin, where she was trained as an assistant animator by director Sam Fleming and worked on films such as Space Jam and The Prince of Egypt as well as direct-to-video cartoons and animated games. After work she continued drawing caricatures at parties and events.
By 2000, when most film animation had moved out of Austin and much of the work was transitioning to computer animation, Erica bid the industry farewell. After a variety of jobs, she christened her art business “Ericatures” and went full-on into freelance work. In 2004 she was invited to open a retail caricature stand at the San Antonio Zoo, which was a huge help to her business.
Recognition soon followed. Several of her studio caricatures were published in Cartoon Clinic, and the McNay Art Museum, Silver Ink Publishing, and St. Mary’s Hall commissioned large art projects. She also began illustrating children’s books for different authors. She’s just beginning book No. 10, the fourth story for author Eric Kesselman, who writes “Animalosophy” books–the latest being about Nigel, a nihilistic sea otter. In 2015 she retired her zoo operation to focus exclusively on studio art work, event caricature and face painting, and music, another long time passion.
In the music world, Erica helps manage, plays bass guitar or drums for, and sings with Monkeysoop, “a progressive grunge trio that balances dynamic guitar melodies with grunge-pop vocals.” The group has toured extensively in the US as well as Canada and Europe and has recorded 10 albums and many compilation CDs. Some of their songs have featured such music greats as drummer Terry Bozzio and guitarist Michael Angelo Batio, to name a few. This year they’re looking to add Mexico and the UK to their touring schedule and record their eleventh album. Erica also is a part-time drummer for “the infamous” punk rock puppet band Green Jellÿ, whose hit “Three Little Pigs” catapulted the band to international fame in the ‘90s. For both bands she designs and illustrates T-shirts, posters, advertising graphics, and creates much of their social media content.
It’s a dizzying array of activity, but Erica loves the flexibility and freedom of being a self-employed artist and musician. She thrives on a schedule that changes daily, sometimes hourly, and says she loves the “unpredictability of her work, the thrill of crazy deadlines, and the fun of making someone’s vision come to life, be it in an illustration, a gift caricature, a cartoon or creating fun, memorable art or music experiences.”
In her downtime, Erica is a huge movie buff and art collector. She lives with her boyfriend/bandmate of 15 years and four cats—three indoor and one outdoor— and uses her music and art to help with different causes. Sales of the band’s 2016 song “Crazy” go directly to aid the homeless. Portions of sales of books she’s illustrated are helping victims of Hurricane Harvey, and an upcoming music festival she is organizing in Dripping Springs this summer will benefit musicians currently fighting cancer.
Let’s hope her negotiations with the universe succeed.
You can contact Erica at info [at] ericatures.com