It’s virtually a nomadic existence: traveling extensively, earning a living through creativity, and making friends wherever she goes.
Erica Arndts wouldn’t have it any other way.
The 34-year-old itinerant artist, whose home base is Tulum, Mexico, was in Wauseon last week painting an exterior mural commissioned by Brock Nagel, the owner of Warrior Wings, a restaurant scheduled to open by December at the intersection of Shoop Avenue and Linfoot Street. The sweeping patriotic mural depicts an eagle’s head and the U.S. stars and stripes along the length of the building.
It’s the first outdoor mural Arndts has created in Ohio, her latest stop during a three-month work schedule in the States. She enjoyed the multitude of city residents who visited to admire her work.
“So many people have stopped by, the sweetest, kindest people here. It’s been really, really nice,” she said.
A Dayton native, Arndts often keeps a temporary apartment there while crossing the eastern United States, where the majority of her commissioned work is located. At other times she’ll stay with friends or at hotels while finishing a project. It’s a way of life she recommends to anyone with a sense of wanderlust or an appetite for new experiences.
“I never want to buy a house. I love traveling. There’s too much to see to stay in one place. I’m addicted to seeing the world,” she said.
Arndts goes where her commissioned work takes her. Advertising her art on social media has led her to projects in Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan, and other destinations along the East Coast. During down time she relaxes in her rented Tulum home, basking in the sun and Mexican culture.
Single and carefree, Arndts revels in the freedom her chosen career for the past 18 months affords.
“My family’s always there. They’ve been great support, great help through all the travel,” she said. “I come back here when I can, but they know that I need to be doing what I’m doing, and traveling and doing my thing.”
Arndts knew from age six, when she replicated Disney characters by hand, that art would dominate her life. She began painting in high school, and studied fine arts for about two years at the University of Cincinnati. But her interests shifted, and she moved to Los Angeles to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise.
Afterward, she stayed in the city from 2007-10 as a jacket designer for a leather company whose clientele included Alice Cooper and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. But the economic downturn during that period forced her to leave California and accept a medical recruiting position in Atlanta.
“I hated the medical field. I needed out, I was miserable. It was not at all what I wanted to do,” Arndts said.
Pop artwork she created on the side sold briskly, so she quit her position in 2015 to concentrate on what she believes is her true vocation. “I decided I would put my art on social media and just dive in, because this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said.
It was during a vacation to Mexico with a friend in 2018 that Arndts fell in love with the country, specifically Tulum. Upon her return to Atlanta, she sold her possessions and moved there, renting a house and soaking up the customs.
“I’ve been able to submerge myself in their culture,” she said. “Usually, everybody is very open to art down there. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to make money on it down there”. For that reason, she travels often to the States for commissioned work. Her murals decorate buildings across the eastern half of the nation.
“I have a lot of murals between Atlanta and Tulum,” Arndts said. “Sadly, the murals haven’t taken me out West yet. I’m dying to go out there.”
In Flint, Mich., a Halo Burger franchise asked for a mural with a cheeseburger theme. Arndts was at first flummoxed, then dipped into her creative well. She had a photo taken of her grandmother eating a cheeseburger and painted the likeness in giant scale on the restaurant.
“This was a different one for me, (but) they loved it,” she said.
Nagel hired Ardnts after seeing art she produced for a friend in Atlanta.
“I jumped on the chance for her to do this mural because of her high quality of work,” he said. “It came out beautifully. I hope people enjoy it, and that it brings pride to this town.”
Following her Wauseon gig, the last stop on her recent three-month itinerary, Arndts plans to fly back to Mexico for 10 days of rest and relaxation. Then she’ll be back on the road.
“I move around a lot. I don’t have things and stuff and furniture, I just have whatever I need. I want to be able to fit what I need in my car,” she said.
Traveling and creating art are essential to her road to happiness, Arndts said.
“I don’t do well with idle time,” she admitted. “I can’t live any other way. I can never go back to a different lifestyle after this. I’m just glad I got it while I’m still young.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.