In 20 years as a professional artist, Erin Goedtel has had many special moments and achievements. Soon after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Stout, for example, she was chosen to create artwork for a Prince music video, “Cinnamon Girl.”
When it comes to personal chart-topping experiences, however, Goedtel’s career reached new heights on Sunday, Feb. 9.
She had received word the day before of a possible use of her imagery during Elton John’s performance of his Best Original Song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” at the Oscars in Los Angeles. However, she was on a flight during the show. Upon arriving at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, text messages came in congratulating her.
“I was afraid airport security would drag me away because I was jumping up and down and having quite a moment in the (airport) arrivals area at 1 in the morning,” Goedtel said.
She rushed home to watch it on a bigger screen than her cell phone and where she could fully celebrate. She saw her artwork appear – as had the Hollywood stars and worldwide TV audience of 26 million — behind the British pop star as he sang.
Goedtel's whimsical drawing of John at the center of a clutch of ostrich feathers splashed across the screen, as John belted out the chorus of the song that was part of the biopic “Rocketman.”
The moment wasn’t a total surprise but close to it. Goedtel had created two pieces of art that were used in the song’s official music video coinciding with the film’s 2019 release, and one of those art pieces made it into the Oscars.
“This was a defining moment for sure. Mostly that ‘defining’ comes in the form of affirmation, an affirmation of myself as an artist. To believe in myself, my abilities and trust the process,” she said.
Goedtel’s long association with Los Angeles art director Kii Arens led to the moment. She met him in the Twin Cities after graduating from UW-Stout in 2003 in studio art, and they’ve collaborated on and off ever since.
For the “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” video, she submitted the art to Arens for the music video. She first drew the portraits by hand with pen and ink and then provided some background options and animation ideas to the producers.
One of those pieces of art also is the placeholder image for the remix of the song on Apple music, as well as featured in the remix's music video on Vevo. That image features John at the center of a kaleidoscope of animated, colorful rays.
“That image kind of took on a life of its own and speaks to the energy they see and like in that piece,” Goedtel said. “I must have loads of color, always. Surrounding myself with positive people and color is like taking multivitamins for the soul, so I create art from that point of reference.”
In other words, her approach to art and Elton John’s colorful approach to his art – playing a red piano and wearing a purple coat during the Oscars performance -- were a perfect match.
“I am a huge Elton John fan and really a big fan of prominent singer/songwriters, especially of the 1970s era, and if they involve any amount of glam even better. With my illustrations I wanted to encapsulate that groovy feel of ’70s bold lines, simplistic/to-the-point imagery, bright colors and with a hint of psychedelia. Kii and I wanted to capture that glam rock spirit overall as well,” she said.
Successful career in art
After graduating from UW-Stout, Goedtel, who grew up in Rosemount, Minn., attended an exhibition of the Burning Artists Co-op, which included future UW-Stout professors Andy DuCett and Noah Norton. That’s where she met Arens, a St. Paul native, a rock and roll graphic designer living and working in northeast Minneapolis.
“I went to lot of art shows to familiarize myself with the art scene, which was really important. Gaining opportunities is a lot of luck but also being prepared,” she said.
Goedtel describes her art as “somewhere between a representational fine artist and pop-art illustrator, and it is constantly evolving. I gravitate toward pop art because it’s bold, glamorous, witty, ironic and attention-getting without being overly critical or dwelling in disenchantment with the world.”
Goedtel has had her art exhibited at La Land Gallery in Los Angeles as well as in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, England and South Korea. Her artwork graced the tour bus of country singer Miranda Lambert in 2017 and also graces a few celebrities’ homes and recording studios in California.
She went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts in painting at Indiana University in 2011 and has taught at several colleges and universities but is now a full-time artist. Recently she was one of 10 artists worldwide chosen for the World Artist Education Project in Jeju, a South Korean island.
“It really opened up my field of vision, breaking down barriers and opening up new ideas of what education can be and how I can pursue professional work and share my love of teaching,” she said of the international experience.
She credited UW-Stout for a “great and rigorous education.”
That experience included dedicated art professors such as Charles Lume, Brian Ritchie, Doug Cumming, Heidi Schneider and Gabrielle Mayer and the Honors College, advised by Bob Horan, with challenging courses that “really infused some critical thinking skills, which are essential to any serious art practice. You have to be able to synthesize your work and explain your choices, which is one of the more difficult aspects of artmaking.”
UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design has six undergraduate programs and a Master of Fine Arts in Design. The studio art major has eight concentrations, including drawing, painting and printmaking.
Erin Goedtel, a 2003 UW-Stout graduate, is a full-time artist in the Twin Cities. She recently taught in South Korea as part of the World Artist Education Project.
Alumna Erin Goedtel's artwork of Elton John appeared during his performance of his Oscar-winning song.
A second piece of artwork by Goedtel is in the song’s music video.