FOR THIS EDITION OF “BEHINDTHEPEN” I INTERVIEWED VISUAL ARTIST, CALIFORNIA NATIVE, ERIC YAHNKER
A lot of your work come across to me as satire. I’m curious to know, how much does comedy and/or the current political climate affect your work?
I also define my work as satire. Although satire is in my DNA, I’ve found it’s also the most effective vehicle to present the truth.
Labeling truth as comedy allows messages to be unfiltered and unredacted in a way our society has a hard time communicating. Even dictators will occasionally let their guard down for a laugh—then promptly execute the comedian.
But, yes, of course I’m greatly affected by our current political climate. I think everyone is to some degree, whether they realize it or not. Divisiveness is like an airborne communicable disease spreading faster than small pox, and yet it seems people prefer turning to social media rather than the ballot box as evidenced by the insane number of eligible voters sitting out each election. It’s been somewhat therapeutic to me personally that I have at least a small outlet where I get to reflect my opinions and rant, even if most of the time it just feels like preaching to the choir. I’m not so sure a single artist can make much of a difference, but artists as a collective unit can have an enormous impact, so I like to throw my hat in the ring working toward that collective cause.
Have the use of celebrities or pop culture references in your work(s) led to much negative criticism?
I imagine it does to some degree, but is a satirist doing their job if they’re not pissing people off sometimes? It’s not necessarily the goal, but I do realize it’s a consequence of having strong opinions. Using pop culture references just aids the accessibility of the work to a larger audience. I’ve often said, there’s a shallow end and a deep end in my work. I like both and am happy at whatever depth the viewer chooses to engage, but if they want to go to the deep end where their feet can’t touch the bottom, there’s a ton more treasure to be found.
Can you describe your progression from working on a traditional sketch pad to working with larger scale canvases? What were the challenges you faced with making sure proportions and other technical aspects were correct as you moved up in size?
I’ve actually always had an interest in heroically-scaled works. I’d love to go larger if possible, but the necessity of framing the works has its own built-in limitations. I think ideas have greater impact when their presence is larger than life. I don’t do much sketching at a small scale anymore, as typically I just go right in to making the finished piece. Proportions are important, and there are lots of tricks that can be used, but ultimately, your hand and eye starts to get a feel for proportionality when you do it as many years as I’ve been—literally thousands upon thousands of hours of drawing.
Which decade would you feel like your art would be the most appreciated?
Hopefully right now in our current decade! But, possibly future decades will appreciate it even more as the work will likely appear more and more definitive of our zeitgeist. My hope has been that the function of time glossing over these works will give them a built in nostalgia (good, bad, or otherwise), but also serve as a visual guide for future generations as to what the hell our generation was dealing with and how we ended up handling it. Because of photojournalism, we no longer have a need to paint grand battle scenes for posterity, so art that serves as a metaphor for our current sociopolitical “battles” may be the closest thing.
If you could have your art on permanent display anywhere (that wasn’t a museum) where would it be?
In the Oval Office! Or at least anywhere in the White House!
What would you like the art lovers of Detroit to take away from your work?
I want any art lovers or even people who are skeptical of art to be equally entertained as enlightened. I put my heart and soul into my work, and I realize I’m not the best messenger for every message, but I truly dedicate myself to it. My hope is that people find laughter, inspiration, and hopefulness, even if the subject matter can often be difficult.
FOR THIS EDITION OF “BEHINDTHEPEN” I INTERVIEWED U.K. ILLUSTRATOR, MACAULEY ETHERINGTON, PLEASE ENJOY!
What was the first comic series you wanted to illustrate for?
Batman. I’ll never not want to work on a Batman title. You know you’ve made it if you’re working on something like that.
What comic would you want to be a character in?
Probably Power Rangers. Imagine being involved in a story where you ended up being recruited. You’d know who to stick close to.
What superhero team would you audition for and why?
Again probably Power Rangers. No powers required plus colour coordination.
What is the basic steps an artist can take in perfecting “anatomy”?
Life drawing. Everyday. I try to do at least 5 studies from life drawing everyday. There’s a lot of resources available if you cannot attend classes such as websites and books. “Draw this!” Sends monthly image references to your email on a mailing list.
How do you approach making sure the lighting is correct for each piece?
Reference. I’ll sometimes use action figures against a lamp light for stark contrast. Or apps such as “ArtPose” or “Handy” is good for it.
What’ are some essentials you must have near you before you start drawing or during a drawing session?
Coffee. Cigarettes and my phone.
What are some of the biggest criticisms you face for mostly creating works inspired by comics?
Creating your own comic is a challenge in the current climate as everything has been done. So it’s about trying to find something unique and putting a twist on that.
How often do you look at your old artwork? Including art that goes back as far as early childhood
A lot. It’s important for progression. If you ever feel unhappy with your work look at your old stuff. You’re only going to get better.
What place does art have in the world to you?
A very important place. I try to deconstruct anything I look at. How its formed. How light bounces and mixes with colour.
What do you want the art lovers of Detroit to take away from your work?
Everything I do comes from a passion; to have a successful art career, getting to draw for a living would be a dream come true.
FOR THIS EDITION OF "BEHINDTHEPEN" I INTERVIEWED SPANISH FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR and COMIC BOOK ARTIST, FRAN P. LOBATO. PLEASE ENJOY!
What makes NARUTO and it’s characters interesting subjects to draw?
Months ago, i thought it was interesting to draw my own version of Naruto and another Mangas that i love. I tried with Gaara too. I knew they are not even close to the original. I was only testing myself.
Some people asked me to keep drawing Naruto´s characters, and as i was enjoying that, i decided to do a few more.
The reason of drawing Naruto´s characters is that i love the manga, and It is interesting to draw because all the characters have something of their design in common. You can see that a character comes from Naruto´s world cause his design.
What are some common misinterpretations people have about your art?
I don´t use to know that kind of opinions, but sometimes friends tell me “that character have his extremities too long” or “That character doesn´t seem like the original”. Yeah, i know it! I use to do my own original art, and when i do fan art i tried to do on my own way. I love to play with those long arms and legs, with shapes and negative spaces.
I don't pretend to do a exact copy of one character, it doesn´t make sense to me!
Did your teachers encourage or discourage your art style?
They totally supported me. Not only with my art style, they did it in every aspect that i needed. Some of them are still doing it.
How do you deal with being uninspired?
It´s frustrating. It usually happens during long projects. For example, when i was working in my new comic Book “Culogordo (Fatass)”, it happens to me a few times. When i was uninspired I just changed the activity. That is, i was uninspired drawing… i started coloring!
What is the biggest goal you hope to achieve with your art?
I would love to draw comics for Image Comics or Dark Horse. But i don´t see me my whole life doing one thing, i would do concept art, illustration for videogames companies, like Riot Games.
What role did your parents play in your creativity ?
They always love to see me drawing. Since i was a kid. They always have supported me.
What do you want the art lovers of Detroit to take away from your art?
I want they enjoy it. Just it.
FOR THIS EDITION OF "BEHINDTHEPEN" I INTERVIEWED VISUAL ARTIST, ADAM LISTER. PLEASE ENJOY!
How would you describe art on the east coast?
Being an artist on the east coast is all I know. I grew up in Virginia and moved to New York after high school. I’m not too sure if there is a specific regional vibe in visual art these days, with Instagram and other sites art really feels global to me at this point in time. You could show me a painting and it’d be hard for me to guess where it was made.
Have you ever experienced doubt about your ability as an artist?
Absolutely. This thing I do is a struggle, constantly. When I first started doing gallery exhibits, I had some shows that nobody even came to see. When you put in so many hours of work and so much energy, and your project is not well received it can be discouraging, emotionally and creatively. But in the bigger picture, if you really really want it, all the doubts end up fueling your fire. You gotta have doubts about yourself, no matter what level you’re at, I think everyone does.
In social gatherings are you approachable or distant and like your space?
Depends. I like to think I’m generally approachable.
What were some jobs you had before being a full time artist?
Art teacher, mosaic tile artist, art Gallery director
In a gallery, is there a such thing as art that is deemed not worthy to be there?
That’s a wild question... I personally think anyone can claim anything as “art”. Now in a gallery setting, it’s different than just posting something online and calling it “art”. Most galleries are in the business of making money, and as much money as they possibly can. It’s hard for me to say if something is not worthy of being displayed as art in a gallery. I mean no matter what it’s made of or looks like, if it makes a viewer think differently or feel a certain way or question a preconceived idea.. that’s the purpose of art. There are some minimalist and conceptual artworks that barely exist, in a physical sense, but they’re still deemed valid and thought-provoking.
How do you think people a 100 years in the future and 100 years in the past would react to your work?
100 years in the past people would possibly compare my work to Cubism, a movement in France that combined geometric shapes with abstract and representational elements. 100 years in the future, people may say it was art inspired by ancient video games.
If you were reincarnated as an art supply, what would you come back as and why?
That’s a tough one... a guess a razor blade. It’s the sharpest thing in the studio.
What makes an art and fashion collaboration authentic?
The first legit art fashion collab that I did was with A Bathing Ape. I met with them and they said they wanted me to do something with their iconic brand... they gave me no specifics and no demands, they just said be inspired by the Bape brand and do your thing. To me, that was authentic and honest and pure. I had the freedom to combine my history with theirs to make something 100% new. A 50/50 blend of art and fashion. I’ve seen some collabs that artists do with brands and it doesn’t reflect an intersection of the collaborators thinking. They just take an artists ready made work, slap it on a t-shirt and call it a collab. It’s more like graphic design, which is totally cool, but it’s not really collaborative.
What do you want the art lovers of Detroit, to take from your work?
Take whatever you like...be inspired and not afraid to take ideas from something that’s old and make it new and your own. That’s self education, I’m a firm supporter of teaching yourself or figuring out how to do what you want to do.
FOR THIS EDITION OF "BEHINDTHEPEN" I INTERVIEWED RENOWNED COMIC BOOK ARTIST, PAOLO RIVERA. PLEASE ENJOY!
WHATS THE FIRST THING YOU DO BEFORE DRAWING?
In an ideal world, I'd do a 5-15 minute warm-up. But that rarely happens. In general, the purpose of the drawing dictates the first steps. If I know what I'm doing, I just dive in. If I don't, I try to find reference to inspire or inform.
WHAT COMIC BOOK CHARACTER DO YOU THINK COULD BE BEST SUITED AS PRESIDENT?
Probably Batman... but even he might fail.
WAS IT EVER A TIME THAT YOU DOUBTED YOUR ART ABILITY?
Constantly. Lowest points were probably 12 years old, 19, and 24 (often when I'm given amazing opportunities and don't live up to my own expectations). I don't hate my work, but I also don't like it until it's a few months old — that's enough time to forget how much work it took.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE ART LOVERS OF DETROIT TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR WORK?
My attention to detail (I hope).
For this edition of BEHINDTHEPEN, I interviewed WOP [CHICKENWOP] , a sneaker reseller who specializes in exclusive releases. PLEASE ENJOY!
WHAT IS THE WORST SNEAKER OF ALL TIME?
Fake sneakers. HAHAHAHA
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST SNEAKER FOR YOU TO LET GO (TO SALE)?
The Nike Air Yeezy 2 NRG solars. I want them.
HOW DID YOU KNOW THIS IS SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO?
When I was a little boy I liked sneakers. I love helping people and selling things. I realized that and then I started a business.
WHAT WOULD BE THE FIRST PAIR OF SNEAKERS YOU'D GIVE TO YOUR FUTURE CHILD?
(Classic) Nike Air Force 1. Unless there is anything better in the future.
WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF INFORMATION YOU WANT TO LEAVEWITH THE SNEAKER ENTHUSIASTS OF DETROIT?
Support one another!
For This edition of BEHINDTHEPEN, I Interviewed GoChi, better known as "CERDITOSDEGUINEA" , an artist from Spain. Please Enjoy!
HOW HAS THE INTERNET REACTED TO YOUR WORK?
Very happy with the result, both by comments and by sales. But above all that has allowed me to contact with artists from all over the world
WHAT ARE YOUR GO TO MATERIALS FOR DRAWING?
The last 15 years I have been studying techniques and materials from hundreds of mangakas. With patience I have been collecting material from auctions or online stores to find the perfect combination. Now I always buy the same art supplies what I find easily in 3 or 4 stores online. A couple of years ago I was in a fine art store (with 6 floors) in Tokyo and was surprised that I did not find anything I had not (so I think I did a good job)
WHAT ARE SOME KEY LESSONS FROM DRAGONBALL, THAT YOU USE IN EVERYDAY LIFE?
Although it seems surprising I think that what struck me most of DRAGONBALL was to see how Goku lost all the first tournaments. The normal thing is that the hero always wins but the truth is that you can not always win. You have to know how to live with defeat and also get up again to try again.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOU DO DIFFERENT FROM AKIRA TORIYAMA?
Obviously we have some similar, but the technique of color, use of Gpen, composition of backgrounds is very different (but it is something that I understand is difficult to appreciate if you do not know how to draw). The importance of small details and the recharge of objects and accessories I think is also very characteristic in my work
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SAGA IN DRAGONBALL?
RED RIBBON ARMY saga, definitely. But I also keep a great memory of those first trainings with Krillin
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OUTSIDE INFLUENCES BESIDES DRAGONBALL?
The work of Takehiko Inoue, for me Slam Dunk is the best manga of all time, Naoki Urasawa, Sergio Aragonés and the work of Janry in Spirou
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU EVERYDAY
I have already had the luck to overcome the stage of insecurity and motivations of the artist. I get up in the morning and go to the studio to draw, and so from Monday to Sunday for 12/14 hours everyday. Neither do anything else and I am very serious and respectful of customers and deadlines
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE ART ENTHUSIASTS OF DETROIT TO TAKE FROM YOUR WORK?
Only if they like the tenth part of what I enjoy drawing it will I be happy enough
For this edition of BehindThePen, I interviewed TheShoeSurgeon who is a handmade Cobbler DESIGNER ARTIST that is based in Los Angeles. He " First started as a kid building things... from then it turned into fashion... i got all the newest retro Jordan's early.. but soon enough so did my friends. So i decided to paint my own pair. the rest is HISTORY..."
EXPLAIN THE MODERN DAY SNEAKER CULTURE OF LOS ANGELES?( WHAT SHOES DO YOU SEE THE MOST)?
in los angeles it changes daily, everyone has a unique style you don't really see the same thing.
WHAT INSPIRE YOU TO TRANSFORM A PAIR OF VANS INTO BOOTS?
the art of shoe repair.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED FROM YOUR MENTOR(s)?
WHAT ARE SOME MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT YOUR CAREER?
that its easy or inexpensive to do.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE TIME YOU'VE DESIGNED YOUR FIRST SNEAKER? WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE AND DO YOU STILL OWN THEM?
I wouldn't call it design but the first time i airbrushed my all white af1 mids in camo was the best feeling ever i was in highschool
WHAT MUSIC HELP INSPIRE YOUR CREATIVITY?
I don't got no type.
THE GIRL OF YOUR DREAMS IS WEARING WHAT SNEAKER?
I'm not a fan of woman wearing sneakers really.
WHAT ARE THE BRANDS YOU FEEL DON'T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION , THAT YOU PERSONALLY LIKE?
i think there are too many brands....
HIGH TOPS OR LOW TOPS?
just depends on my mood. i like low tops for me personally
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE SNEAKER ENTHUSIASTS OF DETROIT TO TAKE FROM YOUR WORK?
it took me 12 years to get here! and thank you for enjoying my art, work, craft
For this edition of BehindThePen, I interviewed world renowned artist Scott Listfield. Listfield is an artist from Boston, MA and is "known for his paintings featuring a lone exuploratory astronaut lost in a landscape cluttered with pop culture icons, corporate logos, and tongue-in-cheek science fiction references."
So Let's Begin, It's 2033, what are you doing?
Well, we'll be in the middle of a war with the robots, and I'm no good with actual fighting, so I'll probably be helping out the human resistance by, I don't know, doing paperwork somehere. Assuming I survived the assassination attempt spearheaded by my Netflix account, of course.
What's the Definition of an artist?
I'm not really a dictionary, but I imagine that anybody who creates anything is an artist. There's a lot of discussion these days over "Is this art? Is that art?" Frankly, I'm not really that excited about those kinds of arguments, but I think the obvious answer is "Yes, that's art." Because I don't think there's any person or group of people who gets to decide what art is or isn't. But just because something is art doesn't mean you have to like it. I can think of a lot of art I don't like. But I can also think of a lot of art I do like. I'd rather focus on that stuff, personally.
Do You Think the Moon Landing was real or fake?
Real, and I think we should go there again.
What affected your artwork the most while being abroad?
Well, I saw a lot of amazing things and met a lot of amazing people. But the biggest thing for me was the feeling of being a very small part of somebody else's world. I remember little things, stupid things, like wandering aimlessly around the local supermarket looking for cookies, or spending days eating nothing but some off brand cereal with a hippo on the box, or walking out of a cold, snowy train station at midnight without any real idea of where I was going to spend the night. I know those are the types of things that everybody feels when they travel - the uncomfortableness of being outside of your routine. But what was surprising was that when I returned home, it never really left. I still didn't feel at home, exactly. Everything felt kind of new and strange, and that feeling has stuck with me all these years later.
What Type of Music are you into?
Lots of different stuff but if I had to describe it in words, I'd probably say an equal combination of 'aging hipster' and 'semi-nostalgic crap.'
Where is One Place You Would Recommend Your Astronaut to Visit?
I don't have any particular travel recommendations. I think the astronaut in my paintings spends an equal amount of time in pretty exciting and pretty damn boring places. In other words, Earth.
What Do You Feel About the Current State of Art Education?
I haven't actually been in school for a very long time, so I might not be the best person to ask. But I've got decidedly mixed feelings. I mostly enjoyed my own education, but I wonder if art schools are really setting students up for success. I mean, the art world is a pretty crappy business, and I don't think anybody is really prepared for that part of it, coming out of school. But I have a big problem with young kids, early twenties, coming out of school with massive amounts of debt and a college degree that won't help them get much of a job, and has only kind of prepared them to be a working artist. For a lot of them, that's a degree they might never pay off. It seems kind of questionable to me for a group of pretty smart adults to put young impressionable kids in that position. I ended up getting a day job instead of going to grad school, which at the time wasn't really a conscious choice, just something I needed to do. But having a day job released me from having to worry about selling my art to make ends meet. There's a lot of pressure there, and I like not thinking about dollar signs while I'm painting. It let me make art that was, at least for a while, kind of weird and unsellable. I think that's kind of important, and maybe that's what school is about, but at the end of that exploration, I was making paintings that were both weird and sellable, but I didn't need to sell 50,000 of them in order to pay off school loans.
On the flip side, I have a lot of friends who teach art, and I always thought that's where I'd end up. I love talking to students. The actual teaching part of education is really great. But to do so, I'd have to go back and get a grduate degree, and there's no way I'd do that now. I would, very literally, be better off flushing money down the toilet. It bothers me to say this, since I have so many friends involved in education, but it all seems a little like a Ponzi scheme, doesn't it? You pay somebody a ton of money to get a degree that really only qualifies you to work for them, where you'll get paid a pretty lousy amount of money, and then you help teach the next generation, while the institutions take their money. Frankly, it bums me out, but these days it seems like a money making factory, but not really for the students or the teachers. If you took the big money out of it, would I feel better about art education? Sure. Although I still think, a lot of times, education sets up students to create a certain type of work that mostly only functions in the vacuum of a school.
What is a goal you felt your art hasn't accomplished yet?
I try not to set specific goals for my art because so much of it is out of your hands. I mean, I haven't had a solo show in New York. But I might never have a solo show in New York, and I can live with that. Or someone might offer me a show there tomorrow. It's out of my control. I'd like to keep making paintings and, hopefully, to keep getting better at making paintings, beyond that, who knows? But if you do those two things, good stuff starts happening. Just usually not in predictable ways.
What is a goal you thought it has accomplished?
One of the primary reasons I started making these paintings of astronauts is that I felt like I might have something to say. I really had no idea if anyone would give a crap about what I was saying, but I figured if I kept at it, maybe someone might be interested. But I genuinely had no idea if these were things that only I found interesting. It's kind ofprofoundto make something that resonates with somebody else, and I didn't really start out with the expectation that I would. And it took me a while. But I think there are people, more than one at least, who like my work. It's still a pleasant surprise to me when people reach out to me, to say they like what I'm doing. When somebody buys a painting, to put up in their home, where they live, so they can look at it? I mean, that's pretty amazing, right?
If you could give all your work to one person who would it be?
I don't think I'd ever want just one person to own all of my paintings. I'd prefer a bunch of people to be able to see them. And I'd like to think anybody can own a piece of artwork.
Favorite artist from the renaissance era?
It depends on your exact definition of 'renaissance' but I've always been partial to El Greco.
What do you want the art lovers of Detroit To get from your work?This is going to sound like a cop out, but they can take away whatever they want. Some people like my paintings just because I often paint recognizable characters form movies or TV. And that's totally fine. Some people might notice that I always leave the facemask of the astronaut blank, and that he appears in each one of my paintings, and those folks might put themselves in the shoes of that astronaut and take a look around. At my paintings, sure, but also at the strange, weird, and mundane stuff they've got going on in their lives.