Eric Thompson was born and raised in Kansas. Growing up he always drawing. Early inspiration included the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michael Jordan, and flipping through his father’s vinyl collection. Neon Park illustrated album covers, like the Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus, taught Eric he was drawn to unusual mise-en-scène and sometimes enigmatic and unsettling subjects. An aesthetic confirmed by his love of artists like Salvador Dalí and Georgia O’Keefe.
Today Eric works in the creative department of an advertising agency and as a freelance illustrator. His current art explores the connectedness of all things — their interactions, the expanse of space that surrounds, and how beautifully strange it is that anything exists at all.
Hi Eric, it’s a pleasure to sit down with you. First question. How old were you when you started to play around with different graphic design programs? And which programs do you use now?
Thank you for including me, I’m humbled to be asked. My graphic design days started back in the late 90s, in an introductory graphic design course at my high school. Today, I use all the standard creative suite programs in my day job in advertising, but, for my illustration work, I primarily use Procreate.
What made you gravitate towards digital design/art, and not more traditional art like painting for example?
This is a very pragmatic answer. Honestly, in college I figured there would be more guaranteed job prospects if I majored in graphic design. However, I minored in illustration because drawing was what I truly loved doing. I have used all kinds of mediums in my drawings. In the last couple of years, I’ve found I can better bring to life what exists in my mind by digitally painting.
Have you ever thought about venturing into the metaverse and create NFTs, since that’s right up your alley?
I looked into NFTs a few times, but I did not end up creating any. The opportunities I came across were not the right fit for me. But who knows what the future holds.
Staying on the subject. What are your thoughts about the NFT space, and where do you see NFTs compared to physical art, in 10 years?
I don’t know if I see NFTs as comparable to physical art. I think there should always be space for new methods of expression. An artist should be free to choose their platform, and artists and buyers alike should be welcome to attach what they feel is the appropriate value to the art produced on those platforms. So, even if I do not see a digital creation and a physical creation as the same, it doesn’t mean they both can’t have value.
I am for any honest effort to get more art in front of more people. And any role NFTs can play in that, I am for. I am very interested to see what their impact is on art going forward.
When looking at your illustrations I see 80s vibes in your color palette and a mixture of Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and Dali. Who has been some of your biggest inspirations in your creative life?
I was born in the 80s and grew up on glowing, rotoscoping techniques in film. Something about those effects and the associated lighting always stuck with me. I am also drawn to enigmatic airbrushed images that were a part of that era, like Omni Magazine type visuals. So, I think all of that has huge influence on the aesthetics of my work.
I love Dalí. The large open spaces in his work fascinate me. My biggest influences, in no particular order, are: Dalí, Charles Burchfield, Georgia O’Keeffe, the album covers of my dad’s vinyl collection growing up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Michael Jordan. I used to draw Michael Jordan all the time as a kid.
When you sit down in front of the screen to start on one of your illustrations. Do you have a vision of what you want to create? Or do you go with the flow?
I rarely have a concrete image in my head. Often, a work will end completely differently than I had initially anticipated. I usually start with something that has captured me recently: a color of sky, the shape of a snake, the motif of the eye. From that starting point, I will make several sketches following whatever direction comes to me. It really is about a feeling at that point. I tend to bounce from idea to idea until something internally tells me it’s right.
I am most interested in how elements interact in a composition – how they relate to each other, creating some sort of hidden narrative. Pursuing that interaction is at the heart of any creative method I might have.
What do you hope that we, the observers, get out of your illustrations?
I suppose I hope they invoke thought. I’m a fan of art that gives a feeling that something just happened, or is about to happen, as if you have hit a strange pause button on the scene. I hope, at my best, my work creates a pause, and in that pause the viewer allows their mind to consider something they may not have otherwise.
What motivates you?
I draw every day. I have my whole life. Not as a disciplined exercise, but because I don’t know how else to go through a day. The act of making is what motivates me.
You actually do what you love for a living. But lets say you’ve got the whole day off, and free to do whatever you want. What are you doing?
I’d still be drawing. But I also would be listening to music and just hanging out with my wife and our dogs.
What is your favorite movie(s) and why?
This changes with the wind for me, right now I’d say:
- Jurassic Park — The effects still hold up, and I can re-watch it anytime.
- Mulholland Drive — The diner scene where the grizzled man appears from behind the wall still punches me in the gut.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey — It’s so strange, musical, and just peerless visually.
- Fantastic Planet – An amazing 1970s animated psychedelic world, and the soundtrack by Alain Goraguer is the best.