Catching Up with Tristan Eaton
There’s another west coast migration underway–specifically east coast artists moving to LA. Among them, designer Tristan Eaton, who recently left Brooklyn to reposition his creative agency, Thunderdog Studios, in Los Angeles. Eaton was, of course, responsible for creating the iconic characters “Dunny” and “Munny” for Kidrobot. In the years since, he has successfully managed dual careers in commercial and street art. To find out if he misses New York bagels and what inspires him, check out our “flash sideways” interview at Vannen Artist Watches here. (Stay tuned for details on tonight’s release of Tristan Eaton x Vannen’s new Breaking Bad watch!)
I last saw Tristan in 2009, during Art Basel in Miami. Coincidentally, Miami-based artists, FriendsWithYou, also recently relocated to LA. Let’s get down to the 411 in the 310 with Tristan Eaton.
JB: What are the noticeable differences between the NY and LA art scenes?
TE: It seems like under-culture art forms have a bigger stage out here (in LA). NY seems too eclipsed by the blue chip art world, and most cartoon art, graffiti, street art and low brow stuff gets drowned out. LA also seems to have way more young collectors (actors and pop stars) who have money to waste and want to buy art they can relate to.
You were one of the key people involved with bringing designer toys to America in the early 2000s. How do you see the art form having evolved since then?
It’s grown so much! There are a lot of new artists and many new companies doing cool things. It’s awesome. It’s become a world stage for artists of all styles and all ages. I love that. It’s basically an art movement based around a medium, not any particular style. The only other art movement I can compare it to in that respect is rock posters.
Some people say that “street art is dead” because it hangs inside museums now. I personally think there’s room for art in the street and Art in the Streets (MOCA). What do you think?
I don’t really care. I do my own thing for my own reasons, so who cares what people say about it? It doesn’t change my motives or inspiration. Like they say, art criticism is to artists what Ornithology is to birds.
Political street artists (from Banksy all the way to the kid who stencils “war” on a stop sign) are doing an “illegal” act that draws awareness to social ills that are often considerably worse than defacing public property. Tonight, Vannen releases the Breaking Bad watch that you designed. Since Breaking Bad deals with the different degrees of “badness,” what’s your take on political street art?
Besides art critics, who are your favorite pop culture bad guys?
The clowns from Akira. Benjamin Linus. Destro. The Ice King. Judge Death. My big brother when I was a kid.
What personally helps you make morally complicated decisions?
I call it future hindsight. I think forward to how I’ll look back on my decisions now. That helps me avoid regrets and do what’s right. In general, just doing the ‘right thing’ is a common theme for me. Also, my tattoo from my family crest is ‘Vincit Omnia Veritas’ (Truth Conquers All). I respect truth and honesty.
Me too. What surprises you these days?
The stupidity of the American people. Wait, it doesn’t surprise me at all.
Me either. Any good advice for today’s creatives trying to make it in an inhospitable economy?
Don’t wait for other people to help you. Do it yourself. Get out in the world and ram it down their throats! Create your own world, and invite people into it!
Thanks Tristan! Next month, he’ll be in Singapore for their Comic-Convention. If you can’t travel in time, you can maybe still time-travel. His Breaking Bad watch is available at 9PM PST tonight through https://www.vannenwatches.com.
It’s funny he has moved to LA because we had a similar migration here(Phoenix). A ton of great musicians and some very talented artists moved to NYC in the mid/late 90s and early 2000s seeking a larger stage or platform. Now we have experienced a similar migration to LA the last few years. It seems that a lot of the people who have moved to LA have experienced a larger creative explosion or just have found the right avenue to showcase and nurture their skills. It seems like the NYC crew, most of whom will never come home to even visit and seem above a place like Phoenix have been lost or swallowed up in NYC. The LA kids proudly still visit and promote local shows and artists here. I don’t know what this says about these people but even the people that have stayed here have become far more driven and more aggressively developed artists whereas others are content to just exist as part of a scene that they are, in all intents and purposes not even a part of.
Either way, awesome interview with Tristan even if the answers seem a little like canned ham sometimes. I have always really respected him as an artist and I am glad to see him expand his scope a bit and take a risky move.
Nice shot of a very delicious Mickey Premium Bar. Too bad that obese woman is wrecking my fantasies of enjoying one myself. As far as I know you can only buy those in Disney parks. Just a note. Thought you may enjoy. http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2010/11/15/snack-series-the-mickey-premium-bar/