Catching Up with Tristan Eaton

Create Your Own World

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!)

Tristan Eaton, Miami 2009

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.

Tristan Eaton

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.

Tristan Eaton

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.

Tristan Eaton

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?


Society Gets The Kind of Vandalism It Deserves

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.

The Godfather by Tristan Eaton

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.

Tristan Eaton

Me too. What surprises you these days?

The stupidity of the American people. Wait, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

Stupid America

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