Eric Pedersen is a super-cool artist who resides in Los Angeles. He does really stunning, large scale, Pointillist-like portraits www.ericpedersenart.com. This was a fun chat for me because Eric doesn’t take himself too seriously although he’s very serious about his work. Check out our fun chat.
MICHAEL: Hey Eric, Your work is fantastic! I really love the BIG, close-up portraits. They're figurative, abstract and very painterly. What inspires you to create them?
ERIC: Thanks Michael. In general, I find people to be excessively dense and ultra-multi-faceted subjects. For example, an individual cannot be defined completely by a single emotion- i.e. "Carl is happy.” True, maybe most of the time we see him - Carl has a smile on his face and exudes contentment. But five years ago, when his dog died he was really sad and when he found out his mom (in her words) "accidentally" drank too much and boosted the Suby out the driveway where the dog takes her naps, and consequently flattened the bitch, Carl was really super-pissed.
MICHAEL: Uh, Okay. And this has WHAT to do with your work?
ERIC: An individual can't be fully defined by a single experience. Although Carl played baseball once when he was nine years old, it does not make him a baseball player. Sure, for a three-hour duration on a certain day 18-years ago, Carl was a baseball player. But today (and for the last five years, since his dog died), Carl is taking bong rips during his breaks in the backstall of the bathroom at the Starbucks where he works which probably explains his typical joyful demeanor.
MICHAEL: I’m hanging with you.
ERIC: So … Carl is a happy, sad, pissed off, jaded, bong-tokin, coffee-slangin, baseball playin man-boy, who has an alcoholic, dog-murdering mother. In other words Carl, like everyone else, is a complex individual. He has had an array of experiences, is full of contradicting feelings and he is forever changing and accumulating new memories and emotions that define who he is. In short I would say, what inspires me to paint in the manner that I do is the utterly wide and vast scope of content that forms an individual's identity over time.
MICHAEL: TAH DAH! I get it. I can clearly see that you're going to be unusual and fun. You're so right. You know, I think many people would consider themselves multi-faceted, but we're always trying to put other people in boxes and make them ONE thing ... bad or good. I know you're not a psychologist, but what's up with that?
ERIC: Ha! I don't know Michael. That's a good question. I assume more than anything it just makes conversation more convenient. It's much easier to define yourself (and one another) as your job, rather than your autobiography. Perhaps it's the same reason we call the pink slime injections served at fast food restaurants "hamburgers" and "chicken nuggets.” It can be difficult to admit to ourselves and others that sometimes we are crappy people who sometimes do crappy things. Ignorance is bliss and apparently a delicious cure for a hangover. Putting ourselves in "boxes" does create an interesting catch-22, especially in the context of our present westernized, democratic culture, which ironically places such a paramount importance on individuality. We typically define ourselves by what we "do" or our profession. When we generalize ourselves in such a manner, it may differentiate us from our next door neighbor, but at the same time it places us in a category that could be shared with our next door neighbor's next door neighbor.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Given all of that and your talent, how do you define yourself? Most artists don't separate their work from who they are.
ERIC: By the company that I keep, the relationships that I maintain, the books that I read and the knowledge I acquire from them - also my professional progression and/or lack thereof. I typically separate myself from my previous work and although it inherently and always influences my next idea, I only "judge" myself based on my most recently finished piece.
MICHAEL: Where are you? How does the city you live in inspire you and your work? How do you get inspired from day to day? What's your daily routine?
ERIC: I live in Los Angeles. To me, Los Angeles seems like a microcosm of the American dream. People from all around the world move here, as I did, to broaden their horizons, expand their consciousness and become self actualized. Usually, when people leave the environment they were raised in, they are more inclined to forge new relationships. In a city like Los Angeles, which has an acute density of these transplanted people, it is easy (easier rather) to meet new people and form new relationships. Everyone is searching for new friends and experiences they've never had before. Everyone wants to leave a unique impression on the people they meet, which I think makes them more inclined to reveal bits of information or aspects of themselves that are uncommon and/or one of a kind. I feel as though this also parallels my work. I attempt to mimic the bits of information and experiences that accumulate over time that form an individual; each stroke of paint represents an experience. In an extreme context, I think of each stroke as a scar or as an epoch. Over time, the strokes/scars, accumulate and coalesce into a single form and create a unique individual. I honestly do not get inspired on a day to day basis. Maybe month to month. If you know anyone that does get inspired on a day to day basis please introduce them to me and let me know what they are taking. I would like some as well. Sounds like fun and maybe a bit unhealthy.
What is inspiring me at the moment to make work is an opportunity to be a part of a group show. I am in the process of making a series of small portraits that will be grouped together to form one large piece. And no, the resulting large piece will not make an illusion of Yoda, Darth Vader, or Chewbacca.
ERIC: Anyhow, if you are in the Los Angeles area, I would suggest you come by and see the show. I don't have the exact dates yet, but as far as I know, it should take place at the Q Art Salon in downtown Santa Ana California. I do not paint every day. I typically take one day off per week from working. I also don't paint every day because of the amount of prep work I need to do before I can actually begin painting. I usually make my own panels and stretch my own canvases which can take a considerable amount of time because of their large scale. I have to photograph models and I also do a lot of composing in photoshop before I sit down and paint.
MICHAEL: Many of the New York artists I know say New York remains and always will be THE place to be for artists. What do you think about this?
ERIC: I think there is some truth to that statement. However, I would say rather that it is one of the most challenging cities to survive as an artist. Also, I think it may be a bit presumptuous to assume that it will always be that way. "Always" is a very long time. Besides, there is a seemingly infinite, all-seeing, all-knowing, God-like robot that presently exists that we call the Internet. IT is clearly THE place to be for an artist. An artist's immediate environment inherently affects their work. But to assume that it only affects their work is ridiculous. People are more than just a product of their environment. To assume so, nullifies their ability to think and act independently. To presume you only react to your environment is a cop out and removes all responsibility from your actions or the choices you make. It's like me saying that I paint because I live in Los Angeles. I don't paint because I live in Los Angeles. Living in Los Angeles persuades my ideas, but it can't fully account for the reason that I paint in the first place. I grew up in B.F.E. and I painted there. I lived in Southfield for two years and I painted there as well. I lived in Ferndale and painted. I've lived in several other places after and no matter where that was, I still painted. People make art all over the world and if they have access to the Internet, they can share it all over the world.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world today and how it functions? There are so many struggling living artists out there while the superrich are snapping up Picassos and Warhols.
ERIC: Yeah, it can be immensely frustrating to expect to be a financially successful artist. Justifiably so. It's very unusual, rarely happens and is a total bummer when it doesn't. In my opinion, it's best to measure your success based on other factors. As far as I'm concerned, my mentor - David Simon - said it best (in my words, not his). ‘The greatest success an artist can have is not based on their technical, or financial merits, but rather the ever increasing expansion of their consciousness.’ To pursue a fruitful, professional career as an artist, one should base their success on the knowledge they accumulate about themselves and the environment they currently occupy, not the monetary proliferation they accumulate. Ultimately the exponential gain of knowledge results in success, as opposed to the exponential gain of money.
MICHAEL: Your work also has a very sensual, almost cinematic quality. I think you achieve that partly through the way you use pixilated colors. What is that called exactly? Also what does color mean to you compared to black and white?
ERIC: I don't really know what that is called. I get asked that question a lot. You'd think I'd have a good answer by now or at least a very sarcastic one. But I don't. More than anything though, it really just derives from Pointillism. It's very similar to what Monet and Seurat were doing with paint. Let's come up with a word for it. How about we call it "Fizzbatch?” What do you think? Color is seemingly limitless, black and white is not.
MICHAEL: Seriously, you may want to get "Fizzbatch" or whatever you want to call it trademarked. You style is unique and deserves protection. Finally Eric, where would you say you are now in your evolution as an artist? What ideas or concepts are inspiring you now and where do you want to go with your work in the future?
ERIC: Ha! Thanks Michael. Isn't “Fizzbatch” a great word? I can't take credit for it though. A good friend of mine, Alex Alvarado, coined it. It means the fecal-like accumulation of pubes, scabs, pus and snot in the bottom of your bathtub strainer. Hot stuff, huh?
MICHAEL: Yes, it sounds hot.
ERIC: I'd like to hope I'm at the very beginning of my evolution as an artist. It would be a real bummer if I wasn’t. Man I tell you what, the only ideas that are inspiring me at the moment are practical ones. I’ve got too many bills and not enough ducats to pay them off. Thanks for the chat Michael. I enjoyed it - hope you did too.
MICHAEL: I enjoyed it immensely Bro. Keep your sense of humor. Your work rocks.
Check out Eric Pedersen at www.ericpedersenart.com.