When we discuss an artist’s driving force it is often enshadowed by a familiar stigma; the tortured soul, struggling to find a way to express their vast internal angst and bestow it upon the awaiting void. Starving, and consumed by their need to create in order to exorcise the demons within. And that is all well and good. Many a masterpiece has crawled out of those depths. But, it is refreshing to say the least when you are able to sit down with an artist whose motivation seems to be a childlike love for toy robots and donuts.
Eric Joyner’s universe is not completely devoid of darkness, however. Suicidal robots hang from the rafters of cathedrals, contemplate their fates from the edges of rooftops… and in one of my favorites, is so overwhelmed by the innumerable donut options presented, it takes a blaster to its expressionless head. But even these themes are delivered with a levity that only tin toys and pastel pastries can offer.
Eric Joyner currently lives and works in San Francisco, California. U.S.A.
“3 wise Guys” 2017
“Too Many Choices II” 2008
Much more often we find a grand sense of exploration and adventure. There are Transformers battling in gladiator arenas, a very determined Bot in a deadly encounter with a massive serpent, and even waves of invading donuts being fought back by shiny soldiers wound up for the battle ahead. There are also pieces that are utterly tranquil. Where we find a lone robot resting in the grass and staring up at the sky. Also pieces that are incredibly tender, as when a certain cat shows up and finds itself in the loving embrace of a robot.
“Summer Time” 2015
Yes, the whimsy is strong with this one to say the least, but, what sets Joyner apart is the execution. With a masterful painterly technique he is just as adept at thrilling us with stunning landscapes, glowing sunsets and rainy city streets, as he is with his candy gloss confections and automata.
Not surprisingly, these themes and the skill with which they are rendered have not gone unnoticed in his nearly 20 year career as a professional artist.
He has had several solo exhibitions with the renowned Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. Has developed relationships with some very high profile collectors the likes of George Lucas and J.J. Abrams. Recently released his second collection of works in the career spanning book ‘Robotic Existentialism: The Art of Eric Joyner’. And is currently crowd funding a video game project based upon his creations aptly titled “Robots & Donuts”.
With so much history and future to delve into, I was eager to get to know the Boy behind The Bots. And he was gracious enough to answer some of my questions…
- “Usual Suspects” 2015
Your pieces are mesmerizing. The way the robots and donuts interact, not only with each other but, with the natural and unnatural worlds they inhabit is flawless. I can only assume that there is a lot of preparation involved before paint hits the final canvas.
Thanks Jeremy! Yes, I do some preparation…research, sketching, photography, composing and a lot of consideration goes into the idea, or what I want to say. After the drawing is on the board (or canvas) I paint in a very traditional manner, with regular oils and alkyd oils.
Every one of your pieces is like a still from a film I really want to see. Are they intentionally cinematic? Are there films that have influenced certain pieces?
In general, I don’t think about being cinematic. I usually try to communicate something with good composition. Having said that, I have been inspired by movies in the past. Most notably Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A space Odyssey as well as a series I did years ago that were based very closely on a variety of Film Noir movies. There are a few others like Apocalypse Now and some Godzilla movies.
“Sunken Treasure” (sketch) 2007
What is the relationship between the robots and the donuts, it seems to change from time to time. Are they often adversaries? Two different creatures trying to find a way to coexist in the universe?
Their relationship is constantly evolving. Like most people, I see and feel a variety things in my life – absurdity, irony, happiness, sadness, banality, depression, beauty, horror etc., etc., and use Robots & donuts for communication, because I think people like to experience things they are familiar with, in new ways.
Eric’s Studio (Photo credited to the artist)
You attended the San Francisco Art Academy. How was the art school experience for you?
Art school was good for me…I made friends that I still hang out with, learned some things (like artists of the past) and got to practice drawing and painting a lot, of course. However, it’s gotten so expensive now, if I was starting over I’d seriously consider just getting some ‘how to’ books.
Whose works do you look to for inspiration?
I like American illustrators like N.C. Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, Frank Frazetta, J.C. Lyendecker, N. Rockwell, Jeffrey Jones and several others, as well as the post impressionists like Degas, Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh. I knew about Van Gogh when I was very small but the others I didn’t know about until I went to art college.
I noticed a certain feline in a few pieces, who is that adorable grey animal?
Yes, that would be Dapper – he belonged to a friend of mine, and was very special.
“Mountain Retreat” 2017
You have had a long standing relationship with Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. How did you connect with them?
I was showing at the now defunct and infamous ‘Shooting Gallery’ in San Francisco in 2005 when I got an email from Jan Corey asking me if I would show with them. Bruce Helford, the co-owner, had discovered me at ComiCon, earlier in the year and had bought a print. (I had gone as an attendee with some prints, but no plan. While there, I noticed that an artist didn’t show up to their assigned seat…so I took it!) Anyway, the gallery was new & no one knew anything about them, except for one person who I had produced a painting for (Steve Molaro), who at the time was writing for the TV show Zoey 101. He strongly urged me to accept their offer.
What Happened with Shooting Gallery?
The experience at the Shooting gallery was fun. But the owner started selling art at the wrong price, so I lost trust, as did many other artists who showed there.
Yikes. Well it seems as though it led to a new home and a long standing relationship.
Corey Helford gallery is extremely reputable and working with them is great, as they’re so professional.
What are the benefits of a lasting gallery relationship?
You make friends, contacts, money, and it is how you establish yourself as a credible artist. Galleries take 50%, but it’s worth it. A certain percentage of collectors would rather buy from a gallery, not directly from an artist, for reasons unknown. The easiest way to get your foot in the door is to start going to shows and meet the owners. Participate in ‘call for entries’ and themed group shows. In general, it’s easier to get into a new gallery than an established one. For artists that are looking for a gallery, I wish you the best, it’s worth it.
You have had some very notable collectors (JJ Abrams, George Lucas), How did they find your work?
I don’t know how J.J. Abrams found me, but I assume since his company in called ‘Bad Robot’ he, or they found me by accident. As For Lucas, It was J.W. Rinszler, the editor for a book called ‘STARWARS VISIONS’, a tribute to the Starwars movies, by 100 artists from around the world. I was told that Mr. Lucas bought painting for his collection.
“The Main Course” 2009
Have you developed a relationship with your collectors & do you feel like your work appeals to a certain type of person?
I have, with several of my collectors, but most are unknown. From what I can tell, all kinds of people like my work, especially lawyers, scientists, filmmakers and children.
What are your feeling on social media as a platform for artists?
I do some social media…mainly Facebook – I have a fan page (the link is at the bottom of my website). I use Instagram some, but not much else. I have no experience with Patreon. I like social media – it’s crucial, if you want to sell paintings. The public must know about your work – and what better way? Most people are on social media, I think.
Do you spend a great deal of time on there?
I mainly tend to my fan page, not the personal page though. I try to post on the fan page 3 times a week. I like posting 3 times a week – no more, no less.
You recently released your second collection of works in the book ‘Robotic Existentialism: The Art of Eric Joyner’. It is a massively impressive volume! Must have been quite the undertaking?
Making the book wasn’t too difficult… I had all the digital files all ready to go. I just put them in a Dropbox folder & sent an invitation to my editor at Dark Horse Publishing (Rachel Roberts) along with the text and notes. I asked Bruce Helford and Jan Corey to write a forward. Rachel had Designer Brennan Thome design throw it all together. :) We went back and forth with the design for a month or so, until we were satisfied. You can find it at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble as well as some small bookstores.
You have a video game project in the works! Robots & Donuts – The Mobile Experience sounds amazing! I totally want to play a game set in your world.
A book release and a video game project in the same year is impressive. Where do you go from here? Whats next?
My immediate future involves the game as well as many commissions. My next big show will be at Corey Helford in early 2020. Other than that, the public can come visit me this October 20th and 21st in my art studio – There will be lots of art and free donuts! More info here: https://www.shipyardartists.com
Do you have a quote or mantra that keeps you going?
In my early days I would say “Dear god make me your instrument, your tool. Give me the ability to paint and draw and make it my overwhelming desire to do so”. Later it was ‘Go for the Donut!’ Now it’s just “Get me through the day!”
“The Invasion” 2015
“All Wrapped Up” 2018