Creative leader in the world of "designer toys", street-artist, painter, advisor... Enter the world of a tristan Eaton.
FatCap : What is your career?
Tristan Eaton : I see myself as a painter, but over the years I've done a lot of toy design, illustration, murals, brand collaborations, motorcycle painting…all kinds of stuff.
FC : What is your relationship with graffiti?
T : I was first turned on to Graffiti in London in the late 80's / early 90's. My older brother and his crew got into bombing around then and for the first time I actually knew the people that painted the walls outside my train views…that's when I really started to pay attention. Mode 2 had a big influence on me when I was younger. When my family moved to Detroit in the mid 90's I really got into painting in the streets. It's really lawless there, so you can get away with anything.
FC : Did comics play an important role for your creations?
T : Of course! Being a kid in England, I was really into 2000AD Magazine which was mostly British illustrators. Then I got into Jack Kirby, early X-Men and old Silver Surfer. I loved the style and would copy character drawings from the comics all the time! What really melted my brain and changed me forever was Simon Bisley (Judge Dredd vs. Batman!) and the anime film Akira. That film was like art to me. Every frame looked like a painting. I was literally changed forever.
FC : What makes successful graffiti, according to you?
T : Well, I've never been a 'letter' guy, nor have I religiously bombed in traditional Graffiti style, so I wouldn't call myself a Graffiti artist, just an Artist. That would be a disservice to Graffiti writers who are the real definition of the term. People like: SEEN, REVOK, ASKEW, HAZE, REVS, JA etc. I've always been into characters and never been exclusively spray paint oriented. Back when I was 18 I would use brushes and spray paint together in the street and over the years I've used whatever the hell I want to with my street work. To be honest, I've always enjoyed tagging and straight up bombing shit, and I still do that from time to time - but it wasn't my main focus. To me, good Graffiti is when someone can pull off painting your name big and beautiful, illegally. Everything else is mural work. street art or outdoor installation work.
FC : So, you are an artist, a street artist, designer, director ... what do you like the most?
T : I like it all equally. But my paintings and murals are the most important to me.
FC : Can you tell us about Thunderdog studios ?
T : Yeah! Thunderdog has been the backbone behind all my artistic projects. It allows me to have a team behind me when we pull off big projects. Toys, video, big collaborations…it helps to have people to keep the business side of things right.
FC : Can we say that your studio gives you a context for analytical thinking. In the street, is that the spontaneity always rules? (just the framework and then you improvise)
T : I think the different disciplines of work I bounce in-between allow me to continuously problem solve. I try to keep my self warmed up when it comes to creating imagery with different tools and media and that helps me with my personal work. I start out with an idea for a mural and I work backwards, problem solving the best way to execute it. Inside that framework, I allow for a lot of improvising, but it's pretty controlled most of the time.
FC : With all these activities, have you traveled a lot? What is your vision of graffiti in the USA and the one you have seen in other countries?
T : I've been very lucky to travel the world with my art. It's really a blessing. I've painted in Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica, Japan, Europe, all over the United States… All around the world, I've seen Graffiti as a beautiful training ground for people who later on become very serious artists and painters. For kids who come from low income neighborhoods, it's the only way they can let loose their talent and in many cases, they wouldn't know they had artistic talent without Graffiti.
FC : Is there a rising scene of graffiti in LA that we don't known yet in Europe?
T : It's a weird time in LA because the city is trying to ban murals completely. They are also trying to classify graffiti crews as gang members and impose harsh restrictions on them that would treat them essentially as terrorists. So it's very risky right now. But at the same time there are some amazing giant murals happening anyway. You can see huge walls by DABS & MYLA, HOW & NOSM, RETNA, RISK and more - all over the place. I also noticed a huge void between hardcore LA graffiti and LA street art. The artsy fartsy wheat-pasters don't have a lot of respect for traditional graffiti and will paste over stuff without any thought towards respect or the consequences. LA wheat-pasting seems so haphazard and sloppy that is looks like more of an eye sore than tags for local residents. You have walls that look like a messy desk filled with bad photocopies and boring drawings…and underneath them - beautiful burners!
FC : In France we have excellent graffiti artists and an exceptional footballer! So, how is Thierry Henry?
T : Ha! Thierry is my homie!
FC : Ha ha! Can you tell us about this meeting and this unusual project?
T : It was an amazing opportunity. Thierry is a big lover of art and a huge comic book fan, so we had a lot in common. Redbull asked us to collaborate on a mural, so I made a giant wall with big targets on top. He had to kick soccer balls at the targets to reveal the mural. It was good challenge for him! Unfortunately for me, he did it very easily! He is the coolest guy and a genius talent. I was so happy to hear that he just named his new son TRISTAN! And I'm currently designed a huge tattoo for him.
FC : That's really cool! You collaborated with many brands, most recently for the promotion of a tablet. According to you, how do you see the graffiti evolve with the Internet and new technologies?
T : Graffiti wouldn't be what it is today without the internet. It's how we keep up on what's happening on walls around the world. It's how we stay on top of the competition! It's great to be able to have access to all of that so easily. I used to collect graff magazines back in the day - that was the only way to see stuff that was far away from you. It's so much easier now and it's made the international graffiti world much smaller.
FC : Is LA is the best city to make graffiti?
T : No - Detroit is!
FC : What are your plans?
T ; My plans are to get better with my paintings! I feel like I could be much better than I am now. It takes so much work and patience, but the satisfaction of finishing a big beautiful painting is worth all the headaches. And of course, keep painting walls. I want my canvas painting style and spray painting / wall styles to be identical - I have a lot of work to do. You can always get better!
FC : What are your tastes in movies, music, books ...?
T : I read a lot of Zombie books and watch lots of war documentaries. I feel like I need to be ready for both! When the shit hits the fan, I'll be fucking ready.
FC : Do you think you have seen everything in terms of street art?
T : No way. I always see new stuff that blows my mind. EL MAC is doing really important, beautiful things right now, so are HOW & NOSM. Even FUTURA is doing new, fresh, crazy and inspired work. Everybody evolves - it's exciting to watch as people change and progress.
FC : One word to describe your style?
T : CLEAN!
FC : What results in 3 words of your years on earth?
T : ALWAYS GETTING BETTER. :)
FC : Thanks Tristan!