Monday, August 5, 2013

Q and A with Eric Tan

Eric Tan. The Creative Mind behind the Work
I waited an hour before I was able to get in. The place was packed.

Fans of his work buying up his art like hot pancakes.

Eric Tan

Graphic Designer/Illustrator

I am very fortunate to have met Eric. It was actually a complete happenstance. I was following a lead for my next article next door the gallery the day he had his show. I happen to chat with his friend April and she told me about him and my interest immediately peaked. There are three compelling reasons to chase him for an interview. First and foremost, even before I saw his work I couldn’t help but notice the line of people buying his art. Second, he is my Kababayan, my countryman from the Philippines. Third, his work rocks!

His work on display at that time in Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles, that went on in June 28th  through July 20th, are his travel posters, his unique take on the places he has been. To give you a better understanding on what I am talking about here is an excerpt from his blog:

 “Let me dust this crazy blog off! I haven't posted in forever because I've been hard at work on a solo show which debuts this June at Gallery1988 in Los Angeles. When the fine folks at the gallery approached me a few years ago for a show, I never really could fathom committing to one because: A) my day job saps up too much creative energy (in a good way) rendering me sleepy after 6pm, and B) I just didn't have any exciting ideas that I could sustain over a series of pieces. Over the past few years, I've been fortunate enough to travel to a number of cool places around the globe. I would always have my sketchbook in hand to capture what I saw and write down funny observations I noticed about each place that was uniquely theirs. Whether it be some food everyone went crazy over, or an iconic something that everyone took pictures of, I'd either jot it down or do some weird sketch of what I witnessed. A few years ago, at one of Gallery1988's Crazy4Cult shows I had created a 'travel poster' based on my favorite movie of all time 'Back to the Future'. I've also gotten to create travels posters at Disney for films like Up and Cars - and for characters like Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and the rest of the gang. The graphic designer in me loves the structure and typography of these types of posters and the illustrator in me loves drawing each element within them. When it came to coming up with an idea that could work as a series for a solo show, my travel sketchbooks and all the travel posters I had created for other things came to mind. Instead of creating film-inspired posters, like the Back to the Future one, I decided to use the actual cities I visited. Cities new to me like Hong Kong, Paris, Barcelona, and London - and ones that were very familiar to me like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and San Diego. Hopefully everyone who either lives in these cities or has visited them will relate to the humor I tried to convey with each one.”

It was a really brilliant, and pretty bold, pieces of artwork. The thing is, at least from my point of view, an ultra-sensitive person from the country that his travel posters had featured could have easily accused him of stereotyping his country. One example is his poster about London featuring a pint of beer front and center. But, and this is a very big “but”, I think only people that don’t have a good sense of humor are the ones who are at risk of being ridiculed because Eric’s work carries truth and are nothing offensive. Besides, Eric’s, work, especially the “Travel Poster” series are very tastefully done. It is really hard to explain it but for some reason his works kind of reminds me of the brilliant pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Since I love Lichtenstein’s work it goes without saying I love Eric’s work as well. I could see Eric’s original prints going as high as $5000 in a year’s time. Well I don’t know…I’m really not an art speculator but I could really see big things happening for him.

Anyway after a brief email exchanges I was able to forward him some questions and here are his answers for our Q and A:

1. Where did you study?

I went to art school at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where I studied Graphic Design & Branding.

2. Where are you currently working?

I currently work at Disney Consumer Products in Glendale as a Designer/Artist. I've been there for almost 14 years now.

3. What inspires your artwork?

I'm inspired by many things including artwork from my favorite artists, websites I'll come across, and especially the coworkers I see almost every day. The talent level at Disney is amazing and I learn new things from those people every day.

4. What tools do you use with your artwork?

I usually sketch ideas out with a pen in a notebook. Then I'll do the final art in programs like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. I also sculpt quite a bit.

5. What advice can you give to other artists?

My advice would be to create art because it's fun and it's something you love, don't get into this career to get fame or make an excessive amount of money. If you're good and original, then those things will probably come but I just feel very fortunate to be able to create art and pay my bills. I'm always trying to get better too, I never feel like I'm actually good or have everything figured out. If you're self-motivated and always pushing yourself to improve, it really does help to sustain this as a career.

6. Do you have a website where my readers can follow you?

My instagram is erictanart. I also have a blog ( and a site (

Listen to Eric. Create your art because you love it. There shouldn’t be any other main reason but that alone. And always remember what he says about “pushing yourself”…there should always be room for improvements and do not let your ego get in the way of your work. Eric is a very gentle and humble man. A man of his talent could’ve easily turned into an art prima donna.  Our brief conversation during his show left an indelible impression on me for the rest of my life.


All Photos and Article are copyrighted.

Copyright 2013 RG Los Angeles Stories


Note: Pardon for any typo. I had been seating on this piece for a while now since I got caught up with my other works and I suddenly felt the urge to get Eric’s story out as soon as possible.

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