Exhibitionists: Erik Abel

Erik Abel has a striking style that is nothing if not beachy. Reminiscent of ancient Hawaiian tribal art, Abel modernizes the form with vibrant colors and textured grid patterns, but it wouldn’t be surprising if anyone had his pieces tattooed across their backs. Here he answers our five questions with candid detail. You’ll want to stick around until the end, because his advice is golden.

1.) Who are your top three artistic influencers?

Choosing only three is almost impossible. I guess I should start with a few that were influential from when I was just a little turd. Ed Emberley was an important one. He just made it so easy to create things with simple lines and shapes and showed how simple it was to make an entire imaginary world. I used to tape pieces of paper together and create these long scenes with all sorts of stuff going on, with probably every single item in one of Ed’s books. Planes shooting trains crashing into cars with witches and ghosts flying around. Just Chaos.

Another early influence would definitely be MC Escher. His work just warped my brain, caused me to think about the mathematics and symmetry in nature and the limits of a two dimensional drawing. I just really liked the fact that he could make these impossible structures on paper that weren’t possible in real life. He showed me that drawing and art could take you to an entirely different dimension where the impossible was possible.

And lastly, an artist who’s work smacked me upside the head and really gave me hope as an artist when I was first starting to show in LA in 2005, is Erik Otto. I went to a group show he was in, along with Blaine Fontana, Sage Vaughn, Sam Flores and a bunch of others. That show seriously changed my life as an artist.

It was The Birdhouse Show and anybody who was there can tell you it was absolutely insane. That f***ed me up for a long time–serious brain damage. I didn’t even know that those guys and that type of art existed. I think I’m still recovering from that night.

2.) Where do you create your art?

In June I moved out of my work/live space at the WAV artist compound and got into a pretty good sized warehouse space on the industrial side of Ventura. This is the first time in my life I’ve had my studio outside of my living space–such a massive change and so awesome.

The best part of my day is pulling that chain to roll up the big bay door every morning and turning on some tunes–it just feels like such an official way to start the work day. I’ve got lots of creative space now and a few offices for design work, printing and shipping. It’s all part of my master plan to launch a design studio in the near future. We’re going to be making a lot of limited edition wall art, sculptures, home decor and other items. I have no idea what I’m doing but it doesn’t do any good to not do anything…so I might as well jump in head first and see what happens. Worse case scenario, I bail on it all, sell everything and end up with a tent and a few boards on a tropical beach scavenging for food and some warm tubes.

3.) How much time do you typically spend on each piece?

The way I work, things usually happen pretty quickly. I’m an impatient bastard. I want it done, and I want it done now. Once I start a piece, I usually have to finish it within a few days or I lose all interest and it’s on to the next idea. I have to keep that flow and energy and interest going. My style and technique reflects my impatience. I use markers, colored pencil, acrylic paint and a hair dryer so that I can work quickly and put down several layers in a matter of minutes. I work off of a loose sketch most of the time, and I kinda figure out some of the details as I go along.

4.) What mediums do you work in?

About 95 percent of my work is acrylic paint, illustration markers and colored pencil on panels or wood. I also do a lot of digital illustration and design work. With the design studio, I’ll be moving into more three-dimensional work using wood, clay, recycled composites and other nature based materials.

5.) Do you have any advice for young artists?

I could go into the whole spiel about finding a unique style, mastering some techniques, learning some Adobe programs and making sure you have a simple, clean website, but the more I think about it, the more I think the best advice to young artists is to save up coin and go travel the world with a sketchbook and a backpack for a while to see what kind of whacky inspiration you find out there. You never know where you’ll end up or with whom.  Every time I travel I can hardly wait to get home and create.

Find more from Erik Abel:

Facebook: @ErikAbelArt https://www.facebook.com/abelarts

Instagram: abelarts http://instagram.com/abelarts

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