By Eric Joyner
Published Issue 101, May 2022
I was born in San Mateo, a suburb of San Francisco. My childhood was fairly uneventful, doing the usual things most kids did, reading comics (mostly Mad, Creepy, Eerie and newspaper comic strips), playing sports, and going to school, as well as drawing and painting. I remember going to a huge Van Gogh exhibit as a child at the De Young in SF (and being very impressed) and taking painting lessons with my older sister at the local recreation center. Sometime in the first grade, classmates and teachers started to take notice of my work and eventually some of my paintings from the fourth grade class, along with some other students work, were chosen for an extended statewide tour.
In high school, I spent most of my energy on drawing, painting and working in a lumber mill to save up for school. After winning a few awards, I knew I’d be attending art school. So I left home (in Oregon) and attended the Academy of Art in San Francisco for four years. While there, I made a few friends and won some awards. Later, with influential teachers like Francis Livingston, Kazu Sano, Bill Sanchez and Robert Hunt, my illustration skills improved and soon was getting a few advertising jobs during his last semester at the Academy (mostly pen and ink and school book assignments).
After art school, I joined the San Francisco Society of Illustrators and participated in their annual shows, charities and Air force art programs. The clients were educational publishers, high tech companies, card companies, magazine publishers and advertising agencies. In 1989 I won two gold medals in the S.F.S.I. annual show.
During the recession of the early 1990s I took a computer animation assignment, not knowing mouse from a hole in wall … learning five programs at the same time and trying to meet deadlines may sound fun, but I don’t recommend trying it. Anyway, after three months of torture, I chose not to pursue animation. The training was good though and still use some of the things I learned. A few years later, I took a job texture mapping and got to relive the learning/producing nightmare. The next job, doing backgrounds for internet cartoons at Spunky Productions, for some reason, was not such a headache.
In 1999, I started to enter various juried shows at Artisans Gallery in Mill Valley, CA. and the work was well received. Shows in other galleries, (usually group shows) were positive as well. In 2000, after years of painting other people’s pictures, I made the decision to only paint things that I liked. Four series of paintings of different subjects were started; they were: San Francisco urbanscapes, paintings of old newspaper cartoons characters, Mexican masks, and last but not least, Japanese tin (toy) robots. Though all four series of these subjects were enjoyable to do, I chose to focus on the tin robots, as they were the most popular and seemed to have the most possibilities.
So, armed with a small collection of tin robots and spaceships I began painting them in earnest. In attempt to bring them to life without loosing their charm, I showed them where they belonged: outer space. By 2002 the paintings were looking good, but they still needed something to play off of … perhaps a nemesis. After a month or so of searching for a “nemesis” I had an epiphany while watching the movie Pleasantville. In one of the scenes, Jeff Daniels paints a still life of … donuts. With thoughts of Wayne Thiebaud’s pastries always close at hand, it wasn’t difficult to see the battle scene of robots retreating from 300-foot tall donuts when I went to bed that night. The rest, as they say, is history.
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Check out Eric’s June Birdy piece, Lawn Mower, the inspo for Gray Winsler’s Lithium Ion, or head to our Explore section to see more of his work.