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Lifelounge #14, The Gossip Edition, Interview w/ Luke Lucas - Dec. 2010

Luke Lucas: After completing your journalism and animation degrees you worked for years as a commercial animator for the likes of South Park and Seinfeld. What made you quit your day job to become an artist?
Eric Yahnker: I still have a love for animation, but I really wanted to draw, and it became pretty clear the animation industry was heading toward a 3D and Flash overhaul, and I was either going to have to trade in my pencil and paper for a keyboard and mouse or dole out hand jobs at the bus depot. I opted for hand jobs.
 
LL: How does your life as an artist differ from your work in the commercial world?
EY: It's become a lot lonelier. Being an artist is essentially sentencing yourself to solitary confinement with hard labor. I mean, animation isn't necessarily different in its sheer rigor, but at least there's a crew to fart around with -- of course, depending on the crew, that can be a bad thing. Ultimately, I have come to grips with the fact I'm a miserable team player. Apparently, making 100 percent of the creative decisions and slavishly executing all the work myself is the corner I've happily painted myself into.
 
LL: Regis and Kelly, Britney, Paris , Dolly,  Siegfried and Roy, it seems like everyone is fair game in your work. What qualities do you look for in your subjects ?
EY: I don't really seek them, I feel like they seek me. I guess every artist has certain subjects, themes, and aesthetics they're attracted to, but I'm as attracted to these weirdo celebrity types as I am shiny bags of Doritos Chips. Perhaps like Andy Warhol, I believe true beauty is as close as one's pantry or fridge.
 
LL: As an artist you’re able to get away with the kind of social commentary that you’d never be able to as a journalist. What do you think it is about art that can transform something taboo or tragic into something hilarious and cheeky?
EY: Art relies heavily on the notion that things are inherently 'deeper' than they appear to be. I occasionally like to abuse that notion.
 
LL: Do you have any art heroes? Where do you find your inspiration?
EY: I came to art-making pretty late, so my stable of heroes doesn't always jibe with art royalty, nor necessarily exist in the field of art per se. Some of my shortlist includes The Three Stooges, Marx Brothers, Jacques Tati, Oscar Wilde, George Carlin, Don Rickles, Andy Kaufman, Paul Conrad, Terry Gilliam, Werner Herzog, Gee Vaucher, Saul Steinberg, Peter Saul, Basil Wolverton, Magic Johnson, and extremely nude women.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. I used to be more neurotic about it. Like, I couldn't just sit on my duff and watch a movie without thinking, "how can I use this for my art?" Now, I just let it come more organically.
 
LL: Although bits and pieces of your work involve installation the majority is using charcoal, graphite and colour pencil. What is it about these medium that appeals to you?
EY: Drawing was always my thing. I never really considered painting. Maybe it's about a certain sense of control. I'm no good with a flimsy brush. Give me something sharp and pointy. Basically, it achieves the results I'm looking for, and is pretty second nature to me, so I stick with it.

LL: Your illustrations are all quite large scale? Does size matter?
EY: I've always been impressed with scale myself, so when it came to making my own work, it was only natural I'd want to go big. I must admit I do like getting the surprised reactions when people realize the work is wall-sized.

LL: How do you approach your work? Do you begin a piece with a clear concept or is it something that evolves on the page.
EY: In a lot of cases, the work starts out as just words. My sketchbook contains very few actual sketches. It's mostly written ideas. For instance, if I've jotted down, "Juanita Horsetits," then I'll go about the business of locating a suitable Juanita, and a pair of horse heads to serve as her jugs, and try seaming them together. If there are elements I can't find, I'll either go out and photograph them myself, or make them up. For the most part, I'll have a very good idea of what I'm about to draw before I start drawing, but I often make changes as I go, and find the initial collage serves mainly as a guide which doesn't have to be strictly adhered to.

LL: How long can you spend on a piece?
EY: Anywhere from a few hours to a month, depending on size and level of detail. I just recently did a couple of massive, intricately detailed, full-colored pencil drawings for an upcoming show which took me longer to complete than anything I've done previous (other than making an animated film, of course). I only work on one piece at a time, which makes me want to move things along a bit quicker, in order to get to the next thing as quickly as possible before I get bored or disinterested.
 
LL: You’re born and bred in LA which is pretty much the epicentre of celebrity pop culture. Has La La Land made you view celebrity more cynically?
EY: I sort of assume everyone views celebrity cynically, regardless of geographic location.
 
LL: With the surrounding doom and gloom around the economy, the environment and terrorism is humour through art your way of venting your frustrations with modern day America?
EY: Humor certainly allows one to amplify truths, but I'm not necessarily frustrated with modern day America. A student of history, I realize even the worst of times will eventually achieve balance. Hopefully that doesn't sound too sarcastic.
 
LL: What/who are you currently working on? What’s next for Eric Yahnker?
EY: I'm currently cranking on work from my upcoming solo show, opening January 21, 2011, at Kunsthalle L.A. in Chinatown, Los Angeles.

LL: What does the perfect day for Eric Yahnker entail?
EY: I could think of some saucier things, but a 'realistic' perfect day would pretty much start with a punch bowl of cereal, a hard day's work, dinner with my girl, the Lakers win, a little Bourbon, and the warm crackle of mellow vinyl 'til bedtime.
 
LL: This edition of Lifelounge Magazine has a Gossip theme… If you could start a single rumour about yourself what would it be?
EY: Hey, did you hear Eric instantly ejaculates when he hears the first three bars of Kenny Loggins' "House on Pooh Corner?"