Interview: Eric Larkin

Three of my favorite words are Beauty, Black & Brilliant. I use them liberally, like toe ointment, I spread it around thickly, densely, deeply even. But I feel those three words in no way counteract each other. They are after all, the biblical ingredients the formed the universe. And I see them in some form everyday...  simultaneously. Here is yet another burgeoning example of that; Eric Larkin. I came across Eric's work quite by chance. I was trolling the wonder-webs with my browser set on serendipitous (you have that setting too, see it up there under: Edit - Find - Serendipity). So I run across these cool ass afro illustrations. If you been to this site before you know my "Fro" love only grows daily nappily out of control. Much like a well, fro. Now my first thought was damn, if nobody else has seen these, I'm biting these (so be on the look out for commercials with people walking around with state and country shaped afros). Further investigation led me to a site called and I was like damn more ideas. More really good ideas. This dude is a really clever illustrator, blog fodder gold! Next I learned the Eric wasn't just an illustrator he is also a cracking Art Director. His concepts are really hear felt and fervent stuff. I reached out to him to ask permission to post his work here and his response warm and impassioned. The kinda folk I like, nice, pretense free & funny. (I hates a damn snob) But the kid aint cocky, not like a lot of the industry asses you meet. Especially the self amped rookies. Oh and ad people who leave comments under the psuedonym "one show gold" who the f-f-fu... ??? I get the feeling we will never get this from Eric, he is the craft in it's trues form. I suspect he may see his share of "one show gold" but it will be far from his defining factor or only claim to fame.

How did you discover design?
I always had a knack for just creating stuff from when my brother and I used to make home-made music videos and animations with our VHS video camera as kids. I suppose it's no surprise that, though I have an associates degree in fine arts, a bachelors and masters degree in Art Direction, I discovered the craft of design in my dorm room, making concert posters for a friend in college, with nothing but a bootleg version of photoshop and a cheap scanner.

How is your ethnicity a source of inspiration or strength in your work? Or is it just sort of a default setting that has little bearing.
Everyone has a their own personal reference library from which they work. Everything we do/see/hear/give/experience becomes an addition to our collection of life references. In that sense, I suppose my work is inspired by my blackness. How can I not be.
I built my reference library reciting the reggae lyrics of Maxi Priest, dancing to Hype Williams music videos on BET, wishing I could be in a Boys 2 Men music video, laughing at jokes from "A Different World" and "The Cosby Show," crying to movies like "Lean On Me," comparing Micheal Jackson and MC Hammer's dance moves, being comforted by the spirituals of the AME Zion Church and spending too many hours in the community Barber Shop.

The cool part and sometimes tearful part is figuring out how to make my references relevant to those who don't share them.

Is being an illustrator very different from being a designer or does it involve the same brainpower?'
To say that illustration was my first love would be an understatement. it was my first nasty, down and dirty, completely inappropriate, sloppy, lusty, doin' it in the park, PDA, romantic relationship. It's raw. It's fresh, It literally often brings me to tears when I see a vision that was in my head on paper.

On the other hand, when I'm an art director or designer on a project, I can put all of my passion and energy into something, it could be completely my idea, but at the end of the day it's not for me. It's typically not for my tears. It's for my client

What aspect of design do you really love? Logo design, typography, type design Layout, etc?
I love some sexy type. I recently visited Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's house, that is now a gallery of their work in Mexico City. The bulk of Diego's typographic work is secluded to one corner of a very empty room. I fell in love with his work for his expressions with type alone. I think the use of type in art.

What's your dream job?
I can recall the moment when I became an artist. I was drawing smiley faces on a page my mother and father stopped what they were doing, looked me in the eye and told me that I was indeed an artist. It was that given identity from a loved one that has formed my life. I'm fortunate to have that. There are so many that don't.
My heart is in helping people understand and live fully in their identity. Advertising and design is here and it's gone. Brilliance, if I ever get any, will come and go. But it's my investment in people that reaps a benefit onto eternity. I don't know my dream job, else I'd be doing it. But when I find it, I'm sure it would include building up people's identities.

Can you discuss any specifics about the process of creating a few of the pieces you sent.
I'd love to share thoughts about the illustration collection I've included:

The Beauty-Fro Collection was inspired from my trip to Kenya. It was the first time I was the majority in a whole culture or nation (as opposed to in a room, a class or a institution). No matter what I did or where I went, there were people that looked like me, very unlike America. Seeing this larger scope of Black people, helped me to understand the Black beauty more than I ever did. Some of the insecurities of my own image changed. Even some of the things that attracted me to a black woman changed.

There are aspects of black beauty that are completely opposite to the beauty of the majority or any other nationality at all. One of those in particular is the afro. It comes in many shapes and sizes, it comes soft and it comes rough, it comes loose and it comes tight. It is very unique to each person. It is what my people are born with. But because of lack of exposure to it in America, dating back to a time where the only acceptable hair style was the "straight hair" style of the majority, it is often misunderstood, written off as ugly and considered shameful to wear natural. 

I think the fro is beautiful. Using extreme pop-exaggeration and expressiveness, this collection exalts the fro, as a representation of unique black beauty.

I'll also share about "THE STRONG INSIDE" campaign for Nike ACG Boots:
Being the typophile that I am, the STRONG INSIDE campaign was a dream come true. We stitched the typography straight into the posters of these in-store executions. We used the medium of these posters to illustrate the quality and durability of Nike ACG shoes.

Any advice for the neophytes?
If you are a new to this (like me), you are probably wrong at most everything.
The sooner you realize this, the sooner you will start correcting your wrongs and stop asking for pats on the back. (Brav-F'n-O! I Luh dat!)

The sooner you stop asking for pats on the back, the sooner you start defining your own success, instead of trying to meet up to other people's standards aka award shows.
Oh, and love the people you work with more than your work - your rep is everything.

See more here & I steal my ideas here.
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