For the second artist in our Tim Hans shoots… series, where photographer Tim Hans takes photo-portraits of street artists and we pair them with interviews with those artists, Tim met up with artist and designer Tristan Eaton.
Caroline: At what point were you like ‘screw art school’?
Tristan: I dropped out of SVA after my Junior year because I couldn’t afford to enroll again. At that point I had no choice but to say fuck you, I’m gonna do it on my own. I started doing illustration work and showing in galleries when I was 17, before I started college anyway, so I had an inflated sense of confidence. The next 4 years of broke life humbled me, but I never stopped learning and making art no matter how poor I was.
C: When you told relatives or family friends that you were a “toy designer” how did you explain what that meant?
T: That never happened. I never set out to do toy design, nor have I ever fully identified as one. By freak chance, I designed some toys for Fisher Price when i was 18, then later helped start Kidrobot and designed a lot of toys. But it was never my profession or my main focus. Any commercial work, toy design work etc., I’ve ever done has been a distraction or separate from my work as an artist. I’m an artist first, everything else is second.
C: There are some incredible painted/modified Dunny’s and Munny’s out there, but I’m curious if you’ve ever seen ones that were so bizarre or bad that you were like “don’t put my name with that”.
T: Of course! But that doesn’t matter. The fact that we’ve given people inspiration to be creative is the whole point. I’ve met accountants, mail men and even cops who paint Dunnies and Munnies. All of them didn’t see themselves as artists until they started customizing toys. That’s amazing to me. On the collector side, a lot of toy collectors graduate into collecting prints and paintings by many of the Dunny / Munny artists. It’s become an amazing platform for discovering artists and even launching careers in some cases.
C: If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could only have one of the following things, which would you choose between a sketchbook with a marker, 3 buckets of house paint, or a large amount of play-dough?
T: Sketchbook & marker!
C: How was it celebrating KidRobot’s 10th anniversary?
T: Awesome. My time at Kidrobot feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s amazing to see how far it’s come. I’m very proud of it’s legacy.
C: What are you working on now?
T: Right now I’m just working on paintings and mural work. I do a few commercial projects here and there to pay bills, but I’m really trying to get better as a painter! It’s hard, but it’s the most rewarding thing in my life.
Photos by Tim Hans