Interview with pop surreal artist Eric Joyner

Artist Eric Joyner enjoyed a rather uneventful childhood in the rather unremarkable town of San Mateo, California in the 1970s. Like many kids of that time, he enjoyed reading comics, playing sports, and making gunpowder … wait. Gunpowder? Oh, that’s right. This is the 1970s we’re talking about. Kids were doing all sorts of dangerous things back then, and nobody ever blinked an eye.

Joyner’s mother was a Methodist who would bribe her young son with donuts to go to Sunday school. His father, an atheist, said mean stuff about Jesus behind his wife’s back. Despite their differences of opinion on God, the Joyner’s built a loving home for their children and nobody grew up to be too weird.


At some point in his very young life, someone took Joyner to view an exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings at the De Young museum in San Francisco. This experience greatly impressed the child, and he soon began taking painting lessons with his older sister. By the time he was in the first grade, classmates and teachers started to notice the compelling work he was creating, and the life of an artist began to take its shape.

After high school, Joyner attended the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Later, under the influential teaching of Francis Livingston, Kazuhiko Sano, Bill Sanchez, and Robert Hunt, his work greatly improved and he began to work professionally as an artist.

For the next decade, Joyner was a hired-gun for various publishers, high-tech companies, and advertising agencies; he also was a digital animator and provided other artistic services for a variety of companies before rediscovering his original love of drawing and painting and returning to that medium.

The year 1999 was a big one for Joyner. He began entering his paintings into various juried shows in the Bay Area and his efforts were well received. That inspired him to focus his paintings only on subjects he truly enjoyed painting–urban San Francisco landscapes, Mexican masks, cartoon characters, and Japanese toy robots. Eventually, the majority of his focus shifted to the robots, and he began to place them in settings more appropriate to their nature, namely outer space.

It wasn’t until 2002 that Joyner realized something was missing from his paintings, that his lusciously rendered protagonists might need something to contend with … perhaps a nemesis. Shortly thereafter, which watching the movie Pleasantville, in which Jeff Daniels’ character paints a still life of donuts, Joyner’s ultimate vision took shape. With thoughts of donut inventor Wayne Thiebald’s miraculous pastries always close at hand, it wasn’t difficult for Joyner to envision a battle scene of robots retreating from 300 foot-tall donuts. The rest, as they say, is history.

Hello dear Eric, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?

Good question I found (the artist inside me) after thinking long and hard about what I thought I could paint for 30 years, without getting too bored. I made a list of rules: 1) My art had to be something I personally like. 2) it had to be unique. 3) I could paint this subject for 30 years, without getting too bored. 4) had to be within my abilities 5) Other humans had to like it as well.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?

Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrantdt, Dean Cornwell, J.C. Lyendecker, Robert Rodriguez (cartoonist), Edgar Allan Poe, N.C. Wyeth, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Genesis, George Orwell, Bukowski, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, National Lampoon magazine (defunct), Mad Magazine, Robert Louis Stevenson, I could go on and on.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?

I start out with breakfast then a workout. Then watching TV, Email coreespondense & other business. Then reach the studio by 12 noon & paint until 7 then go home.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?

I went to an art school in San Francisco (The Academy of Art) & it was good to be on my own, meeting other artists & making friends. I studied to be an illustrator, & there was much I didn’t know. I got my first jobs from my teachers & I’m thankful for that. But they don’t teach much in regards to techique, so I went to the used book stores & bought How to books with instruction. I didn’t stay long enough in art school to get a degree. You need a degree for teaching here, but I never wanted to teach. The Academy is so expensive now – I don’t know how anyone can afford it...When I went I worked as a janitor there in return they paid part of my tuition. I also got student loans.

What fascinates you the most about surrealism / pop surrealism / contemporary art / lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?

The thing that fascinates me most about this type of art is that it’s both creative and it’s a way of communicating to the world what it is that you’re thinking about. I“m not a great conversationalist, so it’s nice to be able to speak through pictures.

My work is realistic. I like to bring tin robots to life & upon viewing it, evoke an emotional response. I want people to think that I’m thinking about something.

What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?

I like being able to take my shoes off at work & listen to music or whatever, dress anyway I like, & sometimes it’s fun to come up with ideas & paint them.
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?

I dont alway have the same workflow...however, most of the time, I think of an idea & do some sketching, then some research, then photography (of my toy robots). I combine photos & sketches in Photoshop to make a composition. Then project the image onto a wood panel. After this I spray fixatiff on the drawing & after it’s dry, I start painting. I use traditional oils and alkyd oils together, for faster drying. Also I use linseed oil for detail. When it’s finished, I varnish the painting, so the painting has an even shine & to protect it.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

Sculpture, in clay.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?

I have had a lot of studios...My latest is the best one yet. I’m located in a defunct U.S. Naval base called Hunters Point. There is an artist colony here with 212 artists in various buildings. My room is 850 square feet, on the 2nd floor of a administration building, designed during World War 2. It faces south west & there’s a lot of light. It’s very quiet.

Weirdest thing hiding in my studio is actually quite creepy, a very old baby doll with the flesh torn off, exposing the metal underneath. The face is intact.

Funny/weirdest thing to happen? That would have to be the time when...I saw a wild coyote outside my door. We starred at each other for a while, then he walked away. My studio is in a remote part of the city.

What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?

The biggest challenge is dealing with people who do not wish you well. Also, paying the bills & thinking about what to create. The biggest lesson: learn about what‘s happening in the artworld & galleries. Being persistant. Do something that is uniquely you.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?

Best advice: learn how to draw – this is the most important thing.

Worst: Don’t be a fine artist. This was the worst advice. (Advice I gave myself, for many years).
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

The modern art museums show a lot of bad art. I also dislike going to my own artshows, meeting deadlines, being alone a lot, searching lumber stores for good wood. I dislike cleaning brushes most of the time I do not.

I counteract loneliness with TV & friends.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?

I see myself having a museum show in Europe. Also maybe living in a small country town. My goal is to continue doing good work.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?

Yes, learn how to draw & paint. There are plenty of good books you can buy that help. Draw nude & clothed models, buy art magaizines & discover what’s out there & where you might fit in.
Your favorite art or life quote is ...

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?

I like golf, pool, movies, concerts, fishing, hiking, traveling, skiing and hanging out in general.
Do you have an online portfolio, blog or social medias where we can view your work?

Yes, as a matter of fact I do. It’s

Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?

I have a big show coming up in Los Angeles this June, at Corey Helfords secret new gallery.
Like my Facebook page to find out...then possibly a museum show in Madrid, Spain.

Thank you dear Eric, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :) You can find Eric also on Twitter and Instagram ;)
By contributor Linda. Mar 2015. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.