Erik is an artist living in New Orleans.
Erik Winkowski, the illustrator of our latest collaboration t-shirts, has quickly grown his following over the past few months through the practice of daily illustration and animation in his unique style. We spoke with him about his practice and inspiration and everything in between.
Where are you from/where did you grow up?
I’m originally from New York City. I grew up on the Upper West Side a block away from where John Lennon used to live.
Has art always been a part of your life?
According to my dad I started taking art seriously when I was about 3 years old. I would study the birds on our terrace and carefully draw them with crayons. At the time my dad was a children’s book illustrator and I loved to watch him draw. I remember the feeling of simultaneously wanting to laugh and cry as he drew a flawless portrait with a few pen strokes – he made it look so easy! I decided early on that I wanted to get good at drawing and I filled up sketchbooks with weird pictures. I had a knack for the macabre and liked drawing monsters and deformed creatures. I was a shy, polite kid and drawing gave me an outlet to be unruly and shock people a little.
“I had a knack for the macabre and liked drawing monsters and deformed creatures. I was a shy, polite kid and drawing gave me an outlet to be unruly and shock people a little.”
You’ve grown your following quite a bit over the past few months while working on your video sketchbook on Instagram - can you speak to that some? What do you think has contributed to its success? And why did you start doing it in the first place?
I have a full-time job, so I only have a couple free hours each day to make my art. I wanted to start a project that allowed me to finish something each day. I’ve worked on animation projects that dragged on for months and I wanted to try something different. Sketchbooks have always been a place for me to experiment with new ideas – but I didn’t have anything like that for my video work, so I created my Video Sketchbook. I never know what I’m going to make on a given day – that element of surprise keeps things interesting.
What’s the value in a daily practice like that?
I’m not going to lie, it can be challenging to make art every day. As soon as I finish writing this I’m going to start making a video – though I’d rather go to sleep. But I’ve found that some of my best work comes when I persist instead of giving in. I also legitimately enjoy making art and having the accountability of a daily practice means I always make time for the thing I love. Athletes train every day, musicians practice their scales, it’s shouldn’t be any different with art – it’s how you get better.
“Athletes train every day, musicians practice their scales, it’s shouldn’t be any different with art – it’s how you get better.”
Why New Orleans?
My wife is from New Orleans – she grew up in the Marigny. The first time I visited we went to the Verti Marte and got half & half po-boys with Crawtator Zapp's and Barq's and had a picnic in Jackson Square. I was like, “I could definitely see myself living here.” On that same trip I met a woman walking a goat dyed pink, and ate raw oysters at the race track, got my beers to-go. It was like visiting another country, it all felt a little decadent and illicit. A few years later we were packing up our things and moving down here for good.
What inspires you?
I have about a hundred favorite artists and it changes on a weekly basis. Matisse is an artist I return to again and again. I recently saw his Bathers by a River at The Art Institute of Chicago and it took my breath away. Even a somber work like that is incredibly lush, plus I like that he was a bit of a square. I also love Gabriel Orozco’s photography, it’s minimalistic and playful – two things that don’t usually go together.
“On that same trip I met a woman walking a goat dyed pink, and ate raw oysters at the race track, got my beers to-go. It was like visiting another country, it all felt a little decadent and illicit.”
Favorite snowball flavor?
There’s a satsuma snowball at Hansen’s that will knock your socks off.
Inspiration behind the shirts?
I used to live a couple blocks away from a snowball stand and I decided one summer to try one of each flavor. They had all the flavors listed on their window, “Lemon, Strawberry, Watermelon, Tiger Blood…” At the time I was obsessively painting tigers and that phrase stuck in my head, it seemed obvious to put the two together. People also use the phrase Tiger Blood to describe the feeling of being unstoppable, and a little wild. I just really like it.
The gator shirt is inspired by the Neville Brothers album art for Fiyo on the Bayou. It’s such a surreal and iconic image. The style of both shirts is inspired by New Orleans sign painting.