EFDOT: Artist Advice #2
Why do you use a street name instead of Eric, is there a benefit to going by EFDOT?
EF: I use the name EFDOT because that was my nickname as a kid. My last name is kinda hard to pronounce and spell, so I feel like I need to have a more recognizable name. If I had a name that was unique and easy to spell I would have stuck with that. I still use Eric Friedensohn when I’m doing more professional things like public speaking, but when I put out art it's under EFDOT.
Does that also turn you into more of a brand?
EF: I think we all have brands, we all have a certain impression we leave on the people we interact with. I think that having a brand is inevitable , it's just how we shape it. Whether I kept my name or had an artist name it would still be a brand. I think separating it from your real name makes it arguably more of a brand.
What was the process like in order to come up with your iconic blob figure?
EF: I've always been into the same type of art throughout my career. I love things that are organic and squishy and don’t have a lot of negative space. When I started doing client work, my specialty was letters so even my letters look bold and blobby. I got really tired of doing lettering so I started mixing illustrations into the lettering. I followed more illustrators that had their own signature character so I was looking for what I could do to make my thing recognizable. It was a lot of experimenting and sketching. I did one painting that was the first figure that looks like the character today and I got a really good response to it.
I think that is a big trend now with artists to have a central figure that goes through different iterations. It’s almost like a stand in for the artist in their own work. What do you think about this trend?
EF: I think repetition through variation is a principle I learned in graphic design school. It doesn’t have to be a character, it can be a logo or even a color. One of my friends calls it seeing something expected in an unexpected way. When you remix it you are seeing something fresh but also familiar to keep people engaged. I think with character people resonate with people so having a character that looks like a character helps the viewer see themselves in the art.
So your blob character for the most part is 2D, do you see it moving into a 3D space?
EF: I would like to do some 3D stuff with it. I’m a graphic designer, but I also studied physical product design. Also as an artist you don’t want to do too many different things at once and it just becomes repetition with variation. I think doing too many things at once dilutes your work. I would love to do 3D in the future.
What was your first with murals and do you have a favorite you’ve done so far?
EF: My first experience was senior year at design school. I did my thesis on sign painting. I interviewed a bunch of sign painters and that was my first time learning about it in more detail. After the project I actually assisted the sign painters and learned all the rules and technical knowledge. I never took on the title of sign painter because I wanted to be more of an artist. What I love about murals is that there aren’t any rules. I think my first mural was on a chalkboard at an agency I was working for.
What for you is the difference between painting on a mural versus a canvas. Do you approach it differently or is it just a matter of scale?
EF: I definitely approach it differently because murals have a set context and canvases don't. I don't know where they are going to end up living. With murals there is so much context: the city, the street, state etc. Doing research is what gets me started and getting inspiration from the context. I have trouble spending a lot of hours in front of a canvas, I usually finish things on my I-pad and they turn into murals or prints. When you do a mural there is so much going on around and there’s so much energy to bounce off of.
What advice do you have for artists that want to get involved with mural work?
EF: Don’t be afraid to get started. You don’t have to be a muralist to do a mural, everyone’s gotta start somewhere. It’s going to be messy and every mural is going to be different and come with its own set of challenges. Be patient with yourself, but not about starting. I think the difference between a pro and an amateur is that they know the value and have a few murals under their belt. At the very least you should have a mockup of the finished product and have some painting experience. You have to put yourself out there and tell the universe what you want. We have a whole podcast based off of murals.
So optimism is a big part of your art and messaging. Any advice on that subject?
EF: Be kind to yourself, everyone’s going through their own shit right now. Everyone has their own way of dealing with adversity and I throw myself into my work. But not everybody deals with trauma like that, maybe do something different. Look out for those lights on the dashboard as my mentor would say. If we aren’t feeling creative we have to look out for those “lights” and maybe watch a movie to recharge. There is plenty of time to be creative so don’t force yourself.
On your website you also have shirts and hats that you also design. How do you see apparel design as a different avenue of people to explore the arts?
EF: Apparel design is a tricky one because it is so commodified. It’s going to be hard to have people pay more than 28 a shirt and you have to make a lot of shirts to make it worth your time. It’s not the most lucrative side of the business, but it is accessible for people because it is so affordable. My philosophy is that art is for everyone, it can even be as simple as a shirt. There are no rules. My prints and murals are more where I am focusing.
Could you talk about your Topps baseball card collaboration?
EF: They reached out to me about doing a set of cards called Topps 2020. They reached out to 20 different artists and gave us a card from their archive (we all got the same cards) and we are remixing them in our style. Some artists are even doing jewelry design, very inspiring to see what they are coming up with. I just started a new set with them and I used to love baseball growing up and this project brought me back to my roots.
I think there is definitely room for the arts to expand into sports. Any other advice you would like to add?
EF: I would encourage artists to make a Patreon. Patreon has been game changing for my business and you know that whoever is paying for your subscription really wants to see your content. It is refreshing to put work out for people who want to see your work everyday. It is designed for artists who want a direct link to their audience. I can also go into more content that is specific to me and offer things directly. Build your audience and then don’t be afraid to take risks in your own career.
Check out EFDOT's work!