Born in Minneapolis, where he currently resides, Eric Inkala, when he is not traveling or touring, spends time in his bedroom, which also doubles as a studio, painting. Inspired by his travels, which channel into his paintings, Eric saturates his canvases with color and detail obsessed line work, creating characters that in turn, garner interest, and let Eric travel more, by touring. Ericâ€™s travels, like his work, also come full circle. After enrolling in the California College of Arts and Crafts, and dropping out and living in the Bay Area, he returned to Minneapolis, where he has since displayed his work extensively.
Format: Please talk about your experience at the California College of Arts and Crafts.
Eric: For the most part it was a good experience. I took some really great classes, and learned from some amazing teachers, but for the most part it wasnâ€™t for me. Some of the classes youâ€™re required to take, I just wasnâ€™t into spending all of that money on.
Format: Why did you drop out?
Eric: I dropped out, mostly, because of the money. I couldnâ€™t justify spending sixty thousand dollars or more to be a painter. Maybe if I knew I would have a steady job to pay for it, but it takes a long time to make money with art. I know too many people that get so burnt out on what they do artistically after art school. Then they have to work three jobs to pay off all of their student loans and donâ€™t have time to do what they want artistically, and I really didnâ€™t want to go that path.
Format: What did you do after you dropped out?
Eric: Moved to San Francisco and just started painting. Thatâ€™s when I had my first couple of shows. One with a good friend of mine, Asa Turner, at a spot in the Mission, and then I flew back to Minneapolis and did a crazy installation show in like a week. I had absolutely no paintings done and painted the whole show in six days. It was a crazy experience, and was really good for me just leaving school to experiment a little and get some exposure.
Format: What are some differences between working in the Bay Area and in Minneapolis?
Eric: They are both really amazing places, if I could live in both cities I would. In San Francisco, I found myself constantly inspired. From the numerous art galleries and getting to meet some of my favorite artists to just the city itself, there is something in the air in that city. I love it out there. If I found my self getting frustrated with what I was working on, I would literally just hop on my bike and ride around the mission for a while, take some photos and just take in the city. I would return to be fully concentrated and ready to paint. When I moved back to Minneapolis, I had the chance to get a studio cause rent is so much cheaper there. Having a studio was a really good thing for me, getting away from everything else, and not thinking about anything other than what I was working on, and just straight up painting and getting messy with it. Not worrying about getting paint on the walls, throwing paint on canvases, and spitting water all over them to make crazy washed out backgrounds. I couldnâ€™t do that in my San Francisco bedroom. Also in Minneapolis, I am really grateful to be surrounded by an amazing group of artist friends, people I am constantly inspired by. People like Drew Peterson, John Grider, Gabe Combs and Isaac Arvold. Doing shows and collaborating with those dudes has been a really awesome experience.
Format: Why, within urban art specifically, do you think artists develop unique characters, not just styles, to use consistently in their work?
Eric: I think they do both. There are a lot of urban artists out there that do character based work, but have a very unique and specific style that they develop and use. For me, characters are just something I started doing years ago and just kept updating and progressing. Each character is similar but completely different – the environment they are in and what colors I decide to use, what I was going through and experiencing at that specific time. I think also with a lot of character based urban artists, they are influenced by their surroundings and interactions with people. Whether it be people they know or just interacting and observing people on the street. I think it is visual commentary on this experience or even the lack of human interaction for some.
Format: How would you characterize the character, or characters that you have developed as subjects in your work?
Eric: I wouldnâ€™t characterize them as any specific style or genre, itâ€™s just what I enjoy to paint and use as my subject matter. Each character is a completely different idea or thought, some of them have a lot thought and meaning to me personally, and some of them have absolutely no meaning at all. Itâ€™s all a visual language that different people take different things from. One piece could mean many things to me personally as the artist and something completely different things to different viewers, and thatâ€™s fine, I find peopleâ€™s responses to what I do really interesting.
Format: How did you develop these characters?
Eric: Ever since I can remember drawing, Iâ€™ve always drawn characters or people. I think it was in about 1999 when I was introduced to Keith Haring and I realized the power of what he was doing. His images were so basic but his message was so strong. I was really inspired by that and started to take my stuff a lot more serious and started actually doing paintings and experimenting with different techniques. It wasnâ€™t until I dropped out of art school that I really started to develop a really unique style that people can recognize my work by.
Format: How do the colors you use reflect your characters?
Eric: Different colors I use make up different characters or moods in each painting. The relationship between the character or subject and the background or environment I choose to put them in is very important, and the colors I choose are very important to that relationship and the overall composition. A lot of times I will repaint a specific part of a painting over and over numerous times with different colors until it feels right and I am happy with the combination.
Format: How does your style interact with other artists work when you collaborate?
Eric: I recently did a show with John Grider and Gabe Combs where every piece in the show was a collaboration. The process was absolutely amazing. After I would paint my portion the future of that particular piece was in the hands of John and Gabe and really made for some interesting results. It made us all do some really spontaneous things and step outside our comfort zone and make some crazy paintings. The interaction of styles worked really well, even though our styles are different. There were a lot of different elements in each piece and it made me more conscious of this in my own work.
Format: Do you feel pigeonholed into a particular style or into dealing exclusively with a certain type of character?
Eric: Not at all really, the stuff I am working on at this point, I am very satisfied with and feel like I have endless possibilities with. Sometimes you get into a groove and work on a similar character for a period of time, but when I feel that I have exhausted an idea I just move onto the next one. On the same note I find it very interesting to come back to an idea years later and look at it in a completely different mind state and re-explore a time period in my art. Makes for weird collaborations of different styles within your own style.
Format: Anything else you’d like to say about your character works?
Eric: They need to be bigger! If there is anyone out there that is interested in getting mural work done, I would love to paint your wall. The bigger the wall the better, I just did two really big murals in Minneapolis last summer. Itâ€™s crazy to see my characters larger than life. It was an amazing experience that I definitely want to explore further and want get as big as I can with them.
Format: Besides in a gallery, where are some interesting places the public can see your work?
Eric: You can see most of what I do on my website, www.ericink.com. I am trying to update it as much as possible and keep it current with what I am working on. Also you can see me at www.mplsart.com along with some other really amazing artists working out of the twin cities. On the gallery side though I will be in another collaboration show this summer at First Amendment gallery in Minneapolis and then a group show with some Minneapolis kids at Twist gallery in Nasheville towards the end of September. Keep your eyes peeled.
More Info: http://www.ericink.com