Name: Eric Fan
Inspiration: Terry Fan (Eric’s brother)
A few months ago, FUSSED chose Terry Fan as one of our Ones to Watch, and now, we add another Fan to our ever-growing list of those creative types with a little something special.
How did you get into art and illustration?
I studied illustration and film at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto, which was a four year program. I took a rather protracted hiatus away from visual art after college and was mostly focused on screenwriting. There's actually some crossover between the two however, in that writing is actually very visual (particularly when you're writing for film) and drawing can be something like storytelling, so I think they're both engaging a similar part of the brain.
How would you describe your style in three words?
Hmm... whimsical, vintage, playful. I've never been very adept at describing my own work.
What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
I like old mechanical things with gears and rivets and rust. I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe it's because I'm not particularly mechanically inclined myself so anything mechanical seems kind of mysterious and wondrous and there's also something inherently visually appealing about them, and beautiful in the way that purely functional things can be beautiful. When something is old and rusted it has even more beauty because it's overlaid with the passage of time and usage; perhaps it's even broken completely and so it has relinquished its function and yet it still has a purpose which is simply to exist aesthetically.
What inspired you to create The Projectionist?
Well, my sister is a filmmaker and I've always been in love with film so wanted to do an illustration that featured film as a primary theme. Projectors are also such marvellous and magical machines and I think as we move towards a completely digital world something intangible but significant gets left behind. I'm certainly not a Luddite but I am somewhat sentimental about the past and the things that get left there. At the time that I did that piece I was doing a series of fanciful Victorian portraits and so it naturally extended from that mindset.
Your work has a sense of nostalgia about it, harking back to a time long past. Why is that?
I guess for the reason I just stated... a yearning to hold on to some things as the world inexorably changes. I think when you're younger you tend to look forward more and when you're older you tend to look back, or at least become more reflective since there's a tipping point where you have more past behind you than future in front of you. I also think it's not a genuine nostalgia, in that obviously I wasn't alive a hundred years ago. It's more like an imaginary nostalgia, a mental world you can visit that is exotic yet familiar, and populated by a romanticized collection of half-remembered things you've encountered in your lifetime.
Aside from The Projectionist, much of your work contains animals. Is this for any particular reason, or do you just like drawing animals?
When I joined society6 my brother suggested to me that animals were a popular theme on that site so that was one of the reasons, even though it seems rather trite and cynical now that I see it written down in the cold light of day. I'll try to rescue some integrity by saying that I do enjoy drawing animals, especially if I can put a spin on them that gives the image some kind of narrative, twist, or surprising context. I also may have a soft spot for them since my first t-shirt design that printed on Threadless was called The Helium Menagerie and featured balloon animals. Growing up I was also surrounded by birds since my dad raised parrots as a hobby and had rescued birds of every description flying freely around the house - hummingbirds, blue jays, chickadees. With all the plants and bonsai flourishing throughout the house it was more like living in a forest than anything else.
What is your working process from idea to finished product?
Most of my ideas drop out of thin air, or come to me as I'm falling asleep. Sometimes it can be like Waiting for Godot, hoping for a good idea to drop into your head. Once I have a clear idea of what I want to do I'll do a rough sketch or sometimes I'll go straight to the finished drawing. I'll usually do a sketch if I'm not positive about the final composition or I want to clarify some of the basic elements. Depending on the subject matter I'll either start drawing out of my head or look for reference if I'm drawing something very specific that I want to be realistic. When the drawing is finished I scan it and then refine it in Photoshop, which is actually the fun part because you can play around with colour, texture, and composition at your leisure and not worry about making mistakes.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I'd love to illustrate a children's book someday. That's always been a dream of mine and I have a few ideas, but it's mostly a question of finding the time to commit to it.
Here at FUSSED, we certainly hope Eric finds the time to do a children’s book. His illustrations are charming, intricate, and captivating. They are the epitome of pictorial narration, stories without words – the mark of a true artist.
To see more from Eric, check out his work on: Society6.com/opifan64