Written by Ted Andrade
“I’m always trying to think of a different way, a better way, to streamline the process.” Eric Rodriguez, a Visalia native and occasional LA transplant making a name for himself through a strong body of work consisting of independent comics, local concert posters, commissioned prints, and, probably most famously, impressive storefront murals, says this with the air of someone more concerned with future improvement than with resting on past triumphs. That’s not to say his previous work hasn’t been exactly that; Rodriguez already has a surprisingly unique and identifiable style that walks the line between being instantly recognizable and hard to pin down.
Much of his constantly growing output has found its release, as well as inspiration, just recently. Rodriguez is quick to site his ardor for community interaction, and, quite appropriately, connects his current success to exactly that. On what would have otherwise been an average visit to his hometown last year, Rodriguez came across opportunity in Storefront form. Having seen the then unopened and only soon to be refurbished local game/comic/etc store Gameqore, Rodriguez took a bold chance and, without the luxury of an available portfolio or time to prepare, struck up a conversation which has resulted in possibly his most renowned work (thus far). Reflecting on this chance meeting with Gameqore owner CB Thompson, Rodriguez considers the higher risk to have been on the Thompson’s part.”He (CB) really took a chance on me. If I hadn’t talked to him that night, I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t have seen him again. He might have gotten somebody else to paint the store that night”. Rodriguez received a call requesting him to create the store’s mural the next morning.
Not settling with even that, Rodriguez has continued to take on a variety of projects allowing him room and venue to develop. Having caught the eye of such community groups as Sound N’ Vision, and particularly Sound N’ Vision’s dedicated organizer/all around great-guy Aaron Gomes, this hasn’t been difficult. With the mural attracting enough attention to allow for networking in more diverse fields, Eric’s work now adorns local concert posters as well. Though recognizably his own style, these posters exist on a separate plane from his comics, allowing him to trade his usual narrative and landscape based approach for psychedelic, often design oriented works suggestive of some sort of futuristic Victor Moscosa. Eric describes his aims with these posters simply and humbly, regarding his progression into show posters as both a reaction to the lack of great, inviting local poster art, and his general love of creating as well as to his aspirations to contribute to a developing community.
Similar desires for growth are apparent in his artwork as well. Having taken a short time off from releasing new comics, much of Rodriguez’s recent work has involved one off prints and single panel narratives. This proves to be an effort to improve both on storytelling and on his working process itself. Up to this point having focused the majority of his work on the idea of making the most of limited pallets and rigorously structured design methods in order to maximize content through minimal means, Rodriguez has recently taken to incorporating lively color schemes with gorgeous, consumptive environments. Though these pieces so far have largely been wordless, they have provided the artist with an additional means of storytelling. Yet, despite such accomplishments, refinement continues to be a focal point, and one that the artist still explores, “I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on line and shape, but color’s something I still struggle with.”
This is either evidence of the artist’s persistence towards amelioration, or total misuse of the word struggle.
Considering the collant presence in his portfolio, it isn’t much surprise that Rodriguez views his work up to now to be a part of a developing world. Each element within a given piece has been constructed to define environment, emotion, and concept, allowing the artist to create relatable content using both the fantastic and the mundane as starting points. This world isn’t entirely from scratch though; familiar settings are often the backdrop for these stories, whether in the sense of an often visited park, recognizable street corner, or through the use of memory and flashback. As he explains it, the notion that everything in our past and all of our hopes for our future are always with us, defining the present and affecting our actions is often as much a setting for his work as the actual locations presented are. Though unlikely to be recognized by someone foreign to Visalia, Rodriguez’s inclusion of his hometown in his work melds something universally relatable. His pieces manage to express in turns the feelings of aspiration, hope, disappointment, anxiety, and rejuvenation that one associates with familiar location.
And his world continues to grow. Rodriguez is currently creating a series of one offs exercising color use and detailed gradiation, awaiting prints of a new set of comics, and is working alongside his girlfriend, the equally talented Jenai Keao, on a recently commissioned project to be released in the near future. Rodriguez’s prints, comics, shirts, and more can be found at http://www.theneck-less.com
Jenai Keao can be found at http://www.jenaikaeo.com/
. Sound N’ Vision’s website is located at www.snvfoundation.org/home.php