Eric Pause

Eric Pause and his fractured moments in time

Exchanging some digital words with the Ontario-based artist about the collabs, spray cans, and dunnys that help shaped his style.

Published: April 18, 2018
Words: J.Scott Stratton & Eric Pause

One of the things that I can genuinely connect with – regarding artists that we born from the graffiti and street art era – is that, as their style matures, it tends to be rooted in the graphic. If you look at artists like Shepard Fairey, James Marshall (aka Dalek), Barry McGee or even going as far back as far as Keith Haring, they all evolved beyond the classic spray-can calligraphy towards a more graphic style – where the use of pattern, color, and composition became a fundamental part of their style.

If you look at through the oeuvre of work from Canadian artist Eric Pause, you can see a similar evolutionary development. There is also a level of complexity that can only come from preplanning and an understanding of graphic composition – characteristics more commonly in commercial art.

It stands to reason that this might explain why artists with a history of poster-art, graffiti, or street art seem to have an easier time expanding the commodity of their style beyond the canvas. Kid Robot, a significant influence on Eric Pause, has now developed his brand into a full-on toy store. Shepard Fairy’s propaganda style has been adopted by countless movements and causes – including the well-recognized poster for Obama election campaign. And Keith Haring’s dancing figures have become an iconic symbol of the 1980’s and are often found or replicated in the weirdest of places.

What I found most interesting about the work of Pause, in contrast to the aforementioned artists, is that rather than distilling his work down into a symbolic form that can be easily replicated or commodified, he is developing his work on a more conceptual level – while retaining that graphic sense of composition.

He latest series of work deals with fractured moments of time – or trying to expand a two-dimensional narrative by graphical combining two different scenarios. Of course, he explained this concept far more comprehensively than I, so I’ll let it come straight from the horses mouth.

Eric Pause
"Summer Skin 2" 56cm x 76cm (22" x 30") Acrylic painting on birch panel.
Eric Pause

To start with, can you give me a little background about your work and career as an artist?

My casual interest in art turned to obsession after the discovery of graffiti as a teenager. That style of art was like nothing I had seen before, and it really broadened my views about what art could be. My friends and I would obsessively try and emulate the styles that we had seen, first in sketchbooks, and eventually on walls.

In high school, I met Ken Dubois, who is a brilliant illustrator. I was in awe of the work he was making, and we started collaborating on just about everything. From there, we became an art team — doing album-cover art for bands, printing our designs on t-shirts, making comics, skateboard graphics, and even collaborating with Kidrobot to produce a production vinyl toy.

I started exploring different mediums on my own a couple of years ago and found that I really enjoyed painting with acrylics. Once I had created some pieces I was ready to share, I posted some of my work online. I was surprised when I was contacted almost immediately by people interested in purchasing. I ended up selling out of my entire inventory. I started taking on commission work for people that inquired about pieces that had already sold – and my commission list continues to grow faster than I can paint. About a year ago I left my other job to paint full time.

In looking through your oeuvre of works, it’s clear that you have a background in illustration. What prompted you to begin creating more “fine art” works (for lack of a better term)?

A few years back I moved across the county, and so I no longer collaborated on pieces with Ken as much. I had a full-time design job during the day, and the work I was doing required a decent amount of illustration that wasn’t artistically fulfilling in the least. I needed something to counter the art I was making at my day job. I had always been really interested in painting, so I took the opportunity to try something new, and slowly my pieces began moving farther away from illustration and more towards ‘fine art.’

Tell me about the development of your recent style.

I wanted to make art really enjoyable again. When I started painting regularly, I made an effort to try styles that were outside of my comfort zone. It was a slow transition — as I worked towards developing more of a set style, I focused just on things that I found fun to paint, and I created a lot of pieces that haven’t been made public. The place where my style has ended up is simply a combination of my favorite styles to paint — a mix of cubism, collage, illustration, super flat, and abstract styles organized together in a very clean fashion.

Eric Pause
Eric Pause

You work in with figurative subject matter in a set color palate. Is this a conceptual choice or a stylistic one?

It’s a bit of both. I want to capture multiple moments and splice them into a single image, giving the feeling of a longer period of time rather than a snapshot. The fractured, cubist style that I use is a perfect fit for what I’m trying to convey. My intention is to conjure memories in the viewer, rather than have my piece dictate a specific narrative, and the use of blues, greys, and wood grain is meant to be calming. I often specifically exclude details in the figures’ faces in order to make it easier to ‘see yourself’ in the memory.

Your works are quite complex in their compositions – playing with positive and negative space. Can you tell me about your process of working?

I don’t start with an idea of what the finished painting will look like. I tend to start with an idea of what kind of emotion or story I want the finished painting to convey, and work backward from there. I’ll develop a few main pieces for the image, and then work to combine them in a way that feels right — it’s a lot of shifting shapes, lines, and tones around until it clicks into the right spot. Sort of like one of those slide puzzles or a Rubik’s cube.

Although my paintings have a fractured look to them, I want them to have a smooth flow as well. A lot of time is spent moving the shapes and colors around to give the painting an “even” look. So the eye isn’t immediately drawn to a single shape or color.

How do you see your work evolving from this point?

There are many ideas I’d like to try out, but I can’t say for certain which direction those ideas will take me. I’m experimenting with expanding my color palette, as well as incorporating different textures into my paintings. It’s a lot of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. Plus, my ideas are forever changing and expanding. Sometimes I want to make really minimalistic pieces, and other times I want them to be more complex. It all depends. I don’t have a clear sense of how my work will evolve, but I look forward to seeing where it goes.

As an artist that clearly has experience in monetizing their creativity through commercial works, would you have any advice for other artists that might like to follow the path you’ve taken?

Don’t take on too many different projects – don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t be afraid to say no to things. This was a slow development for me – up until recently, I held down a full-time job in design and painted on evenings and weekends. It was very busy, but that allowed me not to feel pressured with my art. You want to make sure you are being an artist on your own terms, or else… you’re not going to want to be an artist. It can’t be perfect 100% of the time, but it’s really important to feel strongly about the work you do.

Do you have any famous last words?

Enjoy what you do. That’s the most important thing.

Eric Pause
Eric Pause