On the surface, Los Gatos, California epitomizes suburbia. Cute restaurants, expensive houses, lush landscaping—it feels like the place where husbands and wives retreat to build white picket fences and raise 2.5 kids. But things aren’t always what they seem, and this little town has a secret: it’s been hiding the multi-talented and very provocative artist, Eric Victorino.
In fact, you may have heard of him. Victorino is one half of the The Limousines, the Bay Area electro-pop band he started with producer Gio Giusti. They play sold out shows across the U.S., and their debut album, Get Sharp, has been featured on XM radio’s Alt Nation and a slew of MTV shows. Last year, their hit “Internet Killed the Video” star was (appropriately) a viral internet sensation.
However, perhaps what’s most interesting about Victorino is what you don’t know. Tucked away in the suburbs, Victorino has created an incredibly honest, beautiful, and provocative body of work that spans books, posters, zines, and more.
I drive an hour from San Francisco to Victorino’s house in Los Gatos for a photo shoot. At first glance, the exterior feels like it could belong to any nine-to-fiver newlyweds, but step inside you’re transported into another world. A creator’s sanctuary.
Victorino greets us at the door. He’s welcoming, and even in a tattered t-shirt, extremely handsome. He gives us a tour of his home, which feels more like an art installation than a house. Oil and acrylic pantings from Good Will, a portrait of his grandfather, 1970’s photographs of naked women. Candlesticks, sculptures and frames dress the fireplace mantel. A 1920’s telephone sits next to an 80’s era boombox. This is a home of an artist.
We’ve been lucky enough to chat with Eric about his projects, including his latest book, Trading Sunshine for Shadows, where he explores grappling with mental illness and suicide, and his posters that got him into an epic Twitter fight with Etsy.
So many people go through life never discovering their passions. Luckily for us, Eric Victorino is not one of those people. To understand the man behind the creations, read our interview below.
1. From writing to drawing to music making, what drives you to create?
I love to make things because it makes me feel good. It makes me feel like a kid. When we’re little kids we’re all encouraged to be creative. Nobody laughs at a six year old who says they want to be an artist when they grow up any more than they laugh when a kid says they wanna be an astronaut, but as we grow up more and more people start to discourage our imagination. Parents and teachers tell kids they have to grow up and stop thinking they’re going to be artists or singers or writers and they always tell them to have a “back-up plan.” It just kills me to think of how many people grow up thinking they can’t sing or they can’t draw or they can’t write because they aren’t singers or artists or authors. You become a singer when you sing, you become an artist when you make art, and you become an author when you write.
2. You’re one of those people who embodies creativity and art. Where do you draw inspiration? Does it change for each medium?
I feel my most calm when I’m drawing. I usually use fine and fat-tipped sharpies when I draw and most of my pieces have a lot of filled-in space. Focusing on that task, methodically filling in black space is like meditating for me. I really blank out and get into the rhythm of it.
With poetry, I’m mostly listening to my thoughts—which is a strange thing to think about. I’m not thinking, I’m listening to my thoughts. A lot of times the writing is kind of automatic, in that I’m not consciously deciding what I’m going to type. If I think it’s bad when it’s done I either fix it or throw it away, but I’m never editing while I’m writing. Just like in a dark room, you wait for the chemicals to do what they do and you see what image develops.
My books are what I am most proud of, not because they’re of any historically significant literary value, but because I know they’ve helped a lot of people get through tough times. I see it firsthand when people send me thank-you letters saying something they read in one of my poems pulled them out of a depression or inspired them to live a different life. I’m inspired by that urge to matter to people, almost to an unhealthy extent I think.
Music is the most frustrating thing for me to create, I think because I just don’t understand it. I never took a music class, so I don’t know shit—when something just clicks I know it, but I don’t know why anything ever clicks or why sometimes it doesn’t click. Doing music also has a way of just consuming everything in my life, so I resent it a lot of the time. I pretty much hate everything about making music except that magical rush of performing live.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of our interview!