She’s stoked on skating, sisterhood and Star Trek. Why wouldn’t Thrasher want to team up with Robin Eisenberg for an upcoming clothing line?
Gwynned Vitello: There is such optimism in your work, in a Life-is-Good sort of way. My mental sketch is of you growing up in a supportive home, where you were expected to pick up after yourself and cook dinner once in awhile.
Robin Eisenberg: So true. I’m optimistic to the point of it being kind of silly, and you aren’t too far off. My parents divorced when I was two, so there was that inevitable difficulty, but Mom and Dad were really good about not putting my sister and me in the middle of it. All my parents (step included) were good listeners, and always made sure we knew our various weird pursuits were super relevant and interesting to them. I would sing Tori Amos covers at high school talent shows, and they came to each one! They didn’t mind when I drew all over my new jeans or cut my hair to look like Angelina Jolie in Hackers. Getting such creative and personal validation as a kid makes the world feel very friendly.
Scully, Missy Elliott and Michelle Obama have populated your universe. Who were your fictional and non-fictional heroes growing up?
Most came from fantasy novels. I loved any book that featured a girl who ran away from home to learn how to cast spells, ride dragons, or have epic adventures. I would prepare myself for the day when I certainly would be in that scenario. As I got older, I became obsessed with Angela Chase from My So-Called Life and would actually print out episode scripts and read them alone on the bleachers at lunch. I would try to use quotes in conversations, walking around in flannel shorts and leggings, and totally serious, say stuff like, “I thought, at least, by the age of 15, I would have a love life. But I don’t even have a like life.” Ha, ha. As for non-fictional, my mom will forever be my hero. She’s kind, creative, adventurous and innovative, one of the strongest, coolest people I know.
Walk us through how an English major in a band became an artist.
Throughout high school, I spent all my time playing piano, drawing people, and writing depressing poetry. I ended up getting a jazz scholarship at San Diego State, but got restless playing music all the time and kept ditching classes to people-watch and draw. My GPA fell, and whoops, I lost my scholarship. I ended up switching to English as a major (I’d become a cool editor in NYC!) but after graduating realized that I didn’t know what to do with my degree. I worked in random jobs and played in a few bands, and eventually a band called the Crocodiles asked if I wanted to tour Europe for a few months, which ended up being six years! I moved to Germany and lived in Berlin on an artist visa, then moved to the UK after meeting my husband, Danny. I was getting so much work doing posters and album covers that I couldn’t keep touring, so we moved back to LA, and I finally decided to try drawing full time.
I hate to admit it, but I didn’t enjoy watching the early Star Trek shows, one of your favorite influences, because there wasn’t any color or background. As one who began drawing in black and white, how do you feel about color and the visual experience?
It definitely enhances it for me, though I still love black-and-white art too. For a long time, I didn’t know where to start with color in my drawings. I used black pen and paper almost exclusively, though I couldn’t find a good way to articulate them. I tried pencils but my hands would sweat and everything got smudged. I bought a Wacom tablet when I started getting more illustration work and started adding color digitally in Photoshop. So exciting, it allowed me to try out all my ideas without limiting my color palette and messing up my line work. I finally learned to recreate that more traditionally with markers. It’s such a good feeling when you can take an idea in your brain and turn it into something visual. I always found the starry backgrounds on Star Trek very soothing and loved the crew quarters on the Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), and always thought it would be so dreamy to finish my shift and go back to my room and look at the stars; still haven’t had the experience, but I do draw those kinds of scenes a lot.
What are your favorite tools, and I wonder, what do you think about the coloring book craze? Is is a result of people staring at screens all day?
That makes sense, and nowadays, with computers, we rarely use pencil and paper for anything, so there’s a novelty to coloring. I do like using colored pens. I think there’s a boldness of color and evenness you can achieve, but I feel like I’m still trying to imitate my digital color. Maybe I’ll eventually expand my options with other media like colored pencils, or even paint.
Describe the materials, process and sourcing for the pins you make.
I started seeing a lot of enamel pins on Instagram and thought they were so rad! I went to a pop-up where I met a few pin-makers and got some amazing advice from a few people, particularly Sara M. Lyons, who makes some of the best. I found a manufacturer I really liked and learned to change my designs a bit as I learned more about the process. With enamel, everything has to be outlined in metal, so some of my detail had to be simplified. It’s so much fun and I want to keep making more and more pins and patches. Clothing is the next step, though I’m finding the process to be a lot more complex.
How did the partnership with Thrasher come about? It’s a great fit. Your girls are confident, comfy in their skin, happy to go solo or hang out together.
I’m so happy about the Thrasher collab! I have always been obsessed with watching my friends skate because you can do it solo or with friends, and it’s awesome either way. All I could ever do without falling was to skate to the 7-Eleven and back, but I would spend hours at the skate park with my sketchbook. I guess I live vicariously through my drawings and draw badass babes wearing Thrasher tees, skating or hanging out at the park. I had one drawing of an alien woman in a Thrasher tee. She’s in bed, looking out at the stars and planet Earth with her alien cat next to her. It got reposted a lot, and eventually Thrasher saw it and posted it too. A few days later, they got in touch about a possible T-shirt collab—YESSS!
It would be fun to expand on the thumbnail biography on your website. To start, what’s your daily routine?
It’s changed a lot since I’ve gotten busier and doesn’t allow for much besides just drawing all day. When I moved back to LA, I was walking dogs on the side, which was really fun. Now I wake up, shower, have breakfast, catch up on emails, then draw for, like, 15 hours straight! Sometimes I take a break to get boba, but I’ll keep drawing through dinner and stay up till midnight.
I love the idea of lavender milk tea. Is this part of your studio routine?
It’s so amazing. My fave lavender milk tea is at a place called Sweeting in Ann Arbor. They put actual pieces of lavender plant into the tea, and it’s perfect. I try to find boba places wherever I travel and love coming back to my desk to start work with a milk tea by my side.
Are you still dreaming of a cactus garden? Do you nip bits of cacti while walking the dog?
Still dreaming! I have three cactus plants in my apartment, but eventually I’d like to have a big drought-tolerant garden with all kinds of cacti, sage succulents, lavender and wildflowers—and by the sea! I don’t care about a big house. I just want an ocean view, cactus garden and wood floors.
Have to know, what kind of dog do you have and what’s the name?
Her name is Crickett, a smallish black dog with brown eyes. She’s the family dog and she’s so wonderful with an adorable but weird habit of putting her forehead against mine and staring at me as long as possible. Add that to my dream—there needs to be a dog in the house! I just came back from a trip, and there was a dog next to me on the plane named Errol Flynn. It was the best flight ever.
Originally published in the December 2016 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine, on newsstands worldwide and in our webstore.