Eric Vasquez is a multi-talented artist and designer based out of New York City with clients like Nickelodeon, Oxygen, and the WWE. In this interview, Eric discusses the triumphs and lessons he learned while building his design career.
Thank you very much for having me! My name is Eric Vasquez and I am a multi-disciplined artist based out of New York City. My love for art and design began at a very young age. When I was about five or six I started collecting comic books. I would draw for hours trying to copy the work of some of the greats like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. My family was very supportive of my passion so as I got older I continued to practice but it wasn’t until high school that I took a Graphic Design course. We mostly made t-shirt designs and worked with silk screens and emulsions. And I remember thinking then that this was something I could see myself doing.
I went off to Champlain College in Burlington, VT for about a year and a half. It was really tough to get into a good art school so I brought my grades up before transferring to the New England Institute of Art in Boston. This is where I learned about the elements and principals of design, typography, life drawing, and a handful of other really useful courses. It wasn’t until I graduated from college in 2006 that I landed my first gig. I started at an art licensing company then moved onto an events and publishing company called Red 7 Media where I worked as a Marketing Designer. Unfortunately the company downsized and I was let go. So I decided to take a big chance, pack up my things, and move to New York City. My girlfriend and I got a place together and things started to look up.
Once I was in New York I handed out my resume, applied for jobs, and sent many emails out. I created my own personal pieces in Photoshop so that I could build up a diverse portfolio of work. I would eventually discover that I had a passion for print design and illustration. It’s just as important to know what you don't want to do before selecting a career path.
I was contacted by a Creative Placement Agency who said they would represent me as the middleman between the artist and some of the bigger companies in the city. Within an hour of meeting them they received interest from Nickelodeon. I freelanced with them for a while and then headed to another company called AKA where I worked on a large variety of materials for Broadway Shows and Musicals like Rock Of Ages and Billy Elliott. I kept at my constant grind and even got picked up by Oxygen where a coworker of mine referred me to my current job with the WWE. My story is a classic example of knowing the right people in the right places. I’ve been working with WWE as an Art Director for eight months now. So far it has been a great challenge but I have been a wrestling fan since a young age so it makes me care that much more about the quality of my work.
I’ve been using Photoshop for 7 years. When I first started I was learning the basics about the tools in College. I had a huge stack of Advanced Photoshop Magazines and would scour the Internet looking for fun tutorials to learn how to create beautiful work like the artists I admired so much. Eventually my work was published in the same publication that helped me become the designer I am today. I have even been fortunate enough to write for the same tutorial sites that helped me learn because it's important for me to give back to designers who are in the same position I was years ago.
The first time I saw the work of Neil Duerden, Peter Jaworowski, and Chuck Anderson was when I realized that this was what I wanted to be doing. Those guys were a huge inspiration for me. My early work was very experimental and "Fire" was the first piece that I found worthy of putting out there. In a lot of my older designs I really loved playing with light effects and you can even see the influence of Chuck Anderson in some of those pieces.
As I mentioned earlier I did start drawing at a very young age but stopped to learn Photoshop. Once I came around to getting a tablet, I realized how I could bridge the two together. Some of the best things about Photoshop are that you don’t have to sit around waiting for paint to dry and you can undo your mistakes! It takes away the fear that can sometimes hold you back and prevent you from trying something new. It’s kind of funny because you find yourself wishing you could use these same shortcuts in the real world. And there have been quite a few times I wish I could have pressed Command + Z to undo something.
Working for the WWE was really a dream come true. I grew up watching guys like Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and Macho Man Randy Savage. Although it’s a different pool of talent now, the passion for the industry is still there. I was given the opportunity to work for them thanks to the recommendation I mentioned earlier. You hear people say it a lot but networking is really a big part of it.
As for the Venue Program, I inherited the responsibility as the Art Director and it is probably the most challenging project I have done. Just coming up with the cover took close to a month, and once you have an approved cover you need to figure out the pagination and come up with a look to carry throughout the entire 70+ page program. A lot of the previous versions were templates and my goal was to do something different. I wanted to put my own mark on it and show the fans what it’s like on the other side. Most people only see these larger than life characters in the ring when they are battling it out, but you never really see them backstage, or on the road where they spend the majority of their days. The life of a professional wrestler is extremely demanding and they really don’t have an off-season like most other sports. With this Venue Program I had the chance to give the fans a book that I would have liked to see myself. You finally get to see what it’s like behind the curtain.
Working with clients like Nickelodeon and Oxygen has been a great privilege. It was because of Nickelodeon that I realized I wanted to work in the Entertainment Industry. Every place is going to be different, but you always have to take your design aesthetic and your own style and put it into the work. Even then, it’s likely that there will be changes and revisions, but being able to take these opportunities and make them your own is probably one of the most satisfying feelings you can have as a creative. To see a sign you made on the subway, or an ad in a magazine, is one of the most gratifying experiences and makes all of the hard work and effort worthwhile.
That is probably one of my favorite pieces that I have done. I basically locked myself in my apartment and tried to force myself to learn how to paint digitally. My Marvel Villains series was my first attempt at painting drawings with Photoshop, so by the time I began working on my Xenocide for Cosmosys, I felt a little more confident in my painting abilities.
The process for creating these types of paintings can vary for a lot of people, but what works best for me is to spend the first day looking at reference images. I look at things to study the mood, color, gesture, and details before even starting my design. Once I have the idea in mind I sketch my character on paper, scan it into Photoshop, and try to make the line art as crisp and clean as possible. That is pretty much the foundation of the painting. After that it was a matter of blocking in the colors and a lot of experimenting with values and blending the colors together. Towards the end I eventually merged all of my layers together to add some final details. This was also the chance for me to incorporate more textures into my work. With this particular piece you can see the custom pattern I created to apply to the suit beneath the armor. After that I tweaked a few things using Adjustment Layers and that was pretty much it!
Only one bad habit? I probably have a bunch that need fixing! If I had to choose one thing that I could magically fix it would be my anxiety. I tend to get really anxious when working because like most artists, I care a great deal about the projects I am working on. You want everything to be perfect – not too much of this, more of that, etc. Sometimes it helps to step away and give yourself a break. You don’t want try to force the work when it could end up being so much better just by coming back to it with fresh eyes. I have gotten a little better about it, but sometimes it’s truly a struggle between trying to finish something and knowing when to take a break.
Thank you guys so much for this opportunity! The pleasure is mine! I am a big fan of the site and you guys are always putting out some high quality content to enjoy. A few parting words for the readers is that if you are passionate about your art and you put in the effort and the practice to develop your skills, then you can make good things happen. If you couldn’t imagine yourself doing anything else, then your desire for improvement and determination will guide you in the right direction. Winners never quit, and quitters never win!