• UO Interviews: Eric Kenney

    Philadelphia artist Eric Kenney creates bold graphic illustrations inspired by tattoo flash art and punk rock attitude. We talk to Eric about his unique style and how his hometown has influenced his work.
    Photos by CJ Harvey

    Who is Eric Kenney and what is Heavy Slime? 
    Eric Kenney is 28 year old artist living and working in Philadelphia. I mostly do t-shirt and poster design, and screen print all my own work.

    Heavy Slime is a name I made up for myself, much like a 5th grader decides on an AOL instant messenger screen name.  It doesn't really mean much, but it stuck and I think it fits.  

    When did you first start making art and design work? Did you always know you’d be an artist? 
    I always drew comics as a kid, I would make up my own characters a lot. I also remember being really into drawing guys with huge muscles, like super heroes and Dragon Ball Z stuff.  I didn't really ever think I was an artist, I just kept busy and had good imagination. It wasn't till I was around 18 that I knew I wanted to do something with visual art.

    There’s a lot of attitude in your work. Is there a philosophy that underpins your art?
    I've always been sort of a cynical person, especially in my late teens and early 20s.  I think making this stuff helps me direct that energy in a more useful way. It feels like a way to deal with frustration. Once I take an idea and put it into an image, it allows me to get it out of own brain and look at it from an outside perspective. There's definitely a lot of dark comedy involved. It's important to me that I try and make honest work and not worry too much about how it's perceived.

    Can you walk us through the process of creating a new piece? 
    It usually starts with either an image or a little piece of poetry, and then it’s about finding the matching piece. I usually get an idea just from not thinking about it too hard, just kind of going about my day and doing stuff that has nothing to do with art. Once I have an idea, it floats around in my head for about a week or two before I commit to it. 

    You’ve mentioned skateboarding being a huge influence on your work, do you think you would be an artist/designer if it wasn’t for skating?
    I don't know. It's hard to say. I definitely think skateboarding directed me toward a lot of positive things. I think I would have missed out on a lot of great stuff without it.  

    Are there any artists that have been a particularly significant influence for you over the years? 
    There have been too many to name, but a big one early on was James Victore. When I was studying graphic design in 2008-2010 it was really boring to me because all the graphic designers I saw were doing the same stuff. Everyone had this very digital Swiss style and nothing was hand-drawn. Once I saw what Victore was doing, I realized that I didn't have to follow such a strict style to be an artist/designer. So I veered off and starting drawing more and made work that I thought was good.  

    What really influences me now, is not really artists work per say, but more their work ethic. My good friend Brad Haubrich is another Philly artist, and he and I have a lot of great conversations about what it means to make art and why we do it.    

    How has Philadelphia influenced you as an artist? What’s the art scene like there? 
    I owe Philly everything, I feel like it held my hand in all the right ways. I started interning at Awesome Dudes Printing back in 2010, and I got to meet a lot of great artists who were working there.  I was making some pretty bad stuff at that time and seeing what they were doing with screen printing definitely changed my whole perspective. Philly's great too because it's cheap and everything easily accessible. It allowed me to move at a much faster rate than I would have been able to in NYC. You don't have to work 100 jobs just to scrape by, which grants you more time for making art. I'm not sure what the scene is here, sometimes I feel like I'm a part of it, and other times I feel like a complete outcast. But there are a lot of really great artists here, and most of them look out for each other.  

    What’s the last great piece of art you saw? 
    My friend Ian from the band Diarrhea Planet engraved a zippo lighter for me. It's got a reaper with my last name on it, and says "immortally cool". I love it, thanks Ian.

    What are your goals for 2017?  
    More murals! I got to do one last year, and it was a lot of fun. Also do some shows out west, I have one coming up in Portland early April, so I'm excited for that.  

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