Double Tap: @robineisenberg
"I WANT TO BELIEVE."
Robin Eisenberg’s alternate reality feels like a blend between BoJack Horseman and Sick Sad World, enhanced with a vibrant color palette. Eisenberg creates movement and life in 2D illustrations. She removes females from the male gaze and places them in relaxed scenarios with an intergalactic backdrop. Whether it’s eating pizza, taking a bath or watching Netflix, Eisenberg has the ability to transport routine activities into another dimension. Eisenberg pulled us into her realm of science fiction and talked to us about bringing her illustrations into existence.
What inspires your pieces?
Space, food, sci-fi and fantasy, nature (especially oceans and deserts), my parents, Los Angeles, Berlin, animals of every kind, weird dreams, computer games I played as a kid… so many things. I loved Daria so much when I was in high school (still love her). I definitely feel inspired by how much awesome animation there is out there. As a kid, I was obsessed with Jem and the Holograms (like most/all ’80s kids?) and that has definitely been a big influence. I feel inspired and influenced every time I leave my apartment. But lately I don’t leave my desk as much as I would like so I’m trying to get away more often. I recently hadn’t left my home office in so long that I missed an entire renovation that took place in my building.
You originally studied English, how’d you get into illustration?
I have always loved drawing, and it’s one of the first things I remember doing as a little kid. So throughout high school and college, I spent most of my time sketching instead of studying. This probably should have been a clue into my future, but at the time it felt impossible to turn drawing on my class notes into a career. After graduating college, I was really uncertain of what I wanted to do. I knew I loved drawing, reading, writing and playing music, but all of those have such broad career options―none of which are very clear cut—that I couldn’t figure out which direction to start in. After a while of just working random jobs, I created a really bad portfolio website and started trying to get illustration work, but it was really tough to find anything. I hadn’t developed my style yet, and the only jobs I could find were extremely low-paying and time-consuming…the best combo.
It was around then that a band called Crocodiles asked if I wanted to go on tour playing organ. I decided to go for it, and it really changed my life so much. I traveled all around the world, ended up living in Berlin and then the U.K. I would be drawing constantly whenever I wasn’t playing a show, so I ended up getting a lot of work creating art for other bands, friends and music publications. Eventually, after six years of touring, I realized I wanted to focus entirely on art and illustration. I was also getting exhausted from the touring life. But it was really an irreplaceable experience and I’m so glad I was able to do it. After touring, it still took a couple of years to start getting steady paid work, but opening up a shop really helped me to get my name out and start getting regular jobs.
What’s your creative process?
I write a looooot of random notes throughout the day (well, type them onto my phone). Most of these consist of weird sketch concepts or designs for upcoming projects. So my Notes app is full of things like, “alien camping, skeleton with hair, milkshake, snake of some kind.” They all mean something to me but would be nonsensical if read out of context. Anyway, once I get started on the project, I will go over my notes, gather reference images and start an initial sketch. Once the sketch is finalized, I’ll do the linework, then the color, then the shading, then the final touches and editing. I usually have music on or a show like Broad City or Star Trek TNG. For a while I found an eight-hour video of the ambient ship noise from the Enterprise and that was very soothing to work to.
What moods and motifs do you try to convey in your illustrations?
Solitude, adventure, nostalgia, sexuality, feeling natural and strange at the same time, and looking both futuristic and familiar. I love being alone, and I really enjoy my own company. I also love my husband, family and friends, but I really need time to myself in order to appreciate all of those relationships. I learned recently that I’m what’s called an “extroverted introvert.” But yeah, I very rarely feel lonely and I find discovering or experiencing something on my own to be exhilarating and comforting. That feeling is so important to me, and I try to express it in a lot of my artwork.
A lot of your work is GIFs. Why this specific medium?
I love GIF art and animated music videos, and I think that’s what initially fueled me to want to start animating my artwork. It’s so rad to see how different artists decide to make their art move―it’s like getting a peek into how reality is filtered through their brain. I would love to one day create my own animated series. That sounds so incredibly fun and challenging.
How do you transfer the movement in your GIFs to still mediums that aren’t online?
That definitely presents a different kind of challenge. I feel like a lot of my art doesn’t work in product form due to the amount of detail and color, so when I started making pins or designing stuff for clothing collabs, I had to change the way I looked at my own work. I like that though, it definitely expands your view of what you’re capable of and allows you to feel creative in a different way. I especially found that with designing my enamel pins. I really had to rethink a lot of the detail as most of it would get lost in such a small medium.
Would you ever want to make an IRL installation of your work?
Yes, absolutely! I have so many ideas for this. I think it would be sooooo much fun to create an exhibition that brings the viewers into the world, where they are able to experience multiple landscapes or even different decks on a starship. That would be so epically awesome. I would love it if it could be like one of those nature centers with different ecosystems where you could go into one room and it would be a beach and the illusion of an ocean, with tropical plants and a breeze and an alien mermaid in the water, then a desert with giant cacti and craters and a smoky smell in the air, etc., etc. I hope this happens one day.
What’s on your career bucket list?
A giant mural would feel amazing to complete. Also, an entire graphic novel. An animated series. An immersive exhibition.
Are aliens real?
I WANT TO BELIEVE.