Robots and Donuts: An Interview With Eric Joyner

Artist Eric Joyner is quite the matchmaker. By pairing donuts with robots, Joyner created a dynamic duo that can’t be beat. His whimsical and inventive artwork makes a statement in any space. Find out more about Joyner’s craft and how he dreams up each piece of art by checking out the interview below.

Surround Yourself: Your artwork is incredibly unique—pairing donuts against robots. What’s been the best response or compliment you’ve received about your work?


Eric Joyner: That’s a difficult question! I’ve had very enthusiastic responses, from all walks of life. It’s hard to compete though with the filmed response I got from Fletcher Elementary School in Towahanda, NY. That was amazing.


 01 Robot R&R2


SY: Is there a particular piece in your Imagekind collection that you’re most proud of?

EJ: I am particularly proud of The Final Blow, an homage to one of my favorite artists, George Bellows and his painting Dempsey and Firpo. The Final Blow has been in the set dressing of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, as well as 4 other paintings of mine, since around 2008. (See photos here and here.) It also graced the cover of an international sci-fi art book called Spectrum in 2004.


 02 The Final Blow


SY: How has your art or artistic process changed over the years?

EJ: For years, I was painting with acrylics on illustration board, using a very thin glazing technique, over pencil.

I switched to oil paint on wood, or occasionally canvas, in 1999 and started painting much more thickly. Also, the painting gradually grew larger, the biggest thus far being 13.5′ x 7.’

In terms of content, I have painted many subjects over the years, but since 2003, my main concentration has been vintage tin toy robots, mainly from the 1900s Japan. Growing bored with robots in 2002, I added donuts, making the series much more interesting somehow. Probably because of the absurdity of it.


 03 Pandora’s Box


SY: What’s one thing that might surprise people to know about you or your work?

EJ: I never had any robots! When I was a child, only Hot Wheels, Tinkertoys, marbles and Monopoly. I did have access to donuts though…there was a donut truck that came in the morning.

 04 sprinkler


SY: Every single piece in your collection has an unexpected element—a cat alien, donut mountains, swimming dinosaurs, etc. What keeps your creative juices flowing to come up with new scenes for the characters in your work?

EJ: I just try to keep an open mind. I also listen to suggestions. Mainly I just remember my mantra – to paint things I like or find interesting.

 05 catfish2lg2

SY: Tell us a bit about your family—does art run in the family?

EJ: My mother liked to sew & did some ‘tole painting’ as she called it, and writing. My father was a very quiet, blue collar kind of guy. My sister is a talented musician. My brothers had no interest in visual art.

06 Robohawks

SY: You’ve mentioned previous jobs that felt like a “nightmare” before discovering your calling. What advice would you offer to young artists (or anybody!) who is trying to figure out what they want to do with their career?

EJ: Yes, it seems that every “job” I ever had was very demanding and difficult. I did some texture mapping for a film company, animation as well as background art for animation. I was always working long hours, 6 days a week and having to learn new programs often.

As for people “trying to figure out” what to do, I would suggest to getting jobs that are in someway related to what you want to eventually do. Also, use the opportunity to learn new programs and make friends along the way. In your free time, work and study the things you need to know for your future “you.”


07 Paratroopers


SY: Where are you based out of now? How’s the art scene and community there?

EJ: I live and work in San Francisco, California, in a defunct naval shipyard called Hunters Point. An old administration building was converted into art studios, in 1984. It’s like an art colon, with about 220 artists. Art far as the gallery scene is, it’s not so great, though I sometimes participate in theme shows at WonderlandSF and Artattack gallery. My main gallery is The Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles.

08 Fall Outing

SY: How would you describe your style at home?

EJ: My last girlfriend said “you’re such a bachelor” in regards to my place. I have art on the walls that I’ve collected over the years, Persian rugs, a modern style sofa that matches one of the rugs, a canopy bed, custom steel shelving with computerized lights & crystals, modern appliances and plants. I’m not sure what you’d call it.

09 Caught Again


SY: What’s the most exciting place where you’ve spotted your artwork?

EJ: Probably in the movie Group Sex, a romantic comedy from 1997. I’m in the movie as well. I play a donut company executive assistant—no lines though.

10 The Bringer of War

SY: What do you surround yourself with?

EJ: All types of people. I would like to think that they are intelligent, kind, positive, hardworking, creative and inspiring, but sadly, many are not. I think in life, oftentimes you just end up hanging around people who are there, no matter who they are or what they do. Truth be known, as an artist, you spend a lot of time alone, surrounding yourself with music and thoughts.


11 In A Meadow


Shop the entire collection by Eric Joyner on Imagekind!