Robin Eisenberg is an exciting artist, whose illustrations and designs are capturing the attention of the internet. Inspired by ‘space, sex, Star Trek, fashion, feminism and the occult’ (but not necesarily in that order), Robin Eisenberg combines elements of everyday life and extraterristial life, with a wild neon-clad colour palette. Based in Los Angeles, Robin has been sketching for as long as she can remember, but actually majored in English at college. After a while, Robin decided to take her hobby and turn it into her full-time gig, becoming a professional artist. The work of Robin Eisenberg is hard to miss, it’s bold, colourful and wonderfully weird. We are big fans. I was excited to discover what books lie behind these neon delights. Please enjoy my interview with the talented Robin Eisenberg…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I’m an illustrator and designer who draws all day and also runs a business selling pins, patches, prints, and other rad things.
Right now I’m actually reading a novel written by a friend of mine! It isn’t in stores yet, but it’s her first book and I’m so in love with it so far. We used to swap journals and send realllllllly long letters to one another and it’s amazing reading a whole book by her.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I was obsessed with a series called Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin. They were short story picture books, and all about the adventures of a litter of kittens with wings who were born in a noisy city and had to find a safe place to move to. I was really allergic to cats as a kid and it made me wish I wasn’t so I could hang out with winged kittens! Oh and I also loved graphic novels, especially Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini. If I go way back, I have really cozy memories of my mom reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to me and my sister every couple of years.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
This is such a hard question for me because there are so many books that were all equally important! I think I would just encourage young people to read, period. Reading has shaped so much of who I’ve become and I feel like it’s harder and harder to prioritize reading with phones and iPads and stuff. Technology is awesome, but I feel like the magic of books is really irreplaceable and it is the saddest thing to not take advantage of all the different perspectives and worlds you can find in books.
Did you demonstrate an affinity with art as a child?
Yeah, I was always drawing when I was little! In class I would always be the designated artist for group projects, haha. My parents were super encouraging which was awesome. My sister and I actually painted this epic forest mural on our bedroom wall at one point!
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Wow, I’ve had so many weird and random jobs over the years. (Security monitor, grocery store produce stocker, hostess, etc.) I think the worst job was when I was selling kettle corn in the street, haha. I had to wear a silly outfit and my boss was really sleazy. Also it totally ruined kettle corn for me!
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring artist?
Don’t let yourself become bored of your own art, and try your best not to waste time comparing your work or success to that of other artists.
Who would you say are the three artists that continue to inspire you?
Lately I’ve been very inspired by: Marina Fini, Nadia Lee Cohen and Yoko Honda.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Unfortunately, no. I work so much these days that I barely leave my desk and only read on planes or before bed. The best was when I was touring with a band – there was so much time spent in the van driving to different cities/countries that I would have to bring at least 5-10 books per tour. I’m a pretty fast reader so once I get started I’ll get through a book in a couple of hours. It’s just hard finding the time now! I’m hoping to start making more time for reading next year.
I think any book that makes you feel motivated to create is important reading. I know that sounds a little general, but I don’t know if there’s one book that would affect everyone in the same way. I know for me, books about adventures or strange creatures always inspire me to want to draw. The Dragonriders of Pern books by Anne McCaffrey. Or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne! But for someone else, it might be a self-help guide or an artist biography. Whatever makes you feel excited!
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
Yes, so many! The books I tend to re-read are a mix of classics that are probably on a lot of people’s re-reading lists, and books that might not be universally appreciated but I love for nostalgic/personal reasons. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of the classic ones. I didn’t read it as a kid, so I think when I read it in my early 20s I just really fell in love with it and with how timelessly relate-able Holden Caulfield is. A more personal one is Wise Child by Monica Furlong. It’s a book about a girl in a small Scottish town who has to go and live with a strange but wonderful woman (who happens to be a witch). I would read this book over and over as a kid and into adulthood and it forever makes me feel cozy and dreamy. I still have my original edition sitting on my shelf, torn up cover and all, and I read it every couple of years.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
So many (again), haha. First one that comes to mind is Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto. It’s so wonderful and perfectly expressive of loneliness and other less easily defined emotions. Also Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I love that book so much! I think it’s one of the best adventure stories. Another book, (on a very different note) would be The Plague by Albert Camus. It’s just so fucking good and thought-provoking and beautifully written. It makes me feel gloomy and hopeful at the same time.
Do you think there is a relationship between books and art?
Totally! I think words and art have always had a very evocative relationship. I don’t think they depend on one another necessarily, but I love when art is integrated well alongside text, whether it’s in the form of a graphic novel, a chapter illustration, or really amazing cover art.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Fiction and fantasy.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Egan, Mercedes Lackey and Banana Yoshimoto.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
I hope not! I’ve read books on my phone before, and I have to say I really hate it. I know it’s more convenient (and better for the environment), but I love turning pages and being able to quickly flip back to look at a previous chapter, etc. I love the smell of the paper and the wear and tear of the pages over the years.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
I think we need, like, the Star Trek: Next Generation of books. Something that presents a future that makes us feel inspired and drawn together – excited for the challenge instead of terrified of the apocalypse. I mean I love dystopian future books, but I do think we need something that presents not necessarily a utopian future, but at least a more optimistic possibility. Does this book already exist? Any recommendations appreciated!
By The Sword by Mercedes Lackey. Actually, her entire Heralds of Valdemar series. I guess to some people, it might sound super silly to cite a fantasy series, but I don’t care! Those books had such a huge impact on me as a kid – my sister and I were OBSESSED with them. They sparked long conversations about responsibility and altruism and what it means to be a good person. The stories featured strong female and male leads, embraced all different sexual preferences and cultural backgrounds and were just very inclusive and thought-provoking. Not to mention the super epic adventures. They have stuck with me forever!
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Yes! SO many, but here are a few more:
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Not only one of the best vampire books, but one of the best books in general. I also read it while touring in Sweden in the middle of winter which made it even more perfect.
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is amazing and one of the last books to make me teary-eyed while reading it.
Black Hole by Charles Burns. Makes you feel uncomfortable and weird in the best possible way and the art is amazing.
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso. The only non-fiction book in here! I read this as I was starting out my business and it was such an inspiring and awesome read.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’d like to read more graphic novels as I’m hoping to start working on my own next year (!!!). I also just bought Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and am planning to read that over the holidays. There are a lot of classics that I’ve never gotten around to and I’d love to read more of them. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Can I Pet Your Dog? and Other Stories by Robin Eisenberg.