London calling: David Eichenberg making waves across the AtlanticWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
David Eichenberg is rapidly becoming one of the hottest artists in the United Kingdom while working out of a studio in Downtown Toledo.
“You can live anywhere now and still have access to a global market,” Eichenberg said. “I’m pretty comfortable in Toledo. I grew up in Sylvania. This is a great area.”
He is one of 55 artists featured in this year’s BP Award Portrait Exhibition in London after winning third place in 2010 along with 7,000 pounds. In 2009, he represented Ohio as a finalist in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
“After the BP award last year, Go Figurative approached me and asked me if I wanted to be a poster child for their company so they could brand me,” he said. “It’s been a great experience and is unlike anything here.”
Go Figurative was co-founded by Sally Perry and Janine Collins. The London-based company promotes all forms of figurative art.
“It’s the dream every artist has where your job is to be in the studio making work,” Eichenberg said. “They take care of everything else. It baffles me they take only 47 percent. Here it is 50 percent, and you can’t get a gallery to send out an email when you win an award or tell you who bought a piece. It’s a totally different vibe.”
Eichenberg’s success overseas has adjusted his perspective on being an American in the 21st century.
“I always had the sense that everybody is the same no matter what country you live in,” he said. “There isn’t as much of a difference now.”
For his art, Eichenberg manipulates a snapshot on the computer then does a carbon transfer off a printout to use in his paintings. He has been labeled a photorealist, but he views his art as realism.
“It may look photographic when I’m finished but it’s not,” he said. “An art writer from the UK categorized me as an intuitive artist. I’m pulling things that are relevant out of my life. It’s not a formula. It’s realism figurative. I don’t have any desire to be a great figure painter. I use the figure to pull the viewer in, because people are attracted to figurative work. Once I have their attention, then I can deal with other issues. I just use it as a tool.”
Eichenberg has left his mark on the art scene in Toledo with more than his paintings. He oversaw the Toledo Museum of Art’s move to the Glass Pavilion and helped organize the “It’s Raining Frogs” art project.
“There’s always a feeling as an artist that you want to be involved in the arts in your community,” he said. “I still have that. I don’t sell much locally, but I want to keep those venues open.”
Eichenberg nearly missed his calling by spending his freshman year at the University of Toledo majoring in physical therapy. After seeing an elderly patient die, he decided to change course.
“I couldn’t deal with that on a daily basis,” Eichenberg said. “I took some time off. It was my mother-in-law who convinced me to take an art class. I took an art history class and was hooked.”
Eichenberg almost missed his calling again by majoring in sculpture with a minor in painting.
“My painting in school was horrible,” he said. “I was an abstract expressionist. It was very loose and nothing representational.
“I took a sculpture class with Tom Lingeman and really liked the open approach he took to it. I was pretty successful, but it just wasn’t fulfilling. I couldn’t get rid of my mental blocks. I wanted to do a lot of realism, and I just don’t have the technique or training to do that.”
This led Eichenberg to the realization his true passion lies in painting.
“I sat down one day and had to make the decision to go get a job or do what I wanted to do since I first took an art history course,” he said. “I locked myself in the basement at my old house. I looked through books and talked to people to figure out how to do what I wanted.”
While Eichenberg was his own worst critic starting out, his wife saw potential from the start.
“She said something to me after the first couple of my paintings that are similar to what I do now,” Eichenberg said. “She said I could be a pretty good regional sculptor, or I could be a much better international painter. It opened my eyes. You don’t see it when you’re doing it. I was hoping she was onto something and went from there.”
Eichenberg’s wife has also been an inspiration on the canvas along with their two daughters.
“They are comfortable images to work with because you know their features without having to look at imagery,” he said. “If you paint something wrong, you know it’s wrong. I catch myself correcting things nobody else would ever know were wrong.”
Despite his recent success, Eichenberg plans to continue developing as an artist.
“I don’t want to be like a Monet where I crank out hundreds of the same image slightly changed,” he said. “I want it to constantly be evolving so my work doesn’t become stagnant. Each piece should be better than the last. That’s my goal. Now I have a bigger body of work and it’s all starting to fall in line. People are starting to see a progression throughout the work.”
Visit DavidEichenberg.com for more information on the artist.