Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself, and some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
Mr. EWOKONE: Currently and for the last 18 years I’ve been Brooklyn based with a brief stop off in Jersey City during some legal issues I had to hop the state lines, then once all that was resolved I snuck back into Brooklyn, where I now try to behave 😉
Designing I guess came after I graduated college, I spent 4 hard years crunching paper doing traditional finger rolling animation… Graduated with a BFA and could barely use a computer. Got a job drawing for Marc Ecko around 2001-ish and he basically grabbed my drawing, put it in a scanner and showed me how to scan it and the basics of Photoshop and Illustrator, along with another friend at the time Kimou Myer and Alan Toralba who helped me along at the time.
Fast forward to now, I use illustrator almost every day for that solid graphical animation look. As far as progressing over the years, I use illustrator for a specific look, aside from that look I will paint or draw off the computer to get a different look. Depends on my creativity at the moment. These days I’m drawing a lot more.
UVD: Is there a story behind the name of “Ewok” and the other aliases that you happen to go by such as Ewok 5MH or Mr. Ewokone?
Mr. EWOKONE: In my early days I had no desire to be associated with any Star Wars movies if that’s what you mean, it was purely a word I figured would not be used by anyone else. These days you have Dj’s named Ewok, Rappers named Ewok, you got Fast And Furious Import Car guys calling themselves Ewok, and newby writers now all over the world calling themselves Ewok. At least most put a number after it but it’s still a little odd to me. I refer to myself as Mr. EwokOne, or Ewokone. Never just Ewok, this allows for confusion.
UVD: What are some things that influence you and your work? Are there any artists’ work that inspired you and your style early on in your career?
Mr. EWOKONE: It’s hard to say, different things at different periods, I go through a lot of evolution, so when I feel uninspired or repetitive, I’ll search new things to bring energy to my work. This could be music, nature, comic artists, classical paintings, philosophy, or emotion. Of course there was periods when I had to look around at my peers for inspiration, but too many times I’ve put peers in a respected position for them to let you down in person, so I’ve begun to close myself off when it comes to looking at the graffiti scene for inspiration. I feel like these days there’s still a lot of style biting and lack of personal development going on and not much to inspire me. Mentally I’ve matured over the last few years in regards to what I need to find a new outlook on things. I try to look inward and not outward and dig deep… This way I’m in a constant state of surprising myself, and I’m much prouder of my results.
UVD: With a number of years having passed since series 1 from Kidrobot being released, how did you and Kidrobot link up in order for you to have a design in their series or even the 2004 20” dunny showcase in New York or 6.5” bot figure?
Mr. EWOKONE: It’s been a long time. I believe I was introduced to Paul Budnitz by a friend NYC LASE at the time. Looking back it’s very unfortunate, KR wasn’t really capable to produce the kind of design that I wanted to create, so my Series 1 Dunny was a far miss from the original design I came up with, there was supposed to be a handkerchief pattern in the mask, and the face itself was supposed to be bigger and stretched more across the face.
I believe this lack of production design is what led to the wave of customizing, which led to the 20 Inch Dunny, I feel I nailed more of my style on that being hand painted than any other figure I did around then ( KR 6.5, Toy2R Egg Que, Toy2R Eqq Que Chase fig.).
Ultimately they weren’t paying so I pulled out of a 8” Dunny modeled after my 20” (which coulda’ been a classic.) I was adamant about being paid for my work and they were adamant about using people and only paying them in product. I wasn’t cool with that so I walked away and never looked back. About a year later Mindstyle stepped up with bigger plans and the HORSELINGTON was sculpted.
I’ve spoken to a lot of the early KR artist from series 1 etc. and we’re all on the same page at the time and I think the company itself has gone through a lot of changes so I can’t speculate as to how things are done today but I spoke to a some of the new guys during NYCC and they seemed like they were in a position to try to make good on a lot of their old skeletons in the closet. Whether that happens or not , I dunno. I’ve enjoyed seeing their Black Line, and I love what they did with DOZE GREEN. To me that is the way they should have handled me at the time, they let me slip right through their fingers.
UVD: Similarly, how was working with MINDstyle in order to produce your Horselington figures? Are there plans to release more designs of the Horselington in the future?
Mr. EWOKONE: All 6 where released during different release dates, finalizing the capsule with the GOLD Horselington, an edition of 50 at NYCC ( 2008). There was GID released at a SDCC (2007), there was the Fluorescent Red came out on a Valentine’s Day (2008), and the Dark Grey Monotone (2008) was I believe a Halloween release. The Black Splattereds (2007) were the original NYCC release in the same manner as the Black Splattered Brainlingtons from this past NYCC. And the General Release Yellow Horslingtons(2007) where obviously the first to come out after the NYCC splatters.
In my opinion, the problem I had with MINDstyle was we had a 3 year contract, and a plan to do 3 different figures. It took too long to release the Horslingtons and by the time the 3 years were coming to an end we were just getting into the 2nd figure and I was having major communication issues with my contact at MINDstyle. I feel they were changing gears from artist driven figures over to licensing movie figures and sports player figures. It wasn’t the company I signed on with so I chose not to pursue an extension in our partnership. Also at that time, I felt the market was flooded. There was too many fans making figures and not enough people buying product, then the overall quality of everything IMO went to shit. It was a perfect time to slip out and focus on other things. I went on to travel a lot and do a lot of Gallery shows in different countries just kept things moving.
UVD: Recently, you and Mighty Jaxx have had great success with the two Brainlington colorways that have been released to date. How did the Brainlington figure itself develop or even evolve over the years? With almost 8 years between the Horselington and the Brainlington figures being released, how did you and Mighty Jaxx link up, and how was the process of returning to the figure production element of your portfolio?
Mr. EWOKONE: Mighty Jaxx stepped up at the perfect time. I was skeptical in the beginning because the vinyl game prior had left a bad taste in my mouth. But I did a little background work on Mighty Jaxx and they seemed to really be about the artist, and they were very hands on, not overly flashy and I’ve developed a good relationship with Jackson who runs things over there. So far things are going well.
BRAINLINGTON was a personal experiment for me, I painted a couple of him in his early developmental stages in Miami a few years back and just left them alone, that following year they received a ton of interest and curiosity from a much broader audience than my hardcore lettering pieces would get. This was interesting to me, I had a realization, that no matter how many decades I spend nurturing my Graffiti style, the uneducated will immediately gravitate towards a character that is intriguing and more easily digested. This was good for me also, because it kept the hardcore viewers glued on my letters and a new audience on the character based stuff. Mighty Jaxx saw what was happening with Brainlington’s buzz and wanted to know if I wanted to make him in the 3rd dimension. The rest is history unfolding.
UVD: With having lived in Cincinnati for a number of years, Scribble Jam has become a lore of the streets for those that either remember it or are a fan of the elements that were present at the event? How was Scribble Jam for you in 2008 and over the years and what do events like this mean to the street art/graffiti scene?
Mr. EWOKONE: That’s a tough one, back when Scribble Jam was in full swing, I wasn’t really a fan of mags or your boring graff events that were a bunch of good ol’ boys tuggin’ on each other’s egos, and a lot of these mags where coming out of the Midwest, so they showed favoritism to their local heroes not showing me much love at the time. So when I saw a wave of popularity coming out of these Midwest magazine showing a slanted view on the dynamic of East Coast Graffiti I wasn’t cool with it so I only came out to the Midwest to Battle in 98 and in 2000 in St. Louis. Only coming out to Scribble Jam in 08 because I had become very close with RAPES who was part of the original Scribble Mag Staff. I didn’t know him back during Scribble Jams glory days. Also I think one time Scribble took a wall I painted in the Bronx and chopped it up and posted it in pieces around the mag instead of in its entirety, so I vaguely remember shit talking the publication about that at the time. Anyway, these days I enjoy flippng thru the old Scribble Mags from back then, I just never really liked the whole “cool guy” thing that goes on with publications, and still goes on today with all your favorite Mags, if you’re not an ass kisser they won’t show you love, I don’t believe in that, and I’ve never been an ass kisser.
UVD: With it seeming like a unique drawing coming out every day, how do you keep the ideas flowing so that drawings or designs don’t become stagnant or boring?
Mr. EWOKONE: I just love what I do man, honestly I look around and see so many people who seem to just not like what they’re doing, and they just seem so limiting to themselves… I just truly love to draw, love to paint…. If I’m not good at something I will study it and learn it. It’s unfortunate to me when I see “artists” who spend years and years doing the same thing over and over again and can’t do anything else besides that. You have to WANT to better yourself, and if you have default repetitions in your creative process, you have to tell yourself to go left, when you want to comfortably go right, this is how you break habits and step out of your comfort zone. I want to be the best artist I could possibly be when I die. I want to live up to my best ever potential. Why wouldn’t you? Why be satisfied with what you’re doing today? You have to have a passion for it and nothing else will get in your way. If not, it becomes work.
UVD: Being that a lot of artists look up to you and would love to work with you, would you mind telling us a couple artists that you would love to get the chance to collaborate?
Mr. EWOKONE: I love to create with GHOST RIS. Also, I would love to collaborate with FUTURA in some way, I would love to work with SIMON BISLEY, JAMES JEAN, PUSHEAD, KAWS, TODD JAMES, OS GEMEOS, MURAKAMI, GIGER, JOHN KRICFALUSI, NYCHOS… I guess, to name a few…
UVD: With having traveled the world over spreading your graffiti, what have you picked up over the years that was stuck with you that influences you in present day?
Mr. EWOKONE: Just the understanding of how your work can impact people far and wide, and how you can inspire people. I love that.
UVD: After watching the “Banksy vs. King Robbo” video, it called in to question the value some people place on graffiti as street art. Would you mind sharing your thoughts on this trend where an artist can be despised and another can be revered for their vandalism?
Mr. EWOKONE: I would answer that question with -“Can we do an interview in 2013 that doesn’t mention Banksy? Am I the only one that don’t give a shit about him? Banksy doesn’t pay my rent, so until he cuts me a check to pay my rent I would rather use this question to talk about KING ROBBO. I think more people should research who Robbo is and what he accomplished and why he came back out, to which lead to his unfortunate circumstances. For a brief time Robbo proved to the world that anyone can do what that other guy did, and Robbo was one man not financially backed or with a P.R. or legal team behind him. Long Live Robbo.”
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
MR. EWOKONE: Right now we are focused on BRAINLINGTON with Mighty Jaxx. In my personal space I’m contracted exclusively to create the layout of a kids book. I’m not sure how much I can share that in its process but when it surfaces I can assure you it will be pretty epic. Having it be exclusive, allows me not to have to take on any work. So I can focus completely on this project. I haven’t been able to do something like that in forever… I can’t wait to show the world this project, but for now I have to be patient and let that energy feed itself into the work.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
Mr. EWOKONE: Interesting question, I think always stay a student, just because you get a name for doing a specific thing, doesn’t mean you can’t reinvent yourself or keep creating new things. Stay humble, but be honest with yourself and the people you deal with regularly, if people really care about your work and visions they will help you, not hinder you. Surround yourself with positive people and a person who constantly needs favors today will still constantly need favors 10 years from now, get rid of those kinds of people in your life. And lastly, never sell yourself short, stick to your guns and the right things will happen for you at the right times. If I didn’t pull away from Kidrobot, Horselington wouldn’t have happened, if I didn’t get out the toy game in ‘07, I wouldn’t be back now with Brainlington and so on and so on. Everything happens for a reason.
UVD: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Are there any parting words you wish to say to the reader?
Mr. EWOKONE: Thank you for helping support the things I do, it’s nice dealing with you guys and knowing there’s no egos or ass-kissing going on, you guys really just cover good artists and good projects, the way things should be. You guys rock!
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