The incredibly talented and delightfully charismatic Eric Williams is one of the rising stars in Toronto’s burgeoning comic book illustration scene. You probably already know the unique and highly creative illustrations of Williams, thanks to his past work for Xtra! Magazine’s “History Boys” column, as well as his visuals for Queen West’s most badass drag party, Bad Tuck hosted at The Beaver, and his latest killer program for the July 2014 edition of the Art Gallery of Ontario‘s famous First Thursdays event. Williams’ current pièce de résistance, his three-part memoir series, Hungry Bottom Comics, was recently collected into a graphic novel published by Colour Code Print. Yes, comic book fans, you’ll want to remember his name. We caught up with the artist extraordinaire to find out more…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I’m a Toronto-based cartoonist and illustrator, with a particular focus on detailed line work, experimental page layouts, and gay/queer subject matter. I recently graduated from OCAD University’s illustration program, but I’ve been doing freelance work and personal projects for most of the six years I’ve lived in Toronto, including a year-and-a-half stint providing drawings for Xtra! Magazine’s “History Boys” column, as well as work for CAMH, Leo Burnett, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and a slew of posters for west end queer events.
My biggest project over the last few years has been my three-part memoir series, Hungry Bottom Comics, which was recently collected into a book published by Colour Code Print. The comics started as a reflection on my own experiences moving to the big city and navigating the male gay scene, and it gradually developed into a broader reflection on masculinity, gender, queer culture, and history at large. I’ve learned so much about myself from making this material and sharing it with everyone, and it’s an exciting (albeit slightly nerve-racking) time now that this body of work is pretty much wrapped up.
Who are your main artistic inspirations and idols?
In terms of cartoonists and illustrator folks, I’d have to say Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns, R Crumb, Michael DeForge, Michael Comeau, Frank Quitely, and Maurice Vellekoop.
Favourite authors include Dennis Cooper, Anne Carson, Grant Morrison, Lynn Crosbie, and David Wojnarowicz.
I also find a lot of inspiration in musicians and artists in fashion/design, including Bjork, David Bowie, Leigh Bowery, M/M Paris, PJ Harvey, Cibo Matto, and the work coming out of Toiletpaper Magazine.
What has been your favourite comic movie of the last 5 years?
I’ve always been a die-hard X-Men geek, and the latest film, Days of Future Past, was a whole lot of fun and did a great job of revitalizing the franchise from its Brett Ratner-induced slump.
What’s always in your art supplies bag?
Pencils, a bunch of Staedtler technical pens, Sharpies, the Pentel brush pen, and my iPod.
What advice could you give a young illustrator just starting out?
Get a serving gig if you can, and use the spare time to focus on making work that excites you rather than immediately trying to have your illustration jobs pay the bills. If you can develop a style and sensibility that is personal, unique, and uncompromising (and stay the course on your networking hustle), the rest of the world will take notice.
What do you love about living in Toronto?
I’m a shameless size queen for the big city, and I love that after spending over half a decade here I’m still discovering new hidden gems and meeting new people. Things change here so quickly, which can be a bit jarring at times, but I think it helps prevent stagnation – you’ll never get too bored!
While folks complain (and rightfully so) about increases in the cost of living, there’s still a really special creative energy in Toronto, and a wealth of opportunities to get your work out there. I have a huge appreciation for how rich the queer scene is – drag has really taken off in recent years, and there are so many queer artists making work that’s funny, poignant, and cutting edge.
What style trends are you currently obsessed with?
For the past few years, I’ve been obsessed with high saturation colours and kooky, imaginative patterns – my style has been described as “90s art class instructor”/”Art Attack” chic, and I don’t see that going away any time soon. The all black or white look is slick, but too many people in the city fall back on it; colour is nothing to be afraid of, and I think everyone could benefit from trying on their mom’s 20-year-old funky business casual blouse.
What’s your favourite restaurant or coffee shop?
My favourite restaurant and coffee shop is Bivy at Dundas and Brock. They do a mean pulled pork brisket, and the vibe is always very friendly and relaxed, whether you’re lunching with friends or hunkering down to get some work done.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Drawing, my iPod/music library, and the company of friends and loved ones.