I sat down to probe the mind of Alex Eickhoff, a muralist whose surreal style is featured in our 2021 anthology Tales from the Deep, a collection of fantasy-sci-fi-horror hybrid short stories. He shares a few thoughts on his inspirations and working with Flying Ketchup.
Alex Eickhoff is a Kansas City muralist whose show, titled "Under the Tree" will be on display at the Upper Level Gallery in Kansas City on Friday, June 4th from 6-9 PM. It can also be found at his website, www.eyecough.com. Alex is a vibrant artist and illustrator located in the Kansas City Area whose painterly artwork pushes the boundaries of imagination into the surreal and absurd with light, humor, and a shout into the darkness. He is a superior new muralist on the KC scene, so call him if you have a wall! Check out his work at eyecough.com. Please follow his work on Instagram @eye_cough Read his interview below or find more on our blog.
So you're working with us on the art in Tales from the Deep. How's that experience been?
It was definitely different from any project that I've done before. It was pretty labor-intensive: a lot of research, learning different subject matter, and studying different forms and sci-fi-themed stuff that I don't normally illustrate. It kind of pushed me outside of my comfort zone a little bit. But it was a nice experience. I think I learned quite a bit during the process.
A lot of the time being pushed out of your comfort zone is a good thing for creatives.
Totally. I'm kind of in an experimental phase in my career, trying to find my style and find my voice, so it's always nice to expand that way.
I checked out some of the art on your website before this, and you definitely seem to lean towards the surreal and absurdist.
Yes, so my Tales from the Deep work is kind of similar with regards to, like, mashing two different things into one and having an obviously not-real thing have a realistic form or textures. I normally deal with elements of nature, plants or animals, and have more spiritual undertones to my work.
Is there anything you do or places you go for inspiration, especially with those themes of nature or spiritual themes in mind?
Yeah, that's actually a really good question. I kind of get inspiration from everywhere. Even right now, as I'm talking to you, I'm sitting here in my car looking at the leaves on this tree in front of me and how the light is reflecting off of those at different angles. A lot of what I'm doing at a formal level is studying light and how it's hitting things and using light to sculpt things on the 2D plane to make it look 3D. Nature, of course, is a huge inspiration for me. I love going on walks and looking at all the different trees; how they come out of the ground, how the bark meets the grass, the canopies, and networks of branches.
But even without external stimulus, I'm able to gather inspiration from what I can only explain as an ethereal plane. I do a lot of meditation before I get started on a new project. I'll just sit and allow ideas to come to me because that's how I believe the world works. Ideas are like sentient beings in their own right, and they choose to manifest themselves in our realm of reality through artists. I'm kind of just a vessel. Practicing the art of opening up to the universe and allowing it to give me imagery or concepts. I think a lot of my best, most cohesive work comes from that process.
Ideas are sentient beings in their own right, and they choose to manifest themselves through artists. I'm just a vessel.
Makes sense. You can spend your whole life improving at art and you'll still struggle to match the beauty and complexity of the world.
Totally. When you submit to that and you realize that, that you're just an artist who can only do so much, you open yourself up to the greater unknown--and that opens you up unlimited possibilities and, potentially, rapid growth. I think that's what's happened to me the past couple years of my life. I think I've grown quickly as an artist and I think it's due in part to understanding that concept.
Besides your natural inspirations and inspirations that come from the self, are there other artists that have been an inspiration to you?
Oh man, I could sit here and rattle off names for the next hour. I get a ton of inspiration from watching other people paint in real life, YouTube videos of people painting, just looking at people's work. I try to expose myself to as much content as possible. I think street art specifically has impacted me. There's a dynamic with the juxtaposition of imagery in public, interacting with the environment. That's something that's pushed me into the career I'm in right now, a muralist. When I studied abroad in college, I visited London and saw a bunch of original Banksy's and Faith47's. That gave me a little hope that I could do this. The fine art world is kind of daunting--you have to please galleries and rich people. The street art and mural scene seemed a bit more tangible, so that gave me a second wind when I wasn't sure what I was going to do.
Alex Eickhoff is a Kansas City muralist whose work will be on display at the Upper Level Gallery in Kansas City on Friday, June 4th from 6-9 PM. It can also be found at his website, www.eyecough.com.
Check out our first two Anthologies Tales from the Goldilocks Zone and Tales from the Dream Zone for sale on Amazon, coming 2022 to your nearest library/ bookstore.
Flying Ketchup Press ® grassroots and artist-run, we are a trademarked small press in Kansas City using traditional and hybrid publishing formats established to develop new and diverse voices in poetry and short story. Our dream is to salvage lost treasure troves of written and illustrated work-- to create worlds of wonder and delight; to share stories.
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