CREDIT TO THE EDIT – artist profile : ERIK WINKOWSKI
New Orleans–based artist Erik Winkowski (b. 1983, NYC) treats video like collage, cutting up, painting over, and remixing scenes from everyday life in playful, unexpected ways. After earning his BFA from The Cooper Union in 2006, where he studied animation and design, he worked for several years as a motion designer creating computer animations by day and paintings by night. In an effort to fuse his handmade work with his digital work, he started his Video Sketchbook on Instagram in 2018. Over the course of a year he posted a new video each day and developed innovative animation techniques that integrated the colorful exuberance of his paintings with the hypnotic quality of his video work. He continues to experiment, pioneering new techniques in animation that can be seen in his collaborations with Gucci, Prada, Hermès, and The New York Times
“Animation is an optimistic act, it’s about bringing things to life. I make videos where I start with something ordinary like a stone or a cloud and, through animation, turn them into something extraordinary. In truth, I believe they were extraordinary from the start but sometimes we need art to help us remember that. I want to experience and share wonder through my work – that expansive feeling that our world is more strange, beautiful, and mysterious than we give it credit for. I’ll keep working on a video until I surprise myself, that’s when I know I’m done.“
Credit to the Edit – Available works by Erik Winkowski
Credit to the Edit – Erik Winkowski Q&A
Have you always been both creative and technically minded or did one follow the other?
I fell in love with animation in art school. We started off using the traditional tools: pencils, punched paper, peg board, and stat camera – a wonderfully antiquated process unchanged since the 1940s. All the specialist tools and jargon made me feel I was being initiated into a secret society. It was absurdly complex and challenging but the results were breathtaking – it brought my art to life. As the course progressed we graduated to computers with After Effects and were introduced to a new set of specialist tools and jargon. I loved making 10-second films for my friends. It didn’t matter that I had spent 30 hours making them.
I’ve been working with moving imagery now for 15 years and I’m fluent in After Effects but I still don’t feel very technically-minded. I continue to hack my way through new software for the same reason I did back in art school: I’m compelled to bring my art to life.
How did you get into the world of creative video production?
Ever since I was a kid I loved to draw and from an early age I kept a sketchbook. It was a place for me to experiment with new styles and be totally free. Years later, while pursuing a career in motion design, I continued filling up sketchbooks with drawings. I longed to create animations that felt as joyful and spontaneous as my drawings, so I started a daily project called the Video Sketchbook where I adopted a more experimental approach to animation. Thinking of my video work as a sketchbook lowered the pressure and allowed me to have fun again.
How would you best describe your signature style?
Collage is at the heart of my work. I take normal subjects and work with them until they feel magical: parking lots sprout forests, surfers glide across clouds, and paintings come to life. I use traditional art materials like paint, paper, glue, and ink in my videos so even though the work is digital it feels handcrafted and just a little dusty.
Can you pinpoint a moment in your career that was a pivotal turning point?
I had always dreamed of being an artist. But several years after art school, through a series of sensible decisions, I found myself stuck in an office job. I was miserable. Then one day I had a realization: as long as I make art I can call myself an artist. I didn’t need a gallery to bestow that title on me. With this insight I committed myself to making a new video each day and my Video Sketchbook was born.
The experience of creating daily art brought me joy. I started taking walks on my lunch break, filming everyday scenes of trees, traffic, birds, and buildings, which I would transform with animation into something unexpected. Through the process of sharing work online I made new friendships and started taking on paid projects. Exactly one year after I posted my first daily video I quit my day job and started making art full-time.
What inspires you in your personal work?
I think all artists are collectors. I collect ideas in my sketchbook, books on my bookshelves, and images on my computer. Whenever I’m feeling lost or unmotivated I turn to those collections. They remind me of all the things I love and they get me excited to start working again.
What are some of your ambitions as a creative?
I’m looking forward to seeing my work expand beyond screens in the coming years. For years I’ve dreamed of making animated artist books and with AR technology I may be able to make that dream come true. Soon immersive moving imagery will be incorporated into architecture, fashion, publishing… Each new medium will offer its own opportunities for creative expression and I’m excited to explore those possibilities. Ultimately my main ambition is to keep learning, experimenting, and pushing my work forward.
Is there anyone that you’d particularly like to collaborate with?
I’m always interested in collaborating with people who can do something that I can’t. I’ve had some fruitful collaborations with composers and photographers. I think it could be fun to collaborate with dancers, writers, architects. I’m open.
What are your thoughts about the NFT space as it stands. Specifically in relation to your style of work and how you see it evolving.
I think NFTs are creating a new model for art ownership. Traditionally, owning a work of art has meant taking it out of circulation and shutting it away in a private home. I resist that kind of ownership. I believe art is meant to be shared. That’s what I love about digital art, it can be instantly accessed by people around the world but that’s also its Achilles’ heel – it’s ease of distribution has made it seemingly impossible to own. NFTs are changing that. I see NFTs bringing a spirit of generosity to the art world, allowing artists to share their work widely while being supported by collectors who see themselves as stewards of the art. This new breed of collector understands that the more lives an artwork touches, the more valuable it becomes.