The eBoy group has developed a sophisticated way of exploring the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement with a 3D look and feel. Their work is all about cityscapes filled with robots, cars, guns and girls. This is a new, modern, exciting pop art. Are we on the verge of a movement? Are they the artists of the future, about to lead an art revolution like the one Andy Warhol did back in the sixties?
They call them “the Godfathers of Pixel.” eBoy is a pixel art group founded in 1997 by Kai Vermehr, Steffen Sauerteig and Svend Smital. With their unique, sexy style, eBoy has earned worldwide recognition and caught the eye of companies like MTV and Honda. eBoy created Pixoramas for Adidas and Coca-Cola and worked with Nike on multiple occasions over the years, doing mostly art for T-shirts and games. eBoy’s style has gained a cult following among graphic designers.
Kai Vermehr, Steffen Sauerteig and Svend Smital—how did you meet?
Steffen and Svend met as teenagers growing up in East Berlin. We had a pretty normal and happy childhood. When we became teenagers the driving force for us was Punk and New Wave. Vermehr’s family moved a couple of times. They moved to Venezuela because of his father’s work. It was a liberal household, influenced by the ideals of the sixties. Steffen and Kai met when they worked at MetaDesign.
How do you work together when you are located in different parts of the world ?
We have two studios. One is in Berlin, where Steffen and Svend work, while Kai has a home studio in Vancouver. We work together. One of us starts out, then the next picks up and so on. Along the way we discuss how things are working.
It’s the best way to get sharp, clean results. Also, handling pixels is fun and you are forced to simplify and abstract, which is an advantage of this technique. The difficulty we face when we use pixels as a design technique is translating from real to representational.
How long does it take to complete one cityscape?
It takes about six to eight weeks to finish a very detailed cityscape, when all of us are working on it full time. But, if we had to do it in our spare time, which happens often, it could take years.
Do you have a vision in your mind when you sit in front of an empty screen?
Only a vague one. The fun is being surprised and to be able to change directions along the way. Unexpected stories begin to emerge when more details are added, which start to create unforeseen relationships.
There’s a lot of humor, nudity and fun inside your cities. What’s the funniest thing you ever created? Do you have hidden messages?
On Miami we like the guy on the beach tower shouting back to the street. Also you’ll be able to find the Internet on BazQux if you have watched “The IT Crowd.”
Where do your influences come from?
Pop culture, shopping, supermarkets, TV, toy commercials, LEGO, computer games, the news and magazines. Cities like Berlin, our hometown. But New York, Vancouver, Rio, Los Angeles—any city is fascinating. We have completed “Pixoramas” of cities like Tokyo, Paris, Rio, Berlin and London, and we’re currently funding our newest cityscape based on San Francisco via Kickstarter.
Do you leave your art to the viewer’s interpretation?
Oh yes, we love it when people tell their own stories when looking at our work!
What do you think is the difference between an artist that sits in front of a canvass and an artist that sits in front of a computer?
There’s zero difference in “value” or “quality” or “creativity”—to think that would be silly. But the difference is in the possibilities and results. In fact, just being an artist in itself doesn’t mean much. Being creative and to some extent productive is what really matters. And that’s something that’s not limited to a specific profession.
You have a new collaboration creating plastic toys with Kidrobot, and a line of wooden toys under your own label. Now you are working in three dimensions. Does that feel different?
Yes it does. But the virtual world is wonderful as well.
Are there any other aspects of your life that find their way into your art?
The daily stuff, a nice chair we find, a cool video, someone’s music we like. We build references to these things.
Who are the artists that inspire you?
Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein, Vincent van Gogh, Pendleton Ward.
Is there an eBoy soundtrack that you listen to when you work?
We grew up with Disco, Punk, Blues, Rock, Alternative and Jazz. But we often listen to new genres of music. The “subscription services” are wonderful for this.