At some point, an artist has to find an income, and if they’re lucky, that income will come from their art. Of course, when art is brought to business, lines are drawn. There are differences between what you are commissioned to produce, and what you love to create, and so the two worlds are best kept separate. One to make a living, and the other to make art for art’s sake.
That is exactly what Erik Xydis does. The winner of Kompetes’ ‘Street View’ competition, Erik uses his skills as a photographer to achieve both needs. ‘I make a living doing the basic stuff and keep my love for photography doing all the crazy stuff.’ The stuff he produces to make a living can be found here, where there are countless portraits of men and women, in a variety of poses. These images are, as they should be, professional, crisp, sleek. They are the type of photographs that Apple might use in an ad campaign for a new iPhone. Then there is the ‘crazy stuff’, or the photos that Erik takes towards photography as a hobby. One of these is the picture that won the ‘Street View’ competition, ‘City Dweller’, and that same professionalism is clear to see. A simple image of a lone pigeon waiting on the pavement beside a busy road, and with Erik’s editing, we find a striking shot in greyscale.
The divide between personal and professional continues across to his Instagram presence. @LabLArts, titled after his business website, Erik posts about his clients and the accompanying work, while @the_variant is what he calls his ‘Random Art Instagram’. Here we see Erik in his free time, his art in development and, overall, there is something much more personal about the work he does outside of business hours. Sketches of superheroes, Kurt Cobain and Tupac, digital drawings of Kermit and Miss Piggy drinking at a bar. ‘Teaching myself different mediums as I go,’ Erik writes in his bio, and it is refreshing to see such a professional artist work through perfecting new forms. These are in direct contrast to his LabLArts work, work that attests to his time at Houston Baptist University studying Art and Communication. With these, he has built himself a place to live off his art. With his creativity, he continues to expand his knowledge as an artist.
Perhaps unsurprisingly as a Communications graduate, Erik taps into social media to push his work both to a wider audience and to push himself to work more. ‘I honestly feel that social media is good for photographers. There is some incredible work in the world and a lot of it. Daily I’m being blasted with images, that I feel, blow my work out of the water. But rather than let it cloud my drive, I use it to fuel my love for photography. If I truly have a passion for it, then I want to constantly grow to be my best and my best should always grow and evolve.’ For Erik, social media is a grand-scale influence board, where everything he sees challenges, inspires and demands that his work join that online collage of incredible art. ‘I honestly don’t know where my work would be right now if not for the vast impact of other’s work. Why not allow yourself to be inspired by it. Nobody has the same eye.’ It is easy, as an artist and online, to focus on your own presence and your own work. Erik’s optimism and ability to see himself as part of a huge community is something many more people online could use a dose of.
The integral part for Erik is to allow the influence of others, but maintain your own idiosyncrasies. ‘Even when you’re trying to recreate something you’ve seen, in the end has a bit of your own influence.’
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Erik was hit by Hurricane Harvey while we talked over email. Not initially realising that the hurricane had hit his town, I emailed how it is you pronounce his surname, with unintended callousness. Later the same day I reread the email in which Erik had told me where he lives, and quickly emailed again to ask how he was. His response, I think, is worth including in full.
‘We get hit by hurricanes all the time because of our location. However, this was worse than I’ve ever seen. My house was not flooded, but the power did go out. I’m very proud of my city. We’re showing great strength and humanity during all of this. From day one of the this storm, people have been putting themselves at risk to help others. An example: our local sporting goods stores sold out of boats because people bought them out for the sole purpose of going out to rescue those that were trapped and needed evacuation. Hurricane Harvey was devastating, but it seemed to shake the rust off of communities in need of community. Something our country has desperately needed for awhile now.
…and you pronounce it ex-ee-dis.’