Tyler Eldridge '18 (Illustration & Graphic Design)

I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.

Describe a body of work that you are currently working on. My work currently focuses on storytelling through referencing the past. Most of my characters are inspired from old found photographs of people during the early 1900’s. I love their clothing, haircuts, and expressions as they were captured during a time far before me. Some of these candid moments show childhood friends playing together, laughing, fooling around. Some of the images are much more tragic; they come from tombstones in a very special cemetery behind a church looking over Florence, Italy. Whether in moments of happiness or sorrow, behind each face was a person who lived a lifetime. I like to imagine the memories that their lives consisted of.

When I find photographs of people in the times before, during, and after the onset of industrialization around the world, I’m intrigued with what gave genuine happiness to their lives. I like to reflect upon moments when I have been the most happy. Technology certainly contributes to a lot of amazing conveniences and tools that aid my life, but can they compete with the moments when I’m undistracted, and rather utterly in the present? This has led me to consider ways of “waking up” people to their own thoughts about existence.

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? MECA has taught me that technical ability can only get you so far if your concepts can’t connect emotionally with others. The task has been to investigate ways of communicating with my intended audience to achieve a feeling of authenticity. To emote this honesty, it’s been important to question each component and characteristic in my pieces to give them the most lucid voice possible. I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more and more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.

What inspires you? I’m inspired by other cultures and their traditions and customs. I never want to stop traveling or doing things out of my comfort zone. When you get lost or end up in a place you had never planned for, it sticks in your mind. You remember that feeling of excitement or terror, and hopefully you can end up laughing about it. But whenever you reflect back on these moments of waking up to the reality of life outside of the sheltered box we put ourselves in, the memories become so vivid.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? It hasn’t been so much as a single person giving me a piece of quotable advice, but rather a culmination. The collective advice has been to question everything, to not let yourself get caught in a current with no power to steer. Don’t silence that child in you that sees every new moment or place with curiosity and excitement.