Arts & Culture

Ottawa artist eepmon shortlisted in cross-Canada design competition

It’s been almost five years since I first met Ottawa-based digital artist Eric Chan, aka eepmon. Back then his star was on the rise: just four years after graduating from Algonquin’s Computer Engineering Technology — Computing Science program, he was teaching it. His artwork was taking him around the world and he was pioneering new methods in the field of digital art.

After interviewing Chan at Planet Coffee that cold day in 2010, I was pumped about the future: my future, his future, the future of art in a digital world. Then I had to condense our two-hour convo into this mini profile.

I’ve kept tabs on the guy, noticed his art in various places online and in Ottawa.

Perhaps most notable is his collaboration with Canada Goose — only 150 were made, but the eepmon images that grace the parka lining are so striking, so clearly a product of Chan’s creativity, that they have been circulated widely online.

Now, we have the chance to show our support for this guy’s unique art — not to mention his tireless pushing of the digital-meets-art envelope — through the Design Exchange People’s Choice Award.

I caught up with Chan, a graduate of Algonquin College’s Computer Engineering Technology -Computing Science course, in this email interview. (Skip to the last question if you are looking for info on the Design Exchange competition — and vote by November 28!)

It’s been a while since we first featured you in OTTAWA magazine. You seem to have kept yourself busy! How would you describe the last few years?

If I were to summarize, it has been super amazing all the way through. From living in New York City to working on awesome projects such as my collaboration with Canada Goose to winning the Carleton University’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, I have to humbly say it has been a great few years.

And you’re sticking with the eepmon moniker? 

Absolutely, eepmon is my artist moniker. It’s my DNA. When I wake up in the morning and see eepmon in the mirror and I am reminded about what life is to me. We only got one life so like a curious monkey in the big world, go out there and explore! Life is an adventure.

Are you still teaching? Do you still live mostly in Ottawa?

Currently I am based in Ottawa. I am not teaching at the moment though I am a proud alumni mentor for Carleton University’s mentorship program. Currently I am mentoring Madison Foran, a Bachelor of Information Technology – Interactive Multimedia Design (BIT/IMD) student. She is great and I see her potential. Look out for her!

You have said that the rise of digital media is good for artists, that the “established art world must pay closer attention to the digital ecosystem.” Can you give me an example of how the art world is adapting to the digital age? 

Certainly today you will see they are now adapting to the digital age. For example, in 2013, MoMA has acquired 14 video games into its permanent collection. Back then people would completely dismiss video games as a form of art, let alone have its own retrospective. At the end of the day it is about engaging audiences. What is the point having a gallery space if you cannot communicate to the public the way the public does? Open up the spaces more, challenges the status quo, smack it down, and mould it to your own liking.

I love your work with Mini Cooper. Was it the first time you worked with an automaker? What was the process for that series?

I was asked to create a 12-month calendar. Each month had a different Mini Cooper and I was asked to create digital artwork to express the seasons. I made 13 pieces in total for Mini Cooper Canada.

Tell me about the Design Exchange competition. I understand your Canada Goose Parka was on display at the Design Exchange Pop-Up Museum earlier this year. How did you get nominated in the People’s Choice category? What does the contest mean to you?

 The DX website says it best: The Design Exchange Emerging Designer competition is where innovative design and entrepreneurial flair intersect in the most attractive way – and the only competition of its kind in Canada.

The Design Exchange recently announced that I am one of 12 shortlisted winners. Because of this, I am also eligible for the People’s Choice Award, which is based on the Facebook “like” system. For me, being a shortlist winner and potentially winning the People’s Choice allows me to gauge my skill set level and abilities in respect to my competitors in Canada. Also, I love competing — win-or-lose contests provide great opportunities for artists to network and meet people in the industry. The juries will see your work, the people will see your work, and the industry will see your work. I always tell my mentees that if they want to get their work out there, I highly recommend that they compete.

As for my Canada Goose parka, it was part of the Design Exchange Museum’s pop-up titled, “Smarter. Faster. Tougher” in Toronto’s Distillery District. Curated by Marie O’Mahony, a professor of Advanced Fashion + Textiles a OCAD University, the show examines cutting edge advancements in sportswear and its wider cultural, social, and aesthetic significance.

If you’d like to cast your ballot in the competition, simply follow this link.