Art Feature: Future Fantastic

Art Feature: Future Fantastic

Art by Eric Hibbeler
Feature by Rob Carroll

Eric Hibbeler’s artwork can be described in one word: fun. It’s a throwback to Golden Age pulps, back when sci-fi and action/adventure were like chocolate and peanut butter, served together as a crowd-pleasing delight. His images vibrate with kinetic energy. Astronauts soar across space on cosmic mopeds (Space Tourist) and dive weightless through  zero-G space stations (Tangerine Space Station). Spies fistfight above a fiery inferno (Man of Action: Act 3), and cowboys armed to the teeth face off against giant insectoid monsters that burst from the ground with the speed and power of a freight train.

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“I’m a bit of a retrophile,” Eric tells me. “Most of what inspires me is film, comics, radio dramas, and art from the first half of the twentieth century. I usually listen to audiobooks or radio dramas from the ’40s–’60s while I’m working.”

But his love for pop culture and crowd-pleasing genre excellence didn’t start in adulthood. His love for this joyful brand of creation started in childhood.

At the age of seven, Calvin and Hobbes and Dinotopia had already become major influences. By age eleven, anime like Dragonball, Pokemon, and Card Captor Sakura encouraged Eric to grow as an artist and start taking the craft seriously. By the time the Star Wars prequels started to release—another influence of his—Eric was practicing nonstop.

“By then, I had a strong desire to make things like what I saw.”

Eric’s process starts with preliminary sketches on paper, but from there he moves to digital.

“I paint in Photoshop,” he explains, “But since a lot of my influences are illustrators who worked with traditional media, I try to work in ways that are consistent with traditional styles—I try to emulate the look of old print media. One of my favorite things is analyzing another artist’s work to figure out how and why it feels the way it does.”

But don’t mistake Eric’s work for pastiche. It’s inspired by styles of the past, but it does much more than imitate them.

“I’m reinterpreting a nostalgic yesterday through a twenty-first-century lens that acknowledges its faults and celebrates its virtues in a way that people today can appreciate. I think my work is at its best when I’m taking silly things really seriously, so I tend toward the colorful, theatrical, and melodramatic.”

So what’s next?

“I really want to dig into projects that explore the genres of pulp media more deeply,” Eric says. “I’ve been reading a lot of Raymond Chandler and R. E. Howard stories, and I can’t get enough of their tone and attitude. Making anything that plays with that space would be a delight.”


Copyright © 2023 Eric Hibbeler

The Artist

Eric Hibbeler

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