Who The Folk?! Eli Libson

Graphic artist Eli Libson has the very cool job of being the Senior Game Artist for Monster Games, but also is accomplished with display art that’s been at Uptown and Edina art fairs. Next week, he’ll be the artist featured at the Rimon Artist Salon High-Brow/Low-Brow: An Illustrator Looks Askance at Art, on Jan. 20. Libson talks about how he got into video game design, the challenges of being a gallery artist, and some really interesting favorite Jewish food takes, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

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Are you from Minnesota?

Yeah, I grew up in south Minneapolis. We lived there until I think 1988 when crime started to get really bad. Our home was broken into three or four different times one time we came home from New Years there weren’t even my dad suits in the house. My parents decided to move and so we ended up in Chanhassen and I went from being in the Minneapolis Public Schools to the Minnetonka School District which was a little bit of culture shock.

Where did your love of art come from?

I’m not sure where it came from other than maybe there’s some genetics. My dad is an architect and growing up he would bring home his plans if was designing supermarkets or movie theaters and he would bring home is his blueprints plans and work on them at night. Next to his drafting table he had a little table for me and so we would sit and work together and he would ask me and encourage me to come up with ideas for the facade the front of the building and also help teach perspective and I loved it. He encouraged me to draw whenever and I loved it so much.

Undeniably too he brought me to see Star Wars that changed me forever. I saw that movie and from that point on I said that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve been doing that kind of that style of imaginative work ever since I was a tiny kid.

Looking at your website there’s a lot of what would be described as like sort of fantasy characters.

I was heavily inspired by you [George] Lucas and [Steven] Spielberg and the imagination that that that those guys brought to the screen. I’ve always been an extreme fan of aliens and creatures and sci-fi robotics. But also the illustrators, a lot of them happened to be Jewish as well.

Does technology make your job as an artist easier or do you still have to have the of basic principles of pencil and paper?

I believe pencil and paper still is the fastest way to convey an idea really. I do a lot of sketches before I sit down and ever do any kind of complicated modeling or building things. What pays my bills is I work with a video game development company in Northfield, Minn., called Monster Games. I started out doing concept art and building way-out crazy transforming vehicles and robot. We progressed with Nintendo to doing Pilotwings for the 3DS We were one of the only companies in the United States that was working on this top secret technology.

What’s more enjoyable to you the gallery side or Senior Game Artist of Monster Games?

I think they’re both fulfilling in their own ways. It’s nice sometimes knowing what you need to do and it’s pretty straightforward and you just go in and you do it and you get paid. I know a fair amount of people that do fine art and that’s their career and the stress is at the end of the day selling those pieces all the time so there’s a constant flow of money to pay your bills.

In the immediate term, you’re the featured at the Rimon Artist Salon?

I’m going to be presenting with Marty Harris, who is a terrific illustrator, and David Harris (executive director of Rimon) will moderate. We’re going to talk about illustrations and some classifications for fine art and lowbrow art. One of the things with the art that I do in particular, generally it doesn’t find its way into museums like the Walker or a lot of the contemporary art museums. We want to kind of discuss why.

Favorite Jewish food?

Well my grandmother made amazing kinishes. And love borscht. And I love tongue. My wife is Mexican so it’s lingua. When we get tacos I try to get the tacos with the tongue. I like some weird stuff I guess.

Favorite Jewish holiday?

I liked Purim as a kid.

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