Through his fantastical lens, Eric Reh illustrates the playful side of nature
Illustration is second nature to Eric: he compares his process to “going for a walk”, one that begins without a destination in mind nor a concrete aim. Because of this, his work is littered with naturalistic elements, including animals, plants, the sea and the mountains.
- Ayla Angelos
- 16 December 2019
It comes as no surprise to hear that Offenbach-based Eric Reh began to draw during childhood. Like most illustrators, he was inspired by early computer games and those found on Super Nintendo and SEGA. Eric didn’t own a console himself but saw this as a positive in terms of the work he produces now. “I’ve started to draw my own worlds these days,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Inspired by games, they can also be perceived as analogue games on paper but with a childish amount of fantasy, which is one of the most valuable features you can have.”
A further catalyst came from the influence of a family friend – a nature painter – who used to take Eric outside to draw the landscape. “He also fixed cars and gave me my first spray cans in my early teenage days, which led me to graffiti and writing. I caused lots of trouble but it gave me good memories and unforgettable days and nights,” says Eric. After working with disabled kids and teenagers after graduating from high school, he decided to pursue university education in the field of art. Then, he went on to study at Offenbach University of Art and Design: “I’m still there, getting closer to my diploma and enjoying the interdisciplinary atmosphere.”
Illustration comes as second nature to Eric: he compares his process to “going for a walk”, one that begins without a destination in mind nor a concrete aim. “Going for a walk has no content at the start, it gets filled up with content by walking around, discovering things, choosing directions, changing directions, pausing – sometimes you don’t even know where you are and get lost.” Because of this, Eric’s work is littered with naturalistic elements, including animals, plants, the sea and the mountains. He also tends to grapple with timely issues in politics, society and “how it all works together” – in the hope of “ending capitalism and all the other shit to make this world a better place for us all.” Therefore he sees his work as a form of escape from daily life and “struggle”, that enables him to leap into a fantastical world where it’s just himself and his drawings.
Putting pen to paper, Eric draws with ink, ink pens and ball pens as his tools of choice. Most commonly working with black and white, or even blue and white, before later (sparingly) filling his work with colour using digital processes. “Some of them stay in one colour because I think they work really nicely like that, and my focus is more on the form rather than the colour,” he explains. What’s more is that he likes to experiment with airbrush, acrylics, crayons on paper and canvas on the odd occasion, which gives his work a somewhat mixed-medium approach – one that’s both playful, textured and clean all at once.
A recent project saw Eric complete a Riso calendar with Berlin-based art collective, Francis Benefiz. “We took messages out of fortune cookies and made some illustrations for them,” he says, about the concept that looks towards the universe being “inside of you” as the inspiration. Additionally, Eric also finished up a commission for the Country Zine by 3rd Planet books, based in Leipzig, that depicts plants, animals and people “living in the countryside with hats and different moods, and everything is moving in some special kind of dynamic.”
Imperative to the purpose of Eric’s work is that it has to be open for interpretation. It’s up to his audience on how they react, “I practice not to expect that much in general”. He continues to explain how on the roof of his university’s building in Berlin, there’s a message that states: “Kunst muss nicht” (which translates to ‘art does not have to’). “I think that’s one very important thing about art, is that it doesn’t have to mean anything but it can also mean everything.”
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.