Big smile, cheerful disposition — Eitan Barokas was always the mood-lifter in the groups he associated with while in college. He became increasingly more involved with art as his college years were vooming to an end — you could spot his paintings and photography at various arts event on campus, their color and spontaneity trapping your attention.
A painter, digital doodler and photographer, Eitan doesn’t limit himself to any one medium of expression. His studies are just as diverse: he graduated from Emory in May 2017 with a Strategy and Management Consulting degree from the University’s Goizueta Business School, while also completing a major in Interdisciplinary Studies through Emory’s College of Arts and Sciences.
A brave soul, he forewent the financial safety of a traditional, formal job and returned home in New Jersey to become a full-time artist.
Loli: Tell us how your interest in art developed — give us a run-down of your artistic progression.
My interest in art most definitely stems from my Mama. She is an artist that has been creating consistently since she was a little girl. She is the most impressive free-hand ceramist I know, and a whiz when it comes to space and color. From a young age, I have been living under an artist’s roof—and that’s where this whole story begins.
My foundations in creativity were truly fostered at home. Outside of the home, that foundation was supplemented at a young age with visits to museums, walk-throughs in galleries, conversations with street artists, and books on Miro, for example. The art-world is truly a giant, but as a youth I was quite immersed in a good bit of it, and my interest in art grew just as fast as I did in those years.
To fast-forward to my later years in high school— I downloaded a children’s drawing application on my phone my junior year and I just started (digitally) doodling. I never learned how to draw, and was/am, admittedly, quite miserable at it. However, something about the brushes offered in the application and the way in which my finger controlled the output being created on the screen led to creations that I was truly proud of. From there, my interest in art began and I have been creating ever since.
Not long after my beginnings with this digital medium, following my first knee surgery, my mother brought home some basic acrylic paints and some canvases and urged me to give painting a try while I was bent-up on the couch. I didn’t know it then, but painting would quite literally change my life. This began a love that exists until this very day—a love that will live forever.
Shortly after, I picked up photography, too, and graduated from solely using my cell phone to leveling-up with a DSLR camera. Since then, I have snapped tens of thousands of photographs.
The rest is literally history. I’ve been creating ever since my first doodle in high school—and I will continue to create for the remainder of my life.
Did you ever experience an eureka moment that changed the trajectory of your art-making?
In the Summer of 2016, I decided to forego a traditional internship and live out one of my most pressing dreams: to set up a table with my artworks and open up shop on the streets of Soho, in New York City.
I ran quite the operation—I set-up a vendor’s table on the sidewalk of Prince Street and Broadway and I also used a two-step ledge that was on the side of the building across from my table to display more of my works in (street) gallery fashion.
On June 10, 2016, which was my first day running my street shop, I sold seven prints of digital artworks along with one original painting on canvas. My customers that first day were bringing my artwork back to their homes in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Mexico.
By sunset, when I packed up my works in the car and threw my fold-up table in the trunk, I reflected on all that had happened that day. I came to realize just how amazing it was to have people stop in the middle of the street in the fastest-moving city in the world to view my work. Even more than that, having complete strangers purchase my works—that was the best feeling I had ever felt.
That moment of reflection on my first day was my ‘eureka’ moment. It’s been racing in my mind ever since.
Tell us about your current project(s). What are some ambitions you have?
Currently, I’m working on a new body of work in my studio along with a few private commissions that are in progress. My main objective during this time is to make good on opportunities to exhibit my art and expose as many people as I can to the works that I have been creating.
My dream now is to have a solo-show in a New York City gallery before the year ends—so I have been dedicating my time towards making that dream a reality. My ambitions with these projects and dreams are all the same: I want to be the Artist of my generation. I want to make people feel.
How was your Emory experience? Did Emory help you shape your artistic interests; did it sharpen your skills?
My experience at Emory, in hindsight, was quite incredible. I had my struggles at first, and I even wanted out in the beginning, but I’m thankful to have had the four years that I had at Emory.
Things changed for the better during my first year at school when I met a fellow student named Davion in my History of Jazz class. He was building a team of like-minded creatives, and meeting him literally changed my next years at school, and ultimately the journey of my life.
Through him, I was introduced to an incredible group of some of Emory’s sharpest and most creative minds—many of which became my closest friends, and some of which still are today. Together, we all started a business, and through this business I had the opportunity to work with and at times lead a team. My main priority in task was managing a hip-hop artist, Matt De LeReaux, who taught me quite a lot about what being an artist truly means.
In that first year, meeting the C.O.R.E. Culture Group team, and building a business from the ground-up centered around creatives— that completely changed the scope of my four years. It shaped my artistic interests in a place where I thought they may cease to exist. It sharpened my skills in art, as these individuals pushed me to create as often as I could and to chase my passion all the while I was building around theirs. Beyond art, the experiences I had enabled me to work in business, picking up on all of the intangibles which I carry with me and employ every day.
What is one memory from school you hold dear?
One memory that I hold dear is actually one of my last at Emory—it is of the day that I submitted my paperwork for my degree.
I had quite the four years at Emory and from the day I first walked on campus, I was thinking about the day that I’d be walking out. I was involved in so many things other than just school, from my time with C.O.R.E. Culture Group, to painting in my frat house’s basement. As a result, I often put school on the back-burner. So, submitting my paperwork for my degree meant that, while I had stayed busy with other, non-academic experiences during my time at Emory, I also accomplished the one thing I was truly there for: to receive an education. Graduating with a Goizueta degree AND a liberal arts major, while doing all that I did outside of school in my time at Emory—I’ll be proud of that forever.
What do you wish you knew as a freshman?
As a first-year, I had a lot of things backwards. I saw life through a certain lens which was so fixed and precise, when in reality, as I’ve learned, the journey of life is more abstract and open-ended than that. More than anything, I wish that I knew just how much change would occur each day, and more importantly, I wish I understood just how okay that change is.
What do you think it’s most important to know as an emerging artist?
As an emerging artist, I believe that more important than the work you create, the network you build, or the opportunities that come your way—is trust. In this day and age, you need to trust yourself and the vision that you’ve outlined for yourself as an artist and for your artwork, the value of your creations, the network you’ve built, and the opportunities you’ve come across; [they] are vulnerable and susceptible to tumble at any moment.
Trust yourself and your vision throughout the process. Continue to grow and adapt while remaining true to yourself throughout your journey. Never change for anyone other than yourself, but be willing to make the appropriate sacrifices and take the appropriate leaps—however, never sacrifice your integrity, or the things that comprise your identity. Trust truly is the most important thing to know as an emerging artist. So, I challenge all emerging artists to trust themselves.
What are your plans for the future?
My most immediate plans for the future are to complete my new series of paintings and to complete my commissions that are in-progress. Upon completion, I will be sending out several submissions for specific exhibitions and showing opportunities, working towards accomplishing my 2017 goal of a solo show in a New York City gallery.
While I have outlined plans far beyond this calendar year with specific goals set through 2020, my primary focus is to meet the above goals in order to be best positioned to take on and accomplish the next ones. So, for now, I have to get back to work! These plans won’t just come to fruition on their own.
If I may leave some last words with the readers: trust yourself and keep it moving.