Ferris Plock's intricately detailed paintings, drawings, and collages bring to life a hyper-adolescent fantasy world of colorful characters, from feline samurais to skateboarding burgers and biker pizzas. He lives with his wife, artist Kelly Tunstall, and their two kids in the very Peter Pan-ish city of San Francisco, so it makes sense that youthful themes pop up everywhere in his work. Food becomes animated, hops a ride on two wheels, and interacts with googly-eyed creatures in his surreal scenes. Ferris often collaborates with Kelly, whose doe-eyed mermaid ladies are equally iconic, and collectively their work has graced collectors' homes, restaurant walls, and even Converse shoes (we're dying to get our hands on the robot bunny pair).
But as Ferris' 13,000+ Instagram followers know, this guy is just as much of an artist for his kids Brixton and Gus (ages 5 and 2) as he is for his adoring fans. Ferris turns the boys' meals into monsters that look very similar to the ones in his paintings, and he documents these food collages to show folks outside his kitchen table a little more about his artistic process.
As big fans of Ferris' creatures, both on canvas and on the plate, we checked in with him to learn a little more about these hilarious monster meals.
How long have you been making these fun food sculptures for them to eat? (And how often do you do them?)
I started making food sculptures in earnest when Brixton turned two. I try to make their food look fun to eat so I end up making them food monsters a couple times a week at least.
What are the more outrageous pieces you've made for your kids?
I like macaroni and cheese beards a lot or kiwi eyes because the fruit is so beautiful and Brixton will actually eat it because it looks like a monster eye ball. Candy corn teeth at Halloween for a treat … Pomegranate seeds for freckles? Capers for stubble? I love using basic ingredients that I find in my fridge or kitchen to make things interesting for the kids.
Do your kids make demands on you now to make more of their meals this interesting?
It's funny but the only demand is one that Brixton made when he got to be around three. Brixton started asking us to take pictures of stuff because Kelly links her iPhone feed with our television. He gets to see the "food dudes" I make on the big screen along with pictures of other activities we've been doing as a family. Once Brixton and Gus get their food they often customize it immediately.
What inspired you to start documenting these meals on social media?
I think of it as a way to show where I am at these days with my creative process and how creative energy comes out in funny ways. All my energy comes from the same well. I'm not able to be in the studio as much due to being a full-time caretaker of two little boys. So I feel like some of my extra creative energy is coming out while I am taking care of them. It's a lot of fun and it's a good way to keep things light and playful and inspired.
Do you think you'd transfer these experiments for your kids into the gallery work you do somehow?
I actually have three food sculpture photographs that will be featured in my latest art show that opens August 7th at One Grand Gallery in Portland.
The monster themes in the food have been in your paintings over the years too. Where did this character come from? Does he have a personality that's always with you?
I think the monster food dudes came about from my inability to decide what I want to eat. I always think of all the different foods vying to be my next meal. Each burger, pizza, fish taco, ice cream cone, sushi platter, or spicy meatball is fighting essentially to be noticed and ultimately consumed by me. Part of me believes it is foods' deepest wish to be eaten.
Where did your obsession with bringing food into your art come from?
I think it has mostly to do with the fact that I have kids now and they demand to be entertained. I feel like if the meal is fun they are more likely to try new things even if they are "no thank you servings." Yes, I do feel like a used cars salesman sometimes, but it has been a great way for my kids to try new foods.
What themes generally come up in your work, and what do you think they say about you as an artist?
I feel like my wife (who is an amazing artist and my main collaborator) and I are storytellers. Most of our themes draw from parallels in our lives. I hope that my work and my themes make people happy and inspired to make other people happy. That is what art is for me. That's why I do it. It's a very simple theme and a very core theme. I want to make work that resonates with people on a primal level, a intuitive level, a level that will help recharge people, a level that will make people smile and therefore make other people smile. I feel like I was put on this planet to make happy, weird art and to raise my kids and love my wife.
What are you working on now?
I'm showing with One Grand Gallery on August 7th in Portland. The exhibition is called "Personal Pizza Party" and all the work revolves around my deep and profound relationship with my favorite food in the world (pizza). Kelly Tunstall and I have an exhibition opening at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco in November 2015. We also are having an exhibition in Tokyo in April 2016. I am also constantly working on commissions for all sorts of amazing people all over the place.