Eddie Tucker is what used to be admiringly called a rugged individualist.
In a world where cookie cutter
people seem to abound, he pursues his hopes and dreams on his own terms.
He has strong convictions and opinions that he doesnt mind sharing--a
rare and refreshing quality today, when so many adhere slavishly to the politically
correct stance du jour, lacking not only the courage of their convictions,
but seemingly any convictions at all.
attempts at stereotyping are fruitless. Upon meeting him in his office/studio/gallery
for the first time, one is struck by how little he resembles the pre-conceived
notion of a successful graphic artist or gifted painter, both of which he
No flamboyant, pastel fashion statements here, and certainly no gaunt, wild-eyed,
paint-spattered artiste, just itching to explode or cut his ear off. Nope.
The first impression is that of the Harley-riding, take-me-or-leave-me guy
he is: a thinner Jerry Garcia lookalike, dressed in jeans and a well-worn
tee shirt, jumping from an almost-finished canvas to an in-progress brochure
design on his computer, wearing the two hats easily, comfortable in both.
A quiet man, Eddie opens up to strangers slowly and somewhat cautiously.
It is apparent that he doesnt suffer fools gladlymost likely
doesnt suffer them at all. In the background are the sounds of Nora
Jones on the stereo. A quick look around reveals an impressive music collection,
dominated by jazz. Not what youd expect a biker to be listening to,
but then again, Eddie Tucker defies the biker stereotype too.
So, exactly who is Eddie Tucker? Commercial artist for hire, passionate painter,
Thoreau on a Harleyor all three? Getting the lowdown on a quiet man
whos not crazy about blowing his own horn can be a daunting task, unless
the people who know him best are eager to open up. They are.
Ive known Eddie for 35 years and weve been through our
share of ups and downs together, said Walter Dawson, a former rock
and roll writer for Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy, and presently working in
the much less wild and crazy world of corporate internal communications.
looks like a biker and I guess there are elements of him that fit the stereotype,
but hes much deeper than the image, Dawson continued. Hes
truly a good guy, does all kinds of charitable work that most people dont
know about because he doesnt talk about it. Hes also one of the
most talented artists in the world, and completely focused, whether hes
working on a painting that comes entirely from his head or a corporate brochure.
His clients love him and if you need proof, take a look at the number of
private collections his paintings are in and all the corporate work hes
Well, lets see. Tuckers posters and paintings grace the homes
of private collectors from Los Angeles to Milan, from Flagstaff, Arizona
to his native Memphis, Tennessee. His work has also been featured in numerous
solo and group exhibitions, and through word of mouth, his reputation has
grown over the years. He remains philosophical about the recognition.
not attempting to make any profound statements or reflect any particular
passion other than the act of painting itself, Tucker maintained. Painting
is a very personal experience and I paint with the intent of breaking up
the canvas with form, intense color and motion to create a visual dance.
The dance started early on. A Memphis homeboy, Tucker didnt leave for
the bright lights of New York or L.A. after graduating from the University
of Memphis in 1970 with his B.F.A. He stayed put, taking advantage of all
the local opportunities he saw and building a reputation as an art director
and graphic designer in the ad agency world.
That decision paid off in spades, as evidenced by the more than 150 awards
Tucker has won for creative excellence over the years. He put in his time
in the agency business, finally serving as vice president and creative director
at Memphis largest advertising agency for a decade before striking
out on his own and hanging his Eddie Tucker Design shingle in 1991. For the
first few years, he worked out of a midtown Memphis office. Three years ago,
he bought a commercial condominium thats sandwiched between the Mississippi
River and Memphis famed Beale Streeta place that serves as Tuckers
studio, office and gallery.
identity to festival posters, Eddie Tucker is the go-to guy in Memphis. A
poster Tucker created for Memphis Brooks Museum of Art appeared on the set
of the television series ThirtySomething. Another, created for
the Center for Southern Folklore, appeared in the Tom Hanks movie Cast
Away. His 1998 W.C. Handy Awards poster was in an episode of the Starz
Network show Going to California. In 2001, Tucker created the
poster for the annual Notodden Blues Festival in Notodden, Norwaythe
largest blues festival in Europe. Tucker has donated his time to produce
Handy Blues Awards posters for The Blues Foundation for more than 20 years.
Stop in any number of blues clubs throughout the U.S. and Europe and youll
see them. An entire collection of the posters can be found in the Warner
Brothers Records offices in Los Angeles. They are coveted by poster art lovers,
and those who own one or more wouldnt part with them for anything.
There are commercial graphic artists who lack the talent or the muse or the
determination to paint. There are gifted painters who could never succeed
in the world of graphic design. Eddie Tucker is best of breed in both disciplines
and he has the rare ability to compartmentalize like few can.
its a corporate project or a painting hes working on, Eddie
is passionate and emotionally invested in the integrity of his work,
according to Laura Derrington, an independent Memphis writer who has been
Tuckers professional collaborator and friend for 20 years. And theres
something more, she confided. Ive never worked with anyone who
is not just incredibly talented, but who has the ability to inspire other
people and make them better. He makes you reach in and pull more out of yourself
than you ever would with someone else. On commercial projects, Eddie looks
at the marketing, the budgets, the needs and the audience and he still comes
up with a concept and design that blows people away every time. Hes
head and shoulders above anybody Ive ever seenon an entirely
Tucker has found enviable success in the world of graphic design. But thats
not enough to satisfy his passion for art. He not only loves to paint. He
me escape from the linear thinking and highly structured world of graphic
design, Tucker explained. My subject matter ranges from abstract
to figurative, from abstract to satire. A photographic image might be the
catalyst for an idea, or it might be a vision in my minds eye that
I want to bring to life.
Several months ago, Tuckers unique vision turned to the family. After
he painted a portrait of his own family in a completely unconventional, contemporary
style, word spread throughout Memphis and he began offering this decidedly
one-of-a-kind treatment on a commission basis.
response has been enthusiastic. Take Memphian Barney Abis, who commissioned
Tucker to paint one of hisportraits of the Abis family. It now hangs prominently
over the fireplace in the familys new home.
This is much more a great piece of art than just a family portrait,
Abis said of the large and very colorful portrait, which includes Abis, his
wife and three childrenand the family dog. Everybody who comes
into our home loves it and they all want to know the name of the artist.
Even the decorator we hired, who insisted we put all the family photographs
in back hallways, said that Eddies painting belonged where people could
That kind of word of mouth keeps Tuckers phone ringing. Hes a
busy guy, but makes time for the things that matterhis family, the
freedom he enjoys riding his Harley and the charitable work he does for things
he believes in. One of those causes is the Memphis Food Bank, an admirable
organization that lives up to its slogan Feeding the Need. Tucker
has worked with the Food Bank for more than a decade, and most of that work
has been pro bono.
We insist on paying Eddie for things now, because he does so much for
us, it just wouldnt be fair to take all of it for free, said
Food Bank director Susan Sanford. His relationship with us started
with the Feeding the Need project many years ago and hes been our resident
ever since. Eddie is an incredible talent and this community is lucky to
have him. Hes a true philanthropist because he doesnt do this
kind of work to have people say what a great guy he is. He does it because
it makes him happy to help.
Eddie Tucker has three distinct faces visible to the public: commercial artist,
gifted, visionary painter and wild man biker. The other faces are private
and carefully guarded, seen only by the man in the mirror and those he lets
into his world. Theyre the faces that are so intriguing.