New York by way of Detroit Artist Tristan Eaton Redesigns SoulTrain

Tristan Eaton is originally from L.A., but Detroit blood runs through his veins. Afterall, this is the city where the guy blossomed into one of pop culture's most relevant artists. Now based in New York, we feel we can claim him as our son. His mother, Gillian Eaton, accomplished actress and arts warrior, serves as vice president of arts & humanities for the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.

Tristan is grafitti artist, illustrator and toy designer, best known for his creation of the KidRobot custom vinyl "toys." He heads up the illustrious Thunderdog Studios.

Thunderdog was tapped earlier this year to completely re-design the Soul Train brand for the upcoming 2009 Soul Train Awards show (airing on Viacom's new Television network Centric this Sunday, November 29 at 9:00 p.m.) Considering the history of the the Soul Train show, you bet your ass this was a huge honor. The show has for decades played an important role in American culture.

"Luckily, VH1 (who art directed the project) gave us a lot of freedom in creating the new logo, new train and over all look and feel of the project," Eaton says. "The scope of the project was expansive and included: new text logo, new train, lock-ups of train and logo, ad layouts for print and outdoor campaigns, art direction and keyframes for the 20 second animated opening, subway campaigns and the redesign of the award statue itself.

"As we moved on to lockups with the logo, train and smoke, we realized how important the role of the smoke would be in the entire campaign," says Eaton. "The treatment and character of the smoke would become a main feature and compositional element in all ads and animations."

They ultimately went with a black background across the board, setting the scene in space with more primary colors in the smoke. The drop shadow effect on the smoke helped to invoke a slight retro throwback.

The composites were created for the Brooklyn Atlantic Avenue Terminal MTA "take over."

Thunderdog created a Soul Train universe, complete with funk planets of all colors, sizes and patterns, then moved on to creating characters ranging in style from the '70s up though the '90s, ending at the final scene with what Eaton calls the "complex funk city."

"Seriously, at this point we felt like we were being spoiled," he says. "Working on Soul Train was great enough, but we were thrilled to hear about this particular take over. Centric bought ad space through out the entire Atlantic Avenue station, taking over every single ad in the terminal. This is one of Brooklyn's largest train junctions with the MTA converging with the LIRR, so literally millions of people are getting exposed to the campaign every day."

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