MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Eso Tolson is a Memphis artist who specializes in Typography and Graphic Design. He has been interested in art since childhood, and settled on Graphic Design. He received his BFA in East St. Louis, Illinois. He moved to Memphis in 2008, where he continued his education at Memphis College of Art. After graduating from MCA in 2010, he started work at Choose 901, a local nonprofit that focuses on highlighting things to do in the city. "They gave me space to just play around with things that I wanted to do, and that thing was lettering," said Tolson.
With years of freelancing and sharing his work online, in 2020, Coca-Cola held a following campaign, in which they would follow 365 people who were bringing hope and awareness to the world. Tolson was one of them. The same year, one of their representatives reached out to him to create an art piece that spoke about hope for the new year. His work, along with 25 other artists was debuted in Times Square in New York City.
Tolson also had the opportunity to create an art piece for George Floyd, for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. It was used to reflect on Floyd's death the year before. "I am very fortunate to be able to create meaningful art through just drawing letters. My work is usually about community, it's about Black Culture, it's about empowerment, just uplifting people," said Tolson.
He is also known for his inspirational quotes and tweets, and that is the cause of most of his social media following. "I was like, what if I just put words up there, instead of feeling like I had to draw the words?" said Tolson. "People were drawn to the words that I was sharing, just as much as the artwork that I was creating with the words. I seem to be an artist for words."
Before quarantine due to Covid-19, Tolson was a part of an organization that hosted lots of events. He liked the vibes so much during those events, that he decided to create a playlist about 'chillin,' since everyone was separated the majority of 2020 and 2021. "With everyone being isolated, I was like, how can I still do this kind of work, still curate a space for a community, for our people to feel good," said Tolson. He put out a mailing list where people could sign up, and they would be added to the playlist.
When it was time for the next Tedx in Memphis, he was given the opportunity to speak. His talk was titled, "Less Grind, More Chill."
"I think particularly celebrating artists for Black History is important because their work is just as important as the abolitionists, or it can be just as important as the people who are standing on the front lines. "There is a lot of parallels in their work and so...Don't discount the artists, their voices, their imagination, their creativity, all of that is needed to create this more just world for all of humanity, " said Tolson.