December 6th, 2011
03:15 PM ET

Sneak Peek: Tristan Eaton, from street punk to pioneering artist

Our 'Next Lister' for this week is Tristan Eaton, a former troubled teen who is now one of New York City's most successful artists.

A self-described “skateboarding punk,” Eaton was arrested as a youth for shoplifting and “tagging” city walls with graffiti.  He says throughout these hard times, art was his saving grace. Many times, it got him off the hook with judges and school principals who were impressed with his artistic talents.

Eaton began pursuing street art as a teen by painting everything from billboards to Dumpsters in the cities where he lived. He eventually made a name for himself, designing his first toy for Fisher Price at 18. Eaton has since become a driving force in the growing world of 'designer toys’ with innovations like the “Dunny” and “Munny” through collaboration with KidRobot.

The 33-year-old also has painted elaborate street murals in dilapidated neighborhoods all over the country, including an entire city block in a poor area in Jamaica.  Eaton says his goal is to bring art to people who wouldn’t ordinarily have access.

"We deserve art for the sake of art," he told CNN. "We deserve more from our landscape than gray buildings and billboards."

Through his company, Thunderdog Studios, Eaton has designed projects for Dell, Puma and the 2008 Obama campaign. His work is also featured in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. Eaton’s latest innovation is in 3-D art, which requires spectators to don lo-fi red-and-blue 3-D specs for the full effect.

With an impressive body of work behind him, Tristan shows no signs of slowing; in the works are projects with mega-brands Disney and Google.

Eaton is no ordinary artist.  He is an agent of change, and we'll show you his world and his unique vision on "The Next List," airing Sunday, December 11 on CNN at 2 p.m. E.T.

Please follow us @cnnthenextlist

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Filed under: Art • The Next List • Thinkers
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