Artist Caleb King, sat down with us and spoke about art, cons, books, and all things Geek!
When did you first realize you had a talent for art?
My father wanted to be an illustrator. Growing up, I would see him draw and paint tanks, and airplanes, and World War II vehicles. I thought it was awesome watching him draw an paint. Around 1993, I met with a friend who introduced me to comics for the first time. I had heard of characters like Batman and Superman, but had never read a comic. Suddenly, I wanted to draw like that. I wanted to make characters as cool as the ones I saw on the pages of these comics. Combine that with the wonder I felt watching my father paint in watercolors for a little project he had to do, and the spark was lit. I started sketching all the time. I rarely went anywhere without a sketchbook and pencils. I would copy panels out of comics, or trading cards I collected. I started devouring anything I could find that was in the comic book realm. Flash forward several years, and I had been touring with my band for a number of years, and we were beginning to wind down our touring schedule. We had been playing 200+ shows a year, and were burning out. But through all that time on the road, all those tours, I had been sketching, and drawing. I began making up stories and creating characters, and wanting to bring them to life. I decided to use the down time from touring to go study at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Four years later, I walked away with a BFA in Illustration, and began sketching the characters, and writing the story that would become Surreality, my first comic. So, long answer to a simple question. Ha! I guess I never really thought I had a talent for art, but I had a determination to make it happen. I work hard at my craft, and I desire to be better. I’m always chasing that elusive image in my head. Hopefully I never catch it.
When did you realize you could take you talent and turn it into a career?
I learned in school that we need to be driven to succeed at being an illustrator. We needed to go out in search of clients, as they were extremely unlikely to come to us, especially as new artists
in a market like Chicago. I had mentioned my travels with my band. I spent the years between 1998-2005 on the road with them. It started slowly, with maybe 25 gigs in a year, and then blew
up into a full blown 220+ days on the road for 3-4 years solid. It was nuts. We had a tour bus with beds, television, fridge, the works. We would drive to a gig, load in and set up, play, tear
down, and drive to the next gig. We slept in the bus, and had hotels for the down days between gigs. It was awesome and terrible. I saw so much of the country in those years. Met a lot of cool
people. I figured out who I was on the road. Part of the gig was hanging out at our merchandise table after the show to meet fans and sign autographs. I learned how to interact with people,
how to talk to them. I learned how to be a real person, and still be a professional. I learned the ropes of making a merchandise display, and a bit of retail flair. When I graduated from the
Academy, I took those same skills and applied them to my convention display. I had to learn the ropes of the convention circuit, but that was easy enough. Selling CDs and t-shirts at gigs was
essentially the same thing as selling illustrations at a comic con.
Were you always into geeky things?
As far as I can remember, I’ve always had a love affair with Star Wars. I’ve never known a time when I didn’t love it. My father introduced me to all kinds of things growing up. Star Wars, Star
Trek, George Romero’s movies, Mad Max. The list goes on and on. I’m grateful for those things.
Which Characters/Universe do you prefer painting the most?
I tend towards drawing Star Wars characters, and the Endless from The Sandman comic series, my all time favorite comic series, by the way. I can always find something new and exciting to
draw from these sources. It usually sparks my creativity to work on something original.
You’re also working on a couple books, like Verse/Chorus and Cradle, which comes more naturally for you writing or painting?
I’ve always been a natural storyteller. I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid. In a way, it’s my first artistic language, though I have had no real training as a writer. I’ve read a lot, and I still
read a lot, so I feel I’ve learned by absorbing the work of other storytellers. Hopefully it informs my writing on a subconscious level as well as in a tangible way. Drawing and painting is another
natural language, but one that came from more work and focus. Music/Writing/Painting, they all seem to have chosen me.
Tell us more about Verse/Chorus and Cradle, where did it all start, where did the vision for each come from?
Verse/Chorus is a collaboration between myself, and my good friend Nicolas R. Giacondino. Nic and I met several years before while he was working on a creator owned project with fellow creator David Pauwels called Free Mars. David and I met at a comic con in Chicago, and he had asked me to do some work on Free Mars, though that never came to fruition. What did come of that, however, was a collaboration between Nic and myself that eventually led to him being the full time artist on Surreality, and the beginning of our first creator owned project, Verse/Chorus. Nic had posted an image he created on Facebook one night that was inspired by the Guns N’ Roses song “Estranged.” I loved the image, but also loved that he and I had a common musical interest. The chatted about bands for an hour or more, and Nic then made the comment that we should make a story about a rock band in that late 80’s, early 90’s period. Almost immediately, I came up with the concept of the book: A rock band that sells their soul to the devil for fame and fortune, only to lose it, and their lives, as fast as they got it. It is slated to
come out in early 2018 from Source Point Press.
Cradle is a collaboration between myself and fellow creator Andrew Day. We both love outer space. We can talk stars, planets, black holes, and all manner of heavenly objects for hours. I had this concept that is based partly upon Fermi’s Paradox, which simply asks that if the universe is teeming with life, then why can’t we see evidence of it in space? Where are the colonies? Where are the structures? We could argue about the “evidence” of alien life, but that’s not the point. I like that question. I like that concept. I also had been reading about the concept of The Great Filter: a moment in the evolution of life/a species/a civilization whereby said life/species/civilization must pass through this filter and come out on the other side, or else perish. This filter can be many things, but it is a theoretical moment that all must pass through. The reason that we don’t see evidence of life in space, as one theory states, is that the have all failed to pass through this great filter. They all died out before they could become anything. Life failed the test. Cradle takes place in the far distant future, where humanity has colonized a majority of the Milky Way. They have long forgotten Earth, and out little part of the galaxy is empty. Cradle details the last days of mankind in a universe devoid of all other life forms, save
humans. They only wish they could have seen it coming.
You also have “Surreality” your on going web-comic, about a daydreaming slacker. Did the inspiration for Sydney come from someone you know?
Surreality is the most personal story I’ve ever told. It is based on life experiences, fears, situations, and hopes I’ve had. All of the characters are based on aspects of my personality. Each of them are true parts of myself. When telling a story, you have to selectively edit reality, and distill it into something meaningful. It needs to flow better than reality does. I a very real and tangible manner, Surreality is my life. It’s also your life, and the lives of the readers. That. To me, is the essence of telling a tale based in reality. Most of the time I am selling copies of Surreality to people who have never heard of it before, and they are taking a chance on it. Often, they come back to me, or email me later, and tell me how personal the story seems to them. They
feel like I’m writing their life. That, to me, is the power of storytelling. The power of story.
You are on the road going to a lot of cons, what do you love about con life?
Con life is awesome. I love traveling and meeting new people, and fans. The road never truly leaves you. The community, the fellow artists, the crowd, this things are always good. I love it,
even when it’s bad.
And what do you hate about it?
Con life is terrible. Con life is a lot of work. Booking shows, booking hotels, flights, managing expenses, renting cars, or arranging for transportation, etc. The actual exhibiting and selling your work is always a work in progress. I’m never truly satisfied with how my table is set up, so I’m always tweaking and re-working how I set it up. All of this distracts from, and often plays too big a role in, the development of my work. I am often basing what I’m creating around a con tour schedule, and that even dictated the content on some level. The two sides need each other, however. Without the pressure of having shows to have new work for, I might not be creating or working as hard as I am. It’s good to have pressure like that. I thrive on it, even when I dislike it.
Is there a con that you look forward to more than the others?
There are a few conventions I love attending. WonderCon in Anaheim, California is a personal favorite. The atmosphere, the crowd, the people, Disneyland (I’m a HUGE Disney nerd). It’s
hard to beat. New York Comic Con, C2E2 in Chicago, and the New Orleans Comic Con, but I must confess, I go more for New Orleans than for the convention itself. Ha!
Are there any other projects you have lined up?
I’m currently finishing up some work on the Star Wars Masterwork trading card set for Topps, and continuing to work on Verse/Chorus, Surreality, and Cradle. It’s a lot of juggling, but I
wouldn’t have it any other way.