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Tomopop Interview: Jason Chalker

8:00 PM on 09.14.2011 // Brian Szabelski

While the upcoming Vinyl Thoughts show will feature art from many, many artists, it's safe to say the one that's caught the most attention has been Jason Chalker's Labbit T.I.E. Advanced. I did, in fact, say "Holy ****" upon seeing this custom for the first time, and I knew when I had the chance to talk to artists from the show, I would like to talk to Jason.

Of course, since you're reading this, that's exactly what happened. We chatted with Jason about just how he came up with the idea for this Labbit custom, his other illustrations and how Jonny Quest in part inspires his artistic style. Hit the jump to check it all out!

First off, tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the vinyl scene.

I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I really enjoy making art in a lot of different styles and mediums. Since I got my MFA from SCAD in 1994 I have been a t-shirt artist, an animator for children’s interactive software, a graphic designer, a Flash animator/programmer, a painter, an animator on Warner Independent’s A Scanner Darkly, an interaction designer at Motorola and a freelance illustrator.

I guess I first started getting sucked into the vinyl scene back in 2002 or 2003. I immediately loved them. They were so creative and different from anything I’d seen before. I did my first customs for a show in Austin in 2006. I probably hit the (current) peak of my collecting when I lived in Chicago. I was a frequent customer at Rotofugi and A-Okay (which unfortunately went out of business).

Tell us a bit about your pieces, the Tron Teddy Troops and the Labbit T.I.E. What originally inspired these two, specifically that Labbit T.I.E.?

Well, the Teddy Troops was pretty straightforward. I knew it was going to be a raffle piece and it was only a day or two from the art drop off, so I went with something I new and loved since I was a kid… Tron.

The Labbit T.I.E. was kind of random. I was staring at the Labbit trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it when it hit me that the head shape would make a great cockpit. I then remembered the Darth Vader’s T.I.E. Fighter kit I built as a kid and it clicked. I scored an unopened '78 MPC model kit on eBay for pretty cheap and luckily it was about the size I remembered and it worked well with the Labbit.

How long did it take you to put together the Labbit T.I.E. custom?

Gosh, I didn’t really track my hours, but I would guess it was a solid 18+ hours of work.

Were there ever any issues you ran into when you were working on the Labbit T.I.E. custom? It seems like a deceptively simple custom from the outside looking in, but my guess is it probably wasn't.

It was fairly straightforward, but it wasn’t simple. :)

The only major issue I ran into was right at the end. When I was attaching the last solar panel (wing) I realized the body was very slightly twisted and therefore it wouldn’t sit flat. I had to go in and shave off the hard corners from the body and the receiving part of the wing to get it to sit right.

I've also noticed a lot of your art and illustrations have a bit of a retro vibe to it, and not just with the characters you use in them. Any particular reason behind those choices?

There are quite a few reasons behind them. Part of it is just that I LOVE pulp art. I especially like the ridiculous situations depicted on the covers of the men’s adventure magazines of the '40s and '50s. "Weasels Ripped My Flesh", "The Stripper Spy Who Sank 100 U Boats", "The Deadly Blonde Wench of Waikiki"… you get the idea, and yes, those are all real headlines. I loved Jonny Quest when I was growing up. Being a young kid in the '70s I was definitely influenced by Wacky Packages and all those great trading cards. A lot of the artists doing trading cards in the late '60s and '70s were the same ones doing the pulp covers in '40s, '50’s and '60s. I was also (obviously) very inspired and awed by Star Wars when it came out. Star Wars and Indiana Jones both borrowed heavily from the old pulp books and magazines.

What artists are your heroes/heroines? Whose styles have helped contribute to your style, even if it's just a little bit of inspiration?

Hmmmm… that could be a very long list. The short list would be The Brothers Hildebrandt, Mort Kunstler, Gil Elvgren, Norm Saunders, Robert McGinnis, Ralph McQuarrie, Jack Davis and Frank Frazetta. As far as more contemporary artists go, I would have to say Bill Presing, Coop, Ashley Wood, Kozik, Mike Mignola, Mark Schultz and Francesco Francavilla. As far as vinyl goes, I like Kozik, Huck Gee, The Beast Brothers, Amanda Visell, 64Colors, etc.

I would say the artists that have been the biggest stylistic influence would be Gil Elvgren, Jack Davis and Norm Saunders.

As well as being a custom toy artist, are you a big collector of toys and collectibles? If so, what do you collect and why?

Yes. My collecting has slowed down dramatically since I went back to freelance work. It can be an expensive habit. I really love Ashley Wood’s ThreeA toys. The craftsmanship is top-notch and most of them are huge and incredibly well articulated. I think they’re worth every penny. I also really like most of Kidrobot's Dunnys, Munnys and Labbits. Medicom does some great stuff also.

Are there any other shows or events we can expect to see your work in soon?

Why yes, there is! I will have five customs in the Vinyl Thoughts Art Show in Dallas on Sept. 15. Also, I will have two paintings in the "I Want My Music Video Art Show" at the Meltdown gallery in Hollywood next month. It should be a great show. I’m doing paintings based on the videos for Van Halen’s "Hot for Teacher" and Duran Duran’s "Girls on Film."

Thank you very much for sitting down to chat with us, Jason!

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Brian Szabelski, Editor-in-Chief
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Brian Szabelski is Tomopop's Editor-in-Chief, stuck with an ever-growing collection of figures and toys. When he's not posting on Tomopop, he can usually be found working on any number of project... more   |   staff directory

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