Welcome to a series of blogs highlighting some of our favorite artists. We're fortunate to work with talented artists across the globe. The last time I did a quick count there were more than 20 countries represented! We're fans of these artists and we think you should be, too. This week we begin with an artist I've personally known and worked with for about seven years. Look for new Meet the Artist blogs every couple weeks.
One of our favorite artists is Jeff Chandler. He has previously contributed sketch cards to our Batman: The Legend and The Walking Dead Comic Trading Cards Set 2, and you can expect to see his whimsical take on the world of Adventure Time in the trading card set scheduled for release later this year.
Online you can keep up with Jeff on his personal website, Facebook and LinkedIn. In June, Jeff will be sharing a table with his daughter (and her little clay dragon creations) at NY Comic Fest at Westchester County Center. For now, let's get to know him a bit better.
Where are you from, Jeff?
Born and raised in a tiny little farm town in way, way, upstate New York – Campbell, NY near the Finger Lakes. Great place to grow up and I love going home!
Do you have a formal education in art?
I attended 2 years of college. SUNY Farmingdale out on Long Island. Even though the school was primarily known as an Agricultural Center, they had a pretty good art program; Commercial Illustration and Graphic Design.
This was pre-computers so all of my initial training would be considered ‘old school’! Airbrushing, oil painting, life drawing, and lots of dark room time.
My first job was with an ad agency on 34th and Madison Ave as a production artist. All of our work was done on boards. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I got to experience the ‘Mad Men’ world of advertising before the digital age… Learned more about type setting, design and ad structure in those few years than I ever did in college.
When did you decide to become an artist?
I guess the answer to that would be: always? As far back as I can remember I have always drawn. I used to get in trouble all the time for doodling on papers, homework, desk, walls, etc.
Just seemed to be my calling as I never really had any other direction. (Although like any other 5 year old, I once dreamed of being an astronaut – until I realized how much math I would need to learn, that is.)
Who are your biggest artistic influences?
Growing up I was very influenced by a lot of the comic book artists of the time (Carmine Infantino, John Byrne, Walt Simonson, etc.) Drew Struzan is a big inspiration as well although I recently watched a documentary on him and promptly threw all of my pencils and markers in the garbage; the man is a genius and I am a phony!
If you look at my body of work, it’s obvious that watching Saturday Morning Cartoons probably influenced me the most! Nothing compares to the stylings and wackiness of the Sid & Marty Kroft, Max Fleisher, Hanna-Barbara, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery classics – and if you do not recognize these names, by all that is holy, PLEASE go look them up.
Oddly enough, Weird Al Yankovic is a HUGE influence on me as well
What’s your typical process for creating your artwork?
Wake up, procrastinate, coffee, procrastinate, lunch, and then procrastinate some more. Wait until deadline is a week away and then draw like a madman – complaining all the way that there’s never enough time!!
My process actually changes, depending on the project. In the case of the Adventure Time sketch cards recently finished for Cryptozoic…
See what I did there? Nice plug, eh George?
(Can I have my cat back now?)
Anyways, for a sketch card set, the first thing I do is photocopy nine blank cards up on a page and use that as my ‘testing ground’, working out concepts and rough thumbnails for the entire set using reference – in this case, I had to Google pics of the characters as I was unfamiliar with the show (and yes, I even watched a handful of episodes on Netflix. Gotta love a job that requires you to watch cartoons!!)
It’s around this time that I abandon the reference. Unlike a licensed project where you normally have to adhere to a strict style sheet – sketch cards are open to artistic interpretation and I like to put my own spin on characters and situations.
Once I decide the layout or idea is good, I will redraw tighter and then transfer that onto an actual card. I use the carbon copy method of scribbling pencil all over the back of my sketch – and then retrace it onto the card (it leaves a faint lead imprint). From there I redraw AGAIN using non-repro blue pencil, erase the original lead and start coloring!! (See, told you I was old school)
Once fully colored with my super bright Sharpies and Berol markers, I then ink and finish off details by adding colored pencils.
I know, I know – 99% of the art world inks first. What can I say, I’m a freak of nature.
What are you currently working on?
Outside of the Adventure Time cards mentioned above, I am currently working on a set of illustrations for Scholastic Books. The book series is geared toward 5-7 year olds and depict famous landmarks such as Statue of Liberty, The White House, Air Force One, etc. My job is to draw the landmarks, but with their outer shells or ‘skins’ pulled back to reveal rooms and structures inside.
I pulled so much online reference of White House floor plans, Air Force One schematics, Oval Office layouts that I’m pretty sure I am now under constant CIA surveillance.
If I go missing, you read it here first.
If you couldn't be an artist, what would you do?
Always wanted to own a movie theater or comic book store – but if those lofty dreams don’t materialize, I’d probably follow a culinary path. I love to cook and play in the kitchen so that would be fun!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare. Time. What is this?
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I secretly want to be a bronie – but too afraid to give in.
Dinner party with anyone, living or dead. Who are the guests and what would you talk about?
Ben Franklin, Bigfoot and Bettie Page. We would be paranormal investigators
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon as a child?
Scooby-Doo was a big one as a kid!
Dungeons & Dragons was a ‘must watch’ and pretty cutting-edge animation for the time.
Thundercats was huge in college and I recently turned my kids on to Batman Beyond – one of the best opening sequences ever!!
What was the best compliment you've received?
I had a high school teacher introduce me as “The neatest person I know.” That tops my list of best compliments ever.
If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be and why?
Name your favorite song.
Would have to narrow it down to two:
“White and Nerdy” – Weird Al (My kids are convinced he wrote it specifically for me)
“Little Willie” – Sweet (Cheesy song that brings back great childhood memories)
You are marooned on an island. What five items would you like to have with you?
(Leave the damn Howells on the dock)
Name one thing that drives you crazy.
Filling out these questions!
I actually have road rage, even when I’m not in the car! I tend to yell at people who do not know how to stop at a stop sign. Drives me insane!
Now get off my lawn you whippersnappers!
Name the most famous person you've had a face to face encounter with ("brush with greatness").
Got to meet John Dykstra once at a private screening of Star Trek IV. This was years ago when I was working in Manhattan and I snuck into the event using one of the ad reps’ credentials/invite! Totally an inside industry event but I pulled it off.
Recently I found myself in Steve Sansweet’s hotel room at Star Wars Celebration III surrounded by all of the SW actors; David Prowse (Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Kenny Baker (Artoo), Ray Parks (Darth Maul), Jeremy Bullock (Boba Fett), Warwick Davis (Wicket). That was pretty surreal.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Sneak into my local theater and catch up on all of the cool movies I’ve missed.
Thanks for all the insight, Jeff.