VMP Interview: Chris Hunt (Jan 15 Visual Artist)

On June 22nd 2015

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Original 12" x 12" January art print

VMP: What was a typical Saturday morning like in your house as a kid?

CH: For a good long while when I was a kid, my mom and I would show up at the Toys R Us in Boise, Idaho at 9 am sharp every Saturday morning. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up so my allowance was $5.25 every week. The exact amount of money it took to buy a Star Wars Power Of The Force figure.

In 1995 Hasbro (still Kenner in ‘95) relaunched their SW line ahead of the Special Editions to much fan fare. I was a HUGE SW fan and so I was elated. It was hard to get these things though. This was the mid 90’s so the internet wasn’t in full swing yet, and no one could even imagine an “ebay” at the time, so the secondary market was huge for these things and people were buying them up in bulk and selling them to collectible stores when such things still existed.

So the reason we had to show up at 9 am was so that I could get in line ahead of the swarthy 30 something year olds who were there to scoop up as many of the new figures as they could to resell. Toys R Us got shipments every Friday so they’d put new stock out the night before and so it became a battle every Saturday morning to get back to the action figure aisle. The one advantage I had going for me was that since I was 9, I could SPRINT ahead of everyone full blast as soon as the doors opened, and that gave me a 30 second head start to look through the figures trying to find what ever was the most coveted figure at the time. It got heated at times but I have to say I got a lot of miles out of $5.25 a week, just for the memories alone.

VMP: How did you initially become interested in art? At what point did you decide to go for it as your primary occupation?

CH: I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. I hated coloring books because I couldn’t stay in the lines, so I decided to make my own. I had a lot of support from my family from day one so supplies were never in short supply.

I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio. I moved out to Idaho with my mom in ‘94. I had an older Aunt and Uncle back there who use to drag me around to record stores and these slightly sketchy collectible stores and thrifts when I’d go back in the summers. They were responsible for a lot of who I am. They got me into music, comics, vintage clothes, etc. They had a buddy who was self publishing a comic in Columbus, so the summer of ‘95 they handed me his comic. It was called “THB” and his name was, Paul Pope. I sat on (my aunt) Karin’s shag green carpet in her bedroom and just got lost in the book. I was immersed in this weird sci-fi story about a teenage girl on Mars and just couldn’t get over the fact that all of this was coming from one guy’s mind.

I decided I wanted to make comics that day. Years later, Paul and I became friends and I have been fortunate to learn a great deal from him first hand, which is a whole other crazy story for another time.

VMP: Have you done artwork for musicians or labels in the past? If so, what have some of your favorite projects been?

CH: Without consciously seeking it out, I definitely have been involved with other musicians and labels. One of my first jobs was for Asher Roth when he was still at Universal Music Group. I was supposed to do five single covers, and his whole album artwork for his second album but all that ever materialized was one single, and some artwork that I did for one of his music videos. I have to say it was challenging to work with such a large label. There’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen between managers, PR people, executives, etc. The artist is an after thought in a lot of ways. I felt bad for Asher. He ended up on Def Jam which was partly why nothing ever materialized. I learned a lot on that job, specifically how far people are willing to dangle you out on a line. You have to be careful as a freelancer because until you say “Enough is enough” people will just keep asking things from you with out a penny changing hands.

The thing I most enjoyed doing recently was concluding the six issue comic tie in to Ghostface Killah’s album 12 Reasons To Die. I was originally going to be the sole artist on the next arc which would have been 36 Seasons To Die but again, there’s a lot of people behind the scenes with these kinds of projects and things were just moving too slow and I had to bail.

The great thing about working with Trevor for the Vinyl Me Please release of Year of Hibernation was how opposite it was to the above hahaha. Between Fat Possum, and VMP, Trevor was allowed to be my point of contact and I was actually able to make something for an artist with the artist.

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VMP: Do you normally listen to music while you create your art? Any favorite albums that serve as go-to’s for pushing through tough projects?

CH: Always. What I listen to depends what I’m doing at the time. For instance when I’m writing, I tend to listen to something evocative of the mood I’m going for, usually sans lyrics. I listen to a lot of soundtrack music especially anything Nick Cave and Warren Ellis collab on.

When I’m sketching for ideas or layouts, I like to listen to listen to lighter stuff, usually with a higher BPM. It ranges from Chemical Brothers “Push The Button” to just, frankly stupid shit like LMFAO or maybe even Katy Perry or Of Monsters and Men. I’m really not pretentious about music. I like anything that can get my gears spinning and just starts manifesting visuals and narratives in my mind with sound. Older Calexico is probably the best for me in that regard.

When I’m inking though I tend to go heavy and darker. I use a brush to ink and that’s a tool that’s notoriously fickle. Not saying I’m that great with it, but it’s not a tool you can just pick up and use. It takes years to even start to figure it out. It’s partly because it really reflects the person wielding it. The emotional state of the person; their confidence or lack there of. My favorite band to ink to is Black Angels. I like to pour my sumi ink out and let it settle a bit in the dish for a moment before I start going at it while I listen to “Entrance Song”, from Phosphene Dream. It’s also the first thing I like to put on the jukebox at The Neurolux in Boise (86-06).

VMP: What are you currently focused on with your art, any specific themes or collections?

CH: Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on a comic book I’ve been working on in one way or another for a couple of years, called, “CARVER: A Paris Story”. The story is basically Indiana Jones with a mustache, set in Paris in the 1920s…with more whisky and prostitutes (hahaha). Francis Carver, who is my “Indy” is a archetypal Gentleman of Fortune who is forced to confront his past, and ultimately the choices that lead him down the path that he’s on. Basically the character and story were predicated on the question of “What would it take to make a real person become Indiana Jones, and what would they actually be like?” What I’m putting forward is that he’d be a cantankerous, functioning alcoholic, with PTSD but a heart of gold.

I moved to NYC about a year ago from Idaho and I’ve been working on pitches with other writers, pitching Carver to publishers and doing some freelance work here and there, but my passion has always been for telling my own stories. I kept putting CARVER off and after the last thing I was working on fell through, I decided it was time to go all in and see what I could manifest doing my own thing. So I’m releasing “A Paris Story” on my website thecarverstory.com starting January 14th. I’m putting it out in 3 acts about six weeks apart from each other. I launched a Patreon in conjunction with it and I’m just going to see where it goes. Right now I’d rather just tell (what I think) is a good story, and try to expose it to as many people as possible.

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illustration from Carver

VMP: Are you a vinyl collector? If so, what’s the first album you remember purchasing for yourself?

CH: I use to be back in the day. My aforementioned Aunt and Uncle also got me into vinyl, and I use to spend a lot of time in my grandparent’s basement listening to old Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash albums in the summers I spent back in Ohio. My uncle actually owns the only record store in downtown Columbus now, called Spoonful Records. I haven’t told him about my collab with Trevor and VMP yet but I’m sure he’ll be stoked to find out I did art work for a vinyl release!

I kind of fell out of it right before it got popular again. It was really hard to find good tables, and needles in Boise without spending a fortune, and by the time vinyl really had its resurgence in the mid 2000’s I’d already let a lot of my records drift into other friend’s collections. The one I really regret letting go was a White Stripes 45 that had their version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” on the B side, which they never released outside of that single to my knowledge. There are plenty of live performances of it floating around the internets but that studio recording was phenomenal. It was very tight, in a mournful kind of melancholy way.

VMP: What do you hope Vinyl Me, Please members take away from your art?

CH: Boise isn’t the biggest town, and so a lot of us who are doing “creative” work tend to gravitate to the same coffee shops and bars. It’s the kind of art community where we’re all one degree of separation from one another through friends.

The night I met Trevor by way of one such friend, we ended up in a snowy mountain gully under a full moon, next to a frozen creek with a few friends and a guitar. It was the kind of moment that you cherish for the rest of your life. Certainly an amazing way to start a friendship.

As a Boise “Ex-Pat” now living in NYC I, yearn for reminders of Idaho, and take advantage of every opportunity to talk about my adopted home. I work part time at a North West company called Filson in The Bowery, and occasionally, Trevor’s song “Mute” from Wonderous Bughouse will come on the playlist and I have to hold back tears sometimes because of how much I miss home.

I’m just so grateful to have other people in my life that are making things, and putting their work out into the world who are brave enough to “suffer the slings and arrows” that come along with creating art. So even though it’s just a fun little illustration of Trevor, I hope that they can see my appreciation and respect for a talented friend.

VMP: Why do you think people need art in their lives?

CH: I can only say from my own perspective, but I enjoy the escape that art provides. It’s an opportunity to experience someone else’s story. Art to me is about communication when you get down to the core of it, and I think that is its inherent value and what I value about other people’s art, are the shared experiences; learning that you aren’t your own island.

“Art” is used very subjectively, and applied to a lot of different things that people produce, but I need the kind of art that reminds me that there is beauty in the world. I think that’s a very important lesson in an unbiased reality. What I mean by that is to say that the good and the bad are just as likely to rain down on any individual at any given time with equal odds. It may be a particular film, or perhaps a song or maybe even a comic book, but these things tend to be what we as humans fall back on in tough times. Especially in the case of music. I can tell you what I was listening to in many pivotal moments of my life, be they dark or bright.

VMP: Any albums you think we should consider for a feature?

CH: Christ- Now I’m going to have to reveal how little I know about contemporary music. I have plenty of albums I can’t live without but I don’t know if I want to admit what they are (hahahaha)

I’d say Sea Wolf’s, “Leaves In The River” is something everyone should have in their vinyl collection. It creates a similar “visual soundscape” for me as Calexico and the project’s name references one of my favorite Jack London stories. There’s also “The Tallest Man On Earth” EP from 2006 which is something I will be buried with.

More recently, I found out about a European band called “There Will Be Blood” which is this strange, bluesy garage sound that reminds me of a more aggressive, early White Stripes. There’s something really mysterious about the sound for me. Like I said, it’s very aggressive, their english isn’t that amazing and the recordings kind of sound like the were recorded into a tin cup, but there’s something really genuine about it. In my mind if The Blues had been invented in the 20th Century, this is what it would have sounded like. Both of their albums, “Where Ever You Go” and “Without” have been on loop for me since I discovered them a few months ago. To be honest, I don’t even know if they have physical recordings available at all. There are two tracks, one from each of the albums that I want to be playing on the jukebox if I ever have to be in a bar fight. “Son of The Lightning” and “Stomp or Fall”.

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See more of Chris Hunt’s work at his website: http://thechrishunt.com

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