Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself?
Jason Chalker: I’m currently based in Dallas, Texas and work out of my in-house studio. The very first customs I did were back in 2007, but life got in the way and I didn’t really get back into it until last year. I’ve been a professional artist/designer since I got out of grad school in 1994. I’ve done a little bit of everything in my career. It’s been an interesting road.
UVD: Would you mind telling us about some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
Chalker: I’ll assume you’re talking vinyl. The first two customs I did were for a Halloween themed art show in Austin. I did a Munnystein and a Munny From the Black Lagoon. It was a pretty big learning experience. The MFBL got junked after a few months. At the time, I didn’t realize you needed to use primer before you used spray paint on the toys and it got REALLY gooey. I’ve always liked to mix it up with my designs. I really enjoy the challenge of a mash-up with all the sculpting and add-ons, but sometimes the biggest challenge is just using the form you have achieving the desired effect with paint. I think the biggest progress I’ve made is just learning how to better use different materials and techniques.
UVD: What are some things that influence you and your work? Is there any artist’s work that inspired you and your style early on in your career?
Chalker: Pulp art, Star Wars (obviously), Sci-Fi in general, B movies… I could go on for quite a while.
My earliest artistic influences were Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, Ralph McQuarrie, and NC Wyeth. As I’ve gotten older artists like Mort Kunstler, Norman Saunders, Jack Davis, Gil Elvgren, Jack Kirby, and Tex Avery have all influenced me.
UVD: After looking through your portfolio, a fair amount of the works fall under the science fiction genre. Is there anything that bit you early in your career that helped steer you in to this genre and make it the bread and butter of your portfolio and commissions?
Chalker: Two words. Star Wars.
It had such a huge impact on me when I saw it in the theater as a kid. Later on I started getting into the pulp side of things, but Star Wars just lit something up inside my impressionable little mind.
UVD: Also in your portfolio are women in pin-up style poses in various outfits like astronaut, mechanic, and other professions. Is there anything particular that lead to this avenue in your portfolio? And if these women were to be placed in real life, how much work could you except to get done efficiently if people were dressed like this in a car garage or space station?
Chalker: I love pulp art and, in particular, pulp-era pin-ups. Gil Elvgren is by far my favorite pin-up artist.
I think productivity might suffer a bit, but I’m pretty sure morale would be at an all-time high.
UVD: With having lived in Austin for a brief period, I saw that you did a solo art show at Amy’s Ice Cream. How did the art shows work out for you, and how did the idea come up to have it there?
Chalker: I’ve actually had about 5 or 6 shows there over the years. I originally chose Amy’s because unlike galleries, it was very accessible to the public and they were open to showing an artist that didn’t have a big name yet. What kept me coming back was the ice cream and they didn’t charge commission on the art I sold.
UVD: Many of your recent show customs have been star wars related with Chewie/Han, C3PO, R2-D2, and the T.I.E. Labbit. If you would be able to walk us through the process of how a labbit becomes a TIE Fighter and a 10-DOH figure becomes an R2 unit?
Chalker: For mash-ups, once I have the idea, I scour e-bay for a good deal on the appropriate model kit for the project. In the case of my 10 Doh R2-D2, it was a late ‘70’s MPC R2-D2 model kit. What follows is a lot of tinkering, cutting and gluing to figure out the best configuration. What took the longest on this project in particular was trying to figure out the best way to get a video screen in a toy that size. After trying an Arduino board with and LCD and then a Chumby, I went with a first gen iPhone I had lying around. I created the animation using Adobe Illustrator, Flash and After effects. That was by far the most complicated custom I have ever done. It now resides in Toy Break Ben’s collection.
UVD: In part of your site, the 2006 movie “A Scanner Darkly” is shown as part of the work that you are credited with. Would you mind telling us how you get involved with the film, and (if people are interested in watching the movie) what scenes you happened to have your hands in?
Chalker: I was living in Austin when they were looking for artists to work on the film. They put an ad in the Austin Chronicle looking for illustrators. I answered the ad and got a chance to come in and audition. I got the gig and was part of the first group of animators hired.
I mostly worked on scenes with Woody Harrelson’s character Luckman. Most of them are in my demo reel. I did a couple of small bits of Robert Downey Jr. as Barris. I also came up with the circuitry lines we used when the scramble suit turns on/off.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/21181877 w=400&h=300]