Los Angeles County, California, United States
Partial Client List:
National Geographic Publishing
Simon & Schuster
Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production
Penguin Random House
Education Next Magazine
Night Sky Magazine
Dolphin Log Magazine
Sutter Home Winery
Community Interface Services
Moses Cone Medical Center
Bruce Sanders Design
Redding Advertising, Inc
INterview with Caldwell:
How old were you when first realized you wanted to become an artist?
Ah, that would be a week ago Tuesday. I was 27. (I’m 43 this week :) Just kidding.
Actually, the first I remember considering it might be a good idea to become an artist was when I was a teen-ager. I remember sitting there at the dead end with a few friends. We were all three-reefers to the wind and I was looking at a Yes album cover (Roger Dean). I remember exactly what I was thinking. I thought: “Woah: bitchin'! - I’d just moved to California, and was in the process of learning to pepper my Boston-accented, teenage utterances with new, high-fashion, California words like woah, bitchin’, awesome, dude, and was becoming particularly adept at “Howdy.”
Do you still have any of your early artwork?
A few pieces. I moved a lot when I was in college, and moving always seemed to require a purge of belongings; most of my early artwork did not survive my nomadic lifestyle.
Have you studied art formally?
Many years in college. Ended up with an MFA.
Is there an artist whose work you admire? What is it about their artwork that intrigues you?
There’s a slew of humorous illustrators, fine-art illustrators, conceptual illustrators, cartoonists (Bill Watterson is a brush & ink master, as is Walt Kelly); and there are contemporary, not-quite so contemporary, and just plain old, long-gone, long-dead illustrators whose work I whole-heartedly admire. I’ve always loved T. S. Sullivant’s line drawings. He was a real master of fluid line, of characterization and a studied realism he could bend at will.
What are the sources for your inspiration? Do you have a muse? Do you have a process you employ to generate ideas?
I like it when an idea just comes to me out of the blue and I don’t have to give it chase; but that is not always the case. Often, I arrive at a concept after several grueling minutes of staring at a blank page... and then giving in to making a list of concepts I then explore, visually, and literally. An idea comes at some point from the juxtaposed images and topics. When the idea arrives, it's instantaneous. It just takes a little while sometimes to get aligned with the universe, to get aimed directly into the wind, mouth open, waiting for flies... oh, wait, wrong reincarnation...
What clues might you provide to help viewers understand your art?
I like to incorporate fun into my images - not that every single image I make is humorous (okay, most are), but I think the world is an irrational place and it is a much better place when we see the humor in it. Most of the time things that happen in the world, just happen, no reason, no rhyme, not ulterior plan, just random events perhaps steered a bit by the people involved. I think the best way to make sense of it all is to find the humor in this ludicrous, haphazard life.
Do you have cultural references to which you gravitate?
I do. I don’t think I could list them, though. Making those references is a part of the inspired part of my work: they find me, I don’t find them.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
I have a few picture book manuscripts I'm putting together, and am generating some images I’m considering posting as NFTs. We’ll see what comes of them...
How do you set up your job when you get a new contract?
I go over the text or project description and get ideas as I’m reading, making quick, rough sketches as I go. I may look for relevant images/objects to include in the piece at this point. I then develop those ideas further, honing them, weeding out the clinkers and the clunkers until I find the one. Sometimes there is more than one, but in the end one idea, one image will shine above the others. Sometimes it takes a few days. Chip away at it, let a little time go by, let my viewpoint shift a little - if there's time; if the deadline is short, then it's coffee time and caffeine-induced inspiration...
What tools do you use most in your work?
There's usually a photo of a real-world object incorporated into my work. If the object isn't a part of the project already, or I don't have one in mind at the start, I do a series of rough sketches (sometimes a series of one :), then go in search of an object that works with the sketch. I may photograph the object first, or maybe wait until I see how the line comes out in order to shoot just the right angle.
I go back and forth between pencil and ink. A pencil makes a great, textured line that can be rough or silky smooth. Then there's ink - I love the flow of jet black ink on a stark white sheet of paper. I spent ages mastering pen & ink, and brush & ink drawing, but lately I prefer using a stick to draw. I’ll often step out back, break off a twig, dip that in the ink and go. The line is primitive and speaks to me about the spirit of image making, the soul of ink.
What is your favorite activity when you take a break from the studio?
I love going to restaurants, bumming around on the beach, walking through the “Ye-Olde-Town” part of the city. It will be great when this Covid pandemic is finally over, and I can do all those things again.
What would be your dream illustration assignment?
I’d love to see my work used as advertising illustration for an opera house or an art museum, - or maybe for an orchestra - woah! Now that would be bitchin'.