Bram Stoker Award nominated artist Chaz Kemp combines the Art Nouveau’s style, vibrancy, and color schemes into fantasy and steampunk themes — a combination that’s compelling and unique. As an illustrator, Chaz Kemp’s influences of Alphonse Mucha and Ivan Bilibin are evident in his award-winning work that combines the artistic energy of the Roaring 20s with the untamed possibilities of Steampunk and fantasy.
Duncan Long for Amazing Stories: How did you become interested in illustration and art?
Chaz Kemp: I’ve always been interested in art but I didn’t become a professional until later in life. I was working for a medical company (in shipping and receiving), and I went in to ask my boss, Bill, a question. He was busy drawing his motorcycle, but he was using his computer to do it. I had never seen anything like that before and I was enthralled. Bill installed CorelDraw on my work computer, taught me how to use it, and I never looked back.
AS: If you could create a piece of artwork just for fun and then be paid for it, what would you want to create?
CK: That’s a tough question to answer because there are so many things I’d love to draw but haven’t yet. I would absolutely love to draw some of my favorite superheroes as Steampunk or fantasy characters. That would completely rock.
AS: Do you work digitally, with actual physical media, or a combination of both?
CK: I used to draw everything by hand and then scan them into the computer. It took forever, and the scanners themselves were always somewhat finicky. Now, I do everything digitally with a Wacom tablet and it’s a much faster process.
AS: What software/hardware to you use with your digital art?
CK: Ninety nine percent of my art is done with CorelDraw. I then bring the finished piece into Photoshop to touch it up a bit. CorelDraw is a fantastic program and one that I highly recommend.
AS: It has a different look than art that I’ve seen done in Photoshop or Corel Painter. What is it called?
CK: It’s called “vector” or “vexel” depending on who you talk to. I suppose my style would technically be considered vexel due to the amount of shading I put into my pieces.
AS: A lot of your work has an Art Nouveau “flavor” to it. How did this come about?
CK: I’ve loved Art Nouveau even as a small child but I didn’t find out what the style was called until I took an art history course. I was greatly influenced by Alphonse Mucha, Ivan Bilibin and Winsor McCay, the artist of Little Nemo. So I try really hard to let that period guide my hand without stealing — I mean “borrowing” — too heavily from it.
AS: What do you consider your greatest achievement as an artist so far?
CK: A couple of years back I did my very first graphic novel under a super short deadline (6 weeks). It was called Behind These Eyes (written by Guy Anthony DeMarco and Peter J. Wacks) and it was a horror comic, which was not a genre I was very familiar with. It ended up being nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.
Another really awesome achievement happened when I was interviewed for a book by Paul Roland entitled, Steampunk: Back to the Future With the New Victorians. It includes some really fantastic artists, writers and musicians that are really influencing today’s Steampunk movement and I was very honored to be listed amongst them.
AS: What was the greatest artistic disaster you were involved in?
CK: I believe the word “nightmare” would be a more apt description. Early on in my career, I was part of a project to help design a website for a gentleman. I ended up drawing 80 sketches for him before he could bring himself to choose one. After he chose the design he liked, I ended up having to make close to 25 modifications to it. It was definitely a learning experience to be sure.
AS: If you could pick one piece of artwork you created to represent your work, what would it be?
CK: I would say that it would have to be “Steampunk Sally.” It was a piece I did when I first discovered the joys of the steampunk genre. I think it really captures my initial enthusiasm.
AS: What is the strangest piece of art you’ve created?
CK: I took a commission to draw a Steampunk Beaver for a coffee label. The first figure I drew failed because I tried giving it human proportions and she was too skinny. It looked like an emaciated beaver of death! Once I put some meat on her bones she turned out much better!
AS: What movies and publications have most influenced your work?
CK: I love movies and when I draw fantasy, I think about the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit films by Peter Jackson. When I draw Steampunk pieces I often think about the latest Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. For sci-fi it’s got to be 5th Element.
AS: What equipment / process do you use for creating your artwork?
CK: I use a large Wacom 4 Intuos tablet, a Logitech mouse, 2 monitors and a pretty beefy computer in terms of speed. As to the process, I generally do a ton of research before starting on a particular assignment. Once the research is done, I’ll choose appropriate music to get me into the mood. For example, if I’m about to do a fantasy piece I’ll listen to a lot of Clannad but if I’m about to do a steampunk drawing, I’ll break out the Abney Park.
AS: What else do you do besides art?
CK: I’m also a singer and drummer for the band Pandora Celtica. We’re a four-part, dark faerie, Celtic, acapella band and we currently have five albums. We travel quite a bit and we’re working on new songs for our sixth album so that tends to keep me busy when I’m not drawing. We’re at www.PandoraCeltica.com
I’m also working with writer Carolyn Kay on a project called Ashelon. We’re going to be doing several novellas written in a Steampunk setting. Each novella will focus on one of 10 characters as they struggle against the most evil villains of all time, Queen Victoria herself. You can get the latest news at www.WorldofAshelon.com
AS: Do you have a website where readers could see more of your artwork?
CK: Absolutely! You can find my portfolio at www.ChazKemp.com I would also encourage your readers to visit and “like” my Facebook page which is called simply, Chaz Kemp Illustration.
AS: How can a reader contact you if he wants to hire you to create some artwork?
Chaz Kemp: You can always drop me a line at ChazKemp(at)comcast.net I do book and magazine covers, interior art, tattoos, wine labels, posters, etc.
AS: Is there a place online where readers can purchase prints of your work?
CK: Yes! I have quite a few prints for sale on my Etsy site.
See more of Chaz Kemp’s artwork at www.etsy.com/shop/ChazKempIllustration and www.ChazKemp.com
Chaz Kemp Gallery (Click an image to see it full size)