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?
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.
UVD: With the success of your recent Star Wars Day (May 4th), what lead you to pursue a trading card set and what does the future hold for the series? Anything in the way of a larger picture when you put the cards together?
Chalker: Pure nostalgia. I collected Star Wars cards when the movie came out. I still have them all. As far as future card sets go, I might do a puzzle on next year’s set.
UVD: With the recent upswing in artists/consumers using Kickstarter as a medium for either funding a project or weighing public interest in the figure, do you think this is showing a trend away from blind box production of countless figures, or just a way for the industry to make sure it will be always hitting a target audience?
Chalker: I think Kickstarter is a pretty brilliant thing. I don’t think it will affect the production of large series, but it is a great way for independent artists to get projects off the ground without going broke in the process.
UVD: If you were in charge of the Empire, what would you do to improve the shooting abilities of Stormtroopers and the general training they receive?
Chalker: I would make the eyeholes on their helmets bigger. I’ve got a stormtrooper helmet. You can’t see a damn thing with one on.
UVD: If you could actually speak Wookie, what do you suspect Chewbacca is actually saying?
Chalker: “Where’s my medal? Nobody appreciates me. Stupid humans.”
UVD: Do you think Snoopy lets the Red baron shoot him down every time just so he can go in to town to hang with the girl and drink root beer? I guess a better question is: How does a wooden dog house fly?
Chalker: No. I think he was trying his darnedest to shoot him down. Considering the fact he was flying a doghouse, I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.
Anything will fly with a big enough engine strapped to it. It may not be pretty, but it’ll fly.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
Chalker: I’m currently prepping for the Dallas Pancakes & Booze show coming up in July and a couple of vinyl shows this fall: a video game themed show you might know something about and the next Vinyl Thoughts Show in Dallas.
I should have a pretty big announcement in the next week or so about another show, so keep your eyes peeled. Until then, mum’s the word.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
Chalker: The best way to get good/better at something is to just do it. Experience is the best teacher. Want to get noticed? Start a blog. Make a website. Enter competitions. Talk to other people doing what you’re doing. Put yourself out there.
UVD: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Are there any parting words you wish to say to the readers?
Chalker: Support your local toy customizer and thanks for reading!