Featured Artist -- Blake Eason (October 2014)

It all started with Blazo. 

  "Blazo was like Spiderman and Spawn. He was a ninja who wore boxing gloves because I couldn't draw hands."

Blake and I meet on the Kalamazoo Mall to catch up and talk about his art. Blazo was a comic strip character Blake invented as a kid. "Blazo controlled fire and eventually had horns, was an expert at swords, and had teammates with names I found in the dictionary. Nebula was one of them. He could pop in and out of dimensions."

It's safe to say Blake has always had an engaged imagination, fueled by many different things. He often works with music, ambient is best. "I'll close my eyes and imagine a scene playing out in my head." Then he tries to recreate the scene on paper.

"I believe art is therapeutic when you're creating or viewing it. Art involves imagination, technical skill, and the message you want to convey. You have to involve your own voice. But I'd say it's 15% talent and 85% hard work." He tells me he can spend hours watching TV and doodling. Practicing things like gesture or reference drawing. Skills that help you later when you're working from imagination. "Line making is a huge one. You have to build up muscles in your arm to make a straight line or a curve."

Blake is primarily self-taught. He's taken classes but only found a few that fit his needs. "There is so much free information out there. I already have the discipline of practice. I just do my own thing." This is one thing I've always admired about Blake. He isn't scared to try new things, or blend things that haven't been blended before.

"Some rules can be bent, others can be broken." Morpheus, The Matrix

As a kid the world has no limitations when it comes to art. The last few years, as he's become more serious with his craft, Blake's felt that constriction many artists feel. "Learning about new techniques and styles is good--but I used to worry that too much technical learning might somehow invalidate my ideas. For example, will studying anatomy still allow my imagination to do its own thing? Will that expand my art or constrict it? That fear isn't one I struggle with anymore. These days I'm just out to try everything, buffet-style, germs and all!"

One of the biggest influences on Blake's art has been anime, which is a style of Japanese animation art. "I like the style and stories, the variety. There's something realistic about it too even though it's fantasy. I couldn't relate to things like X-Men as well but the characters in the anime I read were more my own age, so I connected with them." Two of his favorite comic book artists were Adam Warren and Joe Madureira. "They were able to capture the Dragon Ball Z style--the big-eyed, exaggerated hands and clean, heavy black inks, and blend that with American comic books styles. You can see the influence going both ways. The 'God of anime,' Osamu Tezuka was influenced by Bambi."

I ask him about some of the biases or stigma surrounding anime. In my [limited] experience, anime is often something people roll their eyes about. Blake tells me, "I think people are annoyed people like it so much. There's also a certain snobbery about it. The assumption is that anime isn't 'real art,' that there's little technical skill involved." I ask if this has affected his own practice. "I'm going to do what I want. I like the form and it's fun. I won't have people's biases, or anything really, prevent my art."

Blake is currently working on a variety of projects. "One thing I'm working on is trying to be more expressive with my portraits, specifically with painting. I'm using brush strokes that are thicker and messier, rather than getting bogged down by fine details. Details are a comfort zone of mine. Having something look realistic, like a photograph, isn't my goal--it's a practice--when I do something realistic it's because the customer wants it that way. But I rarely work that way myself. With realistic drawing there is less chance to inject some of my own ideas. It's more fun to exaggerate or add a twist to something."

"I love the blues and jazz. I've drawn Nina Simone forever. She relaxes me, I listen to her music all the time."

Another project Blake has is his Curvy Women series.

 "I'm very skinny. I relate on the opposite end of the spectrum. I'm trying to gain weight and also be comfy as a skinny person. I see the conversation happening about body positivity and wanted to celebrate that." Blake tends to draw women more often then men. "I feel there's more room to play with drawing women. I'm trying to expand my skills [with drawing men] but it just feels like there are more options with women. Same with animals," he says laughing.

Other pet projects he's working on are a children's book and an adventure story graphic novel.

 Pico, a frequent character Blake draws

"My niche is something I've been thinking about recently. There are many artists out there and I'm open to many styles and mediums. So I find myself constantly exploring and experimenting with the techniques, but I feel like I've lost some of my personal voice that I would like to incorporate into the images. I spend time meditating to find out what's really important to me. Because with all the sources of inspiration, it's felt difficult to narrow down what I'm really passionate about."

Whatever comes next, I know it will be imagination-packed and fantastic. You can check out Blake's work on his website or Instagram, or see it live, in person, at Proper Possible (112 W. South St.) this Friday for ArtHop.

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