August 27, 2007

Interview - Len Peralta

Len Peralta is the creator and operator of the podcast Jawbone Radio. He is based in Lakewood, Ohio where he runs his own freelance advertising agency. He is currently wrapping up a summer long art campaign called Monster by Mail. He is also known for providing art for several podcasters, illustrating works for Jonathan Coulton's "Thing A Week" and being a major contributor to the unusually viral 700 Hoboes Project.

Len, thanks for taking the time out of your insanely busy schedule to speak with me.

If you can recall, describe the moment or event that you realized you wanted to be an artist.

I always was drawing as a kid, in telephone books, pads of paper. Whatever I could find. My dad was a doctor and everyone always asked me if I wanted to be like my dad. I knew from a very young age that I didn't want to practice medicine, but I really wanted to draw and cartoon all day. I was too much of a screw up in school to do anything meaningful anyway.

Would you describe yourself as a classically trained or self taught artist? If you studied, where and was it a good experience?

I am pretty much self-taught, but I am always learning new techniques.

What would you like to accomplish with your art?

I'd like to influence young artists like I was influenced as a child.

Who were your biggest influences when you were starting out and has that changed?

I've always been a big fan of Jack Davis' work. I think if I were to choose my biggest influence it would be him.

How hard do you work at your art? Is it a hobby or a serious business for you?

It doesn't feel like work to me, it's more fun. As I am doing more with MBM, however, I'm finding that it is turning into a serious business, but I don't want to lose sight of the enjoyable part of the art.

If you could change something you do while creating, a habit or crutch, without any effort, what would it be?

I wish I didn't feel like I was rushing through the art. Sometimes I am working so fast, I don't have the time to spend like I would like. I just don't have that luxury of time though. It's always crunching out new art. But being fast is good because it's the one true way to make money with your art.

Are you a hard set solo artist or would you like to collaborate more with other artists?

I am a solo dude, but I do I like collaborating. I am experimenting on this more with an upcoming MBM promotion. I think it will turn out well, but we'll see.

Artists are generally not happy with what they've done or how accomplished they are, but if you had to label it, what would have to happen for you to consider yourself successful?

I dunno. Maybe a USA Today article. (kidding!) Or maybe people know my art without looking at the sig.

What media are you most comfortable using and why?

I really like using pencils and then finishing in PS. PS lets me fix my mistakes and I make a lot of them! I did a lot of the Coulton work like that. There's something cool about seeing the pencil lines and the thought behind the art. I'm starting to get more comfortable using watercolors thanks to the MBM project, but that was a completely monetary choice. Prismacolors are expensive!

Would you rather push yourself to get a lot of work done or push yourself to perfect one piece at a time over a long period?

Ideally, I'd like to spend time on one piece, but I just don't have the time.

When you look back on the choices you made as an artist or becoming an artist, what - if anything - would you do differently?

I would have taken more formal classes.

Do you think it's easier to be an artist today than say twenty or thirty years ago?

I think the technology has made it easier to get the job done and easier to call yourself an artist, but as far as I can tell, there is no button on the computer that gives you talent.

Is there an active art community in Lakewood or Cleveland? Would you like there to be more of one and would you be involved more if there were?

It's funny, MBM has given me a lot of local coverage, but very little interest. Conversely, a story will run in FL of CA and I will get a ton of orders. I wish there were a better community here locally, but I don't think there ever will be. I don't know why.

You list yourself as a creative director in advertising. Is working for ad agencies or being a freelance ad agent at all constrictive? Does it let you be the artist you want to be?

No. I end up doing what the client wants most of the time, and very rarely do I get to express myself creatively. I find it's much easier to make a living that way.

You've run a successful podcast since 2005. Have you found that more people see your art because of the show or were you more successful before you put time into podcasting?

The show has definitely helped me with my art. The work I did for podcasters in the summer of 2005 really put me on the map and established me with a group that was hungry for album art. It was a very cool time. I felt like R. Crumb. Also, the podcast has allowed me to connect with people (not just artists, but musicians, celebrities, etc) that I wouldn't have a chance to talk to normally.

You've had a lot of success with your Monster by Mail campaign. Are you worried that with such success you'll work yourself into a niche with the quick custom cartoons or do you have other plans?

I have some plans for the site and the ideas are always evolving. I've never been involved with something like this that is totally mine and quite honestly its pretty cool. I'm hoping to keep building the MBM brand and see what it becomes. The next few weeks should prove interesting for the site. I'm definitely ramping up what is expected from a site like mine. Right now, I'm just having a lot of fun drawing for it and seeing people's reactions to my work. It's very rewarding.

Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans and fellow artists?

Have fun with your art.

Thanks for your time. Good luck with your work!

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You can see more of Len's art, listen to his podcast, order a customized monster and vote for an alien in 2008 by visiting Jawbone Radio.

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