Fine artist Ken Meyer Jr. talks about the music, Woodstock, Blues, Phil Lynott, Albert Collins and SRV

"I do miss the radio from those days; they seemed to have so much more variety."

Ken Meyer Jr.: So Fine Art & Music

Ken Meyer Jr. has been an artist his whole life. A huge comic book fan, while in high school, he got his first art printed (a Bruce Lee portrait, inked by comics professional Brent Anderson, a friend to this day) in a convention book. He went on to participate in many comic fanzines of that time. He has worked in companies doing art for purposes such as education, adult training, and military training.

"I have always been drawn to drama in illustration, specifically dramatic lighting. I work in a variety of media, including watercolor, ink, acrylic, charcoal, ink, oil, and mixed media. Though the human visage and figure is my biggest interest, almost anything organic holds some fascination for me. I have always loved sharing my art with others, both the finished work and the processes used to create it. I believe art is a skill that can learned like any other. That something extra that is usually called "talent" comes from some inexplicable and impossible to define inner source that some seem to possess. However, I do not believe it is magic, I believe anyone can and should express themselves through art if possible." He has worked in advertising firms and online gaming companies (on the popular game Everquest). He has done freelance illustration for books, magazines, calendars, posters, films, role playing game books and cards, comics, universities and more, while also doing private commissions, portraits and the like. He continues to welcome commissions and freelance work. Also, prints can be ordered of virtually any image he has done.

Interview by Michael Limnios    Artworks © by Ken Meyer Jr.

When was your first desire to become involved in the visual art?

I started drawing when I was very young. I actually started tracing from comic books, then sitting the paper next to the comic page and copying, then finally drawing characters on my own. I was in my very early teens, maybe younger, copying stuff like Sea Devils, Thor by Neal Adams, and a bunch of other stuff.

What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas most frequently?

The need to pay the bills! Seriously, I am an illustrator, a commercial artist, so I am constantly looking for work and doing work.

How would you characterize of Ken Meyer Jr artwork philosophy?

I don't know if I have a philosophy per se. I always want to please the client. I love working with dramatic lighting, love painting people, and really love painting musicians.

"I listen to music constantly, especially when I work. I don't know if it affects my work at all, but I do tend to prefer stuff like prog rock and jazz fusion a lot of the time." Miles by Ken Meyer Jr

What has been the relationship between music and art in your life and work?

I have been a huge music fan since probably my early teens. I can remember drawing Gene Simmons from Kiss for fanzine publication way back in the very early 80s, an illustration of a scene from Genesis' Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and Thin Lizzy as a rock band in the beginning of a comic book story. Later in life, when I started to go to live shows, I would do a painting to give to the musician, getting a signed print for me. This worked with almost everyone, but they were almost all mid level artists.

How does music affect your mood and inspiration?

I listen to music constantly, especially when I work. I don't know if it affects my work at all, but I do tend to prefer stuff like prog rock and jazz fusion a lot of the time.

What does "ART & MUSIC" means to you?

Two things I cannot live without.

How has the underground comics of the 60s influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I don’t really think the underground comics influenced my view of the world much. Certainly they showed me things I hadn’t seen much of before. At that time I was in high school, and had very little exposure to the counterculture, sex, etc. The undergrounds were a sort of forbidden fruit, and I have a lot of nostalgia for them.                      (Artwork: Dude by Ken Meyer, Jr)

"Going back to the undergrounds, I would think that opened a lot of peoples eyes, especially those in small communities, who might not have ever been exposed to all the things the undergrounds dealt with. There really hasn’t been a movement in comics that I know of that dealt with politics and social issues the way the undergrounds did. It was a different time back then."

Why do you think that the comic art and culture continues to generate such a devoted following?

I think we always need fantasy, especially as young people. We need our heroes, real or imagined. We need places to go when the places we are actually in might not be what we want. And, once you are in a community like that (much easier now, with the internet, than when I was a kid), you finally feel like you belong, and like there are others like you.

What moment changed your life the most? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Well, practically, probably when I had kids. Other than that, there was never really any one moment…I would think there are very few people that can chart their life changes to one moment or event. As for advice, that would require me having a good enough memory to remember the advice!

What do you miss most nowadays from 60s and 70s music and art culture?

From a practical standpoint, I miss the album sized images we would see by artists such as Roger Dean, Hipginosis, Rodney Matthews, Charles White, and all the other great artists that had such a grand background to work on. As for the content of the music, I do miss the radio from those days; they seemed to have so much more variety. I listened to a station in Georgia when I was in junior high and they would play ELP right after Al Green. Today? No chance.

"I started drawing when I was very young. I actually started tracing from comic books, then sitting the paper next to the comic page and copying, then finally drawing characters on my own. I was in my very early teens, maybe younger, copying stuff like Sea Devils, Thor by Neal Adams, and a bunch of other stuff." Waits, Cohen, Young, Dylan, Costello, Cave & Rotten by Ken Meyers Jr

Do you remember any interesting story from progress one of your artwork? Which memory makes you smile?

It always felt great to meet my musical idols. I had nice conversations with people like Bruce Cockburn, Elvis Costello, Tori Amos, Duncan Sheik, Neil Finn, Loudon Wainwright III and others (and have the signed albums and prints to prove it).

What from your memorabilia and things (books, records, posters etc.) would you put in a "time capsule"?

All the aforementioned prints…unfortunately, all my vinyl is long gone.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I don't even have to think about it…Woodstock.

Which of historical music personalities would you like to meet?

Assuming you mean artists that are no longer around, I would love to have met Phil Lynott, John Lennon, Stevie Ray Vaughan…and so many that are still around.

What would you say to Hendrix? What would you like to ask Janis Joplin? How you would spend a day with Stevie Ray Vaughan?

I would say, be careful with your health, don't be stupid and lose all you have worked for. As for Stevie, I would just watch him play for hours…maybe get some barbeque!

"I love working with dramatic lighting, love painting people, and really love painting musicians."

Jimi Hendrix by Ken Meyer, Jr.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton & S. Clay Wilson with Family Dogs artists and your artwork?

I don't know if there is a legacy so much, as I don't do what would be considered underground comics work, but I always appreciated those artists' work. I had a good collection of undergrounds when I was in high school and college, have Robert Crumb's Blues trading card set, and have always loved his work. The closest I can come probably is a short autobiographical series I did called Project High that dealt with some of the years of my high school spent in Savannah, Georgia, living in the projects.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

I have to be honest; I have not really ever been into what would be considered traditional blues. I do love the guitar work of the three Kings, and people like Albert Collins and the like. When I was a DJ at a small radio station, I sat in for a summer replacement on a blues show and really played those guys to death!

What is the impact of comic (and visual) art on the racial, political and socio-cultural landscape?

Going back to the undergrounds, I would think that opened a lot of peoples eyes, especially those in small communities, who might not have ever been exposed to all the things the undergrounds dealt with. There really hasn’t been a movement in comics that I know of that dealt with politics and social issues the way the undergrounds did. It was a different time back then.

If you could change one thing in the world of art and it would become a reality, what would that be?

In the world of art in general? That it not be such a financial based world. Too many artists become popular because one rich person spent money on a painting or piece, making that artist much more famous than he or she deserved. Too many really good artists get left by the side of the road, while the massive semi trucks of public opinion give free rides to those that don’t deserve it.

"Going back to the undergrounds, I would think that opened a lot of peoples eyes, especially those in small communities, who might not have ever been exposed to all the things the undergrounds dealt with. There really hasn’t been a movement in comics that I know of that dealt with politics and social issues the way the undergrounds did. It was a different time back then."

What started you doing the altered cards?

Actually, I had no clue they were being done until a friend who ran a gaming store pointed them out to me and said I should try it. I have done hundreds and hundreds since then and am always glad to do more.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of comics?

I actually do not follow comics as much anymore…just cannot afford to. So, I would probably be speaking out of turn. I would hope that there is more of a market for non superhero subject matter, and that, eventually, the comic industry reaches the same sort of legitimacy that it has on countries such as France and Japan.

What has made you laugh from The Big Lebowski (movie) and what touched (emotionally) you from BB King?

Actually, though I love The Big Lebowski, it is not my favorite Coen Brothers movie. I would rank Fargo, Raising Arizona, and No Country for Old Men above it. And, alongside it, Blood Simple and The Hudsucker Proxy. As for the Lebowski, any scene with John Goodman was laugh out loud funny and Bridges is one of my favorite actors, period.

As for B. B. King, truthfully, I was never that into him. I certainly recognize his importance, but there are many other musicians that interest me more. Even within blues, people like Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and a few others do more for me. I think the reason I did that painting was it seemed to fit within a group of large paintings I was doing for a show inside a music venue.

Ken Meyer Jr - official website

B.B. King / Artwork by Ken Meyer Jr

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