Of Dinosaurs, Comic Book & Super-Heroes

Below is an article/interview written about me by local artist Patti Cherry for the Sierra Lodestar, a weekly supplement for the tri-county area. She explains how we met and all so read on!

Zac_in_Studio(Photo taken by Justin Calbert)

Zac Calbert:  Of Dinosaurs, Comic Book & Super-Heroes

I first met Zac Calbert at a planning meeting for Sonora Art Trails.  Quite honestly he seemed out of place.  He was and is an extremely polite young man in a meeting full of outspoken artists who are loquacious to say the least.  We were discussing next years open studio tour.  If you’ve ever attended a meeting with artists you would know that it is a bit like herding cats.  There sat this polite young man, quiet and waiting his turn, that in itself was an anomaly.  Since at this meeting I was head cat herder, I finally got to ask him was he interested in taking part of next years open studio tour.

“I’d like to but I don’t have a studio,” he replied.

“Some of our artists are happy to share their studio, would you like to share studio space with one of us for that week-end?” I asked.

“No, I don’t have a large enough body of work”.

“Well, Zac what can we do for you?”

“You (meaning all of us) can give me a reason to stay in Sonora. I don’t know where all the young people have gone, where they hang out, where they work.”

I tell this story by way of introducing Zac because he articulated an issue that many of us have experienced – young people trying to find their way in the Gold Country.  We need our young people; obviously they are our future.  Two years have gone by and now Zac is moving into a family member’s home and turning the garage into a studio.  He has developed a few graphic design clients.  He is doing his art and slowly carving out a niche for himself.  Check out his blog at utltrn.wordpress.com.  He and others like him deserve our support.

Zac was born and raised in Sonora, graduating from Sonora High School in 2002.  He returned two years ago and was and is on of the key people who brought about “The Returning Artist Show”.  Last years show was successful so they decided to have it again.  You can see it until October 18, at Stage 3 in downtown Sonora.  Thankfully Stage 3 sees the importance of helping out young artists.  He is thankful to them and to others like BZ Smith who have been so helpful to young artists in our community.

Zac’s art is refreshing, full of humor and mythical creatures.  He creates linocuts and woodcuts.  He is interested in illustration and comic books among many other mediums.

“I do Graphic Design, to earn a living and I like it.  It is the field I got my education in.  I do posters, t-shirts and screen-printing.  One of my clients is a swim wear company and I design all of their marketing collateral.  But when you work at the computer all day, it feels good to change up and create linocuts and woodcuts, and printmaking because of the process.  I get to move around, work with my hands, learn new techniques, and take all the sequential steps.”

“I like to use found objects.  For instance my dad and brother refinish furniture and they were discarding an old chair that was too far gone.  I liked the back so I reclaimed it disassembled it and carved out a ‘Happy Cyclops‘, on it.  I like crypto zoology”.

Admitting that I didn’t know what crypto zoology meant, (although it is fun to say). He explained, “Basically it’s the study of mythological creatures, like the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot.   A lot of my work revolves around those themes.  I’ve been criticized for having an immature outlook, because I still love dinosaurs, comic book stores, and super-heroes.  A lot of my work revolves around those themes.”

Being an old artist I couldn’t help advise him to follow his heart that George Lucas also liked mythology and probably still has a so called immature outlook.  George studied with Joseph Campbell to learn all about the hero myth.  We agreed George didn’t do so badly, and that he is looking forward to checking out some of the many books Mr. Campbell left us.

He explained the process of linocut to me.

“I conceive of the design and try to draw out the block first, either linoleum or wood.  You have to carve out what you are not drawing; you have to carve out the negative.   Its easy to make a mistake.  The end result is like a giant rubber stamp.   When I’m ready to print I soak a piece of heavy linen paper, blot and then dry it.  I put that over the inked up block.  The hardest part is if you have a bunch of text, the words have to be backwards and its easy to mess up.”

“I’m really grateful for all of the resources this community has created.  I’m now connected with a couple of other groups of young artists; we are soaking up as much of that as we can. We would like to create and then share with the next generation.”

For me it is inspirational to get to know younger artists like Zac, learn about his artistic aspirations and especially to learn about how our community has reached out to him.  I hope he now has a reason to stay.

But, now I am off to the Marin Coast to paint at Tamales Bay with a group of Plein Aire Painters.  It’s tough duty I know but someone’s got to do it.

Where artists live and work, communities thrive.