The Creators of Chicago: Artist Luke Pelletier
Graphic designer Lucy Hewett was 27 when she quit her job at a marketing agency and taught herself to take photos, experimenting on friends to hone her portraiture skills. Going freelance was a struggle (stylized portraits don’t pay quite like ad campaigns for McDonald’s) but Hewett credits her success, in part, to the support of her local creative network. This would have been the first in a series of ten profiles, but life had other plans. Enjoy this first and last installment anyway, and thanks for reading with us.
Luke Pelletier describes himself as a “painter, printmaker, musician and skateboarder.” He’s a sophomore at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but spend several minutes on his blog and you can tell he was making art long before he entered school.
Pelletier’s West Coast vernacular and bright, sometimes tropical, imagery might lead you to think he migrated from SoCal to Chicago, but he’s originally from Brevard, N.C., where he grew up skateboarding, playing in punk bands and drawing.
At first, it’s astonishing just how much work he has — and how good it is. “Having a lot of different outlets kind of makes you wicked productive,” he says. Sharing something almost every other day on his Tumblr – songs, sketches, paintings and photos, has become a part of his work flow.
You live in Pilsen, on Chicago’s South Side, which is known for its artistic community. Is that why you chose it?
It’s wicked cheap here. And it has two things I like: not paying much for rent and lots of Mexican food.
What inspires you?
Skateboarding was when thinking creatively came into what I did. When you skate, you can look at a handrail and a switch can go off in your head and its not a handrail anymore, it’s something you can skate. That’s how I learned to think about art – taking something that already exists in the world and then making something new. Also, I got into punk when I was really young. Skateboarding and punk both have very distinct aesthetics and bounce off each other really well.
Has art school been a good thing?
School is weird, but it’s getting better. It’s great in some ways because it forces me to think more conceptually.
Do you worry that when you graduate you’ll have to get a “real” job?
The thing is, I don’t want to make trading cards for rich people. What happens when you sell your art to those dudes, especially the really rich people, is they put it in a closet for like 20 years and then when they’re about to die some gallery curates a room full of their stuff, so they can just show off what they own. At the same time I love making paintings and paintings have a certain amount of time and money put into them. There is a price that you have to charge. I think working on commissions kind of fixes that dilemma for me. I can make a T-shirt for a company and a kid can buy a print of my art for twenty bucks.
What kind of projects are you working on now?
Tumblr is actually how I started connecting with people all over the world. I did a split zine collaboration with Ben Jensen, who lives in Canada. After that I just started curating a bunch of different shows with people I met online.
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