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It was humbling to interview Erik. Not only is he passionate about his artwork and creating new ideas, he also shows passion about ideals he believes in. His decisions and thoughts are meaningful and important to him. He also showed time and again how he was willing to help others, and was honest and proud of the times he allowed others to help him. I hope those traits show in from this transcribed interview with Erik.

After introducing myself, the initial question from Erik was whether or not he could swear during the interview. After chuckling a bit, I told him to please be comfortable during the interview. I guess I didn’t do a great job at helping him feel like he could use profanity because he didn’t end up swearing very often. (Read the complete, word-for-word interview with Erik here.)

 

Erik is a comic artist, painter, and illustrator living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He currently has a digital store front for his business Thermonuclear Art. In addition to creating amazing fan artwork, Erik commissions ads, logos, posters, portraits, comic covers, comic artwork, and original artwork. Currently he is working on the webcomic The Red Calaveras, and is the main graphic designers of GoGoMatika. In his free time Erik likes to play the bass guitar, or at least tells people he can play the base guitar.

Erik wrote the The Red Calaveras after getting to know the punk rock scene in Minneapolis. He explains, “I had a really bad time about 6 years ago. So I went and started hanging out with the punk rockers in Minneapolis. Minneapolis has a strong and thriving punk rock community. And I started to decide to become friends with them because I like their work ethic. Basically they don’t care what anyone thinks. They don’t care about the money; they don’t care if people listen to them. They just care that they have something to say. So I kind of tried to imitate them and learn from them. I wanted everything to be more important.” I surmise that this is where his claim to play the bass guitar began.

After adopting a punk rock philosophy for several years, he realized that part of being an artist is balancing client needs with your own creativity. He realized that loosing those clients created a “big problem,” and that he needed to generate enough income to continue producing. At this point he started writing The Red Calaveras. 

Erik says, “It’s really funny because Brad told me, ‘Hey, I will print your comic.’ And I was like, ‘perfect!’ And… the thing is, he said that sight unseen. (we pause and laugh a little here) And when he read it… I wrote it for myself. And I was very straight forward on it. Two things you should not do when you are writing. The book is very disjointed and rambles on. I am editing it now so that it’s less rambling. There’s a lot of F words… sometimes three in one sentence. Well, anyways, when he read it he said,

‘Erik, this is filthy. This book is vulgar.’

And I asked, ‘What do you mean by vulgar?’

He said, ‘You used the word F*** three times in one sentence.’

And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s how people speak.’

And he was like, ‘Who speaks like that?!’

‘Your customers speak like that.’

‘No! My customers don’t speak like that!

I said, ‘No your customers and my customers speak like that! Your fan base is my fan base. Believe me they all talk like that.’

…Well he kept saying no, so I am kind of fixing it now. It’s a little bit over the top.”

Erik is currently working on this comic with a few assistants. While talking about his team, he laments that it’s difficult to find artists who are able to dedicate their time to art. He prides himself on his own dedication and discipline, which allows him to be a professional.

While discipline as a professional artist comes easier to Erik after watching the amazing artists in his own family, he continues to work on balancing his own creativity with work for clients. According to his experience with work balance, you need about three medium sized clients to live.

He explains, “It’s okay to work on what you want and what makes you happy, and it’s okay to make money. Money is a tool… like a hammer. You don’t say the hammer is evil. It’s a tool. And it’s like using a toy hammer to knock down a concrete wall. If you can make everyone like what you like, then you can make it. Like, Michael Bay. No one likes Michael Bay (I mean someone does), but he makes a lot of money making the movie that he wants. He brings oodles of money. Is that bad? No. He’s doing the right thing. It’s like George Lucas. He made the Star Wars Prequels. Not a lot of people like them, but do you know why I like the prequels? Super easy. He went and did his copyright. He did his thing and made a s*** ton of money on the toys. He wrote the movie he wanted. He shot the movie he wanted. He brought what he wanted. He told his story. When he has no more stories, he goes, turns around sells it to Disney, and then takes a good chunk of the money to education.” Erik prides artists who stay true to themselves and creating a living while doing it, however that needs to happen.

Erik’s first memory of creating something was when he was about 5. He says, “I was in first grade, and we were living in an area in Puerto Rico… My mom handed me a coloring book and it was the story of the 3 Little Pigs [and] a box of old crayons… I don’t know where she found them… I tore through it. But by the end of the day, I was asking my mom for another coloring book. I just tore through it. My mom was so cheap. She said, ‘Why don’t you draw your own story of the three little pigs? And then you can have your own coloring book.’ And then that was that. That was the first time I was making my own stories.” After that experience, Erik seemed to always be creating art.

He remembers, “Everyone knew I was going to be artist. Some people have a hobby… I drew. Some people would play sports… I drew. Some people would go out and do stuff… I drew.” He remembers a funny memory when he graffitied an X-Men picture on the wall of his high school. His teacher was unhappy and wanted discipline, but the principal thought it was an interesting painting so he left it. Since then, Erik has enthusiastically pursued art. With the exception in a small foray with engineering (which he hated), he has learned his trade and passionately gone after it.

 

Erik’s professional career intertwined with Colorworld Books and the Kelly family about 3 or 4 years ago in Madison, Wisconsin. He was at a convention there trying to promote his comic with a few friends. He remembers, “It was a giant flop… There were not a whole lot of people. No one was walking our way. And then there was this woman, and this random guy, and a bunch of annoying children. And I was like, ‘Who are these people?'” After this comment we laughed together and Erik assured me that it’s nothing he has not already said to the Kelly’s. Returning to their meeting, Erik had decided previously that he wanted to get to know other artists better, and he walked over and began chatting with Rachel Kelly.

Through their conversation, Erik showed his character and helped the Kelly’s get Colorworld Books started. At this point, Colorworld Books was just starting, and the Kelly’s were struggling to find means of traveling to their next convention. Erik, saw this need, and filled it by donating his art portfolio for the Kelly’s to sell. “I called Brad and I said, “Here’s my portfolio. Use it however you want. Use that money to fix your RV. Later you can deal with paying me. But this weekend use that work to make money for yourselves.” When I asked him what compelled him to give such a considerate gesture, he simply stated that he had been helped several times in his career and he felt that he needed to pay it forward.

His next project for Colorworld Books is creating the illustrated copy of Dreamworld (Book 5 in the Colorworld Book series). While this is challenging to have to read the book and then create his own images of the characters, he is very excited for the opportunity.

Erik says this about Colorworld Book’s CEO, Brad Kelly, “Brad is always coming up with a new plan. If someone can do it is brad. He is a very giving person and works hard to achieve his (and everybody else’s) goals.” As a fun ending question, I asked Erik if he would rather be Team Brad or Team Rachel. He quickly said Team Rachel. He said, “Rachel is hilarious, I never know what she is going to say about anything… and how she is going to react either. She is always an adventure.” However, he gives the caveat that he enjoys working with Brad and that Brad is a great employer.

 

Read the complete, word for word interview with Erik Lervold here.