Artist Profile: Chris Koelle • Bike Snob Book Illustrator

by Tom on May 11, 2010 · 8 comments

in bike art

If you are reading this bike blog, then chances are good that you also read BikeSnobNYC, the snide bike blogging phenomenon where recently de-anonymized blogger Eben Weiss shares his unique and entirely snarky perspective on, well, just about anything that strikes his fancy. Upon hearing me guffawing from the other room, Lyanda will ask, “are you reading Bike Snob? What’s he saying?” and demand that I share the choicest tidbits aloud.
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Bike Snob just published a book. But you probably knew that. Maybe you’re one of the folks who are helping to make it the #1 cycling book on Amazon. I am, my copy came last week. And one of the first things you notice about the book are the awesome illustrations by Greenville, South Carolina artist Chris Koelle.
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Koelle and his Etsy store of bike drawings, and his inspirational blog, have been on my radar for a while, bookmarked on my ever-growing list of topics future Bikejuju posts. With the Bike Snob book making a splash, Chris was kind enough to submit to a brief email interview.
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• Chris, what inspires you to use bicycles as a theme in your work?

At the most basic, primitive level, I love the lines and shapes and silhouette of the bicycle, and to draw those elements alongside figures, it’s just really enjoyable for me and how I love to make marks on paper.  And of course, the juxtaposition of stoic figures from an era gone by with funny modern-day sayings is just fun… there’s a real attitude about someone posing with their bicycle.  Beyond that, on a deeper level, the history, the lore of travel and roads is fascinating to me (like, how did all these highways get here???).  I think it’s worth investigating and paying tribute to the history of travel as we know it–how good roads came to be (Horatio Earle, etc.), why they were demanded in the first place, how means of travel today is both a blessing and a curse, something we both love and hate, and how the simplicity of the bicycle is, as ever, both totally practical and totally a joy to ride.

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• Name or describe a few other influences on your work.

A lot of old printmakers such as Jim Dine, Leonard Baskin, Maurcio Lasansky and contemporaries like Harrell Whittington (my college printmaking instructor), Jonathan Aumen (a friend from college), and tons of illustrators have really influenced my love for mere mark-making and line, tone, shape, texture, subdued colors, and hand-lettering.  Other comic book and graphic novel artists, like Bill Sienkiewicz, Kent Williams, Ash Wood, and Jason S. Alexander have really inspired my more cinematic sequential work.  And I’d be remiss to not mention my wife Annie Koelle, who is really one of the greatest artists I know.

• How did you end up illustrating the Bike Snob NYC book?
Chronicle got in touch with me about illustrating it because the designer of the book (the amazing Gregory Klein) was familiar with my Sweet Ride artwork, and he passed it on to them.  Thanks again, Greg!
• Do you ride? How’s the riding? Where do you go? What do you ride?
I haven’t had too much time recently to do much riding, being bogged down with freelance projects. But I’ve got a used but solid Gary Fisher Kaitai that I love riding around our big yard and neighborhood back streets when I can, either on lunch break, evenings, or on the weekends.  Nothing crazy hardcore (yet!) but for me, just a couple minutes riding around the yard are a couple minutes very well spent and enjoyed.
• Are there other artists working on bicycle-themed art that you think we should be aware of?
The bicycle is an element that weaves in and out of alot of artists’ work these days, but there’s this one print by Brian Hartley Sago that I must needs acquire one day, called “High Stakes Cycling.”  Amazing.
Detail from the print High Stakes Cycling.

Detail from the print High Stakes Cycling.

• Do you have a photograph of your studio, or-work-in-progress, to give us an insight into your process?
Luckily, we just had a big art show / party at our studio collective, White Whale Studios & Gallery, so that forced us to clean up and get organized (I’m a mess), with much help from my wife Annie who does beautiful artwork.  We share our studio room, along with our boy Marshall, who has his own little nook to watch VHS tapes and read and draw in.
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As you can see in these pics, I work both in real media like pencil, ink, charcoal, intaglio printmaking, as well as Photoshop.  Real media + scanner + Photoshop + Wacom tablet = YUM.
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Right now I’m working on illustrating a book of the Biblical History of Redemption (yeah, kind of daunting), so I’ve got some in-progress sketches and lots of Byzantine icon references on the old iMac.
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Thanks Chris! Don’t forget to stop by Chris’ Etsy shop – he says “To celebrate the release of the Bike Snob book, mention “Bike Snob” at checkout at the Sweet Ride shop – through May 31 – and receive 15% OFF your order!”

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Poppy May 13, 2010 at 4:52 am

So cool! Now I know what I’m getting my husband for his birthday next week! Shhhh…

Ryan May 17, 2010 at 6:18 am

I picked up Sweet Ride last year and love it. I also recently picked up the Bike Snob book and am looking forward to diving in. Great interview!

anonymous June 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm

great interview! hopefully there are some folks out there working to make bike snob’s book #1 for cycling books in their local bookstore :)

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