Geek, nerd, techie, dork. egghead, bookworm. For many of us interested in sci-fi or comic books, these are just some of the insults hurled at us during our formative years. Some would have found these hurtful, or carried the stigma into our adult lives. But others, such as myself, relish in these epithets. They are titles, as truthful and real as the “Dr” in front of my name. Being called geek is now a badge of honour.
I’ve been a fan of sci-fi for as long as I can remember. With the rise of cosplay and conventions, being a geek has never been cooler. If The Big Bang Theory” has taught us anything, it’s that the geek always gets the girl.
In my journey deeper down the rabbit hole of geek and comic culture, I discovered US artist Len Peralta. Many of us in the UK may not have heard of him. He’s an Ohio based artist, who has worked with the likes of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame.
Len is one of the original podcasters. Starting in 2005, he produces Jawbone Radio, notching up over 300 shows in the past decade. Just recently he’s been working with special effects artist Frank Ippolito, of SyFy channel’s Face-off. Len is probably best known for his “Geek-a-week” series of interviews and art work. Each week he interviews a high profile geek, drawing them as trading cards. Sadly, I’ve not risen to such lofty heights to claim a place in the pack. (http://geekaweek.net/)
I caught up with Len in late February 2015. I asked him how he first developed an interest in art and illustration.
“I have been drawing since I was able to hold a pen in my hand”, he answered, adding that, “I destroyed every single phone book in my house drawing on all the pages”.
Despite my scientific background, I’ve always been in awe of those with artistic abilities. I can remember my school art teacher, frown etched onto her forehead, trying to decipher what I had drawn or painted. The words “nice try” were the usual response.
On asking what advice Len might have for aspiring artists, “draw you ass off” was his reply. He likens art to “like playing an instrument or a sport. You have to get out there and put the work in to make yourself better”.
He adds that, “not all your times out will be winners, but one day you’ll wake up and realize you’re doing the work you want to do. Draw every day”. For any of us familiar with his work, it’s evident this ethic has paid off.
Clearly passionate about what he does, Len describes his work as varying between cartoon style and real life portraiture. He cites influences including Leniel Yu and Skottie Young, both accomplished artists in their own right, and well known comic book illustrators.
One of Len’s most recent projects is “Creature Geek”, a series of podcasts devoted to special effects. Alongside Frank Ippolito, Len interviews some of the greats of film and television special effects. People such as Matt Winston, actor and son of the late Hollywood special effects icon Stan Winston, who worked on Jurassic Park, Aliens and Predator.
I asked Len how he developed the idea for a podcast devoted to special effects.
“During Geek A Week, I found that I kept having long drawn out conversations about special effects and make up with folks (most notably film director Guillermo Del Toro)”
“…That’s why I approached Adam Savage if he knew any pros who would be interested in pairing up for a show so we could have both perspectives – someone geeking out about the work and someone who actually DID the work. That’s how I met Frank Ippolito. Ironically, I had watched Frank and the SyFy show Face Off and I remember him being from Cleveland, so he stood out to me. The rest is history.”
Len’s Geek a Week has seen him draw such people as musicians Amanda Palmer, and Jonathan Coulton, comedian Josh Cagan and author Neil Gaiman.
You can see, and buy Len’s work at lenperaltastore.com. His speed painting project can be found at patreon.com/len and all of this work can be viewed at lenperalta.com. Len will even take commissions, so if you fancied a portrait of yourself as your favourite character, go to lenperalta.com and send him a message.
The 21st century is the time of the geek. The geek shall inherit the Earth. Nerdy is the new cool.