“I think my art springs from a lot of places, but it may be a natural cure for sometimes working on cute stuff to pay my bills.”
Embracing the Fluidity of Artistic Expression
Having over thirty years of experience, Chris LaBonte is a skilled and accomplished artist who has made significant contributions to both the mainstream and alternative art worlds. While he is primarily known for his work in animation, he has also dedicated time to personal artistic exploration, including visual and musical endeavors.
LaBonte’s work encompasses a wide range of animated programs, yet his artistic spirit has consistently driven him towards the creation of non-mainstream art. His creative dualism can be likened to a split personality – earning his livelihood during the day working on endearing and harmless cartoons, while his evenings are spent crafting visual nightmares or performing in a band amidst a frenzied mosh pit.
His artistry, he suggests, springs from a multitude of sources. It appears to be a therapeutic counterbalance to the charming, commercially palatable projects that fund his living. LaBonte’s propensity for darker, more grotesque, and less approachable artistic sensibilities seems to thrive in stark contrast to the light-hearted animations he is often commissioned to create.
LaBonte’s involvement in the punk and metal music communities has not only sustained his lifelong passion for music but also significantly influenced his artistic perspective. This intersection of influences has resulted in a unique fusion of vibrant colors and dark undertones in his art.
Despite the dark sensibilities that pervade his work, LaBonte’s background as an art director and designer in animation infuses his pieces with a vibrant color palette. This hint of the cartoonish, even within his more serious paintings, adds an intriguing layer of complexity to his work, showcasing a seamless blend of his professional expertise and personal creative explorations.
Chris LaBonte: The Evolution of an Artist from Animation to Gallery Exhibitions
From a young age, Chris LaBonte demonstrated a profound interest in comic books, particularly veering towards the horror genre exemplified by ‘Creepy’ and humor-focused magazines such as ‘MAD’. Unlike his peers, the allure of superhero narratives held less sway over him, yet he diligently practiced rendering the dynamic poses of these characters in pencil. This early immersion in the art of comics unknowingly fortified his understanding of human anatomy, a skill that has become a defining characteristic of his body of work, especially with its frequent focus on the skeletal system.
In the 1980s, LaBonte pursued a college education in classical animation. This venture allowed him to not only refine his drafting abilities but also expand his knowledge of art history. While he found himself increasingly drawn towards diverse art forms, he acknowledged that animation was his most viable route to a career in art.
However, LaBonte’s artistic endeavors were not confined solely to his professional pursuits. Throughout his career, he consistently engaged in personal creative projects. These ventures ranged from designing gig posters and flyers for his bands and others, to conceptualizing and illustrating a myriad of tattoos.
It was only in the recent years that he transitioned into creating works specifically for gallery exhibition and print sales. This shift represents LaBonte’s evolution as an artist, further broadening his reach and impact in the art world.
The Luminous Dark Art of a Multifaceted Artist
Chris LaBonte embarked on his artistic journey within the animation industry, initially cultivating his craft through traditional pencil-and-paper methods. However, the ever-evolving demands of production impelled him to explore the digital realm. Transitioning to this novel medium presented a formidable challenge initially, yet with the insightful guidance of seasoned mentors and his wife, a veteran in the graphics industry, LaBonte successfully mastered the digital domain. He continues to find joy in this new medium, while maintaining a fondness for his roots in physical art, occasionally indulging in the tactile satisfaction of markers and paints. A particular delight for him lies in the multifaceted capabilities of his iPad Pro, which he appreciates for its portability and the array of tools it conveniently places at his disposal.
The stylistic approach of LaBonte is not easily defined due to the fluidity of his artistic expression. His artwork effortlessly oscillates between an expressionist painterly style and a meticulous comic line style. A prevalent theme within his oeuvre is an exploration of the ‘dark art’ genre, often interpreted as horror or macabre art. LaBonte’s signature skeletal figures and nebulous background elements have garnered significant recognition. Regardless of the sinister undertones of his subject matter, his work invariably displays a pop art sensibility, often incorporating elements of cartooning that add a dash of irony to even the most nightmarish scenarios. LaBonte has coined the term ‘Luminous Dark Art’ to describe his work, distinguishing his vibrant palette from the often muted tones characteristic of his fellow dark artists. This unique stylistic choice is a testament to his extensive experience within the animation industry.
LaBonte’s artistic influences span several centuries and styles, reflecting a rich tapestry of inspirations. He draws upon the works of masters such as Francisco Goya and Hieronymus Bosch, as well as modern artists including Francis Bacon, Ralph Steadman, and H.R. Geiger. Furthermore, he acknowledges the impact of comic artists like Will Elder and Wallace Wood on his artistic development, highlighting the diverse influences that contribute to his distinctive style.
Chris LaBonte’s “REVENANT” and the Unexpected Evolution of Art
Predominantly, Chris LaBonte embraces the digital medium for his creative endeavors, employing his iPad Pro and a stylus approximately 90% of his working time. Despite the bustling surroundings often associated with studio environments, LaBonte maintains an impressive level of focus, having adapted over the years to such lively atmospheres. In instances where a heightened level of concentration is required, he incorporates the use of headphones, punctuating his work sessions with the rhythm of music and the narrative of podcasts to augment his focus.
A seminal piece in LaBonte’s oeuvre, “REVENANT,” warrants particular discussion due to its unexpected evolution. Unlike the predictable trajectory of most of his works, the final outcome of “REVENANT” was a revelation to LaBonte himself. The digital medium’s flexibility, allowing him to alternately switch on and off various layers to reassess his work, played a significant role in this unexpected revelation. When a specific layer was switched off during the creation of “REVENANT,” the artwork seemingly declared its own completion – a moment of undeniable certainty for LaBonte. This is not always the case in his process, as some pieces require a period of rest before their completion can be evaluated, a term he affectionately refers to as being ‘cooked.’ “REVENANT,” however, presented an immediate assurance of its finished state at that decisive layer switch. This piece not only stands out for its creative process but also for the overwhelming positive reception it received from the audience, marking its status as a highly favored work.
Looking to the future, LaBonte envisages a grand audio-visual spectacle involving his artwork. He contemplates arranging a monumental post-metal musical accompaniment for large-scale projections of his work in an al fresco setting, playfully referred to as a ‘slide show from hell.’