Monday, March 18, 2013

"A Big Pile of Cacogenesis" an Interview with Karneeleus

The artists known as Karneeleus has an internet presence that screeched at me from afar, and it echoed in my head refusing to go away. It only took one bizarre, painful, gross, three panel cartoon to completely hook my imagination. The gritty naked bodies, the pleasured yet disturbed expressions, the amazing colors bursting beyond the familiar frames; compelled me to dig deep into the collection of this prolific artist. Karneeleus dares to take comic book art back to the deep dark cave that R.Crumb was exploring, and finds a way to marry fine art with comic book art in a way that Roy Lichtenstein would never dare.

(image on right. pen and photoshop. 2013)

Karneeleus is 30 years old from New London, CT currently living in New Haven, CT although from the time he was born, he never lived in any town for than 2 years and he says, "the idea of a "hometown" has always been a bit alien to me." Karneeleus works mostly with pen and photoshop, but paints a lot too using all kinds of materials, including but not limited to; acrylic, oil, watercolor, spraypaint, collage....whatever he has handy. After following this incredible work on the internet for a while, I had to ask him for an interview. Lucky for us, he accepted.    

(image on left. pen and photoshop. 2013)

What is your favorite work or series of work that you have created so far? Why is it your favorite? 

Karneeleus: I guess it would have to be my comics from last year ( At the beginning of  2012  I set out to make 2012 comic strips or pages. Which added up to about to about 5.5 comics a day.

I have been obsessed with comic books all my life. Hulk and X-men taught me how to read and at any point in my young life if I was asked about a future career my answer was invariably "comic book artist". But I got older and older and all I ever put any real time into was experimental/abstract paintings and a kind of pornographicish symbol-heavy drawing style.

In my early twenties I read and re-read all of Scott McCloud's and Will Eisner's books about sequential art and said "yes, yes, yes!" and then applied none of it to anything I was making ever.

When I realized I was turning 30 and had never accomplished a single piece of artwork in the one medium I really cared about that I could be proud of, I  decided I'd spend an entire year forcing myself to do nothing but comics. Ignoring all my anxieties about not being able to draw like Jack Kirby, or Dave Mckean, or R. Crumb or Dr. Seuss or  George Herriman or Winsor McCay or Chris Ware or  any of the comic artists I admire. Just make nothing but comics and figure out what a Karneeleus comic should be.

And I did it. A lot of them aren't good at all. A few are just pure shit. But I am pretty happy with a number of them. The project changed the way I think about making comics.

Most people I have talked to don't like them, because there is not any literal interpretation that can be taken from them. I get a lot of people saying "the words don't make any sense." Which I can understand being a turn off. But I like them, and a number of artists who I think are awesome have said nice things about them.

(image to left. pen and photoshop. 2013)
What inspires you to create?
Karneeleus: Two of my least favorite words are "inspire" and "create." They aren't as bad as "spiritual", but they're close.

What is your artistic process start to finish, when creating a work of art? How long does it take? What are the steps involved?

Karneeleus: I wish I had something good to say here but really all I do is put the medium to the surface and hope for the best.  Thinking about anything too much just gets me annoyed or anxious so I just jump into the work. No steps, the length of time on a piece can range from 1 minute to several years.

(image to right. pen and photoshop. 2013)

How do you promote /show/ display your artwork? Where does your finished projects go? How do people get to experience your work?

I have very little patience dealing with people. I'm just no good at communicating. So I am a big fan of the internet. I have several blogs that all funnel into my main blog at
I almost never submit my art for publication or to any galleries. The only time my work gets printed or shown in the real world are when people come to me and ask. Like in the case of my comic Ductile Anchor , I was approached (via email) by a cartoonist and all around swell guy named Andy Burkholder about him printing and selling a mini comic for me at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo. Which was a kick ass thing for him to offer to do, he couldn't have possibly made any money off of it.  And The World Artist Network , a group I have been a part of for several years, shows my paintings occasionally.

(painting to the right. acrylic on canvas. 2013)

Do you make money off of your art?

I make no significant amount of money off of it. I work in a cafe/bookstore. I'm sure I will do work like that for the rest of my life. The art I make isn't all that accessible and I'm not the sort of artist who makes compromises.  It isn't difficult fitting it in my life though. Its just all I do when I am not at work. Aside from my son and my girlfriend, It is my life.

One exception to art never making me any money ; I was lucky enough to get commissioned by someone to do a bunch of paintings a couple years ago for christmas presents for his entire family. And my girlfriend was hired to frame them all. That was great. It bought me the computer I am on right now and a shit-ton of paint and all of my son's birthday presents that year.
I have storenvy and lulu and society6 pages on which I try to sell comics and other things with my art on them, but I don't sell much on them. 
(image to the left. A sample pile of Karneeleus' workspace,  sketchbooks and resource materials.)

Why do you make art?

Karneeleus: I'm not sure why I do it. I just can't imagine not doing it. I guess it's a compulsion.
It effects my surroundings by leaving giant piles of drawings and paintings and sketchbooks and reference material all over my house.

(all images to the right top: pen and photoshop. 2013)

You do not shy away from mature content, often pornographic, in your work. Do you ever feel your work may be offensive to viewers, and do you ever censor any of your work?

I don't think about whether or not I am being offensive. If one is easily offended it is
unlikely they would be my viewer. I only censor my ideas if they are mediocre or boring. Or just too hard to draw.

Being on online follower of your work I know that you often have multiple projects going on at once. What are your current or upcoming projects? What are you working on now?

Karneeleus:  A few things:
- Cacogenesis ( - An ongoing stream-of-conciousness web-comic. I can't think of any way to adequately describe it.
-Hazaardgrad ( - A comic about a town filled with all my favorite recurring characters, with a special focus on the Jawworms. I have a lot of ideas and stories I want to make, but my incompetence in storytelling has held me back. I started a story last week, 4 pages of which are posted now, about Wanfred being given a monster baby, and Durwood being told it is his. Hopefully I can carry the story out with a satisfactory conflict and conclusion. We'll see. I also want to try and make this series funny.
-Non-objective pieces ( - I post a new piece of non-objective art every week. Mostly photoshop so far, one animationish thing. I have a few mixed media pieces drying now that will go up soon.
-Star Trek and X-men fan art ( -  My intention with this was to do a drawing weekly and fill the blog every other day with submissions from other fans of X-men and Star Trek. A fun community project sort of thing. But so far it has mostly just been me and my son posting artwork. As I said earlier X-men has been a lifelong obsession for me. Star Trek I just started watching last year. My girlfriend liked The Next Generation so I watched a couple episodes and got sucked in and watched the whole series on netflix, then all the original series movies, then all the TOS episodes.
-Out, Hyperbolic Fiend! ( - A series of comics in which I take bits of Shakespeare texts and rearrange them into weird ambiguous abstract narratives. Shakespeare has some of the best phrases ever written. It's just fun to play with his words. I might eventually illustrate a bit of his text in a more straight forward, illustrative way. If I do it will most likely be Macbeth or Lear. 

(image below. Pen and photoshop. 2013)

For those interested in keeping up to date with the incredible work of Karneeleus the best place to do that is: 

 Thanks again to Karneeleus for being interviewed.  At the end of every month I post a new artist interview with amazing artists I have had the luck to meet, collaborate or interact with during my journey as an artist. Please subscribe to my blog and share these interviews so as many people can experience the incredible work of these artist. Do not forget to browse my blog for sketchbook friday and my collection of free printable mazes. And as always thanks for reading. ~ William "the canvas killer" Hessian

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