MTV taps Hawaii artist to showcase Video of the Year nominees
Local artist and illustrator Cheyne Gallarde’s personal style involves turning women into tough but glamorous superheroes in comic-book form.
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If the artwork that made its way through social media during the MTV Video Music Awards looked familiar, it’s because it’s the work of local artist and illustrator Cheyne Gallarde, whose personal style involves turning women into tough but glamorous superheroes in comic-book form.
Luckily that’s just the style the music television channel wanted to promote its Video of the Year nominees: Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, the Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and 21 Savage featuring J. Cole.
You would think that planning for such a major award show would start a year ahead, but said he was given all of two weeks to come up with comic book-style cover illustrations to celebrate the six, plus VMA Vanguard winner Missy Elliott.
“First I had to watch all of the videos, which took a weekend,” Gallarde said. “For Missy Elliot it was a lot because her career goes back more than 20 years, so I just put everything on a loop, grabbed a glass of wine and started sketching.”
Gallarde’s name had come up because he had already done a lot of work for Logo TV, an LGBT sister station to Viacom-owned MTV. This June, he won a national silver Addy Award from the American Advertising Federation for a series of John Waters comic covers he created for Logo TV. Out of 32,000 entries received, only 75 gold Addys and 175 silver Addys were awarded to those deemed to have made “outstanding contributions to advertising.”
Gallarde said the MTV team had seen his portfolio online and already knew he had a good relationship with Logo and could work quickly.
Because of the tight deadline, approval of his sketches came fast, and the only requirement was that the artwork include the name of the artist and nominated song.
He said drawing the men was most difficult for him.
“I don’t draw a lot of males. I love drawing females, doing their hair, defining their features with gorgeous makeup, making them look like X-Men.”
Gallarde had grown up with a love of comics, inspired most by the work of Jack Kirby, who in 1941, with writer-editor Joe Simon created Captain America for Timely Comics, predecessor of Marvel Comics. Kirby and Simon also created numerous characters for National Comics Publications, which became DC Comics.
For the most part, Gallarde said creating these graphic images means, “I have to work like a police sketch artist. The Jonas Brothers were difficult because they have similar features so I have to find that one feature that makes them each look unique.”
His artwork was used to promote the show ahead of airtime and he was happy to see his work being retweeted, especially by the performers themselves, including Cyrus and Grande.
His next project is a book cover for Penguin Books for “Legendary Children,” what he calls “an opinionated history of queer life” by two LGBT bloggers who introduced his work to the publishing house.