by Evan O. Albert
Lexington has a sturdy visual arts scene (Fourth Friday, Gallery Hop, etc), and a plethora of bands who lay down thick head crushing metal.
Kyle Keener and Anton Escobar are two Lexingtonians who are masters in both of these worlds, two mortals with the capacity to lay down tasty riffs alongside of enchanting brush-strokes. I spoke with both of these young men about their creative processes.
Anton Escobar, singer and guitar player from crust-death metal trio Tombstalker, uses dark and macabre themes in his immensely detailed illustration work. His work is the product of a meticulous process that takes his characters through ink drawing and digital coloring. “I usually conceptualize and create first, and then I do a series of process work. Small thumbnail sketches… After that I’ll lay it down in ink, take it into the computer and clean it up. If I want to take it there I digitally color it. I use technical pens for art to get extreme detail and digitally add color. I try to use really intense lighting for more drama and to get more emotion from the work. I try to get an emotional response.”
Escobar says there is a connection between his art and his music, mostly in the subject matter of his images. “Obviously the subject matter is similar, but when I do art for my
band it mirrors the lyric.” Anton deals mostly in illustration, often for clients. “Sometimes it’s a commission piece. The person giving me the job tells me what they want and I create it for them. I try to solve the client’s problems without compromising my artistic creativity. That’s important. You always have to do work for yourself to some degree, otherwise your work suffers.”
Kyle Keener is the guitarist in local stoner-doom metal outfit Sonic Altar. Their powerful amplifier-worshiping performances are filled with intoxicating licks and mind-bending psychedelia. Kyle, who prefers to go by “Dr. Keener” is more of an experimental type. His art rarely features any distinguishable objects and the medium category is more “kitchen sink” than any single material. Instead of the rigorous creative process used by Escobar that takes the piece from concept to finished and polished product, Dr. Keener tends to take his piece by the horns and dive right in.
“I turn on a record and trance out to whatever I’m listening to and then see what develops. Nothing is planned out except the materials I’m using. Sometimes I throw in a technique like melting crayons or something but mostly is just subconscious, I just let my ADD take over. I’ll have some acrylic paint in my hand and be goin’ with that, then I’ll see some charcoal and grab that and start messing with it. Nothing is planned out.”
After our conversation, I watched him produce a piece in a little shy of an hour, using ink, painter’s tape, acrylic paint and spray paint (which he also used as a blowtorch on the painting).
Lexington is an often-overlooked cultural incubator. It has the small town feeling and rolling hills peppered with horse farms alongside of a larger city infrastructure. Artists and musicians have available outlets, places where they can be seen and heard. Kentucky may be known for its fine bourbon whiskey and majestic racehorses, but there is much more than meets the eye.