Caspar: Well, actually today I just came up with a song about a baby that tries to run away from its parents and be free. The rhythm and the key for the song came from the turn signal on a big truck that I was driving to move furniture into a little woodland cabin on an island. I stopped at the edge of the lot to turn left and start my trip, and the turn signal was so musical and clicky and rhythmic and xylophone-like that it immediately made this old lilting tune come to mind.I started to sing about a baby coming down from the sky bathed in light and love. It was pretty magical and silly.
Then I thought of this comedian named Jim Gaffigan that does a routine about his child and how that child will reach for the handle on the door and try to get out of the house. He wonders in amazement at what the child could possibly have planned if the door were to actually open. "Where would you go? You can't even drive! YOU ONLY KNOW US!"
So, I started singing about a baby who finds itself in the woods and the sea and the snow and the jungle and the troubles and obstacles that it might encounter. Now the baby is a fearless traveler crashing through the underbrush and really making a go of it in the wild. It seems kind of scary and exciting to imagine a little vulnerable baby form out there making its way through the cruel elements all alone!
All of this came from the funny turn signal on a U-Haul rental truck.
There was another case where I was super frustrated at not being able to play a certain part that I had written correctly. I got mad and while the tape was running I just bashed away at chords. When I listened back the series of jabs at the strings made an amazing wandering progression that had a real shape to it. I ended up turning that into a song for my rock band, and we still play it in the set to this day!
I have learned to never throw anything away!
Caspar: What is the weirdest thing you've ever had to make?
Kate: Last year I was asked to create a portrait of a pet cat. I get asked that all the time so the request was not that unusual. However,my customer wanted the cat to be floating over their house while tethered to a bunch of balloons. I also needed to include hummingbirds in the illustration. The cat was bombarded by hummingbirds on a daily basis so the customer thought it would be funny to include that element. Overall, my requests for custom pieces are pretty straightforward and true to what I normally do, but that custom request was fun and silly and a little weird.
I get weird comments about my art, too. I have one collage — an owl flying over pine trees — that often gets mistaken for some pretty far-out things. For example, I've had more than one person think my owl-pine-tree image is really a fish swimming through the ocean. Another example of an unusual interpretation of the owl has to do with the wings. The wings are in a "v" formation near the top of the head, which has resulted in a few people thinking the owl is a rabbit! Who am I to tell them they're wrong? I love the different interpretations.
A recent customer question was regarding one of my black whales. I make a lot of whales; they're one of my more popular motifs. I make blue whales, white whales, and black whales. A customer thought that my black whales represented dead whales. In that case, I did have to step in let them know that that was most definitely not the case!
Caspar: Do you ever get the urge to do art that is bleak or dark? If so what do you think keeps you from releasing that into the world?
Kate: I don't get the urge to make art that is bleak or dark. I just don't think I have it in me. I do have a dark streak, though; it's not very wide but it runs deep. My family often refers to me as "devil child" because I enjoy benign mischief. I'm intrigued by serial killers, ghosts, the occult, and David Lynch films. I like dark, moody, loud music, too — Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Bauhaus. I guess I need to visit the dark side every now and then to balance all the cuteness I create.
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Caspar Babypants is also known as Chris Ballew, twice Grammy-nominated lead singer and songwriter for the rock-and-roll band the Presidents of the United States of America. For music, info, and more, go to BabypantsMusic.com.
Kate Endle is a collector of beautiful and unusual printed papers, which she uses to compose vibrant images for children’s books and original artwork. Original art and Kate Endle collage prints can be found at her online shop at KateEndle.com.
Books mentioned in this post
Caspar Babypants and Kate Endle is the author of Augie to Zebra: An Alphabet Book!