Artwork by Keith Glidewell
By Nicolas Palermo | Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2018
From the Andy Warhol/Velvet Underground collaborations of the 60s to RISD alumni Talking Heads, to the anime-inspired characters that make up Gorillaz, visual art has been almost if not equally important to the history of music as the music itself.
Take NJ native Keith Glidewell, for example. When he isn’t noodling bass riffs for the emo/punk group Ditz, he’s doodling exaggerated, whacked out cartoons that you could easily imagine on your favorite Adult Swim show. Although still images, the facial expressions and body language of his characters give them an animated quality. Some of them might even reach out to hand you a beer. Many of these doodles become finished products that adorn the album covers and fliers for his own band.
I spoke to Keith to learn about the creative process and inspiration behind his work.
Where did you grow up? Do you feel like the area you live in and your experiences there have had an effect on your artwork?
I grew up in Florence, NJ which is a small, blue-collar town in Central Jersey—right on the Delaware River. When I say that Florence is small, I'm not exaggerating; I graduated with 97 kids. Most people are shocked when I tell them that, but I thought it ruled. Everyone knew each other and that was super humbling. For the most part, there weren't social cliques and this allowed me to get to know people on a personal level that I wouldn't have otherwise. I was exposed to many different cultures and ways of thinking. On top of that, I had a really, really great group of friends (that I'm still friends with today), and we spent most of our time building forts down by the river, playing "office chair hockey," and hanging out in cardboard dumpsters at the middle school. I think the area that I grew up in and the experiences I had there absolutely has an effect on my artwork. Florence gave me a good look at people and what it means to be human, and I try to reflect that in my characters.
What is the process for making your doodles turn into album covers or show fliers?
I kind of stumbled into making artwork for bands and as a result, stumbled into being in a band myself. I had been posting character designs and doodles on Instagram for a while and, although a few people commissioned me to do design work for them, I was mostly doing it for fun. One day my buddy Todd asked me to come up with a logo for his new band, Ditz, and he sent me the demos to listen to while I worked on it. He also let me know that they were looking for a bass player. The design took a few days and the band loved it, and I ended up liking the demos so much that I tried out for the bass part. Now I play bass in Ditz and handle the design work which has been extremely rewarding. I was always a huge fan of James Heimer's illustrations and how he branded The Wonder Years' early stuff. He had such a distinct style, and that's something I try to accomplish with Ditz.
Your characters appear cute and goofy at first but many of them seem to have very “human” qualities to them (i.e. smoking cigarettes, partying, being violent). Is this a style that’s influenced by any artists in particular? Do you give your drawings a hidden darker quality consciously or is that just how they end up?
My work has always been pretty gross! In high school, my math notebook was filled with drawings of people vomiting or smoking giant cigs or giant cigs vomiting up people. I think that gross-ness stems from me being obsessed with shows like The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Superjail!, Spongebob, and Courage, The Cowardly Dog. As I grew up, I got into R. Crumb and I really dig all of his characters and their exaggerated features. All of these shows and artists influenced me greatly and I take a little bit from each one. I always appreciated the fusion of innocence and the sad/gross parts of being human. Characters can be both charming and disgusting and that's something I like to highlight in my artwork.
In addition to drawing, you have a talent for animating. How do you bring your doodles to life? What is the process for making animated cartoons?
I didn't consider animation as something I'd like to do until my uncle, cartoonist Mark Tatulli, told me that I had the potential to do it. So, I picked up a few animation classes at TCNJ and fell in love with it. I'm interested in 2D, frame by frame animation and I have this overly complicated process (that involves drafting, inking, and coloring in one app and then editing the frames together in another), but it works for me. As much as I love animation, I like to stick to pre-production like storyboarding and character designing!
What projects do you have planned next as far as visual art goes? What about in music?
Well, artistically, since I JUST graduated college, I've been doing personal work. Doodles and gross characters— things like that. I'm going to start posting on Instagram daily again, and I'm excited. My senior year made it hard to do that and I can't wait to get back. I also have been working on a few short films and music videos, which is another passion of mine. Musically, Ditz has been writing a full-length record, smoking cigs, drinking a bunch of beer, and playing shows. We're going to keep doing that!
What accounts could we follow you at for updates on any new art or music?
My instagram account is: @keithglidewell where I post drawings, film stuff that I'm doing, and pictures of my big dumb head. The Ditz account is: @ditztheband. This is where we post show dates, video clips we have, and pictures of our big dumb heads.