Cheyne Gallarde, Hawaiian artist famous for his pop art illustrations, caught my eye on Instagram when his work was featured on the accounts of the top four drag queens of this season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. He’s talented, funny and definitely on the way to big things so I decided to reach out.
What, to you, is the definition of art?
CG: That’s a huge question! In my opinion, art should challenge the viewer. They say that if all your friends love your art, it’s not good enough. Art should never be safe, it should always prompt some kind of reaction – be it love or hate.
Are there any artistic styles or artists that you draw inspiration from?
CG: The look of my art is inspired by a lot of old comic artists like Jack Kirby, John Romita and Will Eisner. I love their use of shadow and line work.
How important do you think social media is to the world of art today?
CG: Social Media has become more of an art museum where you can browse and experience new art at your own pace. For an artist like myself, living all the way in the art void of Hawaii, social media has been essential in reaching an audience.
What do you most dislike about the world of art?
CG: I hate how art has become so serious and lacks humor. Humor is an essential element in my art and I hate how artists (and art-lovers) have put a greater value on more mindblowingly beautiful art than something that makes you laugh.
If you had the opportunity to collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
CG: It would be amazing to collaborate with some of my favorite authors/directors like David Sedaris or Joss Whedon. I think we could make some amazing and hilarious works of art together.
Your work varies from Disney to comic book characters to drag queens – which are your favourite to draw and why?
CG: Don’t make me choose! Haha! That’s one of the joys of my life, I get to draw what I want. Some days I feel like drawing Ursula and some days I feel like drawing Bianca Del Rio. I’ve learned to not follow trends and just draw what you want. If you pursue things you’re passionate about instead of what you think will get likes, you’ll be more successful. All my clients have found me via my passion projects and not my projects I did for commercial clients. Do what you love.
Have you had any personal experiences with drag queens?
CG: Yes, I used to be one! I had a short career as a drag queen and even ran my own drag show. It opened up a lot of opportunities for me like getting to perform for Latrice Royale, hosting Mardi Gras to name a few. I loved it, but for now my drag persona is retired while I focus on my art.
Have you ever used your real life experiences to inspire you?
CG: Indeed! A lot of the bitchy pop art I make come from how I feel or sassy thoughts I have. There’s a reason I draw side-eye sassy bitches — it’s because I’m a sassy side-eye throwing bitch haha! I embrace it because I feel like people can relate to it more than if I was creating a gorgeous renaissance painting, especially in this day and age.
Can you tell us a bit more about your personal life?
CG: Like most artists I have a dayjob that pays the bills. Thankfully, it’s doing Graphic Design so at least I get to say I’m a full-time artist. After work, I work on my personal art. I have an art studio where I go to paint.
What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to your work?
CG: I LOVE hearing what fans think about my work, but the most memorable responses have to be from the queens themselves. Sasha has called my work brilliant and Peppermint and Trinity have both used my art in their official merchandising. I am both honored and gagged at the same time!
Do you have any exciting upcoming projects you can tell your fans about?
CG: A children’s book I illustrated is being turned into a play and I was hired to design the sets and costumes. That’s opening in November. I’ve also been hired to create some original art for a makeup brand featuring some of the drag race queens and that’s all I can say about that so stay tuned!
What’s been your proudest moment to date?
CG: When I passed 10K followers on instagram! It seems trivial, but as someone who started from 0 followers and organically grew my followers 3 years ago (!) that’s a huge accomplishment!
What art do you most identify with?
CG: I love anything with a good story, so it can range from Sin City to the Injustice game/comic to Stranger Things.
How do you think art has evolved in contemporary society?
CG: Art has evolved to become more accessible. It’s anywhere and can be made my anyone and that’s both scary and exciting!
What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+ art and artists? Do you feel they’re overlooked or exploited?
CG: I love my fellow LGBTQ artists like Hey Rooney, Travis Chantar and Glen Hanson! They know their audience and embrace it. I think they’ve definitely achieved success but much like myself, they’re still on the fringe. Mainstream media needs to celebrate them and all LGBTQ artists! We’ve got a lot to bring to the table and we know how to entertain beautifully!
Do you think art has helped tackle issues that are typically seen as taboo like nudity, sexuality, etc.?
CG: Yes and I love it. If someone looks at one of my pop art paintings and it releases their inner diva and inspires them to do something brave that would be amazing!
I assume you’re watching the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Are you #TeamTrinity like me?
CG: This really is the toughest top 4 to single out! I think they all are strong and have something that the other person lacks. Don’t make me choose! Whoever wins, I’ll be more than happy and whoever loses, I’ll be happy to see them in All Stars!