Here’s Jeffrey Jones on Michael Wm. Kaluta, from Comic Book Profiles #7: Michael William Kaluta (Summer 1999), pages 28 – 29:
How did you first meet Michael?
If memory serves, I met Michael and Bernie Wrightson at a New York City convention in the fall of 1968. Michael may dispute this because he is the “memory giant.” But I remember this as being so. We were there to show our fledgling work. I had arrived in New York about a year earlier and had a couple of jobs done. My memory is sketchy as to details but Bernie had a bunch of $5 and $10 ballpoint pen drawings piled on a table in the art show for sale. Michael was more of the portfolio type. I mention Bernie in the Michael question because he was the one who introduced us.
What do you feel is his strength as an artist?
Michael’s greatest strength as an artist has always been his ability to remind us to stay alive. His art is moral in the sense that it, as the best art, has absolutely no function except to exist. It has the promise of function and will remain where that beauty lives. I speak of the human spirit and its passion to rise above everything, except that which we all already know. Michael reminds us of that connection between all lives and all that makes us human. This takes a true artist.
You and Michael worked on projects together, both formally and informally. Does any one project stand out as particularly memorable?
The thing that jumps to mind is a period of time during The Studio days, if you will, when we were trying to decide what to call our upcoming book (The Studio). Michael taped long rolls of brown kraft paper to one wall where each of us, usually clandestinely, would write our suggestions. Well, this certainly started out seriously but quickly degenerated into a list of some of the most preposterous titles imagined by the minds of the deranged. I believe that even though most of these would appear in the dark of night, it was pretty easy to tell who wrote what. We laughed for what seemed months. Definitely a great achievement in the art of cooperation.
Now, it seems to me that what Jones viewed as the “greatest strength” in Kaluta’s work back in 1999 is precisely what Jones has always pursued in her own work.
And I have little doubt that Kaluta was, at the time, flattered by Jones’s praise; I mean, who wouldn’t be?
And yet, based on the very plain-spoken, practical analysis that Kaluta offers up in an early promotional trailer for Better Things: Life + Choices of Jeffrey Jones of the difference between his own unabashedly functional, commercial body of work, and the sometimes obliquely functional but always deeply felt and humanely expressive work of Jones, I’m not entirely sure that Kaluta actually would have agreed with Jones’s contention that his (Kaluta’s) artwork “has absolutely no function except to exist.”
Here is a partial, lightly edited transcript of the trailer, which features a rough-cut interview with Kaluta:
Artistically, [says Kaluta] one works for oneself. You have to. To get anything good, you kind of have to work for the person that’s inside of you; however, to be able to live, you have to work for companies. I had to work for companies; other artists, perhaps, can work for galleries, or posterity. An illustrator is someone who draws for money. I don’t do what some of my friends are able to do, which is paint their souls, their dreams, their nightmares for themselves, and that’s art — and it is. I am happiest when I am reading someone else’s material and crafting it into a picture that will reflect to my best efforts what I think the writer was trying to say, trying to visualize. I would say that Jeffrey Jones is both an illustrator and an artist, using the descriptions we have just talked about. He covers a wide range of self-motivating imagery. It comes through him, and every once in a while he’ll apply that specific power that comes through him to an illustration job, or he’ll use the characters that have been written by other people as a vehicle for his own talents. I wouldn’t say he’s as much of an illustrator as I am. I think that he’s more of a personal storyteller who now and then might come close to illustrating something [laughs], on purpose.
In the portion of the trailer I haven’t transcribed, Kaluta goes on to describe his first meeting with Jones, which Kaluta says occurred at “a World Science Fiction Convention here in New York City in 1967.” LOL!