A turkey in sneakers, the Marysville water tower as a giant strawberry, an electric guitar morphing into a set of train tracks. All of this from the mind of award-winning Herald artist Bob Kelton.
A majority of Kelton’s job each week is processing the photo images that appear in the daily newspaper and other Herald publications. But the fun part comes when Kelton gets to be creative with his original covers for the A&E tabloid section that comes out every Friday. Kelton’s covers set a mood for weekend fun and what will be happening in the arts. The subjects of his illustrations can range from a hot summer movie like “The Avengers” or a serene scene from a ballet.
Early in life Kelton scoffed at the idea of a career in art, but after studying a few non-art-related fields at the University of Washington, he switched over to the Art Institute of Seattle. Kelton says the biggest influences on his style are underground comic artist R. Crumb as well as fantasy artists Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo.
Bob has worked in almost every medium from pencil to clay, but he now works primarily on the computer, with Photoshop as his primary tool. For each week’s A&E cover, Kelton goes over cover options with features editor Melanie Munk. From there he puzzles out how to illustrate an idea.
For big movies he often uses a movie still or promotional piece of art provided by the studio. But for local events Bob gets extra-creative. A recent cover promoting Marysville’s Strawberry Festival morphed two icons from the city. With a stock photo of a strawberry, he turned the landmark Marysville water tower into a giant strawberry.
Another favorite came from Sausage Fest. Kelton created a scene of sausages and beer, with Sausage Fest spelled out in mustard. “At first I was going to do the writing digitally, but realized it called for real mustard. It took a lot of practice to write with mustard, and I’m still trying to get a stain out of my shirt,” said Kelton. “But the end result was worth it.”
Throughout the newspaper’s pages we generally maintain consistency with our font selections, but Kelton has the freedom to break the mold with his stylized “A&E” logos.
Kelton has designed the A&E logo with an elegant font for a story on a ballet, shaped with rulers for the play “Nunsense” and in the form of a hamburger for the Taste of Edmonds.
“Sometimes it’s nothing more than a font that I feel works with it, other times it can be fairly involved,” Kelton said. “For ‘The Avengers’ movie, I used the logo from the movie, which was a big stylized ‘A’, then had to create the E in a similar style.”
Aside from the A&E covers, Kelton’s whimsical art can also be found in other sections of the paper and on the website, Heraldnet.com. Among the more memorable pieces were his illustrations that went with last year’s Food Fight feature that had your favorite Thanksgiving foods battling it out for first place. The illustrations included a turkey in shorts and sneakers, a worried ham and some bespectacled Brussels sprouts.
“Bob Kelton puts gym shorts on a naked turkey, and it makes you want to root for that turkey,” Munk said. “We are so lucky to get a glimpse into his artist’s brain.”
Each week, Here at The Herald provides an inside peek at the newspaper. Is there something you would like to know? Email Executive Editor Neal Pattison, firstname.lastname@example.org.