I first met Hakim Callwood at Double Happiness for a Six One Flow show (for which he creates the poster art for) fall of 2016. I can't recall exactly what he was wearing but it was most likely a graphic Spaceboy shirt or a band tee and that trademark smile. Hakim's one of those people that once you meet them, you see them EVERYWHERE. A frequent art show goer and an all-around Columbus-scene type guy, Hakim likes to be involved and supportive which, in turn, helps his own business - freelance art. Over the past few months, I've been intrigued with his art, style, omnipresent social media presence, and his influence. I had the chance to sit down with Hakim and ask him some questions pertaining to his life, art, goals, and more. Here's the transcript. Enjoy.
Editor’s Note: some of Mr. Callwood’s responses were abridged for the purpose of this interview.
Loose Films: Where did you grow up?
Hakim Callwood: I kinda didn’t grow up here. My dad was from the Virgin Islands so I lived there back and forth for awhile. Then I lived with my grandmother in Tennessee. I came back to Columbus probably when I was in 3rd grade and started living here consistently again.
LF: How did art influence your childhood?
HC: Art wasn’t really represented in my life, like, at all besides TV, video games, and cartoons. and comics. My brother’s 13 years older than me so I was trying to be just like him - read what he was reading, play what he was playing so I got into all that.
LF: What game system did you grow up with?
HC: My favorite system was PS2. But I had the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64. But PS2 is the best.
LF: How did cartoons, video games, and comics influence you?
HC: I played so many video games, read so many comics, and watched so much cartoons, I was just fully immersed. After a few years it just became a part of who I am. For example, I really like the style of Cowboy Bebop. Or, like, the old Samurai Jack episodes were full stories with a beginning, middle, and end so I picked up storytelling from that.
LF: Favorite comic character and why?
HC: I wish I had, like, a cool, indie, ‘nobody knew of him’ answer but Spiderman is the best. Forever. He’s really relatable - that caught me.
LF: When did you start “officially” creating art? Where were you in life?
HC: Well I was in high school and I wanted to get into graffiti so I started drawing. But I was really whack so I decided to get into fine arts to get better. I started renting books from the library, drawing more, taking any art class I could find, YouTube-ing, really just a lot of practice. I don’t feel like I have a natural skill for [art].
LF: Are there graffiti pieces of yours around the city?
HC: There might be (chuckles). I mean, 129 and some of my people set up spaces to paint.
LF: How do you meet people in art?
HC: The internet, that’s how I do that’s how I meet a bunch of people. I’m always posting stuff, sharing stuff, and I’m “interested” in anything artsy.
LF: Talk about the Columbus art scene
HC: I’m involved in the sense that I’m always trying to be a part of a show or share other shows or people’s artwork. I’ve seen more and more shows these past few years and more and more open calls. We’ve got open arms right now. Art education is something that’s extremely important that I would like to help with in some way with high school kids. I never learned about the art business in school, I learned through social media and watching my favorite artists. I think that could be taught in school a bit differently.
LF: What are the roadblocks in the Columbus scene?
HC: What I think is holding this city’s art scene back is our separation. It’s not necessarily malicious or purposeful, it’s just that you’re more prone to hangout in your environment or who you grew up with. We’ve got Franklinton, Short North, Milo-Grogan, King-Lincoln District, etc and these places aren’t even far from each other but it seems the artists don’t mix and match with each other as much as we should. So that’s a big thing that I try to do, as I’m mostly online, I can kind of float around anywhere and trying to make a connection with someone from this or that group. We did a show last summer called “Junkspace” that had 13 or so artists and performers come together from different paths to come mix and mingle. The talent is definitely there. We should all be meeting more often, critiquing each other. The problem often is that people sometimes don’t know how to help. They don’t want to offer too much or too little.
LF: What’s your solution?
HC: Well I know for one thing, it doesn’t have to be financial. Just sharing and reposting online is a big way to help people. You can help someone reach who they are trying to reach. Just a couple thumb moves. It’s real easy. Maybe you can volunteer your time. If you can’t make it to a show or don’t have the money to buy a piece you can always help set up some chairs or clean up after the event. Donate snacks. Or wine.
LF: Who do you look up to Columbus?
HC: Bryan Moss. He’s my mentor and he’s an amazing artist who helps me so much. Marshall Shorts. Correy Parks. Cameron Granger. Vern, of course. There’s so many names. A lot of people are talented and work hard and I respect those things so much. If I see someone working hard, I’m like, “Well I gotta work hard. I’m not gonna let you just outwork me.” Positive competition!
LF: You wear many artistic hats - you’re in fine arts but you also work in film, animation, and music to name a few.
HC: Well I’m a freelance artist so I find that being diverse is easier for me to make the money I need to. Sometimes it’s not the best season for paintings and people will need logo work. I think I learn from each part and take it back to my main illustrations, like the software for editing videos reminds me a lot of photoshop - the way it’s built and the layers. So I can make these connections and it just makes me stronger with each. Also, say I need to hire or work with someone. I have enough knowledge in each category to communicate with them effectively.
LF: You were retweeted by Jordan Peele recently, how did that feel?
HC: My friends and I went to see ‘Get Out’ and as soon as I got out of the theater I looked over to my friend David and was like, “You know I’ve gotta make an animation for this. But I don’t know which part!” And he was like, “The sunken place, duh.” So it probably took me two or three days to do the simple looping and put Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ behind it. I posted it online and started getting retweets from friends, started building up. Then somehow Jordan Peele saw it and said it was dope and retweeted it. I was like, “Man I’m hoping I get a job from this” (chuckles). But it’s also a push to keep going - I started learning animation only a year ago off of YouTube and this already happened. Imagine me in 5 years.
LF: Why do you create art?
HC: It’s really therapeutic for me. It just feels good and I’ve done it for so long so it’s just a natural part of my day - waking up, eating, breathing, drawing.
LF: I've notice you often us humans as your subjects. Talk about that.
HC: Well as an artist I pushed my self to do portraits because that they were hard for me. So I tried to aim for something hard. I always try to spin it from a regular portrait to something sci-fi or something weird looking. I really try to not paint regular skin tones - I like to leave it up to the viewer. I'm really big on the composition of it all. I know where to place [my subjects] on a canvas to make it look good. And people really fit with that - like the Vitruvian Man. I look at a lot of fashion pictures online because those photographers place their human subjects well - that’s their job - so I look through a lot of that for inspiration.
LF: How do you deal with negative criticism?
HC: It depends on who it’s from. If it’s an artist that I respect, someone in my field, or knows what they’re talking about then it’s going to hit me harder but it doesn’t effect me personally I just look at it like good advice. I’m very welcoming to it. But if it’s from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about… I still try and listen and learn from it but...
LF: How important is support?
HC: It’s extremely important. It’s how I got this far. One of my friends bought my pieces way before I ever thought they were worth anything. It’s nice going back to his house and seeing my old stuff and cringing at it but then seeing my newer stuff and realizing that the only reason I am where I am is because this guy supported me from the beginning. It’s bought me many meals.
LF: How does art intertwine with politics/broader societal issues?
HC: Jamie Abbott and I threw an art talk at Wild Goose awhile ago - Exhale - on inauguration day. The topic was about politics and art. A lot of people had some great things to say - it’s actually on my YouTube channel. But for me personally, I don’t make satire against the government or anything.
But I do see that I’m working in a heavily political climate. I can feel the pressure on me, but like I said art is therapeutic for me so I do make more stuff that’s not political. What I’m big on is, like, just because I don’t want to go that route doesn’t mean that it’s not the best route. So, I support it.
The most important thing is to continue down my lane, showing others that you can be a freelance artist for good. Especially in the black communities. Sometimes they don’t see art as a “job” job. They see that as a doctor, lawyer, fireman, etc but everything you interact with is art. The chairs, somebody has to design a chair. Doorways, walkways, all the street signs. So I want to reach out and be a helping hand if people need. Or just be there if someone wants to hang out.
LF: Do you work with/mentor children?
HC: I have in the past with 129 at the Gladden House, but not consistently. I’m still trying to work things out for myself, forreal, to make sure I know what I’m talking about before trying to teach any children (chuckles). But I’m definitely working towards making that happen. If someone younger is showing passion for art or looking at my stuff I try and say, “Hey, you can do this. You can also just make art for art but if you wanted it to be an artist for your career here’s some advice on where to start.”
LF: What are you most proud of artistically?
HC: My best is that ‘Pomegranate’ piece that I just made. It’s a mix of a bunch of things that I’ve been working on and I finally pulled it off. It’s so good to me that I’ve been struggling painting now because now I have to make something better than that. Just gotta keep drawing.
LF: Where do you want to be in a year?
HC: Man, I don’t know exactly but I want to continue going up. Work harder than ever.
LF: In 5 years?
HC: I’d like to own some sort of venue where we can make shows and workshops happen.
LF: In Columbus?
LF: Why should artists stay in Columbus as opposed to moving to LA or NY?
HC: You’re never gonna get the same love as when you’re home for the most part. There are always exceptions. But with the internet you can get your art there and meet those people. It’s so easy to go on Twitter and follow LA photographers, if that's what you're into, and contact them. Like, you can go viral falling outside, and then making t-shirts of you falling outside to make money to then fund some dream project, and then blog the dream project to make more money - you can do that from your cellphone. You can do that in Columbus. And you can always go visit NY/LA and have a show, kick it, have a good time, and then come home. We have great cost-of-living here too. If your dream job is in NY/LA/wherever and they call you saying they’re ready to go, go and don’t look back!
LF: What are you listening to?
HC: A lot of my friends: Vern, Velly, Correy Parks. New Kendrick Lamar, Playboi Carti, and I’m always listening to Yung Thug. Lil Uzi Vert probably, he’s super cool.
LF: What’s the first album you ever bought?
HC: Probably a Lil’ Bow Wow album.
LF: I know you manage OG Vern , how’s that?
HC: Awesome, we have a really great dynamic and work well together. I’ve known him for a long time and one day we just teamed up and making it happen. I also manage Velly and Yogi. We make some goals and get it done. And I do some of the artwork for them too.
LF: Do you listen to music while creating art?
HC: Always, forreal. I listen to different things for different processes. I cater the music to the actions of my brush.
LF: What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
HC: Kid Cudi when he came to the LC. It was sweet.
Hakim Quick Hits
Last movie you watched:
If you were a type of instrument what would you be:
Electric guitar because I always wanted to be a badass rockstar. A badass guitar in some crazy shape.
If you had a month to travel wherever, what would your itinerary be:
Japan first but I’ve always wanted to live in New Zealand.
Would you ever live on Mars:
I know I do a lot of sci-fi stuff but I’m really scared of space travel because I can’t even swim. So, like, there’s no swimming in space… if something fails then… I mean I’d have to be put to sleep and then wake up on Mars. Yeah I’d do it, I’d be running it. Maybe I’ll just hang back. If everyone leaves Earth then I’ll be chilling.
One interesting fact/talent that no one knows about you:
I have a tattoo of the Matrix plug on the back of my neck.
The last Transformers with Mark Wahlberg
Thanks for sitting down with us, Hakim!