Chris Kallas was born in Los Angeles, California, the youngest of three boys, and like a lot of kids he began drawing at about age four. Typically, his early subjects included all of the things that live in a young boy's imagination: Monsters, dinosaurs, spaceships, cars, WWI & WWII battle scenes, airplanes, ships, and tanks. This early interest in drawing actually earned him several awards from art contests in elementary school. As he got a little older, he discovered hot rod magazines and began drawing hot rods, drag racers, custom cars, Ed Roth-style monster cars, and surfer art. Then he began collecting Pete Millar's Drag cartoons, and that became another big influence. To help sharpen his skills, he started having drawing contests with his brothers at the kitchen table to see who could draw the best custom car in an hour. And being an enterprising young artist, Chris began to draw cars during lunch and recess, and his friends would buy them with their extra milk and snack money.
This was about the same time that he got his first taste of two-wheeled freedom on his brother's homemade mini-bike. It was a bicycle-framed, lawnmower-powered, clutch-less, push-started, direct beltdrive, solid rubber wheeled suicide machine with no brakes. Then his uncle had a succession of motorcycles, which Chris would get rides on.
During the mid- to late '60s, Chris' brothers started playing guitar, and he took up the drums. That was when his tastes changed and he began drawing psychedelic posters and rock stars. Later Chris' brothers would give up drawing to pursue music while Chris put down the drumsticks so he could concentrate on art.
Around 1967-1968, a couple of events kick-started his interest in motorcycles. First, one Sunday on the way home from church, he became fascinated by a Harley WL chopper next to his parents' car on freeway. Then the older brother of one of his friends from up the street started building a metalflake green custom Triumph in his bedroom. The combination of those two experiences triggered Chris' need to find out more about the thriving Southern California bike scene.
Like so many of us, Chris turned to magazines to fill his need to find out about these fantastic machines. He bought every copy of Cycle Guide magazine he could get his hands on, because it was the only magazine at that time that would occasionally feature choppers and custom bikes. Then Ed Roth's Choppers magazines came along, followed by Big Bike, and that set the hook. Around that same time he started seeing Roth's ads in magazines for chopper posters, photos of bikers on their choppers and David Mann's paintings. As the custom bike scene caught fire, Chris discovered magazines like Street Chopper, Custom Chopper, and Easyriders that kept fueling the fire.
By the time he made it to junior high, he had made friends with a couple of kids who were also into choppers. One of his friends was lucky enough to have an older brother with a knucklehead, and he drew really cool choppers. Chris met these like-minded boys just as he started to draw choppers himself. The other friend, Greg Parigian, had a chopped Sting Ray with extended forks, lowered seat, custom handlebars, and a sissy bar. Chris soon did the same to his Sting Ray. He spent time with Greg working on their bikes and chopping Revell Harley models. And on Christmas of 1969, Chris got a Taco mini-bike and his brother soon bought a mini bike from a friend, and they took turns racing around the block, dodging the cops.
In 1972 Chris got his first piece of motorcycle art published, a concept drawing for STREET CHOPPER magazine's Trick Trike contest. We looked it up and found it in the June 1972 issue on page 53. That really inspired Chris to practice, and he spent most of his time between classes in high school drawing choppers. As he honed his skills, he won several several awards in art contests. One was actually for highway safety that depicted a group of chopper riders. As a senior in high school, he was a part of an art show with two classmates that featured his drawings of choppers. From that show, he was selected with two other seniors for a scholarship for life drawing classes at Art Center on Saturdays in 1973. That same year he won a one-year subscription for STREET CHOPPER magazine's Trick Trike design contest. His artwork again appeared in STREET CHOPPER in the February 1973 issue on page 55.
Around 1975 Chris became interested in astronomy and started painting views of the planets and spacecraft, an interest that eventually led to a job at Hughes Aircraft Company. In 1980, he received a Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) in Illustration from CA State University Long Beach where his art was displayed several times in hallways of the Art Dept. That same year, as a senior, he had two works displayed in the university's annual show, which featured the best work in the Art Department. These two works also won awards in the Society of Illustrators of LA Annual Show.
After graduation Chris worked as an illustrator in the Marketing Graphics Department at Hughes Aircraft Company, Space and Communications group. He created hundreds of detailed renderings of the space shuttle, communication satellites, and other spacecraft for public relations, marketing, and aerospace shows. His work was also commissioned for use in Hughes' corporate headquarters and displayed throughout the company. After 13 years, Chris decided to quit working at Hughes and got back to concentrating on motorcycle art.
His line drawings of choppers that he used to do for the kids in his class have evolved into beautiful paintings using Cel-Vinyl animator's paints and a bit of airbrush on canvas. Chris prefers to hand-ink black and white art and uses the computer only on certain types of assignments or to develop, rework, or retouch designs. He prefers to make up the scenes and bikes using photos only for reference instead of loyally coping photographs. His artistic influences include Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Ed Newton, Pete Millar, M.C. Escher, Chesley Bonestell, David Mann, Syd Mead, Von Dutch, and Leonardo di Vinci. Chris isn't one of those guys who is content to sit on the sideline and paint bikes as they go by; he is an avid rider and participant in motorcycle events across the country. In 1975 he got his first bike the day after finding out he didn't win a bid on a Highway Patrol hog, instead purchasing a 1971 Sportster from a hillbilly. For a 4-year-old bike, it was a mess. A week after dragging it home, he tore it apart and repainted it. In 1984 he traded the Sportster and cash to a buddy for a 1974 shovelhead in a 1972 frame, which he rebuilt. From 1992 to 1994 he worked on restoring a wrecked 1970 Electra Glide. And in 1991 his wife Nancy got her own bike, a 1984 FXR. They also own a chopped 1965 panhead, 1972 XLCH Sportster, and 1948 45 WL flathead.
Chris does artist concept/design renderings for clients, including one for Street Chopper Build-Off bike for Ernie Lopez as well as fine art. He sells prints of selected work from his studio and at motorcycle and car shows. In fact, prints of "Old School," "Chopper Heaven," "Desert Chopper," and "Out West" are sold as signed or unsigned limited edition prints. Prints of a few others plus a series of Ed Roth style black and white prints, sometimes sold as hand-colored prints (like "Chopper Dog"). Original art can even be commissioned of your motorcycle.
Online sources for his prints include www.hdart.com/chriskallas.html, or you can find his work in the Black Market section at Bikernet.com. For more information or to purchase prints directly from him, contact him at (310) 316-2790 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.