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    An earlier version of this story misstated Ian Klarer's age. At the time of our interview, he was 34. 

    Every now and again, Louisville native Ian Klarer gets a call from the rapper Killer Mike. It’s not as scary as it used to be, and not as frequent — Killer Mike has management that can handle things now. But he still calls sometimes, and getting a call from one of the hottest rappers out there is still the kind of thing that’ll get your heart racing. Especially if he’s part of what is probably your favorite musical group, Run the Jewels, and wants you to work for him.

    You might have read the story in the C-J back in 2013: Klarer made some fan art of hip-hop duo Run the Jewels and managed to get a positive reaction from them on social media. Then the DuPont Manual grad, who studied painting at U of L, took the artwork to Forecastle and held it up in the crowd. Killer Mike called him backstage. Since then, Klarer says he has pitched RTJ hundreds of ideas for artwork: There’s Killer Mike and his Run the Jewels partner, El-P, as sword-swinging Game of Thrones characters, characters from Blade Runner and zombies, all rendered in a slick, cartoony style probably traceable to Klarer’s childhood interest in cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the violent, visually striking Alien and Predator comics. “It really blew my mind to watch people make that kind of art,” the 34-year-old says. He didn’t gravitate toward the fine-arts-focused programs in schools as much. As he puts it: “I didn’t want to paint the fruit.”

    Working in the home he shares with his wife and child in Crescent Hill, Klarer spends anywhere from five to upwards of 40 hours on each illustration, using the electronic drawing pad hooked up to his computer to stack layer upon layer of digital works on top of one another to create one image. Since working with RTJ, he has started getting more commissions. Artwork makes up his whole livelihood these days. Check out his Instagram, @ianklarer, and you’ll see some recent work: a headless-horseman poster promoting a Halloween show for West Coast hip-hop group SOB X RBE, and cover art for a mash-up of Wu-Tang Clan and Two Chainz songs by DJ Critical Hype. There’s a perk to creating the headless horseman, as opposed to a specific person: “He doesn’t care what he looks like,” Klarer says. “He doesn’t even have a head!”

    This originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Far From the Fruit." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Dylon Jones's picture

    About Dylon Jones

    Dylon Jones is a senior editor at Louisville Magazine.

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