LOOKS BRIGHT: LaPlace artist Caleb Putman eyes career in illustration

Published 12:14 am Saturday, July 1, 2017

LAPLACE — Some members of the Class of 2017 are spending their summer lounging around pools. Others are travelling.

East St. John High School graduate Caleb Putman has been packing, collecting cans and making finger puppets.

It’s all part of his efforts to earn scholarship money for the fall.

Caleb is searching various web sites, including one called Fastweb.com, which lists a variety of scholarship opportunities. Most involve writing essays, but some ask for more creative entries, such as finger puppets for an anti-texting and driving campaign or a creative photograph with cans for a recycling effort.

Caleb has the wits to accomplish any of those.

Inspiration strikes LaPlace artist Caleb Putman in many ways, leading to creations like a scary-looking mythical creature that is a working teapot, from left, his E.T.-like BouBoBo and a 3D view of a dentist’s visit.

An honor student at East St. John, Caleb was one of only two students to pass the Advance Placement test in world history as a junior.

This year he was the only student to earn a perfect score on the end of course exam for U.S. history.

“I just really like history,” Caleb said. “I think it’s really interesting and it holds my interest a lot.”

Art is his thing, though.

When he was just 6 years old, Caleb’s dad, who also draws, was cleaning out his study when he came across some old artwork.

“He got out these cool drawings and I was, like, ‘Who made these?’” Caleb said. “He said, ‘I did.’ So ever since I was 6 I’ve been drawing.”

Sometimes it’s things he sees; other times it’s visions from his imagination.

“I do observations sometimes,” Caleb said. “If I see something that’s interesting, if the light’s hitting something a certain way I’ll say, ‘Wow that looks really dynamic. I’m going to do that.’ If I have my sketch book and I’m out in public and I see something that’s interesting I’ll do a gesture drawing or something, but most of my sketch books are filled with stuff that I just came up with in my head, the majority of it.”

During his eighth grade year, Caleb applied for NOCCA, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

After an audition process, which included submitting several pieces of original art, a live art demonstration and an interview, he was accepted into the visual arts program.

He started by attending classes after school, but by his senior year Caleb was spending half his school day taking various classes, including ceramics and 3-D art.

In one, he designed and created a scary-looking mythical creature that is a working teapot. In another he brought to life a creature that resembles E.T. but is actually named BouBoBo.

“It just came up in my head,” he explained.

The son of Emory and Kelly Putman of LaPlace, Caleb has been accepted to the prestigious Kansas City Art Institute, where he plans to major in illustration.

“You can do a lot of stuff with illustration,” Caleb said. “I want to do concept art and maybe graphic novels and stuff.”

It was one of several art schools that accepted the multi-talented Caleb, including School of the Art Institute in Chicago and Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida.

Caleb chose Kansas City — and so did the rest of his family.

Mom, who is a former elementary school teacher turned flight attendant, and dad, who is a graphics designer, have put their LaPlace home up for sale and will move to Kansas City as well.

“I guess it would be good to get away from your parents and go to college,” said Caleb, who will be living in the dorms. “But there are advantages to having your parents 10 or 15 minutes away, like free laundry.”