Meet Nathan Kwon, an amazing artist based in Baltimore/Chicago!
“Theoi,” 2019, Digital Photomanipulation
What inspired you to start creating art?
It was in middle school! It was around the same time as when I started getting into heavier music - a lot of the album covers in metal tend to be works of art or surreal paintings, as opposed to what one normally sees in more mainstream music, like portraits of artists. Obviously, this is a generalization and there are exceptions to it, but nevertheless, it was paintings/photomanipulation pieces that were used for metal covers that really piqued my interest. I started with trying to make really cruddy metal logos and album covers on Microsoft Paint, and then graduated to GIMP in high school.
Artists like Cameron Gray (https://parablevisions.com/) and Pierre-Alain D. (http://www.3mmi.org/v9/) really got me into photomanipulation, and I transitioned to digital painting after I graduated college. Later in high school and college, I was captivated by Denis Forkas (https://www.denisforkas.com/), Eliran Kantor (http://www.elirankantor.com/), and Adam Burke (https://www.instagram.com/nightjarillustration) - the mixture of older Renaissance styles with modern and mystical sentiments have this certain inimitable allure.
Portrait of Hannah R. Lane, 2020, Digital Photomanipulation
What’s your process like when planning out a piece? I actually don't really plan out pieces all too much. If I do have a general idea for digital painting, I'll sketch it out on an empty document and go from there. For photomanipulation, I like to browse stock image websites and see what piques my interest! I'll grab a bunch of photos and mash them up, and see if it works. If I'm not feeling too inspired, I'll just try to do portraits of my friends or people I know, which can be inspiring in and of itself - there's always a certain emotion that you can capture when painting people. What or who do you pull inspiration from for your artwork? Before the pandemic, I used to listen to music as I painted. A lot of Hath (https://hathnj.bandcamp.com/), Hotel Neon (https://hotelneon.bandcamp.com/), and quite a few other artists that tend to be on the melancholic spectrum of emotion. Ah, and Black Tongue's Nadir (https://youtu.be/oqYASEv1KYM) as well. Nowadays, music can be a bit distracting - for some reason I like to put *potato chip* shows on as background noise. *Potato chip* TV shows being ones that don't really have incredibly meaningful content, but it's kind of fun, like Brooklyn 99, The Office, New Girl, etc. In terms of visual artists lately, I've been quite in love with Francisco Goya, Zdzisław Beksiński, Nicola Samori, and H. R. Giger - I love the darkness that Goya portrays in the midst of political, religious, and social turmoil, while still keeping his faith (arguably). Beksiński's nightmarish, skeleton limbed and disfigured subjects really resonate with me! The sort of tortured agony that can only be felt viewing his pieces feels similar to when I have my depressive and obsessive-compulsive episodes. The way he manipulates and multiplies bones is fascinating. Samori's mixture of baroque pieces and disfiguring is more subtly unsettling, and it's a more quiet dread that's invoked. Giger is always a classic - I absolutely adore the cold, mechanical, brutality of mixing machine and humanity/biology all wrapped up with psychosexual imagery. It's reminiscent of psychodynamic surrealism and Freud's influence on surrealism in general. I like that it's examining our darkness, and in critically examining what we fear, we are gently brought back to light and what it means to be human. How do you overcome any challenges you face?
I think not focusing on art as a full-time thing, and more as something that I enjoy has been quite nice - I don't have to focus on it as a primary source of income, and can just create at my leisure (occasional deadlines for clients aside). If I find myself struggling to create visual art, I'll try to take a break from it, just to clear my slate, so to speak. I'll try focusing on writing music or writing poetry or short stories. If I'm struggling with all of those things, I'll try to just take a break in general and spend time reconnecting with myself - going to a cafe and just reading or sketching passerby in my sketchbook. Reading poetry or books in general are great. Haruki Murakami has been quite good, same with Sylvia Plath and Thomas Merton. The Psalms are also quite beautiful. Ecclesiastes is also near to my heart. Of course, that's pre-pandemic - I'm not sure how exactly to spend time reconnecting with myself nowadays, but I'm learning.