Kenny Park

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Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I was born in Toronto but moved out to Vancouver when I was 5 yrs old. I don't know if I ever made a conscious decision to become an artist, but like a lot of people who decide to go into the arts I think I got a lot of praise as a kid for being a good drawer. Maybe that combined with the fact that I never wanted to be a starving artist lead me into slightly more stable art industries like animation and illustration.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I did 2 years of classical animation at Capilano University. So, I'm not self-taught. However, I feel like this might be a bit of a false choice because I find that in order to keep growing after graduation you really have to take it upon yourself to keep learning. I obviously learned a ton in school but most of what I know now came after school and that was just through doing the work. 

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
Funny enough, my family was always supportive of me going into animation. I'm the child of two Asian immigrants, and if you aren't already familiar with the stereotype then just Google the term 'tiger mom'.  I don't think I had 'tiger' parents but my oldest sister might beg to differ. She felt a ton of pressure from my folks to get a business degree from a reputable university, but I think by the time I was ready to start choosing my post-secondary options my parents were well-worn out from raising two other children to really put up much of a fight. Ah, the perks of being the youngest child. (There are also a lot of disadvantages but that's another interview).

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
I watched a lot of anime growing up: Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon etc. I was really into them before they hit North America so I would watch them all in Japanese. I don't speak Japanese so I would use my imagination to fill in the blanks in story. I think I was just really drawn to the aesthetics and way that the images moved, and that was enough for me to be entertained. I also really loved superhero comics -- X-Men in particular. I still remember the feeling of coming across the first issue of Jim Lee's X-Men in my friends stash of comics. It's not something that I can describe in words but it truly blew my mind. 

Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
I used to really love drawing superheroes when I was younger, but strangely as an adult I find it less satisfying. I still love drawing an idealized male form and I can probably blame Jim Lee for that -- his statuesque figures have been seared into my brain. I guess I still draw superheroes now, only without the costumes.

From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
At every stage I'm always struggling between what would satisfy the client and what I personally would want to see. I never give my clients an option that I wouldn't be happy seeing in print or on the TV screen, but a lot of times you can't help what becomes the finished product. Sometimes just through the process of dealing with client notes you end up with something that's been watered down and a mish-mash of uncomplimentary ideas. But when the pairing of artist and client is good, a lot of great things can happen in that relationship.

What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I use a lot of photo reference -- not that I'm copying the colours directly but I'll refer to a lot of different photos for different reasons. Some of them are just to see how certain light sources play off a figure or an object, or maybe it's the general balance of colours in photo that I want to mimic. I do all of my colouring digitally in Photoshop with a very basic brush that I've modified slightly to get the pressure sensitivity and taper that I like.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
It's all hard! But if I'm in the right head space, it's all fun too. :)

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
It depends on how much freelance, studio, or personal work I'm doing. Some days I'm in my studio at home and it's pretty solitary - although my boyfriend works from home as well, so we'll often have lunches together, and I'll sometimes get him to give me feedback on my work. My boyfriend is also a writer so we've collaborated on things in the past, and have plans in the near future to do a project together. Other times I'm in the studio and then I'm collaborating with the other in-house artists and directors. Also, I've recently connected with some artists on Instagram that I have plans to do some work with in the future. Nothing that I can announce just yet but something that I'm very excited about.

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
Fostering a strong work ethic is really important. All the artists whose work I admire all have very good discipline. Also, I've learned the importance of doing personal work as often (ideally) as you do professional work. It keeps you inspired and that's where you really get to push your boundaries without feeling the pressure of a deadline or client satisfaction.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Hmm, I sort of cringe at the thought of answering this question. But I quite like the way my 'Lac Montauban' piece turned out. And also my 'Hermes/Hermès' illo series. Oh, and I also like the way the 'True Detective' illustration for the Washington Post ended up. Ok, that wasn't so bad.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I sort of split my time between animated projects and illustration work. I just recently came off Seth Rogen's adult animated film called 'Sausage Party' which comes out later this year. And I'm currently on a DreamWorks feature called 'Larrikins' directed by Tim Minchin -- a comedy/musical set in the Australian outback. I'm also in the midst of working on a book cover for Harper Collins that I'm super excited about. It's my first book cover and maybe it's silly but I really do love seeing my work in print. There's something very satisfying about being able to hold your work in your hands. I'm also working on a little project with my partner, Michael Harris, who's a very talented writer. The working title of the project is 'Labs' and it's a story set in a dystopian future where social media giants have taken over the world. You can see some of the initial concept work HERE on my blog.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
I'm not really sure how to answer this question. Right now I'm just trying to concentrate on becoming a better illustrator and producing as much personal work as possible, all the while trying to connect with like-minded artists. It's hard for me to know what opportunities lie ahead but the more I do these two things, I find that the more options seem to open up in front of me.

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
They're both good! I personally don't like to stay at a studio for too long because I start to feel a little stagnant, but they both have their merits. I'm lucky enough that I've hit a point in my career where I can sort of pick and choose the projects that I want to work on. Or at least determine how I want to split up my time between studio work and freelance work.I should say, though, that over the past few years I've actively been trying to cut back on the amount of studio work that I do to make more room for interesting freelance projects and personal work -- so maybe that says something about how I feel about those two options.

What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
It's funny you ask because I'm currently going through a bit of an art-block myself. My feeling is that the best thing you can do is to try not to judge yourself when you are going through a period like this -- it's a part of the natural ebb and flow of a person's life, creative or not. (This is what I'm telling myself to keep my sanity). My plan right now is to just keep showing up and hope that eventually I'll find something in the work I'm producing that feels interesting and fresh to me. In the meantime, my plan is to watch interesting movies, go to the art gallery, read books and art books, go for long walks and spend time with friends who I can have great conversations with. I also have been listening to these amazing podcasts on www.illustrationage.com/podcasts , both the Creative Pep Talk and the Escape From Illustration Island have been giving me tons of inspiration to just keep showing up.

Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
Hmm, I think this is very tough question to answer. Everyone's path is so different that I don't think there's any one approach to choosing a path. Some people know exactly what they want from a young age and stick with that for the rest of their lives. I didn't have that experience at all. For myself, the only thing that I've been able to count on is that change is inevitable. I think what's been most valuable to me is to keep that in mind and that I shouldn't try to box myself into being a certain kind of artist just because the people around me have found a niche that works for them. I think following my natural curiosity has been really good for me. It's a tough and scary thing to leave your comfort zone and attempt the things that you really want to do and aren't sure you can do, but in my opinion it's much better than becoming stagnant.

Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
I'm not so sure about this. I think there is real value in having a style that sets you apart, but there are plenty of successful working artists who do many different styles -- in fact, when I first started out that's sort of what I was known for. And also if you have a really strong personal style that suddenly becomes untrendy and you can't adapt to stay ahead of the trends, then that's not a good place to be either. I think the best thing to do is try to do both simultaneously. Do your best to foster a personal style but also continue to work on building a foundation based on strong drawing skills so that you can adapt more easily as the industry shifts -- and also as you change.

If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why? 
The one that inspires you most to make some art.

What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
Just be willing to work hard. There's no cut and dry path to being a successful commercial artist and it's taken many people years and years to get to where they are. And from what I can tell that never changes. I don't know of anyone who feels like they've 'arrived' at their ideal artist self. It's a career choice that involves constant learning and self-reflection. 

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Besides the amazing artist friends that I have in my life, who just by their presence push me to be a better artist, I really love the work of Tomer Hanuka. I feel like he's a really great example of someone who has full mastery over his craft. He works within a very specific artistic tradition but does it in a surprising and distinctive way. You can tell he thinks like a classically trained artist from his use of colour, composition and the way he chooses to position his figures. Other artists whose work I admire: Tadahiro Uesugi, Sachin Teng, Jillian Tamaki and Rene Gruau

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I love hand drawn animation too. I think until the people who fund animated films recognize that there's nothing inherently better about 3D animation (some things are actually done more effectively in 2D), and that good stories can be told in any medium then I don't think we'll see much hand drawn animation -- at least on the big screen. Having said that, there's lots of amazing hand-drawn animation being done today on a smaller scale, particularly out of places in Europe. Animation collectives like The Line (in London), CRCR (in France) and Studio La Cachette (also in France) are doing amazing things within the hand-drawn animation tradition.

Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online service, you name it. New media on the internet are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this affecting the industry and what are the pros and cons?
I think it's generally a good thing for all the reasons listed above. I can't speak on how it's negatively affecting the industry as a whole, however, as someone who engages on the internet on a pretty regular basis, sometimes I think I'm seeing a homogenization of style developing across the board. There's so many artists that produce very similar kinds of work and I can't tell if that's always been the case, or if more people are just starting to pull from the same whirlpool of inspiration.

Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
You can find my work up on my website www.kennyparkillustration.com -- there you'll find links to my blog and Instagram. I also have an online store HERE. And if you'd like to contact me feel free to shoot me an email at kennypark01@gmail.com

Thanks so much for the opportunity to be interviewed on your website!

Thank you Kenny :)