Aimée Kuester interview from FadWeb

Virginie Picot over at FadWebsite just posted this great interview with Sketch Theatre artist Aimée Kuester,
check it out!

Aimée Kuester (photographed by Gene Guynn)

1. You have been drawing ever since you could hold a pencil, but what lead you to fashion illustration?

I suppose that path opening up was probably due to my figurative charcoals. I love the human figure, it’s probably the most obvious way to convey emotion and story. It’s funny, but drawing costumes was a chance I took, that was hatched from a chance I took before that.  Like an egg hatching from inside another.
I used to draw primarily animals as a child. Then as a teen I started in on the figure, but there was only so much I could learn from books alone in my studio.  After which I fell under the spell of sketching the live nude. That lead me to feel more comfortable with being watched and creating in the presence of others..  (that’s still challenging for me) Which lead me to find heavy admiration for a site called Sketch Theatre, where artists draw imaginative concept sketches, fusing all the things that I love together. They draw live for a camera, then time lapse videos of the process are posted for the world to see. I yearned to be a part of it. Turns out that all the people behind the scenes there are fabulous humans. Suddenly I was a part of the family, and the videos we make there started to reel in opportunities, one of which was to was to draw out costumes. I really enjoy it.. the collaboration of it keeps me on my toes, and leads my imagination behind doors I’d otherwise have missed.

2. It seems that your fashion illustration work most definitely goes hand in hand with your fine art, in that, one seems to spark and inspire the other (vice versa).   Since the end result of your fashion illustration is a garment which will be worn, therefore move, change shape, wear off.. is this a way for you to reveal the life of the creatures you draw, or do you feel it already revealed when drawn out?
Well, I never thought of it that way, but I do know that the two worlds are touching lips..
When I dive into a painting, my intent is to come out with a few pieces of what I saw there.  I’m always trying to improve my academic execution~ so that it’s easier to fall into, easier to swallow something so out of touch with reality. The spirits of my subjects cry out to be more realistic, so that they may then bend and warp reality better.
I think only time can tell how the costume design will affect my future creative endeavors, since it’s the newest member to the clan. The mother (my original love for portraiture and getting dirty) of this new endeavor has passed herself down, and instilled into my personal flavor of illustrating. As of the moment, I don’t do digital -which is probably more commonplace. I’ve dabbled, and actually have a lot of interest in digital. I may add it in someday, but for time saving reasons. My style is 95% real world materials, leaving black smudges on the paper and my face. As inconvenient as    old school style can be, I will never stop loving colored pencil shavings stuck to my elbows, and tiny eraser particles floating in my whiskey.

3. How does your creative process for fashion compare to the one for your paintings?

Through concept art for costuming, I can finally apply a mantra my mom used to say.. ”Let inspiration find you at the drawing board.”
For my paintings, it’s kind of the polar opposite. As much as I try to force myself to paint all the time, when my mind feels rusted, and my ideas dry.. I only begin when I can’t take it anymore. Or when I have a deadline for a show, ha hahaa.  Admittedly it’s a bad habit and I lose ground by hesitating. With the concept illustration it’s go go go. These costumes have to be made asap and are usually for events right around the corner, and the seamstresses and teams   of people are just waiting for the art, the green light. So I deliver. I just do it. I clear my mind of distractions and fears, and I give it my all.  It feels great, and that’s one of the reasons I feel fulfilled doing it. Now, if I could only figure out a way to COPY AND PASTE that to my palette.

4. How would you describe your technique?

My technique. It’s got two parts I guess, materials and approach.  I currently paint with oils, usually on canvas.. sometimes other supports. In the past I’ve had affairs with lumadye (concentrated watercolors) acrylics (which Michael Hussar so elegantly told me “yeah, acrylics kind of suck”) clay, fx makeup, writing, a camera and a host of other outlets. I still pick up these materials sometimes, depending on the moment.
Creating work has been on a twisty road, it’s always different and I’ve no idea what I’ll do next. I get super depressed or bitchy if I stay away from it too long.My approach, or technique, I’d describe as skydiving. I jump out of planes in my mind and I try to learn how to fly. I’ll use my parachute out of self preservation. But sometimes I smack into the earth at 120 miles per hour. Luckily, I don’t have to die.  I make a choice. I’m reborn each time I get back into that plane and do it again. I might still be bruised and battered, and afraid to fail again.. but through failure I learn how to fly.

5. What has been the most challenging work for your to complete and why?

Here’s a fantastic quote from one of my favorite books, called ‘Art & Fear {Observations on the perils and rewards of Artmaking}’ “Vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of your materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.”
If I really want to be real about this question, it’s every time I sit down to paint a new piece. Sure, I’ve had several bouts of work that took me to the seventh level of hell, and ideas that scratched at my unconscious but could never be extracted.. taunting me. And I suck at designing tattoos for friends. And I had one period in time a few years ago where I was receiving regular critiques from another artist, and my work ended up being forced, weak and over-conceptualized.
But the truth is it’s every time I’m just about to start. I might have a color study, nothing on the calendar for days, and my favorite album blasting..  I could have a god damn magical instruction manual given to me from a witch doctor from the future, and I’d still be terrified. Every piece, every time.  It’s somewhere in the middle of painting, that I realized I’ve let go, that I catch myself falling down the rabbit hole in a state of euphoria.  Sometimes I long to be the artist that wakes up every day, gets his coffee and croissant and stumbles into the studio to create a daily masterpiece. But I’m not that. Then as soon as I’m painting, I’m complete again.. everything fades out. Even if the piece sucks, that feels way better than to not do it.

6. Your paintings and drawings depict surreal, fantastic settings and creatures. Though at first glance it might appear light and pleasant, there is actually an unsettling dark edge to it. why? where does this come from?

I might be making up for all the unicorns, care bears and rainbows I drew for like 10-15 years as a kid. That’s the easy answer. But I also did some disturbing depictions of nightmarish things too. As soon as I opened a book of Frazetta’s work, his world of monsters and women opened a door. Later I found artists immensely darker than that, and it was like someone was draining the fluid from my brain. And the pressure lessened even more when I found certain bands and subcultures of music that seemed to balance out this subconscious hurricane in my mind. I relate to darkness a way I don’t fully understand. I’m fascinated with extremely strange, morbid objects and ideas~ but people tell me you’d never know that by looking at me. Maybe my fascinations seeps out, like sap from a tree. Maybe I’m trying to interpret all this sadness, death and love I had around me growing up, because it was bittersweet. All I know is that there’s usually something serious that I want to show, and every piece has secrets inside.

7. You are currently based in LA, how would you describe the LA art scene?

Hmm.. I’m so glad you ask that. Oddly, my very first instinct is to think about the politics, not necessarily the art. Obviously the ART is what it’s supposed to be about, I mean it’s sort of counterproductive to the reason (some) of us turned to art in the first place. Anyone involved in the thick of it knows there’s much more. But every profession and industry has it’s share of cliques, artifice, and pitfalls. You stay in the industry if it rewards you, it’s just your way of life.. and you try avoid the drama.
Sometimes I do just want to get to the truth of it all. Ditch the glam, the fake conversations and show who you really are inside.  I have this fantasy about an art show of some really talented artist, and the whole “scene” is in attendance. We are all in just our paint smocks and tatty tees, hair mussed, and we don’t have the ability to lie. We all stand there and look at the art, the collectors, and each other.. and tell the truth, barefaced and vulnerable. Wouldn’t that be a sight?

All that being said, the LA art scene ..while bloated with politics, is my home. My inspiration. It’s unique and I love it. Incredible people live here.I’ve seen some fantastic work and have been catapulted so far past inspiration that I’m immobilized. There is so much talent, vision, and truth.   You just have to dig for the treasure. For what YOU consider to be worthwhile.

8. What contemporary artists do you relate to? are inspired by? why?

My father. His subject matter is almost opposite mine, but he’s got a heart of gold to match his talent. Aside from him, I gravitate towards artists who are down to earth, humble and always evolving.
I like a body of work that sidesteps the last, catches people off guard, and is frankly.. inconsistent. I’ve been told my work is all over the place, and I used to feel devastated, concerned. But now I embrace my experiments, because through my unpredictable path.. amazing opportunities have flowered. And it’s the only way for me, tethering myself down to repetition just hurts my soul.
I’m attracted to such a wide variety of expression, things that are so scary your stomach might turn to stare at it, to the opposite side of the spectrum..  like a haunting landscape or beautiful figurative work. I can’t really put my finger on what they have in common aside from true voice.  If it looks like the artist opens up and shows you something pungent. It’s easy to fall into the snares of what’s easy or what others are doing. I relate to, and am inspired by people that swim upstream. To do the work YOU do, if no one was looking. To not cheat off your neighbor. Or obsess so much about another artist/movement, that your style starts to be only a hollow mimicry (that one is really rampant in my opinion). To not make work that’s ”marketable” on purpose. To seek out and surround yourself with others who you truly connect with, for honest reasons. And to be approachable.. kind hearted. I enjoy studying under those that are hardwired to not only teach, but who also listen with an open mind.

9. Are you interested in exploring other media? if so which ones and why?

Sure, of course. When your receptors are on you can sense the signals being broadcasted. I’ve found that following my nose down dark alleys is as equally rewarding as it is dangerous. Risks are something I want to do more of. , taxidermy, Dreaming big and being open to adventure is easier said than done. Anyone reading this that knows me, you know that I over-think things a lot. A blessing and a curse.  I’m way too fucking analytical sometimes, combined with being abundantly emotional.  But that’s why I’ve got you guys.. (you know who you are) to shake me violently, then kiss my forehead and tell me I can do it.

10. What are you currently working on? and then what’s next?

Currently working on this interview. hee hee 🙂  Then I’ll work on a snack. Then I might start squeezing my paint tubes, and from there~ I can’t pretend to know.  I tend to be inspired and active on projects in waves. Just a few ideas that interest me: costume or character concepts for film/music videos, publishing my work, album art (more), illustrating book jackets, doing something with taxidermy and building my collection of natural history.  Of course I have the typical artist desires.. a solo show at my fav gallery, traveling abroad with my luv and my paints, cover of Juxtapoz and major artist mags, painting alongside my idols, teaching workshops myself someday..  but that’s not the point.
Biggest goal: To wake up in my bed every day, and to keep finding clues on how to be really alive. To love even harder, to work and play harder.I don’t ever want to start dying inside before I’m literally dead on the outside.When I become stagnant it’s imperative to shake it.

When we evolve as humans, we evolve as artists. Art is just the breadcrumbs behind our footprints.
You can view and follow Aimee’s work below: (official website) (fan page for updates) (time lapse videos of Aimee sketching)

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