“How can I twist this thing into something different from what has been done before,
how can I make it interesting?”
We stumbled upon Kmye Chan’s work while putting together the “HeartBeats” exhibit – she has a multitude of wonderfully delicate images with hearts and love as the theme, not to mention a drop-dead portfolio. Other inspirations include birds, mythology and fairy tales. Currently living in Paris, her work fits the city so well – full of fashionable waifs, embellishments and Victorian touches. This beautiful and adept artist graciously shares some of her thoughts and life with us.
Can you tell us where you were born and a little history about your childhood?
I was born in 1985 in the South of France (in Toulouse to be precise), where I lived until I was 8, when my family moved to Paris. I was the older of two, and have the unfortunately common history of kids from split families, living with my mum and seeing my dad on week-ends. I was an easy-going kid, but I was worrying my mum because I was talking to myself for hours at a time, inventing stories and telling them out loud (imaginary friends, here I come!).
Where are you living nowadays and why?
Nowadays I live in Paris. I have moved to different to cities during my studies, and now I’m back to square one! Actually, the lab where I am completing my studies as an intern is in Paris (I’m a biology student), which is why I moved back. But I really like the city, so I’m feeling quite happy here.
Is there an event or experience that really moved or impacted you recently?
Well, the end of 2008 and a good part of 2009 were very tough for me. There were many reasons – but I felt like both my professional life as a scientist and my artistic life were really leading me nowhere. I was not in a good environment at work, with a tyrannical boss that just made me go manic and when I came home, I was so very tired. I felt like everything I was drawing was crap, so I barely drew anything at all. It really made me think on what I wanted to do with my life and with my art. It was a difficult time, but in the end it helped me put aside some things that weren’t necessary and to keep the essential (and to remember that no matter what you do, love is the only thing worth caring about, ahah – I know, cliché.). I think I kind of outgrew the little girl, and became a little bit more of a woman.
What was first piece of art that you remember creating?
Well, I’m not sure it registers as a piece of art and I don’t actually remember creating it, but I drew a clown when I was three that my mum still has framed on her desk and she would tell you it was my first artwork! Apart from that, I have been drawing about all my life, so I don’t really remember which one was my first “piece of art”. Possibly a landscape I painted with my grandfather, who was an artist too, when I was about 9 or 10.
What kind of art did your grandpa do? and did you learn from him?
He was a talented painter, mostly painting landscapes and still lives in oils. He lived a long way from me, so I didn’t get to learn a lot from him while I was starting to paint myself, unfortunately, and nowadays his hands shake so badly that he gave up painting. But now we get to see each other more often, and we discuss art and the life of an artist a lot, it’s great to have his opinion on those things.
What generally inspires you to create a piece?
It can be anything really. Almost every of my works starts with a random idea that hits my mind out of the blue- it can be because of a phrase I heard, a sentence I read somewhere, an object I saw, a combination of colors, basically anything. Then I wonder- “how could I twist this thing into something different from what has been done before, how can I make it interesting?”, and I try to work out a good idea for a piece. But the original inspiration really comes when I less expect it, and I rarely remember how I got the idea in the first place.
If there was an artist, dead or alive, that you could spend 24 hours with – who would it be and what would you do?
That’s a tough one, there are too many! The first one that comes to my mind is Salvador Dali. I honestly don’t really know what we would do except talking, I just think that, from what I know of the man, we’d end up having a fight and throw paint into each other’s face…! But I’d have liked to meet him nonetheless, he’s one of my favorite artists.
What materials, specific brand of paint/glue/pencil do you prefer to use? A favorite? And why?
I work mostly with Arches paper, Faber-Castell inks, Copic and Promarker markers, Winsor & Newton watercolors and Liquitex acrylics. Brands are not usually a criterion of choice for me, I rather pick the brand that offers the shade I need or like best because I’m often too lazy to mix my own colors, but these brands are the ones that stand out in my supplies. The exception to that is my markers : I’ve tried many brands, and Copic and Promarker really stand out by their quality and the results they give (very smooth colors, highly blendable inks), so I really stick to those no matter what.
Is there a technique, procedure or tip that you have discovered, you could pass onto other artists? A specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise?
Well, I’ve (unfortunately) never discovered a technique that hadn’t been used and reused by other artists before me…! So the only tips I can give are those little things that you learn by experience, such as taping the edges of your paper to a piece of board to avoid wobbling when you use watered-down paint, or watching your sketch in a mirror to spot anatomy and composition mistakes, or spraying salt over wet watercolor to create a textured effect, or even coating your brushes with soap before using masking fluid, so that you’ll be able to wash the fluid out of the brush without damaging it too much…
What is your favorite word?
My favorite word is “parentheses” (don’t ask why, I don’t know!).
Last song you chose to listen to?
“Life on Mars” by David Bowie.
Do you have some learning experience, good or bad, you could share involving dealing with a gallery or curator? Advice you could pass on to other artists that might be relevant?
Always, always ask for a contract or some piece of official paperwork that says that the gallery has your work, and what your share is if the work sells. Most curators will give you one without you even asking. Galleries closing down without notice and curators running away with the artworks do happen! Apart from that, communication with the gallery is essential, so don’t hesitate to ask questions if you are unsure of something (when your works are due for the show, who pays for what, whether a work is suitable for the show)… it’s always better to ask first, rather than finding out something is wrong too late, not being able to straighten it all up and ending up not working with that gallery anymore.
If you could pick one piece of art to own, out of the world’s museums, personal collections and galleries, what would it be?
Gustav Klimt’s “The Three Ages of Woman”. (below)
Of all your works, what is your own personal favorite? What was the thought or vision behind the work?
My favorites tend to come and go, but lately I think it would be “Incubation” (below). I wanted to depict love as something growable in some sort of nurturing growing medium, for which humans would be incubators, if that makes sense. The girl in this picture grew many loves that ended up dying, leaving her broken-hearted and she’s now incubating a new one. I like the bizarre poetry behind that one.
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(This entry was originally posted on 4/7/10 )
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