Our Featured Artist: Kelogsloops

Our Featured Artist: Kelogsloops

Hieu Nguyen, also known as ‘Kelogsloops’, is a watercolor artist based in Melbourne, Australia. His work blends abstract and surreal art styles with anime influences from his upbringing. Since beginning his artistic career, he has adopted and lived by his motto, “be right back, chasing dreams.” His subjects are often portrayed suspended in fleeting, fragile and intimate moments. Hieu currently exhibits his work in galleries and hopes to one day have his own studio and teach.

“I get so easily hyper-focused on current jobs that I often get bogged down and lose sight of the other exciting stuff coming up. It then becomes both demoralizing and overwhelming, which quickly spirals into a downward descent of loss of motivation.”

Tell us a bit about your background.

Art has always been an important part of my life, having started drawing since age 5. In 2015, I decided to leave university to pursue my passion in art wholeheartedly. Ever since then I’ve been working as a full-time artist, here in my hometown of Melbourne.

How did your alias Kelogsloops come about?

It’s a bit of a silly story, but it was an online username that I adopted for myself when I was a kid. I think I was about 7 or so, trying to create an account for an online game or something. The username ‘hieunguyen1’ was probably taken, but I recall eating Froot Loops at the time, so I tried ‘kelogsloops’ and it worked! As silly as it sounds, it’s probably a bit too late to change it now…

You have a unique style that merges fantasy, realism, and manga influences, what inspires you?

 

My work is heavily inspired by the games, movies, tv shows and anime I grew up with as a kid. These have been creative sources of inspiration of mine to this very day. My exposure to art growing up consisted of fantasy genre games with beautiful art styles like Final Fantasy, to films and anime like Spirited Away and Sailor Moon. It wasn’t until I was older that I started to grow fond of more realistic and semi-realistic art styles. I studied and attempted to replicate artists that I looked up to like, Stanley Lau (@artgerm) and Silvia Pelissero (@agnes-cecile). With the introduction of these newer realistic influences, my style has since become a melting pot of my upbringing, and studies towards semi-realism.

Who’s currently on your radar as a creative influence?

Lately I’ve really been obsessing over Yoshitaka Amano and Shaun Tan. Their genres, art styles and specializations are completely different to each other, but they share a common emphasis in their ability to tell a story within their paintings. In each of their works, I find myself completely immersed. My eyes are always wandering around the composition, finding new stories and hints in every corner. Storytelling is a trait that I’ve been trying to emphasize and focus on in my recent works – the ability to communicate more than just a simple idea, but a multitude of emotions, symbolisms and meanings. If you haven't seen Amano or Tan’s work before, I highly recommend checking them out!

 

Your subjects feature a lot of delicate skin colours, what colours do you usually use?

My skin colour mixes are always a mix of three: a cool red (ie. Alizarin Crimson), an earthy yellow (ie. Raw Sienna/Yellow Ochre), and a blue (i.e Ultramarine Blue/Cobalt Blue). I change the ratios and vary the colours depending on how warm, cool, muted or vibrant I need the skin tone to be.

Do you have a typical routine when you start a new piece or begin a day in the studio?

To start a new piece, I usually begin by immersing myself with research. Depending on the complexity, this can take anywhere between a few hours to a whole week. To come up with a concept, I look for inspiration in colour palettes, art styles and art movements, cultural references, and sometimes even music. Once I’ve got the inspiration and creative juices flowing, I begin to scribble ideas very loosely. It’s a weird one to describe, but I continue scribbling until I happen across a thumbnail that feels right. It’s when the composition captures the movement, the feeling and the story of what I might be trying to convey. From there, I’ll keep developing the concept and refining it until it’s a fully fleshed out drawing. Then it’s time to begin painting!

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I’m currently working on releasing a small book of my watercolour paintings from my sketchbook. Ever since I started painting with watercolour, I’ve tried to challenge myself to complete a sketchbook of watercolour paintings each year. It was a goal of mine every year that really helped hone my skills and techniques over the years and has been a practice that’s shaped my work into what it is today.

 

You mostly use watercolour but is there an art material you’ve never used that you’d like to experiment with?

Yes! I really want to experiment with spray paint. I’ve always admired other artists’ ability to work large-scale. Spray paint/mural artists are probably the best example. I really feel it's a talent and completely different skill set to be able to convey an idea at such a large scale, not to mention the patience and courage it takes. I’d really love to one day give it a shot but working so large really does terrify me.

With sustainability at the forefront of people’s mind, do you have any studio hacks or items you repurpose?

I assume everyone knows this, but scraps are an artists’ best friend, no matter how small. I always keep the offcuts of the paper I use for my watercolour paintings in a box. Even the tiniest cuts! I use them for swatching and mixing colours, and sometimes even to make tiny thumbnails. Hoarding these random scraps sometimes feels a little extreme, but they are incredibly useful.

How do you stay motivated?

Motivation has become a challenge the past few years for me, with the pandemic testing and thinning out my motivation extremely. I think what helps me stay motivated these days is constantly reminding myself to be excited for the projects I am currently working on, and simultaneously the ones I get to work on next.

I get so easily hyper-focused on current jobs that I often get bogged down and lose sight of the other exciting stuff coming up. It then becomes both demoralizing and overwhelming, which quickly spirals into a downward descent of loss of motivation. So, I try to remind myself to be excited and look on the bright side of each project. To find a sense of purpose and passion in the work I do and be pumped for the work I get to do next. Sometimes it comes easily, sometimes it takes a lot of digging to get that joy and motivation.

 

What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist today?

The best thing about being an artist today is the ability to connect to so many people around the world via social media. But it is a double-edged sword because it’s also the worst thing about being an artist today. We’re so constantly connected to millions of people all around the world at any given moment, it’s difficult to not compare ourselves to others and their respective journeys. It’s a self-inflicted pressure; to constantly create content, to constantly be better, to be quicker, to create masterpieces every day, to learn and do absolutely everything that there is to learn and do. It quickly becomes very overwhelming and exhausting and before you know it, you can easily forget why you do it in the first place. It’s a very fast descent into burnout that I see happening to so many creatives, and unfortunately has also happened to me.

Do you have one piece of advice for artists just starting out?

Don’t wait, go for it! Put your work out there and start sharing it with the world. I put off sharing my work for so long because I kept thinking, “I’ll practice just a bit more before I start sharing my work. No one will like it yet anyway because my work can get a bit better.” But that’s the thing, we all have imposter syndrome. I can guarantee you that there is someone out there in the world that would look at your work and say, “damn, I want my work to look like that!”.

What tips do you have for artists hoping to sell their work online?

Following on from my previous answer, start sharing your work on social media! Social media has given us the tools to start curating our work and creating our own collector base. By putting your work out there online, you give people the opportunity to not only see your work, but also join you on your journey as an artist. With time, hard work and dedication, hopefully they’ll grow to love your work and journey, and one day support your work by purchasing a print, or even an original.

What's currently on your playlist?

I always just find a song and smash it on repeat for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months even. Currently I’m obsessing over anything by this artist named Ford. More specifically, I’ve had his track ‘Dusk’ on repeat for the past year or two.

 

To learn more about Kelogsloops’ work, you can visit his website here or find them on Instagram @kelogsloops. All images courtesy of the artist.

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