Each month, the focus here will be on a different Featured Artist and his or her art. The following is one such post.
One of the most surprising outcomes of my love for art is the way creating this website (which started with my featuring a couple awesome, local artists) has inspired me (and has given me an excuse) to reach out to artists around the world whom I most likely would not have otherwise ever met or interacted with all because of the way I first encountered and engaged them through their art.
As a writer, my primary intention is to find my voice and to use it to express my perception of the world and to also help others who don’t have a voice, and in the process hopefully touch someone else’s life in a positive way. To create something with my words that people are compelled to engage with, to think about, to feel, and maybe even to share with others.
One of the artists I encountered this past spring— Anne (aka Kalon Sardin) who quite literally started exploring her passion for art by painting on her walls as a young girl—is from the coast of Brittany, a place I have never been. After interviewing Anne and also researching her a bit, I have a feeling certain aspects of her personality come through in her wonderful illustrations that I wasn’t cognizant of at first, aspects of who she is as a person and as an artist which are what I connected to most without even realizing it initially.
Right away, I fell in love the way she presents relationships between often unlikely characters. Then in reading a little about her bio, I recognized aspects of my own personality and interests. “My artwork,” she writes in her website’s bio, “often talks about childhood, endless wonderful source of inspiration. I love to surprise people, to be where I’m not expected, to try to make uptight people a little more cool but above all of this I truly do love to destroy stereotypes.”
Those words, “childhood, wonder, inspiration” all resonate with me, but her claim to above all “love to destroy stereotypes” is what I embrace the most. And it makes sense, after reading that, why her illustrations make me smile, but even more than that they make me feel a sense of wonder and, especially, acceptance and love. Misfits, the misunderstood, those who are often on the periphery are the ones I am drawn to most. She creates such characters.
For example, she focuses on a couple sinister pop culture icons (Voldemort and the creature from Alien), yet puts them in situations that seem surprising and unexpected, suggesting the possibility of traits that most people may have never considered and that fascinates me.
The young child—in a monster costume no less—pulls the raincloud over the flower to water it. A monster showing kindness, compassion. A creature that isn’t entirely what it seems, doing an act that we might not tend to attribute to at least part of it’s identity.
The soft shapes Anne uses to create her characters, the sloping shoulders, the roundness of heads and eyes, the almost amorphousness of certain features all help convey an innocence. But there are other illustrations, like “I Got You Under My Skin,” that convey a different sort of tenderness, a sensitivity, and perhaps even the interconnectedness of all things. At least that’s the sense I get from the image.
Then there’s the sketch of a single eye which conveys something else, an older subject, and a variety of possible emotions. I love how she captures just a piece of something or someone and, in doing so, forces us to experience the character through that one small part of who she/he is.
I mention these pieces in particular, because they show the range of subjects and skills displayed by Anne.
I first saw “The Flying Yeti” image on her website, then I saw an altered version on Twitter with some words added to it which express an important message: “Never let people tell you that you can’t.” And that seems the essence of wonder and imagination, that anything is possible. Don’t allow yourself to be held back by the perception of others (or by what you might think are inherent limitations).
Below is an interview I did with Anne a couple months ago. I hope you enjoy learning a little about her and also spending time with some of her art. We can never have too much sweetness or tenderness in our lives. It’s important to allow ourselves to witness stereotypes destroyed, to consider the possibilities (like a young viking warrior expressing love for a monster which reminded me of the story of Beowulf, but with a much different possible interaction).
It’s also refreshing, regardless of our age, to be reminded of the inspiration and power of not just a child’s imaginations, but all of our imaginations, and our sense of curiosity and wonder: questing with a dragon, for example, or befriending a polar bear.
Other Cool Birds: Young Adult author, Jacqueline Woodson says that writers tend to focus on the time in their lives they’re still working through. Is there an element of truth to Woodson’s claim as it relates to Visual Artists (or to your work)? If so, how?
Anne (aka Kalon Sardin): May I answer with a quote by Gautama Buddha on which I always try to focus in my whole life, not just in my work? “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment.”
OCB: What are you illustrating or creating art for (as in, what is the deep-down driving force behind your choice to illustrate in the first place)?
Anne: I always have seen art as a language and sometimes (actually most of the time) it really helps (me) to express things through pictures instead of words. I mean I could not express so many things in one sentence as through one drawing. It can truly say much more than I could ever expect. Plus I love when people feel something about my art and express it by using the drawing as a help, as a starter. Sometimes it’s a good feeling, sometimes not, but anyway the most important is to bring on something, a feeling, a reaction. Well, finally a kind of answer, which is a good point for a language.
OCB: Indeed. And you invite them to become engaged in a larger conversation.
What technique/media do you use to create your wonderful illustrations (like the child dressed as a monster holding raincloud over flower, or the young Voldemort)?
Anne: I used to paint with acrylic or to draw with watercolor and ink for a very long time. But I discovered Photoshop about 10 years ago (self-taught) and I use this media to create now. I’m using Photoshop CC, but I’m old-school enough to still sketch everything on paper first. I also started to learn about Illustrator a few weeks ago and I hope to be able to use it asap. Whatever, digital or traditional, I always need cool music and a quiet place.
OCB: Each of your illustrations conveys a scene and/or a story. Did you have a favorite story/ book, illustration, or illustrator when you were young (or now)? If so, why?
Anne: My favorite story book as a little girl was for sure A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. And because I’m a huge fan of Disney, I loved (and still do) their adaptation called Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983). All the ingredients that I love are in it. It talks about love, kindness, changing, awareness, generosity, Christmas, winter and I guess about hot cocoa, too!
OCB: It’s interesting that you mentioned those “ingredients,” as I sensed themes like love, kindness, and friendship in your illustrations. That brings me to my next question which was are those themes intentional and, if so, why?
Anne: Yes, it is. And thank you for seeing them!! I am a hopeful person even though I feel our world getting darker and darker sometimes. I don’t believe in any god, but I keep on believing in Human Nature. I need to talk about sweet people, sweet things, cute animals, beautiful Nature in my art. It’s like a great escape to a better world to avoid crap. I went through bad things as a little girl so believe me, I don’t need darkness anymore, but much more love and kindness indeed.
And because I couldn’t always find it in real life, I create it. My problem is I dislike ‘ninny’ or dumb and boring things, so I always try to manage to avoid this by using a lot of hidden codes, humor or wacky tiny details. Just hope people catch it.
OCB: So you capture those ingredients or themes by creating sweet people or moments to not only to focus on the goodness in the world, but to share your hope. To help others see goodness, as well. Another reason I think your work speaks to me so much.”Frogloon Day”
How long have you been interested in creating art and what sort of background or training do you have?
Anne: Drawing on my bedroom walls as a little girl might for sure means always, right? More seriously, I studied art in a School for Design and Applied Arts after a bachelor’s degree. I wanted to build my own company. Actually, I had two wonderful kids instead and kept art as a hobby till my lil family stopped needing me ‘so much.’ Then, working at home was the best thing for me to manage both family and company.
OCB: If you could work on any project (a personal one, time traveling to work with another artist, etc.), what might it be and why?
Anne: Something for children to explain to them how much life in every way is precious, or to help them, or make them smile.. Whatever the way, sharing love is cool.
OCB: Is there anything about art (creating, engaging with) that you think people might not understand or might misunderstand?
Anne: Creating art is a real work, a real job. And like every job, it takes time, energy and obviously deserves to be paid. Some people don’t seem to understand this at all. How many times people ask me to work for them without being paid because they didn’t have enough money or no money at all?! Would they do the same at a restaurant, in a supermarket, or in a shop for instance?? Not sure and this is truly unfair.
OCB: A number of artists who appear on Other Cool Birds have expressed this, as well. While it’s a compliment that people love your work so much they want to have some of it themselves, it’s rather incredulous that they would expect to procure something from someone whose work they admire without paying for it in some way. It would be like asking an architect whose building you admire to draw you or build you a home for free.
Aside from your main website and social media, are there any specific websites with your work to which you’d like me to link back?
OCB: Do you have any projects on the horizon for which we should keep an eye out?
Anne: I dedicated the past few years to make personalized drawings for others while also creating a cute little character from Brittany (West Coast, France). But for a few months now, I’ve been looking for something more concrete, to focus on what I want the most: children’s books illustrations. Actually, keeping my fingers crossed, but if everything goes as planned I’ll soon be represented by an agency, that will allow me to pursue projects like ‘kidlitart.’ At the same time, I’m also working on a personal project, but I’d rather keep it secret for now . . .
OCB: Well, that just gives us more to look forward to. I, for one, am excited to see what comes next. Be sure to check out the other wonderful art on Anne’s website, as well as her blog (you might need to be fluent in French to read the posts on the latter, but even if you can’t read the words you can enjoy the visual treats) and visit both of her shops.
Keep your eyes to the sky. More impressive art will be landing at Other Cool Birds soon.