Don’t call it a comeback, we’ve been here for years! Anywho, we have another entry in our artist interview series! And at this point I hope you can see a trend. I am extremely selfish when it comes to these; I only pick my favorite artists! And this time, Kevin Tong was gracious enough to put up with our hard-hitting questions. I first took notice of his work with Moon. I love that movie and found the print intriguing. It was almost simplistic in the use of shapes and hard edges, but intricate with Sam Rockwell’s facial expression. He almost looks sad, yet contemplative. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite work of his. I can honestly say I rarely see a poster and think, hot damn I have to see this movie. A rare exception: Tong’s I Saw The Devil. The print grabbed my attention immediately and I had no clue what it was. Lucky for me the film was on Netflix streaming (before the price raise and the Qwikster announcement). The movie was amazing and the poster captured the essence of it. Read on and check out his amazing art!
NL: How did you get your professional start in the art world? And how did you find your niche in nerd art?
KT: I started working professionally when I was a student in the illustration program at California State University Long Beach in 2004. I was designing Sky Dancer doll accessories for a company in Long Beach. Not the actual dolls mind you, the accessories, like the purse or her shoes, etc. I would make turnarounds for the molders, tech sheets, color callouts, you name it. I guess that part of my life was the equivalent to a soccer mom admitting that she stripped in college.
The first cool thing I did professionally was write and illustrated a publisher hardcover children’s book called The Earth Machine. I was still a student and that was 2005. What a blast. The deal was horrible, but I am still proud of the book. I think you can buy it used on Amazon for one cent, seriously. I haven’t thought about that in a long time.
As for my niche in “Nerd Art”, I don’t even know what that means. Is Nerd Art the antithesis of douche bag art like Affliction, Ed Hardy, or street art? I used to do art for all that stuff and I felt like I was drowning all day, so I guess I inadvertently became a castaway on the Nerd Art island.
NL: Where do you find inspiration and what are some of your influences?
KT: I couldn’t tell you about inspiration, it just happens, usually when I am doing stuff other than actually thinking about the thing that I am working on. The time when I usually have ideas is when there isn’t a pen or paper around. Once I remove all pens and papers from my immediate vicinity, the ideas scatter in like cats when you open a can of cat food.
NL: Who are some of your favorite artists?
KT: I hate answering that question. I respect anyone who’s out there doing their own thing.
NL: What posters/art do you have on display in your house?
Rich Kelly: Mogwai, Wild at Heart
Jay Ryan: Bike print, HUM diptych, Cicada print, Decemberists poster
Martin Ansin: The Mummy on wood
Tyler Stout: Iron Man 2 poster, Star Wars Trilogy posters
Jason Munn: Dr, Strangelove Poster, Decemberists poster, Mogwai poster
Dan MacCarthy: What Once Was Print, Lost World print
Land Land: Bob Mould poster
Spike Press: Cold War Kids poster
Guy Burwell: Floyd’s Poster
Daniel Danger: Mogwai poster
Mike Saputo: Star Trek poster
Alberto Cerriteno: The Enamored Whale
Olly Moss: Hank Venture in Batman Mask
I also have posters for Crazy for Cult (first one), Lolita (Kubrick film), and Metropolis. I have a lot of original paintings too. A lot of people are surprised that I collect so much art. I plan to have my whole place framed wall to wall since I have dozens of posters that need framing in my flat file.
NL: If you could draw any comic book ever created, which book would you choose and why?
KT: Mehh, drawing someone else’s characters and story isn’t really my thing.
NL: I haven’t seen many artists do this, so what prompted you to start video recording your work process and display it to the masses?
KT: Process videos are really fun for me and they have really pushed me along. People love seeing process videos and photos. It started when I posted process photos of the printing of my Mogwai poster (the first one). There was a huge response and people were really into them. I still get people that tell me they reference those photos for building their own set up and learning to print. I saw other artists doing it, like Brian Ewing (http://brianewing.com/tutorial/) and Ray Frenden (http://frenden.com/category/video/), so I thought I’d give it a shot.
I guess where I changed things up was to spend time editing and use high speed, as well as music, so the videos would be more entertaining. I don’t really consider them tutorials, more like a behind the scenes. I have lots of fun making them, so expect more!
NL: Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?
KT: That’s a bulky question. Can you really compare a TV show to a movie? So much has happened too, in the form of new series and prequels.
How do you evaluate Star Wars? If you include the prequels, Star Wars takes a huge dive. Honestly, I thought the last half of Return of the Jedi was weak. Come on? Ewoks? The Emperor dies by bear hug? I’m all over Empire though, that one holds the Trilogy together like how the force holds up Yoda’s pants. The original Trilogy is overall just incredible, because it encompasses all seven basic plots (Man vs Man, Man vs Self, Man vs Animal, Man vs Technology, Man vs Supernatural, Man vs Environment, Man vs God). It’s also a seamless blend of Western movies (Spaghetti variety), Kirosawa Samurai flicks, WWII Aircraft films, and great science fiction.
As for Star Trek, are you referring to the TV series, the movies, or both? There are several series, of varying qualities, which do you go by? The Original Series was consistently campy, but awesome. The Next Generation has always been held together by Patrick Stewart and it got really good in the last two seasons. Deep Space Nine– Ehhhhh. Star Trek Voyager, up and down, but man, did we get Borg episodes a plenty, which equals… Seven of Nine (yessss!!!). Star Trek Enterprise fell flat, but that Xindi mini series story arc was intense. The first four Star Trek movies were awesome, then lame, then ok with First Contact, then JJ Abrams FTW!
That being said, if both Star Wars and Star Trek were compared in their entirety, I’d have to go with Star Trek because as a TV and movie series, it has greater quantity and variety and I don’t have to sit though Jar Jar Binks, Hayden Christenson, or metachlorines.
NL: What do you do in your free time?
KT: What’s free time?
NL: Give us a Nerdy secret that most people don’t know about you.
KT: Being hip, fashionable, in peak physical shape, and residing rent free in the glances of the fairer sex, nothing comes to mind.
NL: What is your favorite movie and why?
KT: Don’t even go there. I can’t get into another discussion. My favorite movie probably hasn’t been made yet.
NL: What is your favorite video game and why?
KT: Tetris is the only video game I like because it helps exercise your mind and sense of coordination. Most other games I see seem like a waste of time. I don’t play video games and I have never owned a console.
NL: What is your favorite comic book or comic book character and why?
KT: I don’t like answering favorite questions. I like a lot of comics and I can say one thing, my favorite comic book or comic book character doesn’t wear tights and beat people up.
And that is Kevin Tong. Truly a unique spirit and talent that is only growing in awesomeness! Check out his website, www.tragicsunshine.com, continually for updates on his releases. Needless to say, we can’t wait to see what Mr. Tong does next!