Kristen Liu Wong
"I don't want to make anything that ever takes itself too seriously, so it's very important to me that there's a sense of humor in my pieces even if there are some darker things happening in them. "
Could you share a bit about yourself, like where you’re from?
I'm originally from San Francisco but I came out to Brooklyn for art school and decided to stay after graduation.
What made you decide to go to art school, and how was it?
I decided to go to art school after I realized that I wasn't willing to put in the effort necessary for med school. I couldn't even handle dissecting a fetal pig in high school biology so I knew that I couldn't handle a cadaver. Also towards the end of high school I realized how much I loved art and people said I was good at it, so I decided to go for it. Art school was awful and great. Most of the time I was miserable, especially when I first started, but I met some really great professors and now that I've graduated I miss the structure. Pratt Institute challenged me and made me weep way too many times, but it prepares you for how awful deadlines can be in the real world.
Are you very much inspired by your surroundings, or is it a mixture of things?
I currently hate my surroundings so in terms of aesthetics, not really. Brooklyn can be a dirt heap. It's very important to be surrounded by someplace beautiful so I like to paint places that I want to be or places that I have been that have some aesthetic value.
Do you think the creative life is a hard life?
Yes I do but everyone's life is difficult so I don't think it's special in that it's challenging. Having a job where you are actually paid to paint and create things is great. It can be more challenging in that the future is lesscertain in terms of your career path and you have to be extremely selfmotivated, but overall I'd say life is shit for everyone.
What advice do you have for a firstyear art student?
IT GETS BETTER. At least if you're in Pratt's program where the first year is spent in the foundation program where you make grids of apples using outrageously priced, highly pigmented paper for six hours. I fumbled throughout the first two years of school, trying to create things that I thought professors would think was good and then one day I decided to do something that I thought was good and that's when classes stopped being awful.
Quite a few of your drawings have morbid looking subjects despite your rather bright colour palette. Is this intentional?
Yes it is intentional. I don't want to make anything that ever takes itself too seriously, so it's very important to me that there's a sense of humor in my pieces even if there are some darker things happening in them. I also like pretty colors.
What materials do you use in your art and why?
For my paintings, I use acrylic and acrylic gouache on wood panels and then I coat them in resin. Because I mostly flat paint and do line work and patterns, it just makes sense to use acrylics instead of oils or watercolor, etc. I like to work on wood panels because it's durable, the surface is just right, and I don't need to frame anything.
I like your popup cards. Were they a personal project?
No they were actually for a class I took as a Junior!! It was one of the most enjoyable classes I took in school and everyone should learn how to make pop ups!
I also like your 3D artworks like the taxidermy head. Any chance you’ll do more of that or would you prefer to illustrate and paint?
I'm currently working on some 3D things! When I make things like Tracy, I usually make them for myself or to sell since they're silly and I can't imagine them in a gallery setting. I love painting and drawing, but crafting is a great way to just have fun and make pretty, stupid things that mean nothing.
What pisses you off as an artist when you take on commercial/paid work?
So many things piss me off (laughs). When people ask for something different from what you're giving them but they don't know what they want and they expect you to just know; when people ask you to do something and you wonder if they've ever even seen your work because what they want is not what you do. But mostly I hate it when people assume I'll work for free. Don't act like I owe you an image just because I like painting.
Are there particular themes that you like to focus on?
I tend to focus on certain recurring images and the theme of each piece then comes about more organically.
Could you share your work process?
I usually have an image in my mind or an object I want to paint and then I do a really ugly thumbnail, just to put down the general outline. Next, I draw the image on tracing paper and get everything exactly how I want it to be compositionally before transferring the drawing onto a panel that I've gessoed. Then I start the painting—I'll typically start with the background just so that I know what color is taking up the most space and then I fill in everything from there. I always know the main colors that I want to use for the larger areas and then I fill in the smaller areas with colors that I think the piece still needs. I add patterns, gradients, linework as I go along depending on what looks right. Once I'm done I pour resin over the whole thing and BLAM. Done.