Kaspian is a self-taught painter based in Germany, who defines his style as “electric folk”, playfully combining traditional and modern elements in his art. Working with acrylic washes on paper, he creates other-worldly androgynous beauties, caught in their own surreal surroundings of loneliness and longing. When Kaspian isn’t painting, he’s busy writing poetry and curating shows for the PRISMA International Artist Collective. We were lucky enough to drag him away from all this for a moment to talk to us.
Have you got a secret group of beautiful lads posing for you round the clock? (If so, please stop keeping them all to yourself.) Or do you source/take your own reference images?
Haha, I don’t actually have my own harem here, no. It’s rather the opposite—there are too few androgynous males out there, which makes it difficult for me to find decent references. It’s been one if not THE biggest obstacles I’ve had to face over the past years in terms of getting better at what I do, the sheer impossibility to find someone with the right look and patience to model for me over a longer period of time, so I often had to rely on fashion photography / models as refs, which I found to be very limiting.
There are very few faces I feel I can work with, and unfortunately, people who look beautiful in person don’t always have that special something that makes for an interesting painting (and vice versa). I like quirky, bizarre looking androgynous types, and luckily I’ve recently found me a boy with that special something and will hopefully be working with him for some time.
What do you find is the most challenging part about being an artist?
I have to say I don’t actually find it that much of a challenge anymore because I’m thoroughly enjoying my job. Money’s always an issue and something I wish I didn’t have to worry about, but it’s not exclusively an artist’s problem. There’s the occasional “Fuck, I hate everything I’ve ever painted in my life” kind of moment but most of the time, I’m feeling very privileged and grateful to be able to work as an artist and thus don’t have to force myself to do anything because I love my job!
How long does it usually take you to complete a painting?
It really depends on the size but the smaller acrylic paintings usually take me a couple of days to finish. I tend to do three long sessions, one for the underdrawing, one for the greyscale underpainting, and one or two more for the actual colour / glazes. I’ve only just started experimenting with oils and it takes a lot longer because of the drying times.
Your androgynous figures challenge conventional expectations of male and female beauty. Do you think society will ever progress to a point without gender constraints?
No, I don’t think so. We’re all brought up with stereotypical ideas of how men and women have to be and look like, and while some cultures are more open-minded than others and there are a lot of young, sophisticated folks out there, I don’t think people who challenge gender stereotypes can ever be fully accepted. (At least I won’t get to live long enough to see it.) Ask any gay / lesbian / transgender / genderqueer person etc. and most of them will have faced isolation or exclusion in one way or the other, especially those living in oppressive regimes or backward societies.
The one thing art can do is let people out there know that they’re not alone, that they’re beautiful and that we recognise and love and respect them the way they are. At least that’s what I do.
You write poetry and short stories as well as create visual art, have you ever considered combining your talent for words and pictures into a book or similar project?
Yes, I have! I was actually discussing a book project just like the one you mentioned with an awesome photographer friend of mine last year. It was a bit of a chaotic time in both our lives and we had too many other things on our plate but I would still love for it to happen sometime in the future. It’s actually the one big thing I’m working towards and looking forward to.
What does art mean to you? Is it therapeutic? An outlet? A compulsion? A hobby? A career?
I guess it’s all of the above. I live and breathe art, it’s as gentle as a lover and your most loyal friend.
As a self-taught artist, what advice can you give to other unschooled-artists following in your footsteps?
I’m not really sure if anyone should be advised to follow in my footsteps but generally, we self-taught artists have the potential to become just as good as everyone else. It sometimes just takes a little longer to get there. It’s nice to have someone teach you the basics of painting and all—I’m often sorry I never got that chance but art is so much more about passion and the things you have to say than figuring out the perfect painting technique.
Do you have a creative process, or do you just make it up as you go along?
I put on good music and start painting, that’s my creative process!
You founded the artist collective PRISMA, what inspired you to do this? And what do you enjoy most about being a curator?
I founded PRISMA because I believe there’s strength in a group of people that trust and support each other. Being an artist is a tough career and you often have no one to ask for help or advice. Not all of us are part of a vibrant art scene, not all of us have a family or circle of friends that accept and support what we do. I like to communicate with others and I like to bring different types of people together and watch them grow into a union. And being able to curate shows has been a great way for me to become more professional and indulge in my passion to organise and coordinate. It’s stressful as hell but just as satisfying.
All your boys have an impeccable sense of style, do you draw inspiration from your own fashion choices?
Oh, I hear that for the first time, thanks!
I dress pretty weird, it probably shows in my paintings. It’s carnival over here at the moment, the only time of the year I suddenly blend in. Which I’m not sure speaks for my taste in clothes, hah. I dress the way I like my music—a little folky, a little goth, a little glitter on top.
It seems that a lot of artists’ work ends up resembling themselves in some way, do you think your characters reflect you at all?
They’re my voice to the outside world, so they sure resemble me in a lot of ways. I’m not one to use myself for reference because I’m very drawn to fair-haired people with light eyes, and generally a look that is rather the opposite of my own. But I hear my characters are proud and fragile, which I suppose is very me.
Have you found an amazing technique or approach that you wish you’d discovered earlier?
I wish I had been able to work with oils earlier but it’s been a love-hate relationship for a long time. Besides that, the best technique I’ve learned so far is the TT, the “tissue technique” I learned from my friend Hsiao-Ron Cheng. Apparently, I’ve mastered it well enough now to pass it on to future students. Just grab a tissue to soften the look of your pencil drawings—made my life so much easier!
Who’s your favourite artist at the moment?
Of course everyone in PRISMA is my favourite artist. But I guess it’s no secret that I’m in love with Allison Sommers because she’s an outstanding talent, a creative mind, a wonderful person, someone I look up to, and her work’s just right up my alley.
Do you have any artistic plans or goals for the coming year?
Large scale oil paintings, PRISMA books, more poetry.
Thanks Kaspian, we can’t wait to see what you have in-store for us next!