EXCLUSIVE CONTENT FOR DIGITAL SUBSCRIBERS
Bao Pham has been causing a stir within the worlds of both digital and traditional art. He is a pioneer within experimental techniques, forever delving into new mediums to expand his creative knowledge and find new inspiration. Interviewing Bao for Issue 013 of beautiful.bizarre was an honour. His down to earth persona and love for the natural world helps him to shine with a steady brightness with effortlessly seeps into his works. Enjoy.
b.b: Thank you once again for allowing us to interview you! So, let’s begin. Can you give us a brief history of your background?
BP: I was born in Vietnam and moved to the US when I was eleven. I was very much influenced by Anime and that initially drove me to want to learn how to draw. My early interests were in comics and animation, but as my interests developed, I started learning about traditional painters such as Joaquin Sorolla and John Singer Sargent. As I was learning to paint with traditional media, I was also learning to paint digitally. I started posting my work online when I was in high school, and after several years, I was able to do illustration work for several companies. Today, I use Photoshop for my digital illustrations, as well as a tool to develop ideas and to make preparatory images for my traditional work.
b.b: Why do you create art?
BP: Well, it’s the one thing that I can really say I do well, but really it’s the thing that makes me the happiest. Whatever is happening in my life, I know I can turn to my art to get me through it. It has been a great anchor in my life.
b.b: Do you think there is a defining moment in your life that put you on this path as an artist?
BP: I really think coming to the US and discovering Anime really started everything for me. I remember setting my VCR to record my favorite shows while I was in school and the rushing home to watch them all. Then I would replay them repeatedly, pausing at scenes that stood out to me and copying my favorite characters. I think my parents really thought I had a problem, but it was the only thing I thought about when I was in school.
b.b: Your art has gone through some certain transitions along the way, can you explain more?
BP: I feel like my work have always been in flux, but digital art really took over as my main medium the last few years. I think it was when I started to get regular work doing illustrations. I’ve always been the kind of person to try everything, so having to work in one medium for long periods of time, I was really itching to do other things. So about a year back, I decided to just try different working methods. I experimented with polymer clay, paper cutting, jewelry making, and working with found objects. Eventually, I found my way back drawing and painting, but having that time to experiment and reflect on my work was extremely beneficial. I feel like I continue to draw on those experiments to create the work I’m doing now.
b.b: Can you describe your process from beginning to end when creating a new digital piece?
BP: I generally will sketch everything in Photoshop, but have occasionally scanned in drawings from my sketchbook to start out. Once I have a satisfactory sketch, I quickly block in the colors, making sure they’re in harmony with each other. Then I adjust the values, paying special attention to light and the way it falls on the objects. There are more back and forth adjusting colors, values and saturation. Then with the color sketch developed, I can start painting and playing with brush strokes and textures. The final layer effects are saved for last to add an extra punch to the piece and to tie everything together.
b.b: What software do you prefer using when digitally painting?
BP: I have always painted with Photoshop. Early on, I did use Corel Painter for a bit, but decided it wasn’t for me. Now, PS is my main tool for everything digital.
b.b: How has your design and creative processes changed or adapted in light of your newer artworks?
BP: It hasn’t really changed my digital painting process. Photoshop is still an integral part of my newer work with Gouache. I use it mainly for the preliminary work. I sketch and create mock ups to use as reference for the final painting. It’s also a great tool to modify and experimenting with new ideas quickly.
b.b: Where does your inspiration in general come from? Do you have any particular muses?
BP: I’ve always been inspired by colors and nature, and I think the two go hand in hand. I sometime will take a color palette from a butterfly as a starting point, or will get inspired by the colors created by the sunset after a major storm. I think being aware of the natural world around you can inspire some wonderful work.
I don’t think I have a particular muse, but I have been painting the same girl lately. She’s very contemplative and melancholy and I’m really enjoying creating the world around her.
b.b: There is definitely this sense of worlds beyond our reality. Do you ever find your dreams give you inspiration?
BP: Sometimes, but it’s usually the moment right after I close my eyes to sleep. Images might flash by as though everything I’ve seen and experienced that day is trying to squeeze in one last look. I will often get up and do some quick sketches before going back to bed.
b.b: What do you think has been the hardest thing you have had to overcome to get you where you are today?
BP: I think the hardest thing I have been dealing with is self-motivation. I work alone, and with no one telling me what to do, I find it hard to hunker down and get the work done. In addition, not having a dedicated studio, it’s hard to get in the zone and stay that way. It can be stifling, but I have been making time to get out more, to take breaks and come back with fresh eyes and a new motivation to work.
b.b: I love how bold and colorful your paintings are. What draws you to using these colour palettes?
BP: I think my love of Anime really imprinted early on that rainbow palette. I also love to play with colors, and I think it’s so useful for creating different moods and emotions in a painting.
b.b: There is also a beautiful versatility in your paintings. Some are much darker than others are. Do you have a preference in the topics or themes of your paintings?
BP: I like having a variety of subject matter to keep myself entertained. After doing a few fairies, it’s nice to let loose and paint something completely different. It’s a great way to refresh my thoughts and to let me have time to appreciate the other work.
b.b: Do you have any specific aspirations for the future?
BP: My goals as of late have been to seek out projects and create work that I truly enjoy doing. Being on Instagram has really opened my work a lot more people and I hope to continue to create and share my work. I’m looking forward to the day when I can fully support myself with my art. That is my ultimate goal.
b.b: One final question: do you have any upcoming exhibitions/events?
BP: I’m so happy to be a part of a group show opening on May 6th at Arch Enemy Arts Gallery in Philadelphia. It’s my first group show, and I’m very excited to debut a new Gouache painting.