Inspiration and the influence of Japan on his illustration
Karan Singh turns everyday scenes and inanimate objects into mesmerizing color plays. By using eclectic and vibrant patterns in his work, he can make an ordinary vase look fascinating. Originally from Australia, he has traveled all over the world and now lives in Tokyo where he works as a freelance artist. We talked to him about his approach, aesthetics and how living in Japan influences his work.
Can you talk us through the different stages of your work process?
Everything begins with an idea and a sketch. I’ve found that by doing 10 to 15 quick thumbnail sketches, I can quickly explore a number of variations on a concept I may have. The emphasis on quantity also forces me to think beyond what may be my first sketch or my favorite design.
After that, I move to my computer. I almost always begin with setting up the scene and composition. From here I develop the subject, before finally shifting into color and animation. This last stage is definitely the most time-consuming part!
The palette you use is really eye-catching and distinct. How do you select the colors?
I generally like working with bright hues combined with white or black to add contrast. I go through phases with color where I may like working with a very restricted palette of three colors, which over the course of a year may increase to eight. I go back and forth so much because I tend to lose interest if I’m using the same formula over and over.
I noticed your work often features household objects or scenes of everyday life. Why do you think these make interesting objects to depict?
I’ve always found beauty in the everyday — these objects are ubiquitous characters in our lives and thus relatable. Re-imagining them in a surreal way is my way of celebrating the mundane, but also a reflection on how we empower these objects in our own way, by attaching sentiment or nostalgia.
Why did you move to Tokyo? And how has this influenced your work?
My girlfriend and I love traveling and we have been relocating from city to city for the past ten years. Immersing ourselves in a new city is something that never gets old. Prior to Tokyo, we were in New York and decided we wanted to challenge ourselves in a way like never before. We didn’t know anybody when we moved here, nor could we speak Japanese, but as sadistic as it sounds, we wanted to experience that. We knew it would be frustrating, but our time here has culminated in a wildly unique experience, rich in more lessons we have learnt than anywhere before.
We’ve learnt what little we need to survive in a new city and we also have a greater appreciation of the things we normally take for granted, sentiments of which trickle down into my work. It’s taught me to be more considerate and deliberate.