We had the good fortune of connecting with kenosys and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi kenosys, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
Something I’m glad to start seeing people speak up against recently is the idea that to be a successful artist, you have to dedicate 100% of your time and energy to honing your craft. I think arbitrary principles like the (now debunked) 10,000 hour theory, or any number of similar clichés you might see in an infographic or “motivational” LinkedIn post, have done so much more harm than good to the wellbeing of many artists. Of course, it’s still incredibly important to actually make art — letting the fear of something potentially not meeting your expectations hold you back from having fun, experimenting, and creating in general isn’t healthy either — but pushing yourself to the point of burnout when you just aren’t feeling well is such a huge detriment to mental and physical health. Ultimately, that’ll affect your output much more than simply taking some time to recharge and soak up some inspiration ever would. You probably won’t be able to create much at all (or at least anything you’re particularly proud of) if the tendons in your wrist are painfully overexerted, or if a stressful day job is pushing you to the brink of exhaustion, or even if you’re just having a bad mental health day. On the other hand, if you’re healthy, well-rested, and full of inspiration from watching a movie with some incredible design work, or replaying that video game that inspired you to want to become an artist in the first place, you’ll most likely feel much more motivated and excited to get to work! Don’t let mysterious social media algorithms, the rigor of anti-worker business practices, or ill-natured advice drive you to harmful behaviors — human beings weren’t designed to be overloaded with this much stress on a daily basis. Instead, be kind to yourself and acknowledge your own needs, and eventually you’ll find the workflows and schedules that keep you feeling happy, healthy, and productive!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a concept artist and illustrator exploring faith, memory, trauma, and humanity through the lens of machines. I’m currently developing two personal projects: DIVINITY MACHINE, a multimedia project about robots wandering a wasteland to uncover what became of their creators, and Hallowed Vessel Vector, an original sci-fi series about mecha pilots navigating militarism, religion, and transhumanism. Recently, I’ve also been able to contribute some concept art to a few indie game projects! Although I always liked drawing, my relationship with art really began when I was 9 or 10 years old. I started by experimenting with digital art and animation, then eventually discovered (and absolutely fell in love with) concept art. In high school, I was able to participate in a mentorship with a professional animator at Nickelodeon, but eventually decided that I’d like to to focus on the games industry instead. I’m now pursuing a BFA in Drawing at Arizona State University, and will be graduating in December. My biggest struggle has definitely been learning to work around mental health issues, the worst of which forced me into a completely unproductive three year long burnout. But with patience, therapy, and the love and encouragement of my friends, family and partner (who’s also my creative partner on HVV), I’ve been able to find the strength to keep working hard. There’s also the added element of the frankly terrible (and often exploitative) financial situations a lot of artists are facing right now. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s definitely the importance of building connections with and advocating for the rights of your peers! Litebox is a great resource and place to start (https://litebox.info/). In general, I think it’s important to put empathy first in all you do, both as an artist and person. Let’s support and uplift each other however and whenever we can!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m originally from Los Angeles, so I’ve only spent a few years in Arizona, but I have to recommend the ASU Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, of course! Some of my favorite experiences I’ve had here have been the result of light rail trips to downtown Phoenix – the Phoenix Public Library has a wonderfully huge collection to explore, and Valley Bar is a great spot to catch a concert and grab a drink. It’s a little farther out, but I also have super fond memories of getting lost exploring the shelves at Book Gallery in Mesa, too. Make sure to check out the Mesa Arts Center a little ways down the street while you’re there.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
So much of the process of finding success as a practicing artist is dependent on having financial and emotional help, and I definitely have to thank my family, my friends, and my partner, Lawrence Harris, for their constant love, support, and encouragement. I’d also like to raise some awareness for the Armenian community — my culture has always played a huge role in the work I make, and unfortunately, Armenia and its indigenous peoples are currently in danger and in need of as much support as possible. Please visit ArmeniaFund (https://www.armeniafund.org/) for more information and to donate.