Hello Beauties! Hope you are all well and ready to welcome spring when it finally decides to come. Today I am so excited to share on the blog an interview to an amazing artist with a sparking personality: Kim Youdan from VagaBeyond. Kim is a mixed media artist, with a background in photography, who looks for inspiration in her daily life. Around one year ago, Kim and her partner in crime (Jim) have decided to embrace a thrilling nomadic life to freely discover the world (currently based in Mexico) and be inspired by the beauty of our planet. I absolutely love her artwork, a combination of photography, travel and bold colours thanks to which the viewer can be inspired and immerse herself into distant cultures. And I love Kim’s personality: lively, creative and passionate about life and art.
Are you ready to start this artistic journey with Kim?
Hi Kim, so nice to talk to you! You are a very talented artist and I love your creative work. How did your passion for art start?
Hi Giulia, thank you for having me on your site, I love the work you’re doing in spreading the importance of finding art in the everyday, something I love to do!
I’ve always been creative in one way or another and art was one of my favourite lessons when I was growing up. I couldn’t believe that it was actually a class at school, it was so enjoyable!
In secondary education it was photography that really interested me and I chose to further my education in that area at university.
What does art mean to you and how does it integrate with your everyday lifestyle?
I find so much joy in art, it energises me and I see the creative process in everything. I appreciate architecture, always look out for colour combinations and get inspired by the beauty of nature and it’s determination to flourish.
Being creative is a huge part of my nomadic lifestyle. I have an internal need to travel and experience the culture and creativity that other countries have to offer. I have designed my life around the act of seeking inspiration for my artwork.
You have been a photographer for around ten years before starting this artistic journey where you employ different media. Why have you chosen to engage with a mixed media technique?
Great question and it was less of a conscious decision and more of an urge to create that led me to what I do right now. When I started the mixed media technique it was using materials that I had available to me.
At the time I was taking a break from working in the photography industry. I had some travel pictures that had been printed in black and white by mistake, I had some brushes lying around at home and some paint left over from a costume party, all these elements came together at the right moment and I had an urge to create and experiment.
This mixed media technique took a hold of me well before Jim (my partner) and I started to live nomadically.
How do you create your amazing work? Do you have a specific creative process you follow for each piece or is it more an ‘instant intuition’?
Thank you again for your comments!
Using my photography as the foundation image, I create artwork within the realms of the technique I have developed. My artwork is the marriage of high contrast black and white imagery with culturally inspired colour combinations.
Each series is similar in the way these elements are put together but certainly unique from a colour research and subject point of view.
Regarding the application of colour in my work I usually take one of two approaches. The first is a response to the photograph and an instant reaction where I can finish the work in one sitting. On the other had I need more time creating the composition and working with or against the foundation image.
You and your partner have made the brave decision to leave your 9-5 job and hit the road. I love the idea and well done! Why have you decided to go on this adventure and what do you find most exciting about it?
Thank you very much, we are certainly very grateful that we took the leap! Travel has always been a part of our lives and putting the inspiration for my artwork to the side for a moment, travel has been the best education for me and the two of us wanted to prioritise it.
The most exciting part of living nomadically are the opportunities that we can take advantage of and not having anything to hold us back apart from our own agenda.
As you are always on the road I guess you don’t have a permanent studio. Where do you usually work and how do you balance travelling with creating?
Great question and this is the main point of contention for my way of life. I find myself day dreaming about having a huge studio with floor to ceiling windows! Yes it’s a challenge and to negotiate this challenge I need to do my favourite thing – be creative!
Due to my process I split my time between two areas of focus which has a big impact with regard to way we travel. The first process is photography and research which is perfect when we are moving around a lot. I then need to settle with some space to allow myself to create the work. In the past I have rented studio space in Bangkok and various other locations. Having these two elements allows for flexibility which is great.
What do you desire to communicate to the audience through your art?
I wish to inspire a full and creative life. I love to hear how people interpret my work and also their reaction to the way I live my life. I really do believe that travel is the best education and creativity is important for us all to live in abundance.
Two people can interpret something so differently and I love that about all artistic endeavours.
What is your favourite artwork you have created?
Such a hard question! It’s usually what I’m currently working on. At the moment I’m doing a series of miniatures using postcard size photographs. The overall theme is nature vs architecture. I am experimenting with the collaboration of natural environments with the introduction of repeating architectural form. In reverse I use imagery of strong architecture with the layering of natural forms and horizons.
I’ve noticed you work through a series of artwork at the time rather than unique pieces. Could you please explain this artistic choice?
Yes, I love to see a series of work come together. Rather than limiting myself to one idea on one photograph, I like to diversify and create a body of work with the ideas I have. A collection of two to three artworks for a larger series or a group of works which tends to happen when I create on a smaller scale.
What is your favourite place you have visited until now?
Another really hard question! Some recent highlights have been Japan and New Zealand. We are currently in Mexico which has been so much more inspiring that I expected and Africa is always somewhere I’d love to return to.
Everywhere has it’s nuances and is unique, it’s so hard to choose just one place!
Do the local people you meet inspire your artistic work?
To a certain extent they do but usually it’s a culture as a whole and their way of life that has a bigger impact. The history of a civilisation and the use of colour in their lives have a lasting effect on me. I love to see groups of people interact with each other.
Here in Mexico the people are passionate and generous, bright colours and bright sunshine certainly go hand in hand with the culture here.
Where do you get your inspiration from apart from travelling?
Travel encompasses so much that goes into my work because it is the act of changing my environment which provides a huge amount of inspiration. Of course the farther you travel the more apparent the change is. This change can happen within the same country; travelling to a different town can spark the inspiration I need for my work.
Consuming a lot of content is something I love to do. The process of idea creation really interests me and the research I do on colour culture is hugely important. These elements don’t rely on travel but it certainly helps make the experience more vivid.
In your artwork there is always a hint of colour. Why is colour so important to your pieces?
So important! I really believe that colour brings with it emotion and a deep sense of joy. As I mentioned before about the reaction to my work, the colour has a big significance in this area because colour can mean very different things in different culture and context. Colour makes us feel and that is hard to explain, I love that connection that can’t be put into words.
What other elements do you tend to incorporate in your artwork?
My work is based on the marriage of a high contrast image and bright bold colour. The foundation of a black and white image sets the tone of the whole piece, very important for the composition and grounding of the work.
I need to love the photograph before I even consider developing further ideas. It’s a very interesting process as I shoot all my work in colour. Within the post production phase is where I see the image change – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse and I don’t take it through to the next stage.
What are the essential artistic tools of VagaBeyond?
There are two sides to this story, on one hand the physical tools include my camera, laptop, acrylic inks and printed imagery. On the other hand the inspiration and idea development is just as important if not more so!
How is your typical day in this new nomadic lifestyle?
Typical is not on the agenda! And that’s the whole point of being nomadic, it’s always different. Jim and I get into different routines and that’s dependant on many factors: where we are, what we are both working on and what our objectives are for visiting certain places.
Mexico is the second country where we have adopted a 3 month rotation of living in one place, we have felt much more settled and it’s great to really immerse ourselves in the culture and live like a local.
The best part of living nomadically is having an abundance of activities on our doorstep for when we do take time off work. We certainly choose places where activities are available to us, the scuba diving here has been epic!
What is the most important lesson you have learnt during your nomadic year?
My biggest takeaway by far is that I don’t need to conform. I have one life and I’m living it just how I want to.
If you could give a piece of advice to a young artist starting out, what would it be?
Just start! Secondly, talk to everyone about what you are doing and why you are doing it. The more you talk about your art the more exposure you will gain and the more clarity you will obtain. Clarity is so important.
It’s a turbulent journey, try to enjoy the process because that’s where the most fulfilment is, in the present.
What are the future plans for VagaBeyond?
Next stop is Cuba, so excited! I will start filming a process video about what I do, how I do it and most importantly WHY I do it, I’m really looking forward to that!
If you have any tips about Cuba I would LOVE to hear from you!
Where to find Kim and VagaBeyond – Check out her amazing work!