London based artist, designer and illustrator Kyle Bean is renown for his ability to distil complex ideas into accessible handcrafted illustration and tactile design. His work is characterised by a whimsical and meticulous appropriation of everyday materials. Here he shares his creative process and reveals the projects that defined his career so far.
I was always making things as a child, but it wasn’t until I was studying illustration at university that I began to take it a little more seriously and experiment with more three-dimensional handcrafted techniques in my work.
When I’m working on a project, smart ideas always motivate me more than anything. I enjoy the challenge of being given a complex story or theory to illustrate and love the process of simplifying or distilling it into something visually accessible. My creative process involves using visual metaphors and analogies as devices for simplifying or combining two ideas. Once I have the right idea, I then focus on how I’m going to make it a reality using everyday materials.
Experimentation is really important to me; I invest time in learning new techniques that I can incorporate into my work. I tend to use editorial projects and personal work to explore slightly different ways of working or new materials I want to experiment with.
Sometimes the choice of material I use to helps to enhance the meaning or concept of an image. For example, I was given a brief recently to illustrate a rather boring subject – protecting financial assets – so my approach was to represent the asset as an egg and then reference the princess and the pea by making a layered mattress of different coloured sponge. The egg is falling onto the sponge. The image works because of the choice of material is so pivotal to the subject matter, even though it’s represented in quite an abstract way.
A sense of play is crucial to my creative approach. A lot of my work references things that I remember from my childhood – analogue games I used to play, hobbies I used to have, things I used to take apart or crafts my mum’s friends showed me. I think a lot of these things are familiar to a lot of people regardless of their age and I think inherently these references add a bit of humour and playfulness to the work that I create.
My biggest challenge is not having enough time to do everything I want to do. My work can be quite time-consuming, and so I find for my sanity I have to be selective with projects I take on. The most exciting part of why I do is working with people I admire and being paid to make fun things.
Some of my favourite projects to date include a collaboration I did with photographer Aaron Tilley for Kinfolk called ‘In Anxious Anticipation’. It’s just a still life series of tense moments where you see everyday objects about to interact. My most referenced project is a personal one called ‘What Came First?’ which is a sculpture of a chicken made from eggshells. It was just a simple, silly idea I had and wanted to make. Finally one of my proudest moments is when I completed a series of window displays for London department store Selfridges called ‘Transformation’. Each window depicted an object deconstructed or re-formed in unexpected ways. These three projects are my favourite moments of my career so far.