In anticipation of our booth @RenCon, I have a few features lined up on the artists and games we’re going to show. Today, it’s Kilborn Art, and if you're able to attend RenCon, we will have a few KilbornArt prints available for purchase.
Art inspired by video games is a quite the genre to navigate. Art styles can range from direct copies of characters or game footage, to creative inspirations and interpretations of a character or their world, to nuanced interpretations that bring you into the game’s world or the game into ours (not to mention just flat out bad work). Where your preferences live on that spectrum and what passes for “good” is obviously personal.
So, the process of finding artists to feature is a nuanced and time consuming one, as my preferences are just as random as anyone else’s, but one artist that consistently piqued my interest since I discovered his work - Nicholas Kilborn.
His watercolor pieces of iconic game characters past and present are done in bright, striking colors and always seem to remind you of how fun games are. The use of watercolors gives the art a handmade feel and uniqueness that isn’t seen in the games they’re inspired by; whether it’s the splashes of colored droplets that give the art it’s own vitality or the softened edges that the mixing of colors and brushstrokes leave behind, the characters remain unmistakeable and are presented in a way you’ve never seen them before.
With that, I was inspired to share his work, and I reached out to Nicholas to learn a little bit more about him and his art.
Unique Drops: Thank you Nicholas for taking the time to speak with me; for starters, could you give a short introduction of yourself and Kilborn Art?
Nicholas Kilborn: My name is Nicholas Kilborn and KilbornArt is pretty much how I branded myself as an artist and a business.
UD: Is art something that you've always done and had a passion for, or is it more recent, and did you have formal training, schooling, etc.?
NK: I was always doodling since I was a child and I never stopped. Now I have a Associates degree in Science/Animation and a Bachelors degree in visual arts. I wanted to be an Art Teacher but this was in 2007 when all the teachers in California were pretty much getting laid off and the arts were being cut. So I had a bunch of odd jobs here and there but never what I wanted. So a few years ago I realized that It's way easier now to get my art out there for people to see. Instagram and Etsy have been a real life saver for me and helped me persue what I've always wanted.
UD: Why did you decide to paint video game characters?
NK: I actually was a POP Artist before I got big with video game characters. I'd do a lot of Star Wars and Marvel characters but they were a bit pricy for most people. So I decided to do something that I loved and wouldn't take days to paint, I painted a Majora's Mask in watercolor and everyone loved it. So now that's kinda what I do. I love video games so it was an easy transition.
UD: How did you get into painting/selling POP work?
NK: I got into selling my work very recently. I'd say about two-three years ago. I was broke and working jobs that barely paid anything. Then people were telling me I should sell my art, so I checked out Etsy and decided to go down that path. It was hard and confusing at first. I never owned an online store so figuring out all the odds and ends took awhile.
UD: Give me a little insight into your video game history - did you play games as a kid?
NK: I've always played video games My parents had an ATARI 2600 and a Commodore64 so that's what I started with. Nintendo then became my thing and I was really into Zelda and Megaman, and pretty much everything else. Even used to play A Nightmare on Elm Street with four players (yes Nintendo has four player games).
UD: As a kid playing Nintendo, were you doing game inspired art back then as well, or is that only more recent that you combined games/art?
NK: I always saw video games as a form of art. I had a thing for instruction booklets because they used to always include concept art. I always used to draw Nintendo characters when I was young but never thought of incorporating it until recently. I wanted to do something that I and other people would love. I didn't want to paint things just to sell them, I wanted to enjoy what I was painting.
UD: What games are you into right now?
NK: Right now I'm playing Neverwinter on the PS4, I'm a sucker for RPGs, also DOOM, I'm a huge doom fan. My Dad brought home the Doom demo when I was a kid and I was hooked forever. And as for Nintendo I'm at least playing one round of Mario Kart or Splatoon a few days a week.
UD: So how does the process work? What goes into creating one of your pieces?
NK: I sketch on the watercolor paper first, then I paint over it, then after it dries I run an eraser over it to get rid of the pencil marks that haven't been covered.
UD: Is it a lot of trial and error when creating, or do you have a firm image in your head that you're creating?
NK: I usually envision what I'm going to do, what colors to use, image search the characters. I only use around 13 colors so I substitute a lot of colors.
UD: Do things generally go as planned, or do you have a lot of pieces that get tossed and restarted?
NK: Things usually go as planned but sometimes I do mess up. I recently did a Yoshi painting and while sketching I just could not get the proportions right to save myself, It took me about an hour to get it right, and taking an hour to sketch Yoshi isn't something to brag about. Lol
UD: Do you have a preferred medium to work in (is it painting/watercolor or something else)?
NK: My medium will always be acrylic and watercolor. I love painting on giant canvas, it's a lot of fun and very freeing.
UD: Is there a game you'd like to paint in the future that you haven't yet? Or is there a set coming soon you'd like to give us a teaser of?
NK: In the future I'd like to expand. I've done so much Zelda that I need a break from it. lol I'd like to do more detailed work. I recently did some Halo commissions and I really liked how they came out. Maybe some DOOM, Bloodborne, or Dragonball, I've been wanting to do some Anime too. I don't have a set coming out just yet. But it'll probably be Dragonball. :)