Craig & Karl
Words Laura Matamoros
Where do your influences originate?
Karl: Craig’s dad is a weekend painter and my grandmother started taking me along to her painting group when I was about 4 years old, consequently we both had an early introduction to doing creative stuff. We met in the first year of art college where we studied design then over time we moved into illustration then art direction, installation and painting. Our influences these days come from all over the place, we absorb lots of different things around us and Frankenstein them together in our own way.
How would you describe your work?
Craig: We aim to create bold work that is filled with simple messages executed in a thoughtful and humorous way.
Colour is a constant in your work. Would you consider it a paramount?
Craig: We have been playing with colour since the beginning of our careers so we’ve become pretty experienced at what works and what doesn’t. We have a relatively consistent palette, mostly of pretty difficult, lurid colors and we enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make one sit with another. We are both relatively cynical; maybe our over-the-top use of colour is a projection of our secret optimistic side.
How is your relation with colour?
Karl: Growing up in Australia in the 80’s was a very bright, very kitschy place so this probably explains where our obsession with colour comes from. A lot of Australian artists and designers in particular influenced us growing up, particularly Howard Arkley, Ken Done, Jenny Kee, Albert Tucker and different aboriginal artists like Minnie Pwerle and Timmy Payungka Tjapangati.
What do you use in the development of your work?
Craig: iPhone, Instagram, coffee, paper & pencil, Illustrator, Gmail, acrylic paint, Google Calendar & Dropbox.
Why did you decide to work along with Craig to create a Workshop?
Karl: We met in the first year of our degree at the Queensland College of Art (where we studied design) and pretty much worked on every project together from the first semester to the last. Pretty much straight out of university, we started a collective with three other friends called Rinzen which we were part of for 10 years. About 4 years ago we left and officially started Craig & Karl, so we have been working together for a long time. We understand and compliment each other very well, working as a duo suits our personalities.
How do you influence each other?
Craig: We are both very inspired by each other’s work, it’s always exciting to see a new piece that Karl has been working on and that in turn inspires me to become more productive or to take my work in new directions. We both act as an extra set of eyes for the other person, this really helps with being efficient with our work load as well as having someone else make suggestions on elements that may have otherwise been missed.
How is your relation with each other when both of you live in different countries?
Karl: It’s great! We understand each other very well and have been working together for a long time. Because of this we intrinsically understand the other’s thought process, we know how to make quick decisions about things to move projects along to get them to where we want them to be.
Tell us about your creative process.
Craig: Every project we work on starts as a conversation between the two of us where we kick around ideas until we feel like we have something that can be developed further. Generally we can get a pretty specific idea of what we want to do just by talking it through. Usually one of us will then start working on something tangible, which we'll then kick around some more, working out the kinks until we've got something we're happy with.
We use a pretty wide spectrum of techniques to get to an end product, a rough sketch usually helps to get things started and this eventually evolves into digital artwork. Once we have the piece created digitally there are a whole bunch of options, for murals and paintings the work is then projected or masked and painted by hand.
We’re happy to shift our focus as our practices changes; it enables us to be more flexible with the end outcome of a project. We start with the idea then see what kind of outcome suits the most.
What are you working on right now?
Karl: We’re working on an installation in Shanghai, a music festival in Finland, a magazine in Abu Dhabi, a clothing line in South Korea, illustrating looks for New York Fashion Week, and ongoing projects with Colette in Paris.
Tell us about your latest exhibit ‘Short Lived’ in Melbourne.
Craig: 'Short Lived' was a study of daily gestures and simple expressions featuring friends in the midst of daily acts: eating, lost in thought, smoking, waving hello - ordinary moments distilled to their simplest forms. The series is also an effort to simplify colour choices, stripping compositions back to binary colour combinations and forcing uncomplimentary colours to work cogently together. It was fun to be able to show a new twist to a style we have been developing for a long time.
What is the key to success?
Karl: There is no easy trick to it; you need to work very hard for a very long period of time. You need to be self-motivated and to constantly be producing new work to evolve as artists. This makes the process sound torturous but if you’re really into what you do then it’s actually a lot of fun.
Would you say music is essential in life?
Craig: Absolutely, I basically listen to the same stuff I’ve been listening to forever; My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins and whoever is the currently copying them.
Karl: For me it’s The War on Drugs, along with the rest of world, except I’m four years too late.
Would you name 3 artists we should know about?
Amanda Ross-Ho, Rhys Lee, and Alex da Corte.