Boy Kong

Boy Kong is a local artist from Apopka known for his festive murals, his bold use of line, and his whimsical, dynamic compositions. His style can be marked by striking color palettes and distorted, sometimes mangled, figures. Often the subject is a fantastic rendering of some imaginary animal in a writhing and flowing motion. More than just 2D Painting and murals, Boy Kong creates woodcut assemblies of his works, with shifting planes arranged in an aesthetic that suits his work very appropriately.

Retro Lion (Detail), acrylic and ink on wood

Retro Lion (Detail), acrylic and ink on wood

I arrived at Boy Kong’s house/studio in a quiet, green, wooded neighborhood. The first thing I noticed was the many cars, none more noticeable than the large black Hummer parked across the middle of the lawn. I had a feeling it was the right place. Equipped with my notebook of questions, my voice recorder, and my six-pack of beer, I stepped out and met Boy Kong, who had just nonchalantly strolled out of his studio.

I had seen pictures from a recent article in The Bungalower, where they visited his studio and took pictures, and I gotta say, there’s nothing like the real thing. There was his unfinished work, his workstations, his interesting knick knacks, and his patterned cozy chair where I sat. It felt like a very productive place, but it didn’t feel too busy. We took our seats, we cracked open two cold ones, I pressed record, and we got to it.

 

Rob Goldman: What’s your favorite type of tree?

Boy Kong: Pine trees smell really nice, specifically. […] On the top of my head, the pine tree, because of the smell.

What’s your cultural background?

My mother is Chinese and my dad is Vietnamese.

What would you say is your spirit animal?

I thought about this the other day, […] not sure, could it be like a plant? I’ll have to pass on that. 

So your name is Boy Kong, are you related to King Kong?

I wish. I think we all are.

What’s your opinion on the Mona Lisa?

I think it’s nice, it looks nice. I don’t have anything bad to say about it, but it’s not my favorite.

The Dancer, acrylic, spray paint, & ink on wood

The Dancer, acrylic, spray paint, & ink on wood

So the recent show at Redefined, it’s called No Talent Losers. Can you explain why?

Tatiana Suarez, one of the artists from the original group, […] they were painting somewhere, and […] somebody spray-painted “losers” on their wall. Somebody drove by […] and said, “No talent losers!” Like a drive-by call out. They were like, “I guess we’re the no talent losers.” I didn’t know I was a part of it, I just kind of hung around them.

 How was Australia?

Australia was cool. I didn’t expect it, [but] there were a lot of Vietnamese people there! I’m not used to seeing all that. I grew up in Apopka here. It was really a culture shock.

Is Apopka your hometown?

Yeah.

What would you say is the best thing about Apopka?

No traffic, and it’s quiet. I think the peace and quiet is rare. The mosquitos? Not something. Everything else is nice, though.

Say there’s a WWIII, would you do propaganda for the government?

Depends if they’re paying well. With all that, I think I’d just move at that point, you know?

Can you describe your ideal working conditions?

I kind of like, work with anything. A lot of people would say music, but I don’t listen to music when I work. […] I think a pencil or marker or something, that’s like, fine.

Can you think of any big eureka moment you’ve had when you discovered something new about your work?

Technique wise, […] I was on a cruise, I went on this little pirate ship for a second, and I saw it was made of wood and fiberglass. I was like man, I should come home and use [that]. Visually, or ideal-wise the awe moment for making work was to make what you would hang in your house. I feel like it’s a good standard to set. It’s a hard time for everybody to stare at their own work.

If you never decided to pursue art, what would you do?

I think I would do skateboarding, if I was professional. Or something with nature. I think I would be building something.

 What is your mantra?  A quote that you live by, or something?

I just think of, like, keep moving. Like, a forward thing, keep moving. Another step, keep on moving. Basically, that. A lot of forward motion.

 Favorite piece in your personal collection?

I got this thing called Baby Hates My Music. It’s a guy playing guitar to this baby’s head. The baby has arms and it’s covering its ears. It’s by Christian Glen. He’s an Australian artist. I got it from New York. When he came to visit, I asked him if I could have it. He just gave it to me.

How do you think your art reflects who you are?

Yeah, sketchy looking. Kinda. ‘Cause I like to make everything clean, [I] try to be a perfectionist, that’s who I am, I want to be a perfectionist.  But, in reality, it’s more patchy, like a wildcard kind of deal.  I wanted to show something I liked which is more to the eye like it’s a celebration, like a festive look, I like that.

If you can see festivity in pause motion, this would be the art. You know, something that’s like, whoosh! Celebration, surprising people, just like a lot of like, that feeling, you know? Everybody’s off work and they’re just enjoying a Sunday barbecue for something. That feel.

Detail of Hummingbird, acrylic, spray paint, and ink on wood

Detail of Hummingbird, acrylic, spray paint, and ink on wood

Do you have a statement to make about your recent Hummingbird piece at the Redefine Gallery?

That was one I made this year in January. I was just like, you know what? I’m gonna do quality vs quantity – one piece that I really have an idea for – and try to execute it that month. Even though I finished it early, I’ll still go back and work until I complete it. I think if you pace yourself like that, you can put more thought into it.

For the hummingbird itself, it didn’t really have a theme. But when I think of hummingbirds, or birds themselves, it’s really free. You know, really light. I feel like it’s almost like, a new beginning, taking flight somewhere.  So, that’s why I started doing that. I gotta take it down and finish it because I just assembled it that day, just so I could hang it for the show.

WOES didn’t have enough pieces and needed guys to fill it up. So it basically wasn’t supposed to be our show. He put us in to take the pressure off, which is nice, because if I was short on pieces, I would call friends in. I think that’s true, too, you get more people out. I think it was a new beginning, and a salute, a more stronger, lighter, you know, it was less heavy.

I wanted to add more to it, like flowers and dimensions, but I didn’t have that happen because I was like, you know what? I woke up, finished painting a mural at 8 o’clock in the morning, I came here, and I fell asleep for like, two hours. Like, dude, I mean, the show’s coming soon so I just knocked it out thirty minutes before I drove it down there. 

Do you have anything that people should be looking out for? Things coming up that you want to mention?

I wish. I think we’re making a book soon. Hmmm. We’re trying to get a book made in Germany. That might be cool; I’ve never had a book made. It might be a coffee table kind of deal. So, a lot of pictures, maybe doodles. I haven’t thought of a theme yet. After this, I might have to call my friend and see what’s up. Pick a theme, or, you know, paint a bunch of underwear or something, like collect underwear and paint it.

So yeah, I think a book will be coming next. I think books are nice because it’s not like art – somebody could actually keep it, and doesn’t have to buy a big piece of art. But, if they wanna go beyond, they could. Inspiration, too. I buy a lot of books, myself.  They’re great choices of art. And artist’s books? They’re just nice to look at.

Confession, Sumi ink on wood

Confession, Sumi ink on wood

If all the pieces you’ve ever made were to be burned in a fire, except you could magically save one piece, which would you choose?

I think I would save none, and save them all. I think I would let that one burn, too. Because I’d get that piece, or a random piece that’s close to me, and save it, and then burn it. I’d rather have no piece. It’s a nice, fresh, beginning.

 I have a friend right now, he just like, took all his work, like, all his older work, put it in storage and just like, locked it up, you know, in a basement somewhere uptown, and was like,  it’s here, and I’m just gonna move away from it, paint a new beginning. I feel like it’s less stressful, or it would be a lot of stress off me, so, I don’t mind. It cleanses your mind, it gives you a second chance.

What is your dream project?

Man, that’s a good question. I was thinking about it the other day. I think I’d do something, like, with the statue of liberty. Dress it up, or paint it, or some shit. That’d be cool. Umm, or just, do something to something historical. You know, it wouldn’t cost a lot of money, it would just get you in a lot of trouble.

Contagious, Sumi ink on wood

Contagious, Sumi ink on wood

Like a Mount Rushmore kind of deal?

Yeah, do something funny, and like, large.

I think with art projects – if everybody could get it funded – it’s just if you’re willing to do it. A lot of people would use the excuse of money, but, you can get money from a different way, it’ll just take longer to get to your goal. But you’ll get to your goal. That’s the whole point, right? Like, getting there?

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

That’s a good question. Aspiring people… one thing I would like to teach somebody? A lot of kids like to look for style. I think that’s rough for everybody. I think style is organic and it will come as it comes. And it’s likely that you already have a style. You’re just looking until you can see your style.

What I explain to people: it’s like a house. People living in their house, they’re looking outside, you can see everybody else’s houses, but you can’t look at your own house from the inside. Everybody who’s looking out from their house can see what your house’s style is. So, you don’t really need to know what your house looks like. Just be in it. You know, so, a lot of kids are stressed out about that, and that’s what I guess would help a lot of aspiring artists or painters to realize. I think what I wanna tell people is just to make what you want to exist.

Can you describe your process?

I’m doing a few different paintings right now, it’s just like, sketching it, and sculpting it with a paintbrush, like, adding colors on top, just to chisel out until you can see the image. Likely you don’t come with an image, you’re just like, sculpting it on the panel itself. So you’re trying to figure [it out] as you go, which is pretty scary, but, it will take longer.

It’s like studying. With a homework sheet, you know when the end of the page is. But with studying, you don’t know when you’re done studying.

What do you do about artist’s block? Is there anything you do to kickstart your imagination?

Oh! You just leave. Do what you like. A lot of people are painting, but they don’t really like it, so, just do what you like. Hang out, do whatever, and come back and you’ll feel like painting.  Sometimes, I have to paint stuff, and I know I have to paint stuff, but the drive is not there. If the drive’s not there you’re not gonna do anything. So, it’s likely, if you don’t fight it, and just, like, go away, come back later.

What’s your favorite mixed drink?

Rum and coke, or probably whiskey, or something. With ice! I don’t drink that much anymore. I used to go out a lot and drink, because I stopped making art for a bit, for like, half the year, I don’t know why. I just drew a lot, like doodles… that’s about it. It was a good pastime.

I think with a clean spirit your work will come out great. And it’s like, the few vices that you have, they take over, and it does kill some time, but if you wanna be the best version of you, I would think you just cut it all out, and focus.

Ros, gouache and watercolor on Arches paper

What would you say is the best way to gain publicity?

Hmm… do your best! That’s it. I think the energy is in it. We lose our instinct, and our instinct is one of our elements that we are born with.

But, with all these devices, electronics, we don’t use our instincts, we just use… notifications. We use… emojis. We use whatever, but like, our instinct is something that we are born with, and sometimes you don’t trust it, you don’t know what to trust anymore. When you have your instinct you see other people’s work and you can feel their instinct towards their work, you can be like wow, they really had fun with it.

This work is about them, and it’s really them. You can feel the energy from it, and with your instinct, you’re like, they did a really good job of capturing whatever they did, and my instinct is liking it. That means their truthfulness to themselves, their doing their best, got my attention.

Have you thought about your spirit animal?

I don’t know… it’s cardboard. Cardboard Katy Perry. A cardboard cut-out of Katy Perry shooting a three-pointer.

Flower Finger, (In response to Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, Feburary 20, 2015 - May 24, 2015, Brooklyn Museum), oil on canvas

Flower Finger, (In response to Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, Feburary 20, 2015 – May 24, 2015, Brooklyn Museum), oil on canvas

You can see more at: BoyKongArt.com

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