Aaron Kraten is undoubtedly in the top list of my favorite young and upcoming artists! This is why I am absolutely thrilled that he accepted to do an interview for EyeCandies. 

Born in 1974 in San Francisco he has been interested in street art and skateboarding from an early age. His artwork gained him a ticket towards recognition during the 00’s and he has been evolving his art ever since. Kraten experiments with various mediums and it’s known that he never uses brushes. Working with his hands gives a uniquely rich and textured quality to his work. The artist now lives and creates in a factory-like studio he set up in Costa Mesa. Here is what he shared with me:

Hello Aaron! Can you tell us a few words about your early artwork and introduction to the art scene?

Yah sure! I have been drawing in sketchbooks since the early 90's and in 1998 I started painting on discarded objects , old doors , wood panel etc. These pieces were experimenting with art on a larger scale. When I was working in a vintage clothing store I would paint there on my down time. The owner of the store took notice and asked that I hang the work up in the store. The public started to take notice and buy the work. This was my push into the art community.

What is your opinion/thoughts on street/urban art and how do you think it has evolved during the last years?

I grew up skateboarding and looking at graffiti, stickers, stencils. I have always appreciated urban art and feel it has a important role in the art world. There are a lot of great graffiti artists out there and since there are so many great artists out there it seems the graffiti scene is ever changing.
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Which piece of yours is your absolute favorite and you would never even think of selling?

That’s a great question, there are a few that i am really attached to, one that comes to mind is the “Aeroplane”. I painted this piece when I was traveling a lot in my 20's, sitting in airports and looking at airplanes.

You have participated in numerous exhibitions. Which remains more memorable and why?

I did a show at the M.O.C.A. in Los Angeles last year with many artists that I love. Seeing so many works that I admire as well as showing in a space that I have visited since I was a young boy meant a lot to me.
What drives you right to your studio with an unbeatable urge to create? Please share some of your inspirations.

I will wake up early and start working on a piece or pieces. I love to paint, most of the time that is all I want to do. The inspiration comes from my environment and pop culture, skateboarding, music, fashion. My wife is really creative as well and she is a great inspiration.
Are you working on an unfinished piece right now? Would u provide a sneak-peak?

I have a few pieces that I am working on at the moment. Experimenting with colors and various translations of some of my illustrations.
What are your hobbies, beyond painting?

I skateboard frequently and I am really interested in japanese arcade games. I have a small arcade in my space of japanese arcade games. Fun stuff!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

Painting and creating great new works. Larger pieces are my goal for the future.
Would you give us a sneak peak of your future plans?

I have been drawing alot lately solidifying some new idea's.
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Hello Alison, can you tell us what are your influences and inspirations when creating jewelry?

Hello Eye Candy. When I make jewelry, I just try and think in terms of simplicity.  Big, light, uncomplicated earrings that suit the ladies, day or night.  The materials I use influence and inspire me, and I just try and create jewelry that goes with all clothing and occasions.

What are you favorite materials and techniques?

I am especially fond of wood.  I like organic feeling jewelry.  Metals such as silver, gold, copper, and bronze.  As for techniques, I employ my hands and simple tools.  No fire of heavy machinery.  Just a big table and various plyers, music and caffeine.

Can you give us a brief description of your average working day?

It varies really.  Half the days of the week I spent downtown in the city center meeting people for the market, buying materials, getting things printed, sorting our business with the tax office.  The other half of the week, I am in doors making jewelry, staring at my computer screen... emailing and working on the website.  

I don't have an average day, and I like it that way.

The Meet Market is now well known in the design and craft community. How did the project begin?  

The project had humble beginnings.  The first Meet Market was a christmas bazaar at K44 with about 25 artists.  I am happy to say that those 25 vendors are still with us today, 2 years later.  We continue to expand and grow and learn, and now we have around 100 vendors total.  

Which in your opinion are the main attributes of the craft society in Athens?  

If craft society means the creative people in athens, then I think we're on a good road heading somewhere even better.  Compared to 10 years ago, Athens feels like a much more vibrant city with more and more going on every year in terms of art, music, events and other creative fields.  There's a great deal of talent around.  

I do think however, that the state/government/tax office could be a lot more helpful and encouraging of small businesses and entrepreneurship.  Its one thing to have ideas, but another thing to be in an environment which supports and helps manifests these ideas.

Can you share some of your favorite designers/artists?  

All the vendors at the Meet Market.

I loved your modeling shots for Jessica’s Jewels by Nick Pitsilos. Give us a few backstage ‘gossip’  

There's no backstage gossip!  I went there Sunday morning with a cup of coffee, and sat on the chair, while Kyriaki (the make up artist), Jessica (madame white box/organic soul/jewels by jessica), Nikos (the photographer) and Sophia (Razzmatazz) buzzed around me, fixing my make up, hair, clothes and accessories.  

When I first sat down, I was a sleepy-eyed-semi-hungover-mess of a mut, and when I stood up again, I was an elegant vintage model.  Basically, the gossip is that they are a very talented, friendly team of creatives, with the ability to transform anyone into a cover girl.
Any future projects we should look forward to?  

Plenty more meet markets in new spaces with new and old faces... always striving to improve and evolve and offer something innovative.  
Abi please give us a description of Doodlezine. How did the idea of this project come up and how has it come along?

I had arranged to pop over to see my friend Desdemona Mccannon for lunch, and sometimes when we meet up we say shall we make a cardboard town, or shall we sew some paper to make masks, and we have dinner and do some making. But on this particular day i suggested making a zine, so we played around with the idea, and thought of doing a joint zine, just for ourselves. I thought it would be simple and fun, and at the time I had been going to an event called Doodleplanet in Chester, which is on every month, and so doodles were an active part of my life at that moment, and a lot of fun, Des had set up a flickr group about doodles, so we just thought it would be nice idea to get a collection of doodles together, i gave out little cards about the idea at doodleplanet, and it grew from there. In this last year we have had submissions from all over the world and receive hundreds of submissions for each issue, its been brilliant, a very lot of fun.
What are your views on contemporary illustration and young creatives in Europe?

I think that the illustration that i see around at the moment is great, lots of amazing styles, and its great that illustrators are getting more opportunities these days in different sorts of work, such as film, fashion, animation allsorts of things.

If you were given the opportunity to acquire a piece of art – no matter the price – which would you select?

I would buy a huge contraption made by Samantha Bryan, I have always loved the things that she makes. I would ask her to make me a giant flying machine that only Works when i am asleep in the day, and it would be made to help me do all the boring things that i have to do like, cleaning and shopping and the school run.

What feelings/ideologies/thoughts are you, most commonly, trying to express through your art?

All the things I draw are usually are about the frustrations of when i was a child, and the feelings you have, and difficulties of understanding life, School, people, I suppose its all relevant to being an adult to, fright, stress, communication, except as a child you don't understand what these feelings are, or mean. So its something like that.

Share the top five blogs that you visit more often

This is very difficult, i have changed this list so many times, because i read a lot of blogs each day. So I have gone for these:

Bobby Dazzler
Sally Illustration
Robert Rubbish
Good Grief

there's so many, that was hard!


Describe your vision of a perfect studio / workspace

A very old caravan that lives in a forest , and it has has been emptied out, and refitted with all my favourite sorts of things, like a grandfather clock, a piano, and old rugs, a grey rabbit who lives there, and a giant white fluffy cat, a big table for all my bits, and a view of a forest, and of course a giant coffee machine.

Any more ‘secrets’ you would like to reveal?

A secret!

Children’s picture book project, with Seb Cazes
That is a huge secret!!!!
Anna tell us what was your latest drawing about?

My latest drawing was a gift to a friend of mine, her name is Mitsy and she’s a ceramic artist with a shop on Etsy (artmind.etsy.com) we’ve been working together to create a jewellery line featuring some of her ceramics, and so we have been sending each other all sorts of photos and drawings and diagrams with our ideas and samples. The drawing I made for her was inspired by some photos that she had sent me, that showed her process as she made a mould of a hand from a Barbie doll. It was quite a scene, and I find all the little hands so beautiful cast in porcelain. When it was Mitsy’s birthday I decided to draw something for her inspired by these pictures and the lovely hands.

She has put of some of the photos and a picture of the artwork on her Flickr page.

Most of your artwork includes nature elements. Talk to us about your inspirations.

I just love natural things, I think it’s partly fuelled by the absence of these things here in Athens, but I just want to surround myself with leaves and pods and feathers, and hence these are the only things I want to create.
You are an administrator in the European Street Team in Etsy. Do you think Etsy is a good venue for crafters and artists in terms of showcasing and promoting their artwork? And what would you advice new members in Etsy?

The great thing about Etsy, is that you don’t have to have a lot of capital to start up, as long as you have something you have created and 20 cents, you can make a start at your own arts business.

It does take work to do well on Etsy, as I imagine it does with any online venue, but the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

The most important thing with getting started online, is to photograph your work well. Good photographs not only show your product in its best light, but show the professionalism of your shop.
Apart from being an artist, you also create jewelry. How do you combine these activities?

I have my studio from where everything is created. I like having the two areas of work, because it creates a lot of variety for me in my days. I do sometimes find that I can get carried away with one line of work and abandon the other for a time, but usually this leaves my feeling refreshed when I get back to the other.
What are your new year resolutions? Your targets for 2010?

I confess that I am not much of a resolution maker, but I do plan on organising myself and my business better.

A shiny new website would be nice.

Who are your favorite artists and why?

My major at university was in print media, and I have a real fondness for all printing processes.

I love Japanese woodblock printing, artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige, all the way up to modern Pop, Andy Warhol and his use of reputation is something that appeals to so many, and I am no exception.

How would you choose to depict the eyecandies concept in a drawing? What elements / colors would you use? 

Eye candies would consist of lots of little items, all lined up together neatly in rows. They should be bright, and being me they would have black outlines.

Some items would probably have eyes. And perhaps some nose. But not necessarily the same ones. Dimples could be used to good effect too.
Tell us about your latest comicbook Le dresseur de chevreuils ambitextres!

Well, it began in autumn 2008 with the idea of creating a silkscreen illustration book. During my hibernation, I was thinking about images and texts, finally I started to work on a kind of story made up from dreams, automatic writings, and texts I had done… the mixture of all of these made a narration and finally I said to the publisher it would be a comic-book. I spent the whole winter writing and drawing it, so the story is kind of absurd and surrealistic, darkly funny, and the drawings are inspired from my trips, to Canada, California, Portugal, Russia, and Paris… the urban aesthetic aspect is very important, and the notion of nature too (I went to California to explore the giant sequoias groves and forests for example, it’s a place where nature is huge in every single aspect, so you can’t help being different after a trip like that).

I needed to draw a boy so i started to draw myself, so I could finally say in the beginning of the book «this is a true story», which is another absurd aspect of it.

The book was published in June 2009 and can be found in good indy book-shops in France (an English translation is available) or  you can order one from me.

Your “Corps” mixed-media series is very interesting. What inspired you during creation and what was the core concept?

This work is not recent, it was a commission for an exhibition. Each time I make an exhibition somewhere, it is a means to give myself a theme to work on, the kind of thing I dont have the time to do during the year if I don’t make an exhibition for it. The theme was the «body» but I wanted to deal with it with the notion of texture. In the Annecy animation festival in 2002, I saw a giant exhibition of Eva and Jan Svankmajer, that was so impressive and different. You could see of course all the texture they use in their work that is essential, but besides that you could see that they use persons not only to see their works, but to feel them too. You could touch things and try to find what it deals with. I remembered their work and tried to do something like that. An exhibition around the body but with the texture as an essential aspect of it. So this is not only paint, this is a whole long work for many years when you keep hundreds of things, old books, old boxes, old dolls etc, you know that one day you’ll just use them and that day arrived with this theme.

It was a need even if most of the time that need exists deep inside of me even if my main way of expressing myself is to draw. It’s a work about texture, accumulation, recycling, it’s a mix between a painting and a cabinet of curiositie.
Give us a brief description of your day schedule.

In winter I spend my time sleeping and dreaming my life.

Generally I wake up in the morning one time in two I’m in a bad mood because pigeons make too much noise and I hate them. Most of the time the weather is nice so there’s enough light to get me in a good mood. Then I always open my shutters, light my computer and see what’s on it. I put good music (Electrelane for example) because I don’t like silence (silence means pigeons). Then I think of what I should do in the day, commission works, personal works etc, and then I go to sleep again because I’m too tired from my night. I try to work on things and organize myself to be more efficient and that’s an everyday problem. Then I eat a broccoli and drink hundreds of litres of coffee. Sometimes I go riding my bike in the forest too. I have to pick my daughter up at school -she’s 6- and do things with her.

Then the beginning of the evening and night is like a second day for me because it’s the part of the day I’m more efficient in everything. So I generally do millions of things at night time. And of course I see nobody during the day because I’m a bear and the only things I like about human beings is their (vegetarian) food.
Your interest in graphics reflects through your poster designs. Which of your projects was the most intriguing and creative?

The commission works for poster graphic designs are very important. That was my first professional commission in the 90’s and I have to do loads in a year. What’s great is that most of the time, I’m free and don’t have so many constraints. That’s the nice part of working for the cultural domain. Some posters are more «classical» because clients want them to be like that, but some others are completely free. And for years and years, I try to develop this aspect, of being «free» in creation. I mean, not having any constraints in my work, or the very least that I can. When you feel free you’re more creative and it’s essential to feel like this to do a good job. So I don’t really know which one is the most intriguing and creative…

I like the ones that mix the themes I’m used to working with like, accumulation, surrealism, poetic aspect, and texture…
Share your top five art bookmarks.


3 German friends (Anja Struck, Lars Henkel, Mario Wagner) and great artists in illustration, animation shorts and graphic-design !

The website of Italian artist Blu, who does nice sketches and amazing pixilation animations (paintings in the street or warehouses etc)

Mungbeing. A cool online Californian art magazine, I have collaborated with them for a few months now…


Le Dernier Cri, French silkscreen killers

Fecal Face. This San Francisco-based gallery is also a great means to discover interesting illustrators

What is your favorite media and why?

I like drawing and painting, I like my pens, brushes and Indian ink,  I like watercolour, and acrylic…

These are the things that inspire me the most, to see, and to do.

But all these things inspire me. I like seeing Joseph Cornell boxes as well as Louise Bourgeois installations, I like collages, photography, Japanese inks, as well as comics or 2D animation, creating is a need and the media is just a tool that must serve your inspiration, of course sometimes it‘s the contrary, and you can find accidents by searching for something that you finally don‘t find (when you paint, in Photoshop, etc etc)

My basis (so my favorite thing ?) is to draw and/or write in sketch books, different sized ones, I do sketch books all the time, for the last 15 years, i have tons, it’s my ideas, it’s my life, i do travel-sketch books too, actually i never stop. This is the way i create, because creation depends on everything you see and meet in your life. I need to eat all of this and digest it in sketch books first. This is the most spontaneous way to get to an idea. Spontaneity is as essential as all the research you can do for a project. It’s equal. So maybe, my favorite media is, just a pen and a paper, because it’s the basis of my language, the beginning of the end.
Give us a sneak peak of your future plans.

I have some books to be published when I can, 2 children’s picture books, one called «The Very Little Circus» and the other «But Flood» with illustrator Abigail Whitehouse, both books deal with strange and surrealistic worlds. They’re nearly finished.

I’m also working on another comic-book, it’s a personal project called «Lunacy Kunavore», which will be a 2D/volume animation film too.

Also I started to work on a comic-book written by Tarek, «The Concierge», which should be published one day I guess.

More news in spring 2010...

Seb Cazes