At first glance, the work of Karan Singh exudes the psychedelia of days gone by, where bright, undulating, optical patterns à la the “Magical Mystery Tour” were waiting to take us away. The Beatles aside, Singh’s illustrations are at once simple and complex, flat and three-dimensional. That push and pull, combined with vivid, opaque color, makes me happy. And I’m not the only one.
Singh’s roster of clients—everyone from Adobe, IBM, and Intel to Asics and Heineken—have commissioned his cheerfully decadent art. I caught up with the Australian illustrator, who now calls New York home, to see how he colors his world.
Have you always been drawn to bright colors and mesmerizing patterns?
I’ve always had an affinity for bright colors. It’s something that extends back to a lot of my early work. That said, I’ve been reducing my palettes dramatically and intentionally to complement my work with patterns. I’ve found working with a reduced color palette a lot more challenging. It’s kind of like a trying to solve a puzzle; the goal being to communicate things just as well with as few colors as possible.
Pattern, on the other hand, has became a fascination in the past few years. It began with an interest in the patterns found in living things, primarily plants, but has evolved, or perhaps simplified significantly, into what it is now.
Tell me about your creative process.
Ideas come to me quite randomly. When something pops into my head I try to build up a repertoire of reference imagery that can solidify a concept. Once I’ve locked this in, I always start with a pencil and sketchbook, creating anywhere from five to 20 thumbnail sketches to flesh out the composition of the piece. By no means are these stylistic; it’s a quick method I use to see what composition works well on paper before spending the time creating something on the computer. Once I’m satisfied, I then recreate the piece on the screen, either in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or C4D.
What keeps you inspired?
I find it hard to say that inspiration or motivation comes from any specific source, but more everywhere and everything. My favorite ideas usually come to me at the most inconvenient times, like when I don’t have anything to write on or with or when I’m about to fall asleep.
Overall as an artist, it’s important to be open minded and inquisitive rather than sheltered and reclusive. Experimentation coupled with curiosity will always lead to new discoveries, which in turn leads to motivation.
What’s coming down the pipeline?
I’m very much looking forward to taking more of my work off the screen this year. I’m hoping to paint more—whether large-scale murals or smaller pieces on canvas. I’m also really interested in sculpture. I’m also excited to be working on my first exhibition, which will show in June at the Chasm Gallery in Brooklyn.”