After racking my brain for almost two years on ways I can learn more about the artists I respect and admire, it hit me. I needed to find a way to open up a platform for conversations that directly relate to art and its motivations. These artist features give us a chance to take a deeper look into the mechanics of art and how that directly relates to the artist and his or her life.
This week I had the privilege of chatting with Californian artist Trent Kuhn.
I started following Trent's visionary art journey back in mid 2019, after being drawn to his subject matter and aesthetic use of colour and their arrangements.
Trent is a digital illustrator in Silicon Valley, currently working as a professional artist at the Institute for the Future and as a freelance illustrator. He has been learning Photoshop for 15 years, but is constantly expanding his knowledge in digital art by learning programs for 3D creation, VR, and animation. These all act as tools on his belt to communicate his visions of psysurealism (psychedelic surrealism)
Lets dive right in shall we!
How has your life path lead you to create visionary art?
Trent : "That's interesting to reflect on. I suppose the totality of my entire life has led me to it. I've had the desire to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I had dreamt of being a cartoonist or architect at the age of 6.
In college I had experimented quite a bit with psychedelics. I found early on they were a key to unlocking my creative potential. I love to draw for hours while I mainlined free flowing ideas from the other side. One night I had a powerful experience where a friend showed me the incredible visionary illustrations in the Bhagavad Gita. It altered my perception of just how much art could communicate about being a human and what's beyond the veil. Artists like Alex Grey and Android Jones soon became invaluable sources of inspiration and still very much are. Near the end of college I bought a small starter tablet and began to digitally paint every single day.
It wasn't until I went to a festival called Symbiosis in 2016 Where I had my mind absolutely blown away by the art of Bryan Itch, Ben Ridgeway and Luke Brown. It moved me in a way that completely altered my being. I had a moment where I saw my destiny but I had no idea how to get there. At the end of the festival a guy we camped with handed me a powerful entheogen as a gift. That moment led to many ego shattering experiences, and a glimpse of what the bounds of reality holds. My art changed forever and I try to imbue the feelings that those experiences bring in every piece."
Ayjay: "Well, I believe the dictionary meaning of an architect is a person who designs buildings and supervises their construction. Based on some of your previous artworks I would say this is a mission accomplished brother!
You mentioned that psychedelics introduced a new level of creative expression and I couldn't agree more. Psychedelic space is an absolute inspiration and presents possibilities for us as a species, relating to art, our spiritual nature and life's journey as a whole. DMT is what kicked my life bucket over and pulled everything I thought I knew into question. These substances are a gift and it's a privilege to have had them cross our paths. I'm not surprised they changed your artistic practice and what you communicate visually, this has also happened to me.
Once you step foot into the visionary art world it's hard not to hear names like, Alex Grey, Android Jones, and Luke Brown; these artists have certainly depicted these divine states of awareness with levels of detail and depth many artists have come to admire.
I see these qualities in your work, pointing at the mystery. I believe great artists breed great art"
What is compelling about digital art and why is it a strong medium for you?
Trent: "I have always loved the versatility of it. No matter what you do, you can always make changes on the fly, go back, see where you went wrong… I find that very freeing and gives me the ability to try iterations of colors and compositions. With that said I do try to treat it like a fine art these days and put just as much time into it as an analog painter would.
Ayjay: "I love your approach to this medium as that of an analog painter. Some people may avoid digital art all together because they feel it's not as valid as getting their hands dirty. Intention can be seen in completed artworks and with the right approach this will be realised in the work we create, regardless of our method of choice.
Personally, creating artwork digitally brings me closer to communicating the psychedelic experience. Working in symbiosis with technology can mean revealing the greater complexities of our experiences in a fraction of the time, making more time available for more art to be created."
Whats is your art process, from sketch to completion?
Trent: "I play with many different processes but I’ll share the one I think is most successful.
Since I bought my iPad it has become a key part of my idea phase. I love to sketch out thumbnails (very small, vague compositions) to try out ideas. If a composition works at 1 inch, it will work at 30 inches.
When I have found one that is compelling to me, I scale it up and begin working in forms and details, continually refining the previous layer. Ideally I will be left with finished line work. From there I can block in big chunks of colour that help me figure out a palette, but also act as a mask. This lets me paint freely on certain parts where an analog painter might use tape.
From there it’s building up values with lighter opacities from dark to light and finishing with my favourite part, the highlights.
Ayjay: "You can be sure that I'll be playing with this 1 inch technique, what a goldmine!"
What is the symbolism behind your artwork Crescendo?
Trent: "The wave forms coming out of the center, one is rigid like a square wave of a synthesizer, referring to the masculine and the other is a sin wave, flowing and graceful like the feminine. These are emerging out of the center which is a climactic moment in time or the crescendo of a song. The main totem object in the middle is both phallic and vaginal, a symbol of power erecting to the sky but also a portal which you can go through. It is connected by a sort of bridge from the left to the right, from past to future. Within the main totem is a sort of body with the bell up top as the head with arms on the sides and legs at the bottom. In it’s essence it is about balance pervading all of life."
Ayjay: "Wow, I have enjoyed this artwork after seeing it previously but this statement has opened me up to an entirely different understanding and vision. I get a pressure between my eyes when I am in alignment with my life and purpose and this description brought that on once again. Thank you for sharing this beautiful divine message with all of us"
When you're in a flow state, what does that look like?
Trent: "I have grown to chase that state more than anything. I usually am blasting some bass music, bobbing my head, and deep into the art space. This is where my best ideas come from and it feels like rocket fuel is propelling my intuition. It takes at least 30-60 mins to get there on a good day.
Working in VR I’ve found to be a flow state machine. Taking away all outside stimulus puts me in a state where time doesn’t exist. I put the visor on, then take it off and 2 hours has gone by."
Ayjay: "I can relate to that, I often think about the music I listen to at the time of making art is almost like an unofficial collaboration with the relevant musician. The tunes are extended through me and into my artwork. May the flow state find you in abundance!"
If you could send one message that would reach an alien species, what would it be?
Trent: "That's a great question. I’d love to send an animation of mine. I believe animation mixed with music would say more than written language ever could. Art is the UNIVERSAL language"
Ayjay: "Powerful stuff mate, you may just get that chance in our lifetime"
Is there anything else you would like to add before we finish up?
Trent: "I’m incredibly grateful to be alive in this moment of time. Artists today have so much to take advantage of. There are so many paths to go that it’s actually overwhelming. I’m also grateful to have the internet to meet and connect with other like minded people such as yourself on the other side of the world. That’s pretty magical to me!"
Ayjay: "Likewise my friend, the pleasure is all mine! I am looking forward to nurturing this relationship and many others to create an extended family around art that provokes us spiritually and raises our collective awareness of our true nature.
Thank you for your time Trent, you are a gift to us all"
Connect with Trent.
Below are a series of links that will take you to Trents social media channels and online art store to further support him and the artworks he creates.
Instagram // @trentkuhn_art
Facebook // Trent Kühn Art
Website // trentkuhndesign.com
Art Store // Society 666
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post.
To further support me and my work please visit my psychedelic art store ENTER HERE
A portion of every sale is donated in aid of psychedelic research.