Meet

Kyle Pellet

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I’m from San Jose, California, which is where I still reside.
Do you consider yourself influenced by San Jose and the Bay Area in general when it comes to your artwork and imagery?
I do. I feel very familiar with this region - the culture, the weather, its artifacts. I think San Jose and the Bay Area are a big part of my work.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I don’t know if I have any requirements when making art, though I feel I’m much more productive when working alone.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?
I admire and draw inspiration from so many peers! I have collaborated, though I don’t do much of it - I’ve found that some people feel uncomfortable surrendering to the collaboration process, and want to seize control. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mesh well with the way I work. My art-making process is almost always solitary. I really don’t like drawing in groups too much.
Are you formally trained?
I’m not formally trained, and didn’t go to art school. I trained myself, but I’ve had plenty of talented friends show me tricks and help me along the way. I didn’t have a mentor. I wish I did. I often have no idea if what I’m thinking about has already been covered in basic art history classes. I also feel like I lack a common vocabulary, which makes it harder for me to talk about my work or to ask the right questions when I’m trying to learn something.
Are you influenced by any author or non-visual artist?
I think most of my influence comes from people who work in different mediums than myself. Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Brian Eno, Jonathan Richman, Iggy Pop, the Ramones, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
Lots of puttering around, lots of avoiding getting started, lots of doubt and self-loathing, and eventually when I get around to playing with materials, I’ll hopefully capture a thing or two on paper that I like. I’d say it takes at least an hour for me to get the procrastinating/self-hating out of me, so it’s better when I work in larger blocks of time.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
Starting a painting or drawing is very difficult for me. Deciding when something is finished is almost equally difficult.
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
Yes, I leave a lot to chance. I’ll often make random marks or strokes, or smear some pigment on a piece, even when I’ve already put a lot of work into it and feel like I know where it’s going, just so I have to figure out how to respond to these new additions. When making art, I approach it with the intention of capturing or discovering something. If I know what it’s going to look like from the beginning, it’s no fun for me, and I imagine that my lack of interest is then transferred to the viewer.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
It’s very important to me. I saw somewhere, I think it was a documentary on Miles Davis, a musician was talking about recording music in the first take to capture the spirit of discovery. I didn’t know how to put that into words before - capturing the spirit of discovery. That’s exciting to me - being able to have an artifact that records the very instant where I found something new and neat.
Slant
When making art, I approach it with the intention of capturing or discovering something. If I know what it’s going to look like from the beginning, it’s no fun for me, and I imagine that my lack of interest is then transferred to the viewer. — Kyle Pellet
How do you choose your materials?
I play around with different materials to see what kind of emotional texture the combinations I experiment with make me feel. I have some found college notebooks from the early 1960s which I like using stamps on, as well as black ink and pencil. It wouldn’t make much emotional sense to me to use gouache on this old paper, but I do like how gouache and thick watercolor paper go together. So I choose materials based on the emotional textures I want to build up.
What do you mean by ‘emotional textures’?
For example, when I used found college notebook paper from the early 1960s for a series, I drew on it with black ink and with office stamps with the intention of capturing the feeling I get looking at ephemera from when my parents were younger, before I was born. Things that I will only be able to understand as the past, but also not too far in the past, so they’re still a little familiar. Certain inks or paints may bleed in a specific way on certain papers that give a dreamlike effect. Gouache sits crisp and flat on thick, high-quality watercolor paper, which sometimes creates this feeling that the layers of paint have always been there, and always will be there.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I’ve been experimenting with abstraction, chance, repetition, and the process of thinking of art as written compositions over the past few years. I was frustrated, as it felt like I was getting sucked into a black hole and I had no idea where I was heading. Recently, I started seeing my work from 1-3 years ago as a potential library of patterns and ideas, and I’m currently focused on using this library to mesh and mutate things together to build my own little microcosm.
Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
People often say I’m a lot nicer in person than they thought I’d be. I’m really good at Bubble Bobble, and I’m a halfway decent partner at foosball. I don’t know?
When did you begin your current practice?
I decided to take drawing and painting seriously in late 2003.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
I don’t, but Spike Jonze’s video for Daft Punk’s “Da Funk” was one piece of work that really hit me over the head and realize that you could make beautiful things through play.
Was “Da Funk” also the origin of your interest in human-animal hybrids?
Dear Lord, no, though it was most definitely reaffirming!
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?
There’s lots of crying! Lots of uninvited guests or situations one wouldn’t want to be in. Lots of pattern-making. Lots of recalling mundane memories of the past. Lots of parades and parties. I don’t think any of that is intentional.
Who are the characters in your works? Is there a story there?
I don’t think there’s a single story for each character. I think they’re more like puppets, or toys. Like, if you had a Battle Beast toy as a kid, or a M.U.S.C.L.E. toy, he or she’d play a role in the game you were playing, but might take on a different role the next time you played. So I guess they’re like puppets or costumes for different plays, where the drawing or painting is the stage for the play. The viewer is the playwright, I just supply the actors, costumes, and stages.
So is the narrative open to interpretation, or just obscured?
Definitely open to interpretation. I may have a fully fleshed out narrative in my head every once in awhile, but usually my drawings are entry points or re-entry points into microcosms I never intend to fully flesh out.
Slant
I don’t think there’s a single story for each character. I think they’re more like puppets, or toys. ... or costumes for different plays, where the drawing or painting is the stage for the play. The viewer is the playwright, I just supply the actors, costumes, and stages. — Kyle Pellet
Your work is especially small and intimate - what about the small scale appeals to you?
When I’m at people’s houses, I like looking around at small things. You have to seek them out. I like thinking that when my work is one someone’s wall, not everyone will see it - only those who do some exploring. I also like thinking that they also realize that they found something not everyone has seen. I find some sort of intimacy in that idea.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
I have a picture of my grandmother and grandfather from the early 80s, that was ripped and taped back together. I think it was taken at my grandfather’s birthday party a year or two before he passed. It has brought me comfort since I can remember.
Is there any artwork on display in your home/studio? Whose is it?
Yes, I own lots of work, most of it relatively small. I own work by Frances Marin, Colby Katz Skinner, Porous Walker, Jake Watling, Mia Christopher, Jesse Balmer, and lots more.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I’m interested in representing the haziness of memory and/or dreams, both good and bad.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
Everywhere! From art on produce boxes in alleys, to strange mannerisms of people helping me at stores, to the pattern of milk carts you might see at a grocery store, to the color of the sky. There’s so much to be inspired by.
Do you see your works as unique or as part of a series?
I’d like to think that most of my work stands alone, but I think my entire body of work is an ongoing experience, and my works are artifacts of that amorphous experience.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working to make sense of what I’ve explored over the past few years in my new work. So more plugging along, I guess.

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