Kwanchai Moriya is a freelance illustrator based in Los Angeles, California. Receiving a BFA in Illustration from Art Center College of Design, and working steadily illustrating a variety of projects since, is the reason Kwanchai needed to be featured in the Creative Spotlight. Besides painting on big panels and drawing robots, Kwanchai loves woodworking, vintage toys, and camping. Read below for the full interview…
Tell us a bit about your years at formal university and how these degrees have helped you in your career as a freelancer?
Kwanchai: I have two degrees. I finished a B.A. in History from University of California-Davis, and, most recently, I finished a B.F.A. in Illustration from Art Center College of Design. I cobbled those two degrees together from stints at seven different colleges and universities over the span of nine years. I never intended to be a college student for 9 years, but it took me a whole history degree to figure out that I wanted to be an artist. My college degrees have given me a wide breadth of knowledge and more confidence with a brush. But I’ve found passion to be the most important thing to my career as an artist.
What challenges do you run into illustrating for board games? Is creating an idea around a targeted age demographic somewhat restricting at times?
Kwanchai: Illustrating board games is exciting because, essentially, I am tasked with creating a little world that fits onto a kitchen table. All the parts that are involved in illustrating a board game, like the game board, the cards, the box cover, the playing pieces, they are a part of an overall effort on the part of the game designer and the illustrator to immerse the player into some kind of world or setting. I also like that board game illustrations are meant to be interacted with: touched, moved, and held. It’s all very tactile. It gives my illustrations a meaning that goes further than just to be viewed on a wall or on a screen.
You’re a fan of vintage toys as well. Any interest in creating your own vinyl custom?
Kwanchai: Yes indeed, I am a big fan of vintage toys, or pretty much any kind of toys. A good toy can make me get child-like very quickly. I’m especially into vintage wooden toys and tin-toys; I love the simplicity and charm. I’d like to do a vinyl custom; I’ve just never sat down and done it before.
Let’s talk about your other interests! Woodworking. How did this come about and what is your creative process for those that aren’t familiar with how it works?
Kwanchai: Yea, I really like woodworking! I’ve liked it since I was a kid. My dad used to give me leftover pieces of lumber from home renovation projects, and I’d make spaceships and creatures. Two good friends of mine bought me a band saw a few years ago, and I’ve started making wood toys again in my spare time. To me, wood toys are a perfect little combination of creativity and craft. Typically, my process is very haphazard. I do a few sketches and even fewer measurements, and then I just go at it on the band saw. To me, it’s very rewarding to have a tangible object in your hand at the end of the day, rather than just always working two-dimensionally.
Breakfast play set is too awesome for words. Where does an idea for you originally come from? Where do you draw inspiration?
Kwanchai: Yea, breakfast play set IS awesome! I just finished cutting all the pieces for that final prototype today, and decided to add a stack of pancakes to the set as well. My ideas come from all over. I have a long list of things that I like. The list goes everywhere from brontosaurus to the color cerulean.
The thing about acrylics that I find challenging is the inability to get the paint to blend on the canvas because it is drying too quickly. Do you find this to be an obstacle as well?
Kwanchai: Yes, well actually I first learned to paint with oils. So that’s the opposite problem, everything takes a million years to dry. So switching over to acrylics was originally a personal decision based on getting assignments done faster. In fact, after brushes and paints, my most important tool is a hair dryer. It allows me to dry my layers even quicker. Lots and lots of them.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Kwanchai: Okay, I’m no expert when it comes to Asian films. That said, I do love me some Kurosawa, my favorite being Seven Samurai. I’m also a big fan of Zhang Yimou’s movies, especially House of Flying Daggers. But by far, my favorite Asian film is Yoji Yamada’s Twilight Samurai. It’s actually my favorite movie of all time.
When participating in group shows do you experience any nervousness or were you always a confident artist?
Kwanchai: No, I’m not particularly nervous when being a part of group shows, but that’s probably because I’ve only been in two group shows. And both times I was more just shocked to be in a show at all. Just really happy to be invited to the party, if you know what I mean.
I’m not a confident artist. But I also feel like I have nothing to lose if I try. When I look back at the path I’ve traversed in order to get to where I am now, I can see how many times I’ve told myself, “You won’t be happy if you do anything else.” In any case, a life of ordinariness seems to always be waiting in the wings for me, should I feel the urge to give up.
L.A. is a pretty competitive area. How did you learn that you wanted to be a freelancer and how are you able to achieve success?
Kwanchai: Right now I’m freelancing because that’s what I can do. If there was an in-house job with great benefits that needed a painter/illustrator like myself, I’d be up for that too. I wouldn’t say I’m very successful in the big scheme of things, just yet. But on a personal level, I feel very grateful for where I am now. A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be able to have the opportunities that I’ve had so far.
Lastly, what can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Kwanchai: Currently, the big project on my table are these wood toys. It’s my first big personal project. I have plans to launch limited run of hand-made wood toys. Breakfast play set is definitely slated to be part of this run. So stay tuned. Thanks so much for the interview.
To stay up to date on Kwanchai’s work. Visit the official site below: