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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Kai Lim

Having grown up surrounded by toys and games, Kai learned a great deal about the importance of entertainment in life, and his undying passion for games has been the single greatest driving force in his journey as an artist.

Just as well that he now works in an entertainment design studio that does everything from graphic novels to conceptual design for film, animation, games and more; surrounded by friends and the people he admires while doing the work he loves. The only thing he adores more than his craft is maybe giant, screaming, bleeding robots waging epic war across distant stars against seemingly impossible odds. And milk tea.

In our first Artist Spotlight, we asked Kai Lim to tell us a bit about his artwork for Lightspeed, “Tears of a Distant Sun.”

“Tears of a Distant Sun” is an extraordinary piece; every time I look at it I see something new. What was the inspiration behind it? What do you envision is actually happening here?

Thank you! I wanted to explore a gritty and forlorn looking scenario involving abandoned astronauts, presented in a somewhat photojournalistic style.

Basically, the image revolves around the theme of “cavemen in space.” It was a concept I was toying with for some time. The idea behind it is that in the future, our civilization is growing rapidly, and expeditionary forces or “harvest fleets” are sent out to claim entire worlds, hunting and harvesting alien species for resources and food in order to fuel our expanding race. The twist is that for such an advanced race, our culture and methods are ironically primitive—where cavemen used to hunt wooly mammoths with spears, futuristic hunters now hunt twenty-foot tall aliens with powered-armor and spearguns instead.

The scenario depicted here, is a ‘field-recording’ on a harvest expedition gone wrong. One unlucky fleet ended up on a planet that proved too difficult to conquer, and when their supplies were exhausted, their leaders took off in vain, leaving the lower class of hunters stranded on the planet to fend for themselves. Their only hope of retrieval was to meet the objectives laid out by their former leaders-a cruel and primitive incentive to keep on pushing.

Other background details are the huge transport ships/barges in the distance (which have been scavenged and re-adapted into protective walls and living space) as well as a “ritual ground” that consist of monolithic blocks (located right beneath the sun in the image).

How do you create this type of art?

The artwork is painted digitally in Photoshop CS2 using a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet.

Most of your pieces appear to fall under the science fiction genre, including a variety of mechs, and characters from the Star Wars universe. What artists have influenced you most? What are some of your own favorite pieces and why?

I tend to lean towards dark, gritty, apocalyptic/cyberpunk themes. I love the works of Makoto Kobayashi, Shirow Masamune, Yoshiyuki Takani, Craig Mullins, Juan Gimenez, Enki Bilal, and HR Giger to name a few.

Some of my personal favorite works are “100 Years of Force,” which features my bio-mechanical interpretation of Heinlein’s famous Cap(sule) troopers; as well as a comic series titled “The Seven Year War,” which was an excuse to try out different illustration treatments in the form of sequential art.

Two of my favorites include “The Black Pepper Hunt” and “Pepper the Warlord.” There must be some story behind them. Can you tell us a little about that?

Both of these images are basically my take on Stanley Lau’s character, Pepper. (Stanley is my co-founder and creative director at Imaginary Friends Studios, a concept art and illustration studio that we started 5 years ago.) The images were done for our book The Pepper Project, and the idea behind that project was to allow fans of Pepper to contribute their own artistic interpretations of her, resulting in a really inspiring collection of artwork of his iconic character. You can find the book at our online store www.imaginaryfs.com/shop.

“The Black Pepper Hunt” features Black Pepper (Pepper’s evil twin), and “Pepper the Warlord” features her as a ruler of own kingdom. Both images have more detailed descriptions that accompany them on my DeviantArt gallery.

How does story, in general, correlate with your art? Do you need a story behind something for it to come to life, or does the story come after the picture?

As far as personal artwork goes, I would say that most of the time the story evolves along with the painting. I always need some form of story or concept (however basic) for me to start. The concept is so important to my creative process because it creates a ‘foundation’ that informs the creative decisions I make along the way.

What kinds of projects are you working on now?  Are your prints available for purchase?

I am currently working on creating concept artwork for game projects. A recently announced title I worked on is Blacklight: Tango Down, which turned out to be pretty amazing. My prints are only available for purchase on DeviantArt, and you can look me up at ukitakumuki.deviantart.com to browse my gallery and maybe buy a print or two.

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Erin Stocks

Erin Stocks Lightspeed Assistant Editor Erin Stocks’ fiction can be found in the Coeur de Lion anthology Anywhere but EarthFlash Fiction Online, the Hadley Rille anthology Destination: Future, The Colored Lens, and most recently in Polluto Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @ErinStocks or at www.erinstocks.com.