Kyle Bean Expands for Kiehl’s
When an artist approaches a creative process with authenticity, every project presents an opportunity to grow and learn. For Kyle Bean, much of what he creates is rather broad. He’s generally brought on to solve large creative problems in a visual process, but every now and then he has a collaboration that has more defined boundaries. His latest, with Kiehl’s was one of those jobs and it opened up new doors, even within its constraints.
“What I found quite appealing about this job was that what I was tasked with almost creating something between an architectural model and an illustrative representation of a Kiehl’s store,” explains Kyle. “Normally, I don’t normally have that much of a brief when I’m given a job to make one of my artworks, so it was a bit more specific in that they wanted there to be lots of references to what you find inside a typical Kiehl’s store like their flagship store in New York.” Those details included the pear tree that sits outside the Kiehl’s store on Manhattan’s East Village location on 3rd Avenue, a Mr Bones skeleton, a motorbike, the little compartmentalized drawers where the product sits. But above all else, literally, the entire store was set in the shape of Chinese retailer TMall’s logo. The project was created to celebrate Singles Day, a holiday in China that celebrates folks who are romantically unattached. Every one of these confinements was an opportunity.
The biggest change for Kyle was all the people. The store he created with photographer Mitch Payne is chock full of customers, and so Kyle had to create them. “My work doesn’t really contain people usually, so that was definitely a new challenge for me,” explains Kyle. “What we arrived at was this combination of papercraft and simple painted shapes so they look like stylized characters.”
“Every job I learn something new, even if it’s something simple. On this job I was using a bit of a mix of materials in a way that I wouldn’t always use or combine in some of my other work,” Kyle says. “With the motorbike I used a weird combination of oven drying and some painted wooden dowels. What I found quite liberating with this job is I could kind of just find materials that I felt could work for different parts of the model and not feel constrained.” Every limitation offers an opportunity for expansion, and with this project for Kiehl’s, Kyle was able to use every square inch to broaden his process.
Remain Calm with Kyle Bean and The Observer Magazine
Calm is an elusive emotion. It seems like the world is set up to stress us out – and for good reason. When we’re stressed we act impulsively, and not always in our best interest. That can mean buying products we don’t need or indulging when we normally wouldn’t. That’s for most of us. But some of us have to act valiantly under pressure, under stress. For those people, they have to find a calm in any situation where they can work from a place of power. That’s the topic of this month’s cover story of The Observer Magazine, and the publication invited Kyle Bean to bring the concept to life in a single image. Of course, Kyle went above and beyond.
Teaming up with London-based photographer Sara Morris, Kyle invested in an inventive concept that he was able to explore in a series of different executions. Remembering the old steady hand buzzer games where the player is meant to navigate a metal wand over a fixed pathway or risk a light and buzzer, Kyle created the same game but used the pathway as a way to communicate. In the first incarnation, Kyle spelled out “CALM” to be emblazoned across the front of the magazine. He kept it going by also engaging the light, and with those two images was able to create a GIF that shows the light blinking as if there were failure. A second version of the concept uses the metal path to illustrate an EKG’s reading of the human heart.
Both versions of Kyle and Morris’ creation play on what it means to stay calm under pressure, even when the challenge is the calm. These moments are indescribably crucial: Sully Sullenberger landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River or South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordering evacuation ahead of a hurricane. These choices can often involve the lives of thousands and depend upon acting with a clear head. Finding calm under immense stress is a skill and a tool, and one that you never know you may need until everything is on the line.
Does that stress you out?
Kyle Bean Mixes It Up for Google
As business becomes ever more global, it’s imperative that professional peers be able to communicate and collaborate as effectively as possible. Google’s fix for this challenge is Hangouts Meet, an extension of their Hangout service that allows collaborators to come together in the most effortless way possible in a professional setting. Google just relaunched the service and brought collaboration into the DNA by inviting artists like Kyle Bean to create images that act as the backdrop for their user interface (UI). “They’re seeing it as a collaboration with a bunch of artists who have distinct styles,” says Kyle. “It’s really cool and they were really open. Basically, they wanted us to create some nice visuals that respond to their themes. They loved the initial sketches that I produced for them so the process was very straightforward, and it was one of those situations where I wish every job was as smooth sailing as that one.”
Kyle employed his signature papercraft and photographic collaboration with longtime creative partner Aaron Tilley to create a series of three duos of images that are inspired by Hangouts Meet functionality. Kyle’s images include a bunch of cogs fitting together to create a machine, a series of different colored balls coming together to form a multicolored group, and a trio of paint buckets pouring into one robust mix. All of the images are expressive and engaging, but the paint buckets raise a bunch of questions for us, not least of which is: How? “That was responding to an idea about this coming together of people almost like the idea of a melting pot, so I liked the idea of using paint and showing that mixing, so we actually shot paint,” Kyle explains. He set up each paint bucket individually and photographed them separately.“Essentially that image is made up of four images, but all captured in camera, there’s nothing added in post or anything,” he says. What we see in the final composition is each of those captures brought together, but nothing was edited to change how it looked on the day.
Kyle prefers to only work that way, doing his best to create a set up that’s as close as possible to what the final image requires. There are very good reasons for this: “You’re capturing what you’re seeing, it just means that you have more control. If I was going to try to pour all of them at the same time, inevitably I’d end up with a mess on set,” Kyle says. “Plus it’s a little bit of magic.” Abd we all could use a little bit of magic.
Kyle Bean's Delicious TV Spot for Land O'Lakes
Do you ever wonder what it takes for food to get to your table? Even something as seemingly humdrum as butter has an entire industry behind it before its a part of your dinner. Land O’Lakes invited Kyle Bean, through Hornet, to help them bring that process to life, so Kyle created an animated TV spot that explores the relationship between the farm and pat of butter on your plate using his unique aesthetic and brand of animation. “My approach to animation, as in a lot of my work, is there’s always a physicality to it and I like to keep things as tactile and in camera and as real as possible,” says Kyle. “That’s my slightly stubborn approach to things. Where possible: keep it real and make it physically, that’s my mantra. And luckily for me, it was an approach which the client was really into.”
Even though Kyle and his team started with a slightly different path in mind, they were provided enough time from Land O’Lakes that he was able to develop and optimize the concept and create a beautiful stop-frame animation made entirely in camera. “We were able to really meticulously plan it and get a really great team,” Kyle explains. “It evolved naturally through conversation with the agency and with the client to become something a little bit more immersive, more detailed, and more textural. Initially, we were thinking it would just be a simple paper craft kind of scene and then it ended up evolving to something where this entire real table top in a set that becomes a very textural miniature farmland.” That’s right: everything you see in the spot was created in real life, the trickery is everything that happened in the moments between the frames.
Stop-frame animation can get complicated. There are hundreds of elements to prepare and balance, but the challenges are never quite what you’d expect. “In some ways, the animation shots that seem quite complex were the easiest ones,” Kyle explains. “Obviously, I look at it differently from everyone else because I can see the shots that were really tricky to get right versus the shots that weren’t. And generally speaking, if I were looking at it purely as an outsider, I can tell that the shots that work best are the ones that were the easiest ones.” When all is said and done, everything flows flawlessly and Kyle’s magic is that it all looks easy because it’s all seamless.
If you're interested in understanding the process better, don't miss the Making Of video at the bottom of this post!
Kyle Bean Finds True Love for Got Milk
What happens when a glass of milk gets to do its own thing? Set free into the world to find its own kind of love, aside from the pairings we force on it (like a slice of chocolate cake), what kind of life would it find? We’re not sure, but Kyle Bean is. In a hilarious new ad for Got Milk, Kyle brought a glass of milk on a love tour, helping it introduce itself to a bevy of suitors including a hot dog, a taco, and a sushi roll. Because at the end of the day, as the ad teaches us, food loves milk. All food.
“We wanted to get a weird British sense of humor to it and I thought that could come quite purely and simply when we’re puppeteering food – that in itself is quite a bizarre funny thing,” Kyles says about the practical way he shot the piece. “Everything was shot in camera.” If you check out the behind the scenes look, you’ll see that each moment of the video was created on unique sets and each movement was puppeteered thanks to special rigs.
Kyle is no stranger to creating work this way – almost everything he makes is practical: cut paper, constructed machines, sculpted figures. He makes impossible images in a workroom and gets them photographed into a final composition. But this was the first time he’s worked on this scale. “It was one of my first forays into proper directing a live action film project so actually it was quite a new experience for me. It was quite a learning curve along the way,” says Kyle. “I was able to work with quite a big team of people which is something different. Sometimes it’s just me working by myself, but on this, it was a good 30 or so crew members, so it was a big team.” The team was all focused on the same thing: making a video that was funny, compelling, and told the story they wanted to tell. But it’s no coincidence that Kyle’s video is live action. He made sure it happened that way.
Initially, Got Milk had the script and were exploring different ways to execute it all. When Goodby Silverstein and Partners, Got Milk's agency, came to Hornet to see how Kyle would do it, he was very clear: “I had the idea of shooting it all practically with real milk, a real glass, and these very graphic sets,” says Kyle. “In some ways, not too dissimilar from the process I’m used to with still works but just it’s on a much bigger scale.” Got Milk swooned, just like the glass of milk, and the results are true love.
Kyle Bean Takes the Plunge with Stylist Magazine
There’s something about swimming pools that make them inherently luxurious. Heated or not, chlorinated or salted, a deep pool of our most precious natural resource ready and waiting to be plunged into is the apex of indulgence. So what better than swimming pools to illustrate the luxury of high fashion fragrances? Stylist Magazine came to Kyle Bean with the idea of blending the two and left it up to him to figure out how to do it. The result is four different pools from four different cultures, each made to represent a different fragrance. Kyle used his signature process of paper craft to create pools inspired by traditional looks in Italy, Japan, Los Angeles, and Great Britain but with the shapes of bottles from Hermes, Armani, Aerin, and Atelier.
The scenes are made almost entirely from paper, making them miniature in size. But they almost read as full size, mostly thanks to the incredible detail in the rippling water of the pools. When it comes to paper craft, Kyle is a master, but the water presented a challenge. “We experimented with different depths of water and different amounts that we shook the tank to create those ripples and one thing we realized in doing that is that and it’s a fine line between looking too minimal to suddenly looking like a huge wave,” says Kyle. “So it was a delicate balancing act between how much interruption we did on the water.” Kyle stuck his hands under the miniature sets and wiggled his fingers as photographer Mitch Payne clicked the shutter. Out of the collection of imagery they were able to choose the looks that sold it the best while keeping the text from the labels totally legible. The result is four images that are as refreshing as a real pool, but offer all the grace and style of these incredible perfumes.
Kyle Bean Gets Domestic and Very Complicated
We all grew up admiring Rube Goldberg Machines, those overly complex machines that ultimately do little more than transfer a marble from one end to the other, or perhaps do as much as turn a page in a book or pour a glass of juice. Goldberg offered these machines in the form of drawings, drawing his audience in to experience the machine and power it with their imagination, literally. The machine becomes real in the space of imagination. But for Kyle Bean, that was never quite enough. “It’s a really nice storytelling device. There’s something really charming about seeing a very simple action, but in a way that’s slightly overly complicated,” Kyle explains. “We’re used to see those Rube Goldberg drawings and ever since I was a kid I always liked the idea of representing it in a more physical place, having fun with actually making my own version of it.” So now Kyle makes as many of them in real life as he can. Just recently he completed five different set ups in collaboration with photographer Jonathan Knowels and Art Director Lauren Catten.
The trio brainstormed a bunch of ideas, but ultimately settled on an aesthetic that would play off the hilarious superfluity of the machines. “The thing that we all really liked the idea of was bringing it to a domestic level and using objects that you could find in your kitchen, things that would have a level of humor and relatability,” says Kyle. “We really wanted to play on that and come up with some scenarios that are just plainly ridiculous but use every day things that you might have around your house.” The final set ups include dishwashing rubber gloves, biscuits and coffee, a spray bottle, and a dustpan. One of them even makes a sandwich for a break while cleaning.
If you’re familiar with Kyle’s work you’ll notice that the colors used in this project are a little different from what he usually uses. That’s partly purely on account of the collaborative nature of the project, but also because as a team they wanted to communicate the familiarity of the domestic objects. By using quieter colors and exposed wood, the pieces feel much more personal and recognizable. “That was important because you need to have those elements of natural materials to remind people that these are simple objects and domestic things and it’s a real set up,” explains Kyle. “I think if it were all made of plastic perhaps it wouldn’t feel quite, it wouldn’t have that same warmth to it.” That little bit of a human touch keeps the wit of the compositions alive, it keeps them surprising, and it keeps us wanting more.
Constructing a New Reality with Kyle Bean
Kyle Bean is more than an illustrator. When editorial creative or advertisers are looking for unique visuals in the world of Illustration, often they find Kyle Bean and discover an entirely new way of doing things and the possibilities are expounded. He does illustrate, but he also creates visual still-lifes from constructed realities that he puts together piece by piece. Recently he’s found himself making more and more contraptions and we thought a dive into this trend is a unique window into a working artist’s creative process that’s worth peeking into.
“I used to love looking at those books when you’re a kid when it’s kind of cross sections to everything, so a lot of that has fed into how I think in terms of illustrating things,” says Kyle. To make things we have to know how to make them, to make machines we have to know how they work. That’s the inception of the interest for Kyle that has rippled down and out into his creative life. It’s a creative curiosity that builds these contraptions, even if they’re not made to have any real use, instead acting as metaphors for the ideas he’s communicating. Certainly, a camera is not a woodblock factory creating and packaging its own products into tiny cardboard boxes, but an image like that can help us understand stop frame animation. It’s all just a different way to communicate.
You’ll notice in a lot of Kyle’s work he uses cogs, gears, smoke stacks, pipes. This kind of technology was once a rich part of daily life in America but modernity has moved the wires and tubes out of sight. Kyle uses that older way of seeing to help create richer imagery. “I like to draw on older types of technology as inspiration because they’re much more open and visual. I like to put on our traditional image of what we think of are machines, like that industrial revolutionary period, Those things are very immediate, you know what their function is, you know what they do,” says Kyle. “A lot of modern technology is hidden, enclosed, sterile. You don’t have any clue any sense of how it’s made or how it functions. We’re living in a time where things are wireless and things just happen and you have no concept of how they’re made and I want to know!”
The mystery of the past and magic of the present converge and create a unique tension. “Bringing the two together is sometimes what makes something quite interesting,” he says.
It’s not purely the past that Kyle is looking at, but he’s also referencing Rube Goldberg, Fritz Kahn, and movements like The Way Things Work and How It’s made. It’s a series of contemporary conversations that smash into one another and tell a story that excites and invites the viewer in. “It’s about drawing inspiration from all of those things. Obviously, the way I like to produce things is I like to physically make them so there is an element of Rube Goldberg but if you took it to the level where you’re actually making something physical in a slightly more graphic, modern way.”
We’ve included a collection of Kyle Bean’s “Contraptions” here, but you can find more if you click through his portfolio.
Kyle Bean Builds the Microbiome
You are more than your body.
We don’t say that as an inspiring statement to value more than your physical self (although, yes, that is true!), but because 1-2% of your body mass is actually self-contained bacteria. That’s right, there are pounds of bacteria buttering around in your body that you don’t create, but help you live your best life. These little buggers are referred to as a “Microbiome,” one of the hottest areas of study in human biology and the focus of a feature story in Dr. Oz The Good Life Magazine. The magazine invited Kyle Bean to help them explain how the microbiome work with his unique visual take on storytelling.
The microbiome affects every aspect of our bodies from top to bottom, from the brain to the gut. So, understandably, the magazine asked Kyle to bring each of those aspects to life. The visuals show off a human body, brain, and gut (replete with large and small intestines), put together by a million little pieces to represent each tiny resident. To create the images, Kyle sculpted the pieces by hand out of polymer clay before covering them in tiny beads. Then each of these objects were photographed against white so they could be inserted easily into the magazine. The results make the beads look like the building blocks of a function brain, gut, body, which is theoretically true. The implications of the research is that we need these mini invaders to work effectively, but how to make them work to our advantage still remains to be seen.
Until we understand our microbiomes enough to put them to work in new ways, it’s fun to remember that they’re busy working away doing… whatever it is that they do.
Kyle Bean Takes on Diversity for Variety
The last couple years have seen some legitimate unrest in the American population as we come to terms with some of the more important issues that are built into the core of our society. Reckoning with inequality has been a theme of recent times, and one of the most robust debates has been on about inequality in Hollywood. When the nominees for this year’s Oscars were announced many were shocked by the lack of diversity, quickly spawning the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, but this month Variety magazine is shedding light on a lack of diversity in an area that’s often overlooked: behind the camera. The magazine asked Kyle Bean to help them visualize this problem for the cover and story.
When everyone starts to look the same we call that a “cookie cutter,” as if one person is copied and pasted over and over. To visualize this idea, Kyle created a series of cutouts, like the garland people one cuts out as a kid, and assembled them together as a crew. As the figures line up one after another, they become a caustic parade, they create an impenetrable mass of white bodies that make it impossible to break into. It is a visual metaphor of the difficulty employees of color face when trying to break into the industry, but more than a metaphor the imagery communicates the feeling. It’s overwhelming to see this mass of similarity whose presence equally demands and rejects variation.
Let’s not get confused: diversity is crucial both in front and behind the camera. In front of the camera diversity is important to encourage representation so that everyone in our community sees positive and/or complex faces of all stripes. These stories are American stories and all of them deserve to be told. But experiences can be singular. A white American who grew up in a middle income suburban home is not going to fully understand the story of a first generation Chinese immigrant who arrived in San Francisco, or the life of a black Chicago youth growing up in public housing. At the same time, a latino Silicon Valley executive isn’t going to understand or be able to properly represent the story of an unemployed father in the Rust Belt. We need many voices in front and behind the cameras so we as a community can understand each other’s stories and learn from them. Only then can we grow together.
Kyle Bean Makes Waves
When you’re barreling through the sky in a multi-ton metal tube held aloft by controlled explosions, the watery abyss a mile below you might not be the first thing on your mind. Or it might! The most recent issue of easyJet’s proprietary magazine is all about the waves and features a cover composition by Kyle Bean who always offers a unique take on everything he touches. Kyle’s piece is placed alongside an article about indoor wave simulators and he used his unique style to explore the mechanics behind these processes and how we feel about them. “As a viewer you see the textures and the way something is made,” Kyle explains. “That offers an interesting extra dimension to an image that might otherwise just be seen as something created entirely digitally. And for me it’s that mix of precision with at least a part of the process being handmade.”
Kyle applied his aesthetic to the wave by cutting out a series of wood pieces and painting them in shades of blue that grade from front to back. For Kyle, this is to call up images of technical maps, the perfect example of how humans try to classify and measure the enormous power of the earth. “I wanted to get across the idea of a manufactured wave, something that kind of looks a bit scientific,” Kyle explains. “So I took the approach of a layered, almost topographic wave. I wanted to reference topographic imagery as a way to portraying this idea as a technical analysis of how you create waves.” Those layers made it possible for Kyle to work with his photographer, Sara Morris, on a GIF that brings the piece to life on a totally different dimension.
As an artist, Kyle could create his work out of any medium in the world, but there’s a reason he creates entirely handmade work, constructing it piece by piece. “I’ve always liked making things physically and I think when you see something constructed it’s kind of got this nice engagement to it,” he explains. When Kyle goes fully hands-on we can feel it in the work which is why we’re so absorbed by it. Art is more than just aesthetic, it’s also about a relationship between the piece and the audience, and for Kyle that relationship starts with his process.
To get an even deeper look at Kyle's process take a look at the Making Of video below.
Kyle Bean Ratchets Up the Adrenaline for Kinfolk
Anxiety is a normal part of everyone’s life. It’s an evolutionary imperative, honed over the course of the development of our species to act as a buffer between the world and us. It warns us when we’re entering into situations that may not end up being beneficial, reminding us that we’re mortal and have our limits. Often this warning is well received, tempering our decisions and helping us to make smarter ones. But as we’ve made our world safer, sometimes it springs up when it’s not so valuable and becomes a distraction. When Kyle Bean and his photographer friend Aaron Tilley were approached by Kinfolk magazine to create a series of images for a recent issue, they tapped directly into the heart of their own anxieties. Kinfolk offered them an overview of what they wanted for the ‘Adrenaline’ Issue, so Kyle and Aaron sent through an idea for a series that explored anxiety and anticipation. “They loved the idea and so we sent them some sketches,” says Kyle. “We were all getting really excited about the possibilities of what kind of setups we could make. We spoke a lot about how they would make you feel. That was the key to this project - it had to evoke a reaction from the viewer and that was most important for Kinfolk.”
As Kyle explains it, so much of what he creates is about arousing emotions, usually within the context of a story. But this time it was about pure emotion. Rather than worrying about building inside the narrow parameters of a story, they decided to create imagery that would speak directly to the viewers emotions even if it didn’t necessarily make sense. To do so, they used objects that we all come in contact with every day. “We knew how important it was to make the viewer feel on edge with these, and we soon realized that the best way to do that would be to use materials and objects that are very relatable and show it in a very naturalistic way,” explains Kyle. “Everyone can associate with the stress of seeing an egg falling, or ink about to tip onto a crisp white shirt… It was fun to setup these very normal everyday objects and make them appear to be doing things that are so agonizing to look at!” These familiar objects bring the images closer to our own experience, creating a broader appeal. Well, maybe ‘appeal’ isn’t the right word…
If you ask Kyle which image gives him the most anxiety, his answer is quick and easy: “The one with eggs falling,” he says. “I have a bit of a fear of falling anyway so this taps into that anxiety that I have!” The broad range of images is bound to tap into an anxiety that everyone has, whether or not it’s a rational one. Which one triggers you?
Kyle Bean and the Modern Market on YouTube for Google
There is an entire industry of YouTubers who are the new go-to cultural icons that millions of captive viewers look to in order to see what’s going on in fashion, tech, beauty and a ton of other trades. Before Awesome Stuff Week, YouTubers were forced to include a series of links to purchase featured items so they could guide their viewers to the products that interested them, causing a certain level of confusion and lack of clarity. Now, with integrated purchasing on the YouTube platform, YouTube personalities can deliver this information directly to their viewers, making the entire system seamless and more catered to consumers.
Kyle Bean was asked by Droga5 to create moving banners that could also be used in videos, as a way to build fun and excitement around the launch of this new feature. Kyle teamed up with photographer Aaron Tilley to create the stop motion videos that focused on the worlds of fashion, technology, and entertainment. Each animation consists of objects and materials that Kyle styled and assembled, spelling out “STUFF” as a sort of tongue-in-cheek meta nod to the enabling nature of the service. Sixty-four percent of shoppers say that YouTube influences their purchase decisions, so the move was a no-brainer and what a thrill that Kyle was able to help such a huge company reveal this groundbreaking new system.
Awesome Stuff Week is streamlining the process of watching a video to purchasing featured products that some brands and companies pay a lot of money to be front and center. These YouTube personalities make a living in these deals and YouTube’s new system makes their job a lot simpler, encouraging this new kind of commerce. Kyle is on the front lines of this new economic move, helping one of the largest brands in the world change the way we look at digital influence.