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.