Kilian Eng (1) Selected Works + Interview
OK, as promised, I’m very proud to present an exclusive Sci-Fi-O-Rama feature, this time with Swedish Design and Illustration superstar Kilian Eng. Here we have a total tour de force of the imagination, gloriously twisted, washed in 80’s technicolour and blending only the very finest Sci-Fi and Fantasy references…
I’m quite sure you’ll be familiar with Kilian’s work, he’s built a considerable following since first proliferating through the major design/illustration blogs. Interestingly it was in fact Dan McPharlin that first put me onto Kilian with a post over at But Does it Float, and I’d put these two in the same bracket, pretty much the finest contemporary Science Fiction Illustrators on the planet. Another totally enviable fact is just how prolific Kilian is, check his primary portfolio site at behance.net/KilianEng for a vast array of interstellar work, amassed in just a few years.
So then, in the tradition of the Sci-Fi-O-Rama interview I have set the post up as follows, firstly a selection of Kilian’s work with my notes, then the interview we traded via email, before finishing on a selection of links and further reading. Let’s start then with the notes:
Above: This wonderfully surrealistic illustration typifies Kilian’s portfolio, it’s a truly beautiful style that obviously pays homage to French masters such as Moebius and Enki Bilal. For me what really sets this work apart from others is just how hardcore the imaginative elements are – totally out there – a fusion of the surreal, the psychedelic and the technological, re-birthed with just the slickest style. The fact that the above image could easily work as a fashion illustration serves to underline that.
Above: This example highlights several of Kilian’s clever design traits. Firstly we have a lovingly balanced colour palette, subtly and carefully diffused to give a sense of depth. Next up, edginess – this work is the Sci-Fi definition of it – often tinged with darkness as above, but brought back with a wry sense of humour with nods to the 80’s cartoons that thrilled a generation. Ultimately though, the defining ingredient is the otherworldly factor, totally unforced, it’s the product of a powerful, wandering mind.
Above: Love this! A more graphical element is deployed here in one of the most striking examples from Kilian’s portfolio, thus one of my absolute faves.
Above: A follow up to the prior Illustration, indeed this is actually part of a set of four, check the other two here: behance.net/gallery/Various-work-05/1134721 …what to say, wonderful stuff!
Above: This frenzied, sinister illustration shows Kilian at his most detailed and linear, note the carefully selected tones, only 5 or so colours to define the background – cloud or cave? – there is something of a feel of Fighting Fantasy’s Russ Nicholson here.
Above: We move once more onto the surreal tip here, this fabulous, dreamlike image forms part of a small series called ‘The Statue’ check the rest here: http://bit.ly/vFW9Ae
Above: This image is just one of many, fantastical environments Kilian is able to – seemingly – effortlessly create.
Above: In addition to his linear drawing and the graphical facets, Kilian also is capable of working in this quintessentially 80’s ‘Robo’ mode – note the much heavier diffusing and neon glow. It’s a style that looks almost effortless (though trust me it isn’t!) and again mixing in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy creates something truly haunting.
Above: Another rendering in the aforementioned ‘Robo’ mode. As usual, it’s mind-bending stuff, suffice to say it’s another personal fave, would love to see this entity in motion.
So that brings to a close my small selection (bonus after the interview). As I alluded to earlier I’ve barely scratched the surface so if it’s more imagery you seek, head directly to behance.net/KilianEng
Hi Kilian, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a 29-year-old illustrator and live in Stockholm/Sweden. My commercial work as an illustrator began around 4 years ago when I started to do record covers for bands in the electronic music scene. However, I had been drawing on my own stories long before and exploring different sides in my work. My education was at Konstfack, University of Arts Craft & Design in Stockholm at the graphic Design & Illustration department which is also called storytelling at Master’s level. From there I graduated in 2010 with an animated short film and I have continued to work on this afterwards so its soon to be completed.
You have a very distinctive style, how would you best describe your work?
Well its perhaps easier for others to put a label on it but I would say something like “often rich in colour with a surreal sci-fi approach with a lot of focus on environments and architecture”. Perhaps not exactly what I would say if someone asked me on the street, but I hope it explains something of what I do.
Your portfolio oozes Sci-Fi and Fantasy references, but is there a visual style/genre you identify with more than others? (ie Cyberpunk, Post Apocalyptic, Surrealist?)
I would say that all those themes visit my work from time to time. Its always hard and certainly not necessary to sort out exactly what takes place in the pictures but I would say that a rather surrealistic approach often comes back, both in motive and the way that some work is being created. Surrealism is, of course, a huge area with a limitless approach, but for me, some of the best moments in the work process is when the subconscious is allowed to take part. It doesn’t happen too often but from time to time things just go almost by themselves and you can create like 5 pieces without thinking or analysing the process. Afterwards, you start to put in the meaning and you try to understand what it is you have in front of you. At that point, you can start to see explanations and the meaning or at least hopefully something that can be interesting to look at. When I do commissioned work I plan it much more and think about what kind of themes/genre I want to include, there you have to respect and be aware of the expectations from others on the outcome.
Do you work straight to screen (via Wacom) or does part of your workflow still involve pen and paper?
At the moment almost all of my work is drawn with the Wacom board, some exceptions are black and white outline illustrations that I scan and the colour on the computer. Then I draw a lot of rough ideas in the sketchbook of course.
And following on from that, which part of the creative process do you enjoy the most?
I love to create shapes and plan the composition and space in images so I would say to build the environment where everything takes place. If you look at a lot of my work you can see that many times it puts focus on the room, often the surroundings are dominating the image and the character’s just passing through or standing there without really doing anything, just taking in whats around them.
What are you working on at the moment? anything exciting coming up?
I’m just finishing a commission as a concept designer for a sci-fi short film, the details around this project is still top secret but I have a very good feeling about the whole thing. Other than that I’m doing some cover artwork and trying to develop and improve my work with animation. Then there will be a little book with my work in preparation. It will hopefully be available in December this year. (Sci-Fi-O-Rama says, more on this soon!)
**A couple Sci-Fi-O-Rama generic question’s
What’s the best piece of Sci-Fi related material you’ve come across and been impressed by recently (book, film, artist)
As many others I’m really into H.P Lovecraft and just found out that in the 80’s a great Swedish Actor called Ernst Hugo Järegård read Lovecraft stories to tape and they are available as audiobooks. So far I have just been listening to a short preview of the reading but it sounds fantastic. What makes this so great is that I can’t think of any other actor here in Sweden who would fit better to read Lovecraft for an audience. This is of course very local as its only in my native language but it made me very happy to find out about!
Finally a follow-on to the last question, any classic Sci-Fi material (book, film, artist) you could recommend think reader’s might not know of or have overlooked?
Some time ago i watched two short movies by Saul Bass and Elaine Bass called Phase IV and Quest, amazing and visually very strong films.
Many thanks Kilian!
Finally, Kilian has very kindly taken his own visual spin on our Sci-Fi-O-Rama logo! here it is, with the artist at work!