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Artist of the Week — Simeon Kondev

February 27, 2012 by · No comments

An Interview with Artist Simeon Kondev by Jasmina Tacheva

Simeon Kondev_Istanbul

Could you tell us a little about yourself? You were born in Burgas, Bulgaria, and “raised in various places in the United States”. How did each of these places shape your artistic interests, ideas and style?

I immigrated to the United States when I was very young. We never stayed in one place very long, so I became acquainted with different regional flavors – the southern United States, most of all. I never felt my ideas about art concerned where I was living at any one time, though this is not to say they came from me wholly without influence.

The media coming at me was indiscriminately and distinctly American. Much of my generation grew up watching the same television shows, and like the rest, I have responded most to television and the internet.

My Bulgarian roots have mystified me for most of my life, and it wasn’t until these recent years that I finally sought to address these origins and the culture. I find it fascinating to imagine my life had I grown up there. Because of this, Bulgaria is a source of inspiration I can always go back to.

Simeon Kondev - Baba Katya's BF (2011)
Photo: Baba Katya’s BF (2011); Ballpoint pen; 5 in x 8.5 in

How did you get started in the arts? Were you always interested in becoming an artist?

I got started like I imagine most artists of my generation did: drawing cartoons. Drawing was something I always did growing up, but it took until the end of high school to realize art was the path I needed to take. Prior to this I had aspirations of becoming a pharmacist, but after interning at a local pharmacy I realized my interests lay elsewhere.

Naturally I had anxieties about switching to a profession with much less security. I am thus grateful for my parents being supportive, who, by means of their own personal projects, inspired me with their commitment.

Simeon Kondev - Nicole (2011)
Photo: Nicole (2011); Ballpoint pen; 5 in x 8.5 in

I can see from the movie clips on your web site that you are trying out a variety of different methods and techniques in your work. At this point, is there a style you particularly like and enjoy using?

I am most fond of hand-drawn animation. There is something wonderfully inexplicable about pencil on paper moving. With the media’s inherent noise, materials and process are brought to the forefront, and that makes the work that much more magical.

But I do not place emphasis on style – it is not something you should seek to hone. It will come out in your work regardless. Instead, your efforts should go toward building skill.

Habitual Brew from Simeon Kondev on Vimeo.

Your portfolio makes it seem like you almost have to have degrees in both mathematics and physics, and even, well… magic! What else, besides a magic wand of course, should a good animator possess?

Animation is all about making things move. For this, more than anything, you need patience. Hours of work yield mere seconds of animation, so to keep things “spontaneous,” you have to be excited about every frame.

You study at the Rhode Island School of Design which ranks as the number one fine arts college in the United States. What did it take you to get there and where are you headed after graduation?

I had to apply, for one, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Many people work very hard here because they know it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. From your peers come a lot of inspiration and healthy competition.

Simeon Kondev - Chewy (2011)
Photo: Chewy (2011); Ballpoint pen

After graduation I hope to land a position that furthers my technical knowledge of animation while maintaining my aesthetic values.

What are the things that you like to draw, that inspire you?

I like to draw people. Not necessarily portraiture, though that’s what I’ve done most. I find things interesting so long as people are involved, or at one point were involved. Because people themselves are narratives, and thus story does not have to be told so explicitly. Viewers make their own stories and assumptions.

Nashto Myasto from Simeon Kondev on Vimeo.

Your video called “Our Place” portraits the life of your family in Burgas. As an artist, what were the things you found particularly interesting about Bulgaria and the life of Bulgarians?

I find there is more honesty with Bulgarians. There is less emphasis on cordiality, but more inherent affection, sincerity and camaraderie. When I took the video camera with me this past summer, I never intended to create a portrait. I merely sought to document as much as possible. It wasn’t until I reviewed the footage back in America did I realize what I needed to do next.

One particularly interesting thing is the amount of staring the culture allows. This was helpful for my drawing and videotaping everyone/everything. It did not attract peoples’ attention and hostility as it might in America.

Etcetera's Mistress by Thom Ward (Accents Publishing 2011)
Photo: Etcetera’s Mistress by Thom Ward (Accents Publishing 2011); 6 in x 9 in

You also serve as a designer for the independent press Accents Publishing. What do you think are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of book design?

When designing books, there are two main problems on which I focus: Appropriately communicating the subject matter of the literature and keeping faithful to my own ideas about aesthetic.

It is maintaining this balance that provides the biggest challenge. However, when they are finally printed, seeing the books in tidy stacks of hundreds is particularly pleasing.

Tomfoolery from Simeon Kondev on Vimeo.

Do you have a “Dream Project”? Can you describe it?

I feel it may be too soon to imagine a “dream project.” In a way, I feel like every project I work on is a dream project, so long as I am learning.

What are you working on now?

Currently I am directing a play, working on a book trailer, and editing miscellaneous footage I’ve shot. In the meantime I candidly record friends and situations, trying to amass footage, even if just to have it.

Spill from Simeon Kondev on Vimeo.

What about those just considering starting in animation? Do you have any educational or career advice for them?

I would caution those interested in animation to not underestimate the amount of time and care needed for it. However, it is a beautiful thing when it comes alive.

Simeon Kondev (RISD Film/Animation/Video 2014) is an artist working and living in Providence, Rhode Island.

He was born in Bulgaria and raised in various places in the United States.

He serves as designer for independent press Accents Publishing.

When he is not making movies and drawing, he enjoys playing music and eating hamburgers.

You can check out Simeon’s latest projects by visiting his website, Flickr page or blog.

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