Aaron Kraten: Youthful momentum on a canvas near you...

The technique is instantly familiar, and walking past one of his pieces you'll know it's one of Aaron's before anyone tells you, but he's still new to the game. He's a fresh face who is developing quickly as an artist, and Aaron's work has grown quite suddenly in popularity as he remains on the fringes of an art world more interested in glad-handing over fruit salads at art openings for pompous shits whose sole aptitude seems to be their ability to sell nothing, excrete piles of cash, and remain wealthy. Aaron Kraten isn't fifty-something, alcoholic, pretentious, and flatulent, with a sketchpad balanced on his knee outside a trendy café in Costa Mesa squinting at midriff tattoos. He's young, bright, optimistic, and lacking in ego.

Why do you paint?
It's just something that I'm thinking about constantly. From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep I'm thinking and planning art, so I suppose everything from toothpaste to listening to music inspires me. Even when I'm at work I'm thinking about how to execute my next piece, and new ways to go about that process.

What is the best time in the day for you to work on a project? Is there one, or is it more about the environment -- maybe the right mood?
Most of the time I'll paint for four hours then sleep for four hours then repeat.

Does a piece get from inside from your head to the canvas in the way that you originally envisioned it very often, or do you find yourself toying with and improving on your original ideas?
Most of the time I find myself getting into a state of mind where I don't preplan too much. I simply let the chips fall where they may and that makes for the best work. Sometimes your biggest mistakes are your best newfound ideas.

And you've been painting since...
...late 1998.

A late beginning almost.
Definitely. It gave me time to develop my own ideas.

How did you start?
At Stateside in Costa Mesa (Stateside is a clothing shop where Aaron was virtually the sole employee, and would always have a painting in progress at the counter). I wanted to make something for my apartment -- just something fun to look at besides my Joy Division poster.

So painting for you was by accident nearly?
Well, I always liked doodling and the paints are just an extension of that.

Who were your earliest influences?
Most early Capcom titles for Nintendo like Mega Man, Stryder and some early arcade titles like Rastan and Galaga. Video game art is a mind blower.

Your paintings seem to signify a lack of restraint. There are fewer rules for the art for video games, since it's not in a quote-unquote "accepted" medium.
Definitely! There's no judge for vids, just the consumer, who seemingly doesn't care about fine art. The art I like these days is primarily ads for Japanese food and, I also like to look at new wave fashion victims who never discovered goth but love Duran Duran.

Like the Don'ts crew in Vice magazine maybe...
(laughs) New-wave, uncaring, adolescents.

Where can I see more of your art?

At www.aaronkratenart.com, and also at Seven Degrees in Laguna Beach and the Crew salon in the Lab Antimall. I have a place in Laguna that is my studio-slash-gallery, and it's welcome to the public on the weekends. I started the website about two years ago, and now people near and far can see the different things I do, like drawings, photography and paintings, not to mention looking at my history as a artist. I always like to get email too. I'm very responsive.

You have a favorite subject -- a shorthaired, girl who looks sad, introspective, or both. Why does she keep coming up?

I guess these girls haunt me. Girls are complex and unexplainable. It's like we always notice them, and, until later in life, they notice you. And even then they're never understood. Everything is so great about girls but being a prisoner to their hypnotic whims freaks me out.

(C) 2003 - Jason Thornberry