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Artist Spotlight: Ken V (Jetfreak)

1) Please tell us a little something about yourself.
My name is Ken V but most people in the interwebs know me as Jetfreak. Iím a full blooded Filipino, people say I represent the typical indio with the tan skin tone and "Carabao English" accent. So donít expect me to use Skype anytime soon! (My pronunciation needs some serious work believe me.) A child of the 90ís, I come from an average family. The eldest of three siblings, my childhood was tumultuous and rousing to say the least. In school, the teachers said I was ahead of the curve, so I guess was the likeable smart-ass who knew all the answers.

These days Iím currently living in Manila. Unfortunately with the current economic situation, I was forced to stop my college schooling and look for work. Without a degree, my choices are severely limited. However I still manage with the familyís help, but itís still a difficult predicament. I hope to make enough this year to propel me back to the university. My most recent stint was a layout artist in a local publication. Before that I was doing tarps and small billboards. The opportunities doesnít look to bright though. There are some potentials but itís still a wait and see situation. Wish me luck!

2) What experiences influenced your artwork? Where do you get your ideas for your artwork?
I suppose my earliest exposure was television. With TV shows, cartoons/anime and movies shaping my preferences and into what it is today. Iím engrossed with stories that involve any kind of machinery. Whether itís grand starships, ridiculously fast cars or planes shooting each other, itís guaranteed to catch my attention. Video games are an active mainstay too, as Iím into game modding.

3) Can you tell us a little about your creative process? How do you create your artwork? Do you sketch an idea first or do you keep the design in your head until you're finished?
Aye, some of my concepts I sketch in a piece of paper and others just come out of the blue. In addition, inspiration also comes from moments of deep contemplation and silence. I shut off all distractions and just go into some weird pseudo-meditative state. I donít know what to call it, (idleness perhaps?) but some my best ideas come from this process. Other times I browse the web for hours on end, looking at stuff that piques my interest.

4) When or how did you decide to get into digital artwork? Did you start with traditional media first or did you jump right into the digital world? What tools do you use to create your artwork?
My first serious foray into the digital world was with Photoshop, as I jumped at the chance to learn the ropes. A summer course was offered and with my seemingly ok skills in pen and paper, I said to myself that this was to be the next big thing. I started off with some basic color edits and the usual kid-level stuff. But what got peopleís attention was my fighter profiles. My earliest stuff was pretty basic art-wise but the attention to detail made all the difference. Iím a stickler for such things and it certainly reflected on my work.

Concurrently, I was also one of those "screenshot artists" in the Armada II community. I basically manipulated the gameís code to allow me to take fancy pictures of the in-game starships. As time progressed I improved upon this method by applying photoshop edits to my images. Over time, the line between game-work and digital art was blurring. It eventually came to a point that my stuff was being mistaken for CG renders.

With these two aspects getting attention, I certainly gained a bit of prominence and confidence in this arena. Some of my real and online friends even suggested that I post them in DeviantArt to get more exposure. And so I did.

5) What made you decide to submit your artwork here at DeviantArt? And would you be willing to talk about what led you to disable the comments on your images?
It was really encouragement from my friends. For me, DeviantArt was one of THE sites to go to. I was a regular browser and all the diverse material was awe-inspiring. I guess I simply wanted to contribute in my own little way. When I joined the site in late 2008, there were few active artists who made fighter profiles and Trek renders. So I chose to expand on that niche. Years later, people have said that Iíve inspired them to create their own stuff. It was a surprise to learn that Iíve influenced others to take on a similar path. Certainly, I donít see them as competition or copycats. Their work has true merit and originality as well.

And the comment situation, I have a simple answer to that. I couldnít handle the stress. STRESS.

Now for the unabridged version: It started around 2010, business was booming and it was arguably my galleryís heyday. I was actively posting new material, writing journals with progress reports once a week and heartily responding to my followers. Slowly though, I noticed that it was becoming a riot. Amidst the positive stuff, there was the occasional trolling and useless chatter from deadbeat fanboys and people Iíve allegedly offended. I suppose I had it coming too. I wasnít exactly a saint in those days. "An eye for an eye" was my motto then. I aggressively fought for my views and with my bloated ego at the time, I couldnít see beyond my pride.

I should have realized it sooner, but when you work within the constraints of a fandom you have to expect a certain level of wacko-crazy from its constituents. The thing is, most of the scathing anger came from the Star Trek people. They could not see that first and foremost I was a casual fan more interested in starships than debating plot holes. I didnít give a damn about "canon" issues or hating on the 2009 movie. It was all the same to me. But NO, people just had to call me out and burn me at the stake. This is just an observation and by no means a generalization. But some Trekkies feel that they have this "moral" obligation to teach "dissidents" like me on what is "real" Star Trek.

Eventually things were spinning out of control. People started to ignore my artistic efforts. Instead, they called out minor continuity violations and trivial faults of superficial value. Their "feedback" was basically saying: "We know better so YOU should follow us". The more I asserted my preferences and views, an equal amount of backlash ensued. Drama from butthurt people piled on and soon there was name-calling, hate art and death threats. That really crossed the line for me.

By mid-2011, it came to a point where I was spending too much time maintaining the account more than doing anything productive. Damage control here, an apology there. It was ridiculous. So I was pondered on what to do. Eventually it hit me, inspired by Ferdinand Marcos himself. I gave a proverbial middle finger by enacting a STFU martial law. I posted a memorandum of understanding that if you wanted to talk about me or critique my art, it would be through discreet notes.

It was arguably better than the alternative. I briefly considered deleting the account altogether and set up shop somewhere else. I was really depressed and out of gas by that stage. Thankfully, several of my close friends convinced me to stay. And so I did. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Productivity eventually went through the roof and all the distracting bullshit was gone. Still, I lost a great number of followers and some of the resentment still persists today.

These days, Iím focusing my efforts on trimming the fat of my gallery and slowly raising my standards. Iím deleting my older stuff and have started to polish those worth saving. Iíve also met like-minded people with similar views to my own. Things are arguably more stable now, I suppose its better this way.

6) What piece of artwork are you most proud of? Why?
For now, itís definitely a tie between my Alternate Reality Excelsior and the Akula Fighter Jet. This pair truly represents the expression of my design ethos. Iíve put countless hours on these designs and Iíve seen them grow and evolve over the years. I am hoping that once I get a grip on CG modeling, Iím certainly transitioning them into the 3d realm.

7) What keeps you motivated when things don't seem to be going your way? What are some challenges you've faced in your career?
All great things require effort and my experience in digital art confirms that. When the road gets tough, you just have to take things to heart and press on. But sometimes you gotta take a breather though. Taking a long walk, listening to music (especially Classical) or just plain relaxing really helps.

My greatest challenge though is my current predicament. Iím out of school and job opportunities are not so good. I always try to maintain a positive vibe but reality can get you down sometimes. Itís karma I guess but I only blame myself. So itís best to accept the facts and move on.

8) Do you accept commissions from people who enjoy your artwork? 8a) If you do accept commissions, have you worked for worked for many clients? How does your creative process differ when making your own artwork compared to making artwork for a client?
Iíve accepted a few over the years. A prominent example was creating a fictional fighter from the ground up. It was for an Ace Combat fan fiction and it needed an original fighter. This effort eventually spawned the Gaius, which is posted in my gallery. Doing the plane was a real learning experience as the commissioner was well versed in aviation. I learned a lot from the technicalities but there was certainly some leeway creative-wise.

The thing with commissions is to be flexible. Never argue with the client, instead focus efforts on making things work. Compromise and understanding as well as transparency are important. Donít get riled up in pride or emotion. Of course, charge reasonable prices too!

9) How do you handle criticism of your artwork?
Ah, criticism leads to progress. Itís a bit like medicine too. It tastes bad but makes you better! But be careful, as some people mistake their preferences as critique. Be objective and learn to separate the good parts from the nasty ones. There are mentors and dementors so shrug off the negativity and absorb what you can learn.

A pet peeve from me though: In DeviantArt, Iím slightly irked by people with no gallery to speak of but act like pretentious condescending pseudo-intellectuals when they post their opinions and flaunt them as infallible truth. There is a fundamental difference between knowing and doing. Just because you know something, doesnít mean you can do better.

10) What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists who want to improve their artwork?
I shall echo my earlier sentiment. Look for real mentors and learn from them. Avoid the stagnant dementors, donít get sucked into their close minded agendas. In every art form, a solid foundation is crucial. But never forget to have fun! Keep a positive vibe and ignore the haters. And please, have some dignity. A big no-no is acting like a desperate fanboy craving for attention. Thatís a surefire way to attract trolls!

11) Some people claim that digital art isn't "real art" mainly because it's made with software programs. How would you respond to this?
A fundamental problem here is lack of understanding. Some of these idiots assume (and I really emphasize the word ASSUME) that doing digital art is simply pressing a button and everything appears on screen 100% complete. It is not like that at all! This debate about being "real" is all close minded bupkis. What really matters is the skill of the artist creating the output. Everything else is just tools. Think about this, if Da Vinci had access to all the fancy toys today, Iím sure he would find the time to learn to use a tablet! Oh the things he could make with the undo button!

12) What are some of your more notable achievements? Have you been published in a magazine or exhibited your artwork at an art festival or gallery?
I recently did some magazine layouts so does that count? But seriously, I was an active participant in art-meets back in High School. I did some posters and slogans in those days. Some of my Star Trek work has also been featured in Jay Stobieís Star Trek: The Nemeverse Ė you can check out the stuff in its Facebook page.

13) Any other comments or anything else you'd like to say?
At first, you start out wide-eyed with a lot of great ideas in your head, but everything has to have a solid foundation. I guess I learned that the hard way. The "pwede na yan" mentality just didn't cut it anymore. But I've come to terms with my faults. I got back to work, re-evaluated the basics and charted a new course, regardless of what people thought about the output. Errors in technicalities can be corrected, but my preferences should never be overridden by mob rule.

14) Where can people go to see more of your artwork? Do you have your own portfolio website or do you post your
images mainly here at DeviantArt?

DeviantArt has been my mainstay for artworks, but in modding related stuff, you can catch me at Ė itís a neat little Sci-Fi community established by a close friend of mine.

Star Trek models made by DJ_Curtis, Rick Knox and Coxxon

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