We caught up with Surry Hills regular, number cruncher, doodler and latest Art Bag Project artist, Kyle Freeman on all things twenty, mushrooms and art. Here’s how it went down.
S: We’re going to kick off with some quick-fire café questions. Ready?
K: Let’s do it
S: Milk coffee or black?
S: Regular or large?
S: One or two?
K: Two minimum
S: Avo toast or Bacon and Egg roll?
K: Hmm, Bacon and Egg roll at the moment
S: Solo or communal seating?
K: Communal for people watching
S: Inside or outside
S: Soft music or loud music
S: What’s your connection to Single O
K: I’ve been working in Surry Hills for 8 years so Single O is one of my regular coffee places. Even remember the day when the sideshow moved location from down the road!
S: Oh cool! Where do you work?
K: I work at the NDIS.
S: And what do you do there?
K: Mainly manage teams of people, but data analytics, number crunching, that kind of thing
S: Nice. This actually leads me to the next section, I’m going to ask you some questions about you, Kyle.
S: Your insta handle is touching doodles, why?
K:I started a web comic project and wanted to make it sincere and heartfelt (touching) and also dumb and silly (doodles). The name together is either thoughtful or a bit crude so covers both sides of my personality.
And then was one of those cases where I came up with a name and thought there’s no way this handle is free, and it was!
S: Like fate?
K: Haha yeah it was meant to be
S: The focus of your art is a mushroom, there are many kinds of mushrooms, some can kill you, some are delicious, and some can put you in a trance. What mushroom are you? And why?
K: I’d probably say enoki, just because they’re often swimming in soup having a nice time chilling out
S: You’ve eaten a rare variety of mushrooms and it gives you a Superpower. What would you choose?
K: Been able to fly around. I know very cliche but just think of all the possibilities!
S: Great choice. Do you have those flying dreams?
K: That’s one of my common recurring dreams. It’s sort of flying but it’s like a big slippery dip in the sky and it just keeps going and going and going. So yeah, flying dreams are very common for me
S: Do you know what they mean?
K: I kind of like not having an interpretation for them, I like to think it’s just my brain being silly. I’m sure it’s something dark.
S: This bag is a celebration of our twentieth birthday, what were you doing at twenty?
I think I was doing a pretty hard semester at uni, but I do remember still living on the Central coast and in the summer, I’d go the beach with my friends, and we’d go skim-boarding and just chill out (with some partying done too). Some study, some hedonistic fun.
S: Do you have any advice for 20 year old self?
K: The stakes aren’t so high so just try more things
S: Oh I really like that. Moving on. I heard you like travelling, where do you want to go to next?
K: Japan next, it’s been on my list for a long time. And my last trip (first since Covid) was to Greece so I think it would be a total shift from my last trip.My favourite part of travelling is people-watching so places where I feel the most out of context, I enjoy the most.
S: Ok now we’re going to move into some questions relating to your art specifically
S: You’re at the front of the line at side-show and the barista asks you to describe your art style, there’s a long line of people behind you and you have 10 seconds before they start getting shitty. Go!
K: Sad objects wearing tiny hats
S: Haha I love that. How did you get into sketching/drawing?
K: Probably from my brother. He was a very good artist when he was younger, and I think it came about from looking up to him and wanting to draw. My dad was very creative too but in more of a technical way. He used to do a lot of technical/engineering drawings. So I think between my dad and my brother, is where I got into it.
I also remember in preschool we were drawing stick figures, and I drew a stick figure with a neck and everyone else would draw them without a neck and so people were really impressed with my drawing, and I think that was the push I needed to pursue drawing.
S: Do you find any parallels between your art and your job as a data analyst?
K: Yeah I think so.I guess, it’s a similar sort of thinking in some ways because sometimes in data analysis, it’s not so much about the data itself but it’s about trying to understand but what people want to know and figuring out a way to present it for them. So, it’s that abstract thinking and then you have the practical constraint, whether that’s the data you’re working with or the image you’re working with. I think the big difference is that one is serving a very concrete purpose (which would be the stuff at work) but art kind of has no purpose intentionally, which is where I think the fun is.
S: You draw all sorts of crazy characters with so much personality. They have a whole world around each one. Where do you get your inspiration for each character and world?
K: Three ways. So either I have the idea for a character, and then I come up with the story or I might just start with an object and then I try and come up with a character and a story for that object. Another way is that I’ll just get obsessed with a particular word or phrase and I’ll start thinking about that and I’ll come up with a character to match the word. So sometimes an image, sometimes the word, sometimes a challenging object. For example, I haven’t done one about a clam so I’m currently working on that now.
S: This isn’t the first time you’ve character a mushroom character? Can you tell us a bit about your first mushroom man?
K: Yeah it was a cowboy magic mushroom who steals people's sense of reality
S: With this bag, how was it different to your normal process? Did you feel like you had to move the mushroom man you had already created into a different world? Does he have the same personality as when you originally created him?
K:I think in the touching doodles universe, these (the mushroom men) would be different characters. They vaguely know each other. I think because the art bag is a long portrait, it meant that I could make the character a bit elongated with made him a bit goofier and sillier. I think that’s how it was different. The post-it note doodles are always square, so you tend to have to make stuff a bit compact. So yeah, I think the biggest change in the process was letting him be long and weird
S: And with the other characters are they all friends?
I think my art does tend to delve into some weird or dark themes so I can imagine it’s a rich word where some are friends, and some are arch enemies. Some are out to destroy each other, and some are just a bit confused. A bit like real life
S: Do you have a favourite?
K: One acts as my logo a little bit, which is just this guy made out of wood and he’s got this big silly smile on his face and that’s sort of become my symbol. But other than that one, there are probably two that come to mind as my favourites. One I did many years ago but it’s this character called scanner dog, which is a scanner, that’s also a dog and it’s running away so it can have an original life not just copying all the time. And the other one is Joybot, that’s this really happy robot that steals people's wives.
S: Who should we ask for the next art bag project?
K: Oooo that’s a loaded question. Could I come back on that one?
Cookie heads up! If we could we'd call 'em biccies & we'd be dunking 'em in coffee, but sadly these bad boys are virtual & non-edible.