Kiji McCafferty is a Japanese-born, New York-raised artist and graphic designer whose vivid work comes in all shapes and sizes, from intricate illustrations to large-scale painted murals. Before setting out to contribute to the Welling Court Mural Project in Queens with some of graffiti/street art’s most famous and recognizable names, Kiji sat down to describe what the day to day life of a working artist consists of.
AM: What materials do you use aside from your computer? Is there a palpable process to making something digitally for you, like hand sketching, or do you basically go from brain to screen?
KM: It really varies from project to project. I usually make thumbnails and notes in my sketchbook trying to utilize both my analog and digital tool chest as appropriately as possible. The computer does save me a lot of time, but only when smart decisions are made from the start. I always welcome happy accidents.
AM: Where and how do you draw inspiration from for your work? Are you one of those people who systematically writes down ideas in a notebook or keeps a folder on your computer of images you come across and want to consult later?
KM: I am pretty methodical about keeping sketches and compiling longstanding lists of notations. I have stacks of sketchbooks of all sizes. The drawings aren’t always great but the important thing is that it conveys the idea. I think it’s a great exercise to constantly be sketching. It allows you to have a healthy and immediate outlet from your mind’s eye to the real world.
AM: Are there any particular projects you are especially proud of and, conversely, anything you feel like you really flubbed at the beginning of your career that you wish you could do over?
KM: There’s no one project I’m overly proud of. I’m really critical of my own work and always look at a project in hindsight wondering how I could do it better the next time. There’s lots I could have done over, but all of it brought me to where I am now. I just try to keep a forward momentum; it seems like the healthiest means to success.
AM: What are the challenges of working from home for you?
KM: Some people think working from home would be fun. It’s definitely a double-edged sword. On one side, you have the freedom to set your own hours choose your projects and do what you want. On the other, you’re your own boss, accountant, project manager, negotiator and motivator. It’s a balancing act. I commend anyone that does it well. I sometimes miss working in a shared studio environment.
AM: Do you find it difficult to balance creating work for a living and creating work for pleasure/yourself and art shows?
KM: I’m not always hired for the same aesthetic. I think that versatility has made me a commercially viable illustrator. On the flip side, jumping back and forth between such vastly different aesthetics and processes can be a bit confusing sometimes. The work I make for a gallery setting usually has a bit more subtext both on a personal level and on a semiotic level. It’s a balancing act, but I think I’ve learned and grown very much by the contrast between the two.
AM: What is a typical day like for you?
KM: It’s pretty straightforward; up and at my computer around 9am with a coffee in hand. The first half of the day is a juggling act of doing revisions on an existing project, working on a current project and email correspondence. I cat nap, but all in all, it’s a labor of love. The best time for drafting and drawing is at night. I feel my hand is steadier and my mind is clearer, so once the sun sets, I usually shift over to the drafting table if I have the time. My day ends anywhere between 1am and 4am. The cycle repeats. I try to only do three days on this schedule before I spend a day or two on a lighter schedule.
AM: Any upcoming projects we should be on the look out for?
KM: There’s a bunch of stuff! A mural project organized by the people of Ad-Hoc in Queens called the Welling Walls. A group show at Yes Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with a bunch of my good friends. In July, the Electric Windows 2 project in Beacon, New York. Lots of fun stuff!
For more on Kiji check out his online portfolio at mrkiji.com.