The work of OZBREN defies easy description or definition. The Bangkok-based artist has a portfolio full of grotesque characters with several eyes, locations, and things that appear like the after-effects of a bad trip. The process of deciphering OZBREN’s method, which often involves switching between Blender, Procreate, and Photoshop, adds even another layer of grandeur to the surrealism within his work. To create his psychedelic portraits and still lifes, he often manipulates, draws, and distorts his original models until they resemble uncanny figures.
“Sometimes I make stuff that I would consider beautiful, but a lot of the time it’s just some kind of hideous face. I just feel very comfortable making these grotesque figures with multiple eyes,” he shares. “I think I never really set out to be the guy who makes these kinds of scary, surreal, gross people but ended up doing that just because it felt like the right thing to do.”
In this interview, we had the pleasure of chatting with OZBREN to talk about some of the many topics that resonate with him, from how his environment subconsciously influences his work, traversing across different mediums of art, and advice for young artists and designers.
Tell us about your journey as a creative and how you got where you are today.
For a long time, I was focused more on graphic design. I started messing around with software when I was about 13, but it was just for fun back then. I started messing around with Photoshop and then took some breaks here and there, you know, wasn’t really focused on it. In my late teens, maybe like 18, I started getting back into it for graphic design, doing t-shirt design mock-ups and stuff like that. Then eventually, I started getting some freelance work which was fun. I enjoyed doing it for sure.
It was fun to learn all this stuff, but then eventually, I started learning 3D. That was very recently, actually, probably the end of last year or early this year. I just kind of distanced myself entirely from the whole graphic designer thing, and just started making art and just putting it out as art rather than design pieces. People really resonated with it and that’s what I’ve been doing since the start of this year.
What’s most important to you as an artist?
I think the most important thing is getting some kind of concept that I have in my head out and then into a visual piece. Usually, it goes pretty well. Sometimes it doesn’t go well. You know, sometimes you have an idea, and your brain just doesn’t transfer well to an art piece. Using 3D has enabled me to unlock a stream of consciousness. I usually just have some kind of idea of characters in a strange environment or some kind of strange concept, and then I’m able to transfer that using Blender and Photoshop and all this other stuff.
There’s a very strong aesthetic that runs throughout your work—some might call it strange while others may find it visually appealing. How would you best describe it?
I’m still trying to figure it out myself because it’s new for me as well. I can definitely see that there’s kind of a theme going on, and it feels natural. What I’m creating feels natural to put out there. Sometimes I make stuff that I would consider beautiful, but a lot of the time it’s just some kind of hideous face. I just feel very comfortable making these grotesque figures with multiple eyes. I think I never really set out to be the guy who makes these kinds of scary, surreal, gross people but ended up doing that just because it felt like the right thing to do.
Software-wise, what are some of the tools and techniques that you often utilize?
If I don’t sketch it, most of my work starts off in a blank Blender scene. Then I’ll kind of block things out to, you know, to achieve a rough outline of the scene that I want to have in 3D, then I’ll render that out. It’s usually a plain-looking render and then I’d say, right now about 70 to 80% of the work is done in Photoshop and Procreate. I’ll basically hop back and forth between Blender, Photoshop, and Procreate to get to the finished result. So it’s kind of just like back and forth between those three softwares right now.
How frequently do you explore new methods of creating or step outside of the box for inspiration?
Pretty often. Recently, I started kind of exploring painterly and scribbly abstract with Procreate. I don’t want to be stuck in one aesthetic. Some people do it really well and they build like an entire name out of it. There are some artists that only do one style, and they’re excellent at that, but that just can’t be me. I don’t have the patience or the endurance to do that. What I’m trying to do is have a body of work that is cohesive in the feeling that it gives you, but it’s not going to be cohesive in the style that I’m putting out there.
I mean, sometimes I want to go crazy with scribbles all over my work, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I want it to look super digital. So it’s more like the conceptual framework remains the same, and it’s always going to be some kind of trippy, weird character doing something. How it looks will often depend on like my mood, to be honest.
Going back to your personal life, you moved to Bangkok from the United Kingdom. Does your environment or where you live ever shape your approach to creating art?
I grew up in the countryside in England, in a kind of rural area where there was not much going on. Now, living in one of the biggest cities in the world, it’s just sensory overload. It’s definitely fueling my creativity, probably subconsciously, but that kind of surreal craziness and business that I try to portray in my work definitely comes from my surroundings. I will oftentimes walk around the city just to feel the kind of chaos that inevitably finds its way into the work for sure.
It’s awesome. Bangkok has a really great art scene and I make sure to go to a lot of galleries here. Pretty much every weekend, I’ll go to some gallery. There are a lot of independent galleries here as well. It’s super cool to see all of them. What they’ve got going on is really interesting. There are some insanely talented artists in Bangkok, it’s really inspiring.
Virginia-based musician Al-Doms is someone that you frequently work with. Can you tell me a bit more about creating work for other creatives versus creating for yourself?
They were super cool to work with because they kind of let me explore my own mind. Initially, they wanted me to create a cohesive body of work for them to kind of make it feel like the album covers were existing in the same universe. Bouncing ideas off them is really interesting and working with album covers is really fun. Luckily, for me, I’ve had a lot of really nice clients and people who kind of let me be free creatively. I know that there are other people that haven’t been so lucky, but with nearly every single client I’ve ever had, it’s always been a pleasure to work with.
Out of curiosity, what does the future of visual art look like to you when it comes to collaborating with celebrities and musicians?
I think naturally, creatives are slowly but surely getting themselves out there easily with social platforms and stuff. It’s easier to connect with artists all over the world now, and I don’t think that’s going to stop anytime soon. People will collaborate more and I think it’ll be a lot easier to work on projects. It already is a lot easier to work on projects, you don’t necessarily need a specific plan or anything like that. You just know a bunch of creatives that share some kind of vision, you can work on something, and I think that’s just going to become even more common.
Bringing things to a close, is there any advice you would give to young artists and designers in regard to establishing a style of their own?
In terms of building a following, I think that comes once you have a relatively coherent style. Then in terms of finding a style, that is something that I’ve struggled with massively. I think everyone does, and it took me years of experimenting to even stumble upon something that I thought might resemble a style. There’s this thing that I’ve got going on now that is relatively recent, in terms of how long I’ve actually been making digital art.
In terms of advice, just keep going until something clicks and you’ll make a lot of shit artwork that you look back on and think like, “Why did I ever do that?” But you’re never going to create something you’re extremely proud of, and something that you consider a masterpiece on your on your first go, you know? It’s gonna take hundreds and 1000s of attempts to get there.