"In the end every image has its own purpose, a tapestry that shows the history of an important battle."
Kristoff Cold, known by most as Chris Cold is 29 and a freelance artist, mostly doing concept work and illustration for various projects. He is originally from eastern Europe, a country called Belarus, where he grew up and went to school. After school he dropped out of college and moved around a bit, sometimes for work. Around 5 years ago he met his girlfriend and moved to Spain where he is living currently. As a child Kristoff Cold was actually not that interested in art, he would sketch and doodle sometimes, as every kid does. He was somewhat interested in creative things though, which maybe later manifested in painting and illustration. It wouldn’t be until he was 18 years old that he would begin doing or even considering anything serious with it, and much later when it became a vision to make it a career.
Kristoff can't say what it is about art styles that attract people. He does get told a lot that his style is apparently unique enough or recognizable enough that people seem to like it just for that fact. Otherwise, it's probably a mix of darker fantasy and sci-fi themes that his fans like the most, as that's also what is most interesting to him in visual mediums.
The main highlights, especially career-wise, would be the projects or the clients he’s worked with. Such as for Magic the Gathering or the concept work he did for Riot's animated videos. As a concept artist the majority of his professional work is bound to the releases and copyrights of the projects, so he doesn't have a neat way of simply showing it. Otherwise, he would keep his portfolio up to date and anything new that got released would be he eventually add to it.
Kristoff Cold shares an incredible gift with his fans and viewers. The gift of imagining and creating a world of fantasy and wizardry through his spectral pieces. He is an inspiration for an entire genre of artists, artists who participate in more of a fantastical world, whether they be illustrators or writers. When admiring his pieces, rapidly stories comes to life in the back on one’s mind and elaborate themselves on their own, stories of a somewhat parallel world. Kristoff has the skill and the passion for his skill to transport us to worlds way beyond our world.
Q. What role does the Artist have in society?
A. Historically, a very different one than the one the artist occupies in modern day. Nowadays no commercial project is ever done without some sort of artist or designer being involved (and of course other types of non-visual artists, like musicians and composers, writers, performing artists, etc). Art has become less of a luxury like it was in the past, right now it's not just the church or nobility who have the resources to commission artists, and the reason for it is mainly due to general prosperity but also projects needing an audience to connect with to make them viable and easier to market.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. I'm not sure how to identify the "best" one, but I can tell you the most memorable one. I was maybe 12 or so, it was around my grandparent's small town in a rural area, and a huge thunderstorm was gathering during a hot summer evening. The entire sky was pretty much black even though normally there would still be some sunlight left. I was with a friend and both of us were on bikes going home just as lightning began striking. The main thing I remember is how bright the lightning strikes were despite them being so far away and that it took several seconds for the thunder to reach us. That delay is what stuck with me the most.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. My dreams and aspirations probably changed a lot, I distinctly remember wanting to be a novelist or writer of some sort, because that's the creative pass-time I was indulging myself in instead of doing homework for school. But when I did finally start doing art, and in particular digital art, I did want to make it my job, at the time I just didn't know if it was possible, or even how.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I don't really know, there were some sketches and drawings I did when I was little, like the kind parent's hang on the fridge, but don't think those count. The very first artwork I did when I chose to be serious about it is still on my Deviant Art account, and it's basically a rendition of a space nebula and stars.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. Last years of high school made me really depressed about the state of my life and what to do with myself. I wasn't particularly interested in any job opportunities that were on the table for me, and I was actually more interested in the scientific subjects like physics and math, which in the end made me go study computer science and programming but it was also when I began experimenting more with art and digital art.
It was mainly all those cool fantasy wallpapers and backgrounds that you could get on the internet, they were just so different and vivid compared to most of the art you learn about in art class or whatever, so that was probably the main draw for me, to be able to create something similar, and then I just started trying it out.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. Well, the personal work that I do is sometimes completely different from the project work and commissions that I'm hired to do, so my portfolio and galleries are mixed in that regard, as in, sometimes I post something that's quite different from what I normally do and sometimes it's even stronger than my average creepy imagery. I'm usually into the darker and more evil things that the mind can manifest, though, not quite horror (which some people confuse. I guess I was always attracted to those kinds of stories/movies/games that it became what I wanted to do myself. In the end, whatever I'm trying to express is better expressed through the art anyway, and hopefully no amount of text will match the images I produce, otherwise I probably should have become a writer.
Q. What medium(s) do you work with?
A. Right now I primarily do digital art. It used to vary for me, and sometimes I still sketch with pencils, but as a job it is just more efficient to do it all in digital anyways. It's faster and cleaner that way, and I can do quality control way easier (like for example if a client needs some colors to change, or to add something, I can handle that with ease). It's also good to have everything in one place and not make a mess or not waste time on setting things up, I turn on the tablet and can start painting.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. In school I was one of the "troubled kids" by definition, though I'm not sure if it was because of a personality trait, but I used to write satirical short stories about the teachers and print them out for my classmates, that didn't go well. As an adult I'm picky about food and stuff, I can't stomach cheap friends who want me to go out with them to a low-quality place. But it's more of an inconvenience than trouble, I just convince them to go to a more expensive restaurant even if I'm the one inviting. I guess in some way I come across as eccentric or introverted because of it, but I do enjoy going out.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. In total I have only gained, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it, or not for that long at least. If there was anything that I may have sacrificed for it I would consider it of benefit too, because it must have been needed to give up in order to do what I'm doing right now.
Q. Who are your biggest influences, are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. The very first artist I remember, whose work pushed me to make the initial step in the direction I'm going now, was Greg Martin. He was doing a lot of space art and cosmic scenery pieces which opened up a whole new genre for me that I hadn’t considered, because you don't see that in museums. All of that was basically during the time when the Hubble telescope and the pictures it took were getting lots of traction and inspiring people and artists.
Then after a while I began digging into the career opportunities of an artist and what can actually be done with art, and I stumbled on the work of Craig Mullins, who was basically one of the pioneers of digital art and drawing tablets for artists. There are definitely many others who I admire and whose work inspires me daily, but those two were the ones who felt like they pushed me in the right direction.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Not lonely enough, for me at least. Sometimes I wish I had 2 weeks where I would just be shut in to focus on an important and big project, and then get back to my normal life. Otherwise, I don't think it's any different from the rest, I go out just like any other person and I do whatever normal things normal people do ... like, I don't know, attend secret cult gatherings on weekends?
Q. Apart from your art, what do you love doing?
A. Creative writing comes second. I find it inseparable from most complex projects, whether I'm talking to another writer or I need to better understand the narrative or guidelines, it all comes in handy.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. I'm not sure how to answer that, I don't really have anything that resembles a solid mantra or philosophy that I stick to. I guess if I had to say, in the end every image has its own purpose, be it just a book cover that needs to show the title and the main character, or a tapestry that shows the history of an important battle. To figure it out is the job of an artist (a visual one at least). As a profession, the artist solves the problem of figuring out what the specific purpose of the artwork is, and what they actually need to show in the image. Sometimes it can be as simple as just looking pretty, sometimes it must have a deeper message, but if you can't figure that out, then no style or detail will help you.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. I'd say for professional success it's just being able to make a living without overworking yourself to death. That's a low bar, and I don't think too much to ask, but I know a lot of artists struggle with it. Maybe going a step further to say, success as an artist is when you can pick and choose which work you want to do and which you can refuse, and deciding yourself on how much you want to get paid for it.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. Communication is one of the most vital skills in pretty much any creative or intellectual field, sometimes even more so than the exact skill your craft is named by. As a non-native English speaker who had to learn the language, I can't imagine doing the work I'm doing if I couldn't communicate. I would say most art directors would consider somebody with lower skills in art, over someone who is painting like a god but can't talk with the team or constantly misunderstands things. Language is the most basic form of sharing information from one person to another, so if that's lacking then every other skill you have will suffer from it, because in the end every profession is about understanding what kind of problem somebody else has and fixing it for them if you have the other required skills.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. I'm not sure if it was a direct advice or just a realization, at least I can't pinpoint who told me or how I figured it out. But basically, doing two things is working out for me: 1. Doing something related to my profession every day (literally without skipping a day), even if it's something small like taking out a pencil and drawing a simple face on a notepad. And 2. Thinking about the process of it. Often when I get a new commission or assignment for some project, I often just actively think about what I'd do with it while doing whatever else, the dishes, or just going to buy some groceries. It helps put things in order so that when I finally sit down to do the work, I have a better idea of where to start.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. I'm not that old to give any advice to the next generation, maybe somebody 20 years older would be more appropriate for that. Of course in an ideal world and circumstances, if I were to recommend becoming an artist for a living, I would say you should start as early as possible, it does have a steep learning curve, and early results/progress may leave you discouraged. I only got interested in it by the end of high school, and I consider that to be rather late. There are artists who by the time they turn 20 already reach a professional level, but it's because they were drawing things for fun as kids and got into it as a strong hobby when they were teenagers and it just went from there. Don't lose hope though, if you're a young person who is unsure whether an artist can make a living or not (or if you parents think you should do something else), I guess I can at least reassure you that the industry that requires illustrators and concept designers is just beginning to grow. Everything from games to movies, from posters to book covers, and whatever else, all of that needs artists. Even in some bleak distant future where all jobs are taken over by robots, art will be the last thing to go, so you can at least rest easy knowing that your skills will remain relevant for the longest time, provided you keep working on them.