justART! Kalin Thompson and Jeff Burgess

Interview by Jenkin Au & Alan Ng
Words by Hasan Hamze
Photography by Jenkin Au


The justalilhype! Crew had a chat with artists Kalin Thompson and Jeff Burgess. These two artists have a unique style, with one using more straight lines and the other diving into colours and characters. Art had always been in their blood – it emerged as the ultimate procrastination tool while in school and also as the best cure for ADD for them. Through our conversation, it was discovered that this quasi partnership that exists between them was formed through Kalin’s appreciation of Jeff’s creativity and art. Feigning for more, Kalin and Jeff both fed off each other’s creativity and dedication to art to create even greater pieces. Read on for more on Kalin and Jeff.

Tell us about yourself.

Kalin: I grew up on the east coast and I spent a lot of time playing outside, taking in the world. I think, more than anything, that played the largest role in shaping who I am today – always observing and enjoying everything around me. So, naturally, to reshape the world with my mind and recreate it for myself has never been a big stretch.

Jeff: I grew up in Saskatchewan. Coming from a city surrounded by farm communities and small towns, I wasn’t able to find a lot of the culture I craved while growing up. Cartoons, comics, and most importantly graffiti gave me my fix. Knowing Vancouver to be such a creative and chill city, I naturally made my way west.

Where do you think that initial spark of inspiration to start drawing came from?

K: I don’t know, man. I’ve always been kind of a wild kid. The only time I can pay attention and focus is when I was doing art, and I think in those cases, my wildness was focused onto the page. Energy isn’t created or destroyed, just changed, you know? That sort of thing.

J: The spark has always been there. I’ve known nothing else so it’s tough to say where it began. Though, I have to credit nature, because in the earliest years it’s what fascinated me to no end. I’d sit there and reproduce on paper my representations of all these animals and dinosaurs.

Can you tell us about this quasi partnership that the both of you have?

K: I kind of take credit for just discovering Jeff. I was doing my own thing and starting to really focus on the more business aspects of this shit, just building myself up. We crossed paths at a live painting charity function and I was blown away by his line style. I was like, “Wow, this guy draws a thousand times better than me! That could be helpful.” Now I think it’s more mutual – we drive each other to do better. I’m more like the work horse and he’s the creative power.

J: It’s a sick dynamic. Kalin definitely helped me realize my talent. I’ve always been quite modest and lacking in confidence at times. Kalin is definitely able to hit me with some of that crazy energy he’s always packing. When we get started on things we definitely have the same mentality towards art and the creative process, which makes working with him almost like second nature.

Have you worked on any collaborative projects together before?

J: A few, but as for actual “works”, we just have one collaboration painting in progress. The other stuff is more illustration based. I promise you some mind-blowing collabos are on the horizon. We just need to feed off each other’s energy and push one another more, we have short attention spans.

In what part of your mind do these un-earthly creatures come from?

K: They have to come from somewhere I guess… just parts of the world we take in and reproduce. It’s tough to say where they come from directly – for me, I think its all just subconscious feedback of some kind.

J: The creatures and monsters themselves, definitely straight from my whack imagination. A lot of people think I do psychedelics, but I don’t. I do have to say that what my imagination produces correlates with my life experiences as well as my environment, music, and mood. I’m a bit of a chameleon of sorts.

Rather than your life inspiring your art, how has your art inspired yourself?

K: Patience. It’s taught me to have it with myself and with others. Not everything can be accomplished quickly or perfectly. You have to be flexible otherwise you won’t make it a week.

J: That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from art recently as well; if you take your time on anything, it’s going to come out great and you can’t rush it. You have got to trust your instincts and go slow.

What is the longest time you’ve spent on a project?

K: Like I said before I’m kind of a workhorse. I don’t really like to work on more than one project at a time. It may only take me a few days to finish something but for those few days its all day everyday, balls to the wall. I think around 40 hours is the longest I’ve ever spent on a project and I finished it in about 3 and half days.

J: When I was in school for 3D and digital art I would spend upwards of 70 hours on some projects, sometimes to still be disappointed in the result. I have high standards but can also say that a work of art, in my mind, could take you an entire lifetime only to not have completed it. I have trouble finding a complete state in the things I do.

Many artists actually choose to not see any other type of art because they want to keep their stuff original. But at the same time, you don’t know what’s actually out there and you might duplicate that. What is your insight on this?

K: We’re both pretty much self taught for the most part, so I learn almost exclusively from other artists. My style is a conglomerate of everything out there that catches my interests. I think that’s part of the reason why we like working with each other, we enjoy each other’s work so we can help each other build.

J: It’s impossible not to admire and be influenced by other artists. Even if you don’t see an artist’s art, someone out there is creating things similar to you. It’s only a matter of time before you discover them. For many artists, following suit in another artists shadow is a major step for them to find their own way/style. It’s a cycle.

What do you see are the main differences between institutional art and art that’s learned on one’s own?

J: I’ve had a little bit of both, and I think a little bit of both has it’s perks.

K: I have mixed feelings on this one. I guess, to avoid some rambling, i have to just say it depends on your teachers and your attitude.

J: If you’re self taught you probably won’t experiment as much once you start producing things you are into. Whereas I feel institutions tend to enforce techniques and methods that cause you to wonder out of your comfort zone which is beautiful. All in all it depends on the individual’s level of self-discipline when comparing with self-teaching.

K: I think these days, institutional art is really conceptual to some point. Especially UBC, their classes really push the mental game and not so much the aesthetics. Not to say that’s bad, it just doesn’t cater to what I’m trying to do.

Where do you see street art evolving and progressing in the near future?

K: I think it’s pretty huge already but i think in the near future art is gonna take over design. You can already see trends that support customization of everything. Custom kicks, custom hoodies (points to the hoodie displayed in the background that has a zip in canvas) everything is moving in that direction.

J: I think it’s just going to get more and more experimental, and then, like anything, branch into different sub-genres of street art. Someone drawing a little line with a pencil, on a wall anywhere outside, is a statement, its street art.

Where do you see your art in the near future?

K: Just doing more business. Maybe getting into the digital stuff because that’s where a lot of jobs are moving. I’m thinking that if I want to market my stuff, it’s got to be digital. There are no more old fashioned ways anymore, you know?

J: I’m such a jack of trades, master of none. I would like to invest the time and patience in developing more into one particular niche. Possibly bring my fringe characters into a 3D world, something I havn’t seen a lot of artists do. Or maybe I’ll start taking up tattooing, there’s a million and one ways I could go with my art, but in the near future I need to specialize.

What is HYPE?

K: Getting stoked for something you know is gonna be good. The next big thing. Like Christmas but all year!

J: To me HYPE a challenge, it’s one thing to have HYPE, and another to prove it.