Striving to achieve the caliber of talent shown by printed Threadless artists, Budi Satria Kwan dedicated himself to learning Photoshop and improving his illustrations. The hard work finally paid off; the artist, who once considered becoming an engineer, has since been printed countless times and is a well-known and highly respected member of the Threadless community. Known more commonly as Radiomode, he’s now offering his worldwide fans even more of his colorful, surreal work through this brand new Threadless Artist Shop. Read on to learn more about the artist, and check out his Artist Shop here!
Hi, Budi. Welcome to Artist Shops! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a full time illustrator from Indonesia and work from the convenience of my home. A huge part of my time is about working on self-initiated illustrations rather than commissioned work. My designs are usually surreal, or simple and colorful. They are singular, framed by empty space around it.
You’ve been a longtime submitter to Threadless. How did you get your start as an artist?
It started when I was in school and Threadless had a huge part in it; I started to illustrate because of Threadless. At first, it was about the desire to win, but I soon found out that the design level of those submitting to Threadless was beyond me. This gave me the motivation to learn and push myself so I could be in level with other designers that I admired at Threadless. It was not exactly an easy path and there were a lot of almost-giving-up moments. To see it as learning process was really important, because it ended up taking me years to bring myself to the same level as other designers at Threadless, as well as to win anything. Learning to use tools, like Photoshop, wasn’t difficult; the difficult part was acquiring the proper taste of good design and applying it objectively to designs that I made.
As a child, do you remember any moments specifically that really influenced you to follow a path into art?
My mom tells this story. While I was in kindergarten, my teacher called my mom. My school was conducting a test to select children that would represent the school for various art activities in the future. For the test, the teacher would tell a story and make the children create a drawing based on the story. In that small pool of 40 kids, I was selected. I guess after that, people treated me differently when it came to art activities. Anyway, according to my mother, she could not see how the drawing was better than other kids’. I can’t even remember what it looked like. I think it was something a la Cy Twombly.
Your aesthetic is so varied, including everything from whimsical cartoons to colorful landscapes to dark, edgier concepts. How did you manage to develop such a wide range?
Different ideas need different approaches. I simply choose the approach that I think will carry out the idea and message the best. Though I have a wide range, there is always something in each illustration that will tie back to me. I find that people who are used to seeing my illustrations can tell.
Would you mind taking us through your typical approach to creating new designs?
A design will start as a concrete idea. I decide in my mind how the image will look and what approach to take. Most of time I do my sketch in Photoshop. Depending on the approach, it may or may not involve working offline. Even when I work offline, since I know that the piece will be retouched in Photoshop, I create the illustration in layers.
Do you enjoy working by hand, or do you tend to rely more on digital tools?
I enjoy both methods, as different methods have different final outlooks. My designs slowly shifted to working by hand, then retouched digitally in Photoshop. Working by hand gives the designs a different texture and look that could never be achieved by working directly in digital.
If you had to name one point of inspiration that never fails you, what would it be?
Of all the designs you’ve ever created, what is your favorite and why?
Different designs have different challenges and each finished design has their own type of satisfaction. I am not able to pick one as a favorite.
Did you ever consider becoming anything besides an artist? If so, what?
In general, I love to do things that involve working with my hands to create a physical product. I wanted to become an engineer once and it did not work out.
Tell us: what’s the significance behind your alter ego, Radiomode?
Nothing in particular.
Any other shout-outs?
I want to thank Threadless for the opportunity. I hope the Threadless Artist Shops set up a new milestone in the print-on-demand market.