Stian Simensen aka ‘Astrosim’ aka ‘Kvistbaal’ is a Norwegian artist gaining a strong and loyal following thanks to his work ethic, varied styles and unique eye.
Stian gained his initial foray into art like many of us – through a childhood exposed to pop culture and music. After stepping back from art for most of his 20’s, he emerged as an artist with an eye for detail, the macabre and that all important sense of narrative.
(Picture below of some digital art by Stian)
With a whole new series of works ready to be debuted under the ‘Kvistbaal’ moniker and new art constantly being revealed, now is the perfect time to get to know Stian by reading the Art Talk below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Stian Simensen, November 1976.
(Picture below of some art by Stian)
City, State n Country your from?
I was born in Oslo but my parents moved to Hønefoss when i just a tiny tiny baby.
City, State n Country you currently call home?
I live with my wife and two girls in a town called Hønefoss, Norway.
Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, girls, school, crime… ANYTHING man.
* age 5 – beginnings:
We lived in my grandmothers house, my brother was one year old.
My parents bought a house and we moved the next year.
(Pictures below of Stian as a child)
* age 10 – continuations:
Me and my buddies have always been passionate about music, we where a small group of tight knit friends that grew up in the same area. We used to hang out and skate, listen to music and watch movies.
In the beginning we cut our teeth on Iron Maiden, AC/DC and such, later we gravitated more towards the harder spectrum of metal.
We sat around trying to copy stuff from comics and books, it was good times, just buddies hanging out talking shit and having fun.
* age 15 – getting serious:
I was (and still is) way into horror movies, tried to draw the monsters and creatures I was seeing on the screen with more or less varied results.
Around that time the first wave of Norwegian black metal started popping up, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Emperor and Immortal to name some of the first. I was fascinated and it was a natural progression for me. I think the gritty and brutal feel of the music had a huge impact and has been a huge inspiration in my work up until this day.
I remember me and some friends hopped on the buss to Oslo and bought records at the now infamous Helvete store, this was before the church burnings and the murders. Euronymous from Mayhem ran the store and lived there (he was later killed by Varg Vikernes).
I remember we got into the shop and the first thing we saw was a guy sitting in what looked like a old livingroom chair with a sawed off table leg club, we where intimidated to put it mildly, I think stuff like this made it even more fascinating to us.
(Picture below of Stian as a teen painting faces)
* age 20 – young adult:
I did a tour in Bosnia with the Norwegian Army, all you could do was be on guard duty or patrols, train, eat, sleep and draw. When I got home I just quit doing anything art related, over the next 10 years I only did the occasional piece now and then.
(Picture below of Stian in army mode)
* age 25 – adult mode:
Working all the time, going to the pub every weekend with friends.
* age 30 – fully formed:
When I reached my 30’s I rediscovered my love for making art myself, I started up drawing frequently and I got in touch with my creative side again.
My wife has always been supportive of my art and given me the space to pursue my passion for it.
These days I draw all the time, my girls (4 and 5 years old) love drawing too and it’s my mission in life to support that spark of creativity. We can spend hours together just doodling and drawing unicorns and princesses.
I come form a creative family and my parents never tried to kill that creativity off (thanks mom and dad!), I want to pass that on to my kids.
(A recent picture of Stian and one of his children, below)
“Don’t be a asshole!”
I’m one of those people who thinks a friendly attitude towards others and a smile goes a long way.
I have a varied and very diverse music taste.
Anything from oldschool norwegian blackmetal and punk to Exploding Plastix and Frank Zappa.
Music is a huge part of my life and a constant source of inspiration, I always have something playing when I create art, my wife tells me I can’t do anything without music haha, and I think that might be true. I’d go absolutely mad without it.
(Picture below of a ‘Tittybats‘ tribute sketch by Stian)
Favorite TV show(s)?
Old scifi/horror, cartoons, anime.
I love the old Outer Limits and twilight Zone stuff, Hannibal is a good current show. GOT, American Horror Story, anything horror related.
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
I used to pay attention to sports when I was a kid but i never fancied football as much as the other kids, kind of lost interest with age, never had a favorite team.
We used to skate a lot back in the day so I always had the newest skate VHS tapes.
Tenebrae, Suspiria, Day of the dead, Fargo, Raiders, Taxi Driver, the first Matrix, The Beyond.
One of my favorite directors is Dario Argento, we visited his shop Profondo Rosso when we where there on our honeymoon. My wife went back there last year and got Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash, contamination) to sign a bunch of his books for me, yeah she’s awesome!
I was raised on 80’s horror and action movies, there is special place in my heart for that stuff.
Favorite books and comics?
I love Hitchhiker’s guide, fantasy and horror. Clive barker, Stephen King…
When it comes to comic books/graphic novels I’m a big fan of Alan Moore stuff. One of my favorite comic book artists is Brian Bolland, the Dredd/2000ad things he did is mint! Not to mention the killing joke book he did with Moore.
I’m reading a lot of Manga books now, refreshing with a different take on things.
Why the names ‘Astrosim’ and ‘Kvistbaal’?
The name Astrosim goes way back to the early days of the internet, we used to use irc to talk to each other and you had to have a handle/username on there.
Astrosim is a combination of Astroboy (from the manga) and my last name.
Kvistbaal (Twigfire in norwegian) is a alter ego for some future projects so keep a lookout.
(Picture below of some mural work done by Stian and his brother Henrik)
Favorite other artist(s)?
Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Dave Rapoza, Kim Jung Gi, Giger, Hajime Sorayama there are to many to metion, and instagram is filled with amazing people.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
Shitty negative people so hell bent on “making” it they would gladly step over corpses to get ahead.
The people who steal other peoples hard work trying to make a profit.
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
The art community.
Feedback from fans, and like minded artists.
The positive creative people that makes me want to get better at what I do.
And to be honest I love seeing people wearing my shirts, having my stuff on their walls, it’s fuel for the fire!
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
When I do projects or proper personal pieces yeah I do, when it’s doodles and stuff like that it’s just stuff… Most of that ends up in the recycling bin.
(Picture below of some digital art by Stian)
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, paintings, anything)?
I guess in my teens, when I started planning out things and having a thought behind what I was making and doing.
What did you draw as a pre-teen child?
Comicbook stuff, Donald Duck and that sort of thing, He-Man, Gi Joe.
What did you draw as a teen?
Mostly Horror stuff, Giger was a huge inspiration in the beginning.
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
I think it just sort of evolved on it’s own, it’s been a slow and steady process after I got back into the “game”.
If anything I think it’s been my wife’s supportive presence and me having space to do my art again.
Just seeing what others can do is a constant source of inspiration to evolve myself.
(Picture below of a sketch by Stian)
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
It was just a side effect of showing my stuff to people, when they wanted to buy things from me I started uploading to Redbubble and Society 6.
It was much more practical and cost efficient doing it that way in the beginning, seeing as I live in Norway the postal prices and shipping times to other parts of the world made it cost me money or barely breaking even when selling art.
Describe the method of making a Stian Simensen work? (dot point all o.k.)
* your traditional art and sketches?
Regular cheap copy paper, pencils (hb-2b-6b), paper blender stumps and kneaded erasers.
Depends a bit, if it’s a portraits of actual people I study the reference and block in the major shapes and features before going into detail.
(Pictures below of some sketches by Stian)
* your digital work?
Fire up the old computer and Corel Painter.
I used to use photoshop 7 but switched to painter because it feels more natural to me.
When I started I used a mouse but I’m on a Wacom Tablet these days.
What was it like being featured in ole Lance Renone’s book ‘Artists of Instagram’ – as both a subject and cover artist?
It was a blast! And social media (instagram) made that possible for me.
Lance is such a productive person, I think he’s got something cooking at all times.
It was a great pleasure taking part in that project with a number of other talented people, and him picking my illustration as the cover was awesome!
Wouldn’t mind doing more stuff like that in the future.
(Picture below of the digital version of Renone‘s ‘Artists of Instagram’ book, with cover art by Stian)
Odds n Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood?
For us that was the world, we didn’t have any computer games or video game consoles back then.
We had plastic figures and imagination!
Me and my brother used to have EPIC battles with our He-Man toys, I still remember we got Castle Greyskull one christmas. Pure mayhem! ZOIDS, Gi-Joe, Battle Beasts and even M.A.S.K, that stuff was the shit!
Who was your 1st crush and why?
I think it was Carole Bouquet from the James Bond movie “For your eyes only” I’m a bit fuzzy on this one haha
Does sex change everything?
(Picture below of some digital ‘Die Antwood‘ tribute art by Stian)
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I think it had something to do with a tsunami and a massive lightning storm, my dream recollection is terrible.
Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
I have lost a few friends to them over the years, people are the masters of their own destiny and I am not one to judge them for it.
Please describe what you think the Norwegian Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
Well, we are known as a nation of introverts.
“Don’t stick your head out too far” seems to be the general tone.
We have some “famous” artists but they are more known for their persona than art, I’m holding off on spritzing my artwork in champagne and painting with my ass, at least for now 😉
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Got some projects going at the moment, some band works, posters and stuff.
I’m always up for a collaboration, love bouncing stuff around with other artists!
Any major projects you want to hype man?
Go follow my instagram and check out my “The random art of astrosim” page on facebook.
Thanks for doing this art talk with me mate!
Always a pleasure
(Picture below of some digital art by Stian)
Astrosim – Facebook
Astrosim – Instagram