Artist Kurt van der Basch on his sexy pride drawings and running

  Kurt van der Basch is a name that locals of the underground queer and art scene in Prague know well. LUI was lucky enough to catch up with Kurt and his busy…

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Kurt van der Basch is a name that locals of the underground queer and art scene in Prague know well. LUI was lucky enough to catch up with Kurt and his busy schedule. Check out our interview to hear about Kurt's incredible portfolio and why Prague is like glue to him!

How long have you been in Prague and how did you end up here?

I moved to Prague in 1999. I studied classical piano at university in Nova Scotia in Canada. I was teaching and working as an accompanist for opera students when I realised what I wanted most was to be an artist. A few months in Europe seemed like the thing to help me figure things out. A friend was teaching English in Prague and she wrote that living was cheap there (In '99 it still really was) and offered her couch till I got settled. I took her up on it and never left. Prague has glue in it. 

I agree with you about Prague. How did you get into art? What is your medium of choice?

I have always drawn since I was a really little kid. My mother would sit me at the table with a pencil instead of in front of the TV and I'd stay at it for hours. Later, I started painting in watercolour and other media, but for me pencil is the most natural. I try to make everything else feel like im working with a pencil. Lately, for work purposes, I've moved into digital media and I have asked some experts to help me configure my digital drawing devices so they look and feel as much like a real wood and lead pencil as possible. The result is difficult to distinguish from the real thing.  Nothing is lost, but all the speed of working digitally is gained. It's pretty amazing. 

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Bridge in Athens - Watercolour by Kurt van der Basch

Is there anything that you're particularly proud of?

In general, I'm proud of the fact that I have a nice career as an artist while being almost entirely self-taught. I travel to other countries to work on movies and do something I would actually be doing anyway as a hobby.  Specifically, I guess there's certain drawings and paintings I'm proud of; a drawing of a friend I did that I think is good and one watercolour that another friend in New York has. A portrait of my boyfriend that turned out well - also certain movies that I feel I did my best work on. Like Cloud Atlas and Serena which is coming out soon. 

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You seem to have worked on a lot of films... Do you have a favourite film that you worked on? I didn't know that you worked on Cloud Atlas until recently, this is one of my favourite films. What did you think of it? 

I'm glad to hear you liked it. I did too and it's one of my favourite films that I've worked on. I was part of a small group of people right at the beginning making visuals that the Wachowskis and Tykwer used to show to potential financiers to inspire them to invest. Then a year later i got a call saying its happening, come to Berlin. It was a really unusual and exciting production in every way. 

This past year I drew storyboards and concept art for Child 44 which is a Tom Hardy movie about a KGB officer tracking a serial killer in 50's Russia. I can't wait to see it I think it will be very good too.


Concept art for 'Cloud Atlas' by Kurt van der Basch

For those of us who don't know, what exactly is storyboarding? Tell us a little about it.

Really ahead of any other thing I do I'm a storyboard artist. A storyboard artist works with a director and makes fast drawings of the individual shots and sequences, this gives the director a sort of comic book version of the script to show the crew and makes it much easier to explain his vision for the film. Storyboards are useful for budgeting films and planning everything from stunts to digital effects to costumes etc etc etc. 


Storyboard for Cloud Atlas by Kurt van der Basch

I understand you also did some art for Prague Pride?

In 2012, just for fun I did a comic drawing for distribution of a sort of filthy alternative 'Pride' scene. A  tableau closer to what I suspect many people really experience here in Prague i.e. guys drinking and snorting coke and having sex in porta-loos in a crowd of drunk and trashy queens. It was meant to be subversive lighthearted fun, but it did annoy a few people who I guess would have preferred sober gays and lesbians holding hands.

And this year I teamed up with Mira Vales and his genius Berlin-esque club night Pioneer and made two exclusive illustrations for their Pride '13 events. One was a sort of sexy playful rethinking of the Czech coat of arms Lion and the other one was just freaky and hot. We made t-shirts that you can still see around sometimes. That was fun. I hope to get involved next year in a bigger way. 

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Pioneer Czech Coat of Arms by Kurt van der Basch

What are you currently working on?

I recently finished drawing storyboards on a nazi-zombie splatter movie Dead Snow :Red Vs Dead and I am currently in Berlin drawing storyboards on a Tom Hanks film Directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas) called A Hologram for the King - this will take me into January. After that I should start work on a Czech film. 

I understand you're a keen runner? What's your favourite place to run?

My favourite running was in Dublin when I worked on the TV series Vikings. There was a beach at a town called Bray with a cliffside path I'd run every morning before work. Tiergarten in Berlin is also beautiful and I really love my Prague route around Žižkov through Parukářka and Riegrovy sady. 

Have you ever ran any races? Marathons? Why do you like running? What kind of feeling does it give you?

I've run 2 marathons and many half-marathons. I like having an event to train for to keep me a bit disciplined. Working film hours which are often 11-12 hours a day, my morning run may be the only time I'm outside the office so I try to maintain it.  The feeling of completing a long distance run that you have trained for months for is difficult to describe. 

What do you do in Prague to relax? 

I love going to movies. I almost always go alone in the afternoon and usually sit near the front. I also like concerts, opera and ballet and I happily go alone to these things too. I like to go out to eat. My boyfriend Rene is a chef at U Maliru so I go there when I can. Otherwise I hang out at Cafe Erra which I think is the best little gay place in Prague. 

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What is your favourite place in Prague?

There's a few. I love Olšanská Cemetery. I live nearby and  go there to walk a lot. I always visit a good friend who was buried there and then all the fabulous 19th century Tombs - some of them in such a run down state you can literally see the coffins inside them. I like to pretend I'm Emily Dickenson in a black woolen cape and recite poetry to myself. 

I understand that, I even saw some bones there recently!

Another place is the Anezska Convent gallery which no one goes to. Miles of gothic art and virtually always empty. It's wonderful. A new favourite is the 'Slav Epic' gallery at the Národní at Veletržní Palac. Its amazing. I've been several times now and always see something new. Mucha was so ahead of his time. This is graphic novel illustration made 100 years ago. 

If you could draw or paint a picture of yourself, what would it look like? How would you portray your character? 

Like this:

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Self Portrait in pencil 2011 by Kurt van der Basch

What are your plans for the near future? Will you stay in Prague?

Near future for me will be running Vienna Half-marathon and Berlin full marathon and hoping the phone rings again with more work. One of my goals this year is completing a comic book project I started. And maybe starting another if I can find the right writer. I'll be in Berlin for a while, but mostly Prague. I'd like to get home to Nova Scotia for a visit too.

For more art and information about Kurt, please visit his website.


Rene in pencil 2012 by Kurt van der Basch