Meet Kildren, the visual artist who found healing from heartbreak through creating BTS portraits

Meet Kildren, the visual artist who found healing from heartbreak through creating BTS portraits

You'll never know where heartbreak could take you. In the case of Kildren, it brought him to BTS.

The Korean visual artist, who draws energy from the power of music, has grown from his early days of paint-stained fingers, experimenting with oils and acrylics, to exploring the world of digital art. He takes his brush onto the canvas to bring out expressions printed on the faces of K-Pop idols and western acts from the pop and hip-hop scenes, adding brightly colored strokes and tiny doodles to his work.

His gorgeous art has now led him to work with BTS. As part of Sideshow's Fine Art Prints series, Kildren created the stunning BTS: Love Yourself portraits. Bandwagon caught up with the Korean artist to talk about his story, influences, and what it's like being ARMY.


Tell us about where you grew up, and how you first became attracted to art and music?

KILDREN: I was born and raised in Korea, and I studied abroad in Japan. From a young age, I began to draw naturally under the influence of my father, who worked in art. My family, especially my older sisters, also influenced my attitude to art by the pop music that was always playing in our house.

What are some of your greatest influences, and your favorite visual artists?

KILDREN: I am influenced by all the artists who create, play and perform songs that inspire me, regardless of country or genre. Right now, of course, I listen to BTS' music the most because I am an ARMY and am working on BTS official collaborations.

I admire the visual artists who left behind a great legacy, I especially love Van Gogh and Rodin.

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How do you decide what to create when coming up with themes for your personal artwork and your solo exhibitions?

KILDREN: Since I don't open solo exhibitions often, I focus on the paintings I want to see. The work I need for my own development and happiness, and the collaborations I can have with others. When my work is piled up like that, I tend to collect and display paintings that are faithful to the sensibility of the times, or have a mood or tone that I want to show.

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How would you define your signature artistic style? Can you tell us a little about how you developed it?

KILDREN: It is imagination and sensibility expressed through pictures, and starting from music. The effort and expression of someone who wants to help the world with my talents.

It is a mise-en-scène in which music and art are fused naturally, while I am studying and teaching painting, design, and sculpture. My art is being created while I am also working with the public and carrying out all of the research and study necessary at the same time.

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What type of media do you prefer to work with? Some of your paintings are impressively large – Do you prefer to work in a larger scale? 

KILDREN: Until my 30s, I had been working exclusively with traditional painting methods, utilizing various materials such as oils and acrylics. Over the past two years, I have been self-taught in digital-based art and have been combining traditional painting methods and digital tools. I am still studying.

The scale of my art varies according to the painting style. Until 10 years ago, I worked on relatively small paintings, but since my work does not have the energy of its own when it is small, I mainly focus on large paintings. There is always a desire for a larger, and even larger painting. Such a huge painting could contain the narrative of the world!

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How did you get involved in creating art related to music? 

KILDREN:  I don't know if it's innate or hard work or both, but I think it's probably both because I can't live without music. I used to be in a rock band, and I also pre-monitor new K-pop songs.

When you listen to music, you can see the rhythm and feel the emotion. I express what I feel and see in each song beautifully through paintings. I combine that inspiration with the knowledge I have studied. Movies, landscapes, animals, and human figures are all the same.

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What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? 

KILDREN:  All genres are beautiful in their own way. I listen to everything from extreme metal to CCM to Buddhist music. The beauty and inspiration of each song itself is important.

What have been some of your favorite collaborations with musicians? 

KILDREN:  A few years ago, while going through a breakup and a painful family history, I unconsciously drew BTS and healed myself, and naturally I became an ARMY. The great impacts of those paintings at the time also mean a lot to me. I love and am grateful to BTS, HYBE, and ARMY.

All the relationships, the affection, and the energy naturally led me to ARMY. I have collaborated with many famous K-pop musicians, but now I am concentrating on BTS. I find music collaboration is the most enjoyable with BTS. They inspire me and give me clear energy.

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Where do you see your career headed in the future? What are your dreams for next steps?

KILDREN: I want art to live not as a means, but as a purpose of life itself. 

I don't think much about my future career. However, as I continue to improve and grow (as I have been doing for 40 years), I try to be a sincere artist and an educator because we are all imperfect as human beings. I just do my best in my work. 

My only goal is to leave beneficial works in the world that will remain forever for future generations. I believe that if I go towards that goal, everything else I want to achieve will come true.

BTS and Sideshow Collectibles teamed up for a series of fine art prints, deluxe statues, and more. Get it here.