In illustrations by Bali-based artist Kyla Callista you're likely to spot her heart-shaped protagonist who acts not only as a recurring character, but a symbol of her approach to the medium. “I always try to come from that secret place where I meditate and just be in the presence of love before I start sketching something,” Kyla tells It’s Nice That.
Deciding never to create art “that doesn’t come from love” or could appear or if it’s “just pleasing to the eyes without checking what the root of my intentions are,” thoughts feelings and intentions are the regular starting points for the artist. “Even when I feel at my lowest,” she says, “I still want love to get all the glory and be the focus.”
Though she's had a creative side for a while, Kyla started taking illustration seriously at the beginning of the pandemic. “I started illustrating as a way to communicate what’s in my heart and chose to work more with pencils on paper as my main medium when I started this artwork series called Love From The Heart,” she explains. “My favourite thing about it is that I can always look at my drawings to feel encouraged and allow it to sprout new-born hope. It was very honest and fruitful to me. Choosing illustration as a way to communicate opened so many new doors that I never expected to happen before.”
Now still exploring working with pencil on paper, also finding it has a timeless and therapeutic effect on her, “I’m excited and hopeful for what’s prepared in store.”
Growing up in Bali gave Kyla the opportunity to experience a multitude of different cultures. “From Sabang to Merauke,” she says, a phrase used when referring to the breadth of Indonesia’s cultures and regions. “I was always curious about what the outside world was like. In my head, I always felt the need to go outside the country after high school from a very young age.” By 18, she made a move to Berlin and worked odd jobs, finding some luck with creative jobs somewhere in-between.
“I experienced so much in the city, everything was new and refreshing to me,” Kyla reflects now. “In Berlin, it's almost like you can be whatever you want to be. It’s so different compared to where I’m from.” Although kickstarting her current practice a little later, the artist now views this time as a period “when I started to express myself freely in a way that felt natural but new at the same time, actively touching my creative side,” she says. “I was making posters for club nights or videos for my friends' music, even videos for church events and flyers,” she adds, speaking on the beginning of her creative journey.
Looking back even further, she tells us about the two things that catalysed her creativity: mid-2000s Tumblr and graffiti. “My love for art intensely increased when I first discovered Tumblr in 2008 at an internet café that I often went to after school. I was 12 back then,” she says. “After going on Tumblr, a few of my friends and I went around the city with scooters at midnight doing tags and learning how to do graffiti to make content for my Tumblr. The tagging didn’t last long for me, my parents discovered soon after.”
With all of this experience in mind, Kyla is now working on her first children’s book, with plans of animating the result. “Less of me and more of love,” she says, repeating her mantra. It’s hard not to be infected by her positivity. “Even when it seems like that there’s no way, love will split the sea for you,” she concludes.
Kyla Callista: Love From The Heart (Copyright © Kyla Callista, 2020)
About the Author
Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.