I’ve just had the pleasure of interviewing Kari-Lise Alexander for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine’s website! Was an absolute pleasure to sit down and chat with her while she was in Melbourne for her solo show. Below is a quick snippet of the beginning of the interview, and the rest you can find here!
“Here Amid the Wild Woods” by Kari-Lise Alexander is her first Australian solo show currently on display at Auguste Clown Gallery. Coming to Melbourne all the way from her home in Seattle, we managed to sit her down for a quick chat about life, art and polar bears.
First up, how on earth is your name pronounced? “Car-a-lease”, it’s like lease-a-car but backwards. Someone once pronounced it as ‘Calories’. So now, the only continent that will know how to say my name will be Australia. It’s a Norwegian name, my mum’s side is Norwegian, and it’s not even a common name in Norway!
What’s your favourite piece in the show? As an artist you’re toiling away by yourself, for me I’m doing what I want and I have no idea if anybody else will like it. A lot of times because it is so personal, I’m surprised when other people enjoy it as much as I do. Typically the pieces that I like the most are ones that have presented the most challenge for me. My favourite piece is… “When One Wonders”. It was my second take on that painting, I scrapped the first. I love it so much because of the colour palette, the level of detail and the way it turned out was really rewarding. I love doing a lot of detailed stuff and the painting is very simplistic, but there’s a lot happening. It just works so well. For me it’s the most satisfying painting because it’s all-encompassing. My favourite pieces are usually not my audiences favourite pieces though! I never scrap paintings, “When One Wonders” was the first I ever scrapped and started over, which I don’t normally like doing because I’m not as excited the second time around. I was however more determined, the first attempt turned out good but not perfect. I saw where I was going so it was easier for me the second time, but it was still hard. The piece in the gallery originally had rabbits in it, but it just didn’t work, so I set it aside and came back to it. And I’m really happy with how it turned out.
WIP of a new digi-painting. Mixing some Greek mythology with a George Washington hairdo ;)
#art #artwork #illustration #drawing #artist #portrait #nofilter #instaart #colour #color #design #digitalart #digitalpainting #digital #paint #painting #greek #mythology #hair #wip #progress #ethereal
These lovely ladies with luscious lashes are the creations of Melbourne artist Kate Lightfoot. Known for her trademark flirty big-eyed girls, her curvacious creatures are quirky and subtly seductive. Since opening her Etsy store in 2007, she’s made over 1500 sales, without even quitting her day job.
She’s had her work exhibited in Gallery 696 and No Vacancy, as well as featured in Curvy, Semi-Permanent and Sticker Bomb. A force to be reckoned with, picking Kate’s brain may give us an insight into how on earth she does it all.
1. You’re currently taking an ‘art-break’, do you do this often or is this the first time you’ve felt the need to take a time out from it? I call it an ‘art-break’, but part of me thinks it could be art-retirement! Back when I was selling on Etsy and exhibiting, I was gearing up to turn art into my full time career. At the same time, I got promoted in my day job to Associate Creative Director and the pressure was on! At one point I was working 16 hour days in advertising, then getting home and having to draw half the night to get ready for my first solo show. Soon after that, I pretty much stopped drawing professionally. It was all too much and no longer much fun at all. I had to make a decision about what would be my career and advertising won. So art’s more of a hobby these days. I do still sell work – in fact, most pieces I create sell very quickly – but I don’t create as regularly.
2. What does art mean to you? Is it therapeutic? An outlet? A compulsion? A hobby? All of the above! I started doing it when I was quite depressed and living on my own and I think that was a form of therapy. Most of those pieces were darker than my current work. Later it became a way of relaxing – I’d lose time whenever I was drawing or painting and I would get such a buzz from people’s reactions to my work. It’s good for the self esteem!
My work seems to have elements of trying to recreate a perfect childhood and when things go wrong in my life - or in the world - I often want to draw something beautiful. I suspect it’s some kind of futile attempt to balance everything out.
3. You have a very distinct style in your work. How did you go about developing such a unique look? Do you ever feel like doing something completely different? That style has developed over a number of years. Because I’m self taught, I’d copy other artist’s work for practice – to try to figure out where they put highlights and shadows and what kind of shapes and compositions they used. And I admire a huge number of artists, so I was trying all kinds of different things. I’ve always felt it’s fine to copy other people’s work for practice (as long as you’re not selling or exhibiting it) and by learning that way you naturally start incorporating elements into your own style. Nobody really invents anything from scratch - everything’s some kind of remix or building on what’s gone before. Just as long as nobody looks at the finished product and can tell where you’ve taken your inspiration from. Anyway, I think my style ended up being a combination of all the things I loved in the work I was referencing as well as all the things I love in the world – bright colours, big eyes, animals, nature, vintage fashion, childhood icons.
I’m also quite obsessed with faces and there’s definitely a compulsion to recreate them. I find myself staring at people, trying to figure out where the light hits their nose or how I could draw their hair. It gets awkward on the tram.
I sometimes try completely different styles, but I don’t get the same satisfaction from it as I do from ‘my’ girls. I do feel so attached to them – I don’t feel that same connection with the other styles I’ve tried, and it just doesn’t feel right. It’s like when you put on clothing you’d never normally wear – it may look great, but it’s just not you. That said, I’m thinking about taking a botanical illustration class this year because I adore that very detailed look, so I may wind up having a short break from my big eyed flirty girls. Although it’s more likely they’ll just wind up surrounded by more realistic looking flowers!
4. Many artists produce work that has a similar look or specific subject matter. Do you think it’s important for an artist to develop a consistency to their work? Or is it better to experiment before settling in to one look? I think to be a professional artist your work needs to have a consistent style – it’s like having a strong brand. Not every artist does this – James Jean, for example, has two or three very distinctive looks, but each of these is a body of work with lots of difference executions in the same style. Most artists refine their style as they go, so it shifts over the years. I think everyone experiments with different styles in their early days. That’s pretty much part of the learning process, whether you’re at art school doing various projects or just copying every kind of art you can get your hands on! I started off very, very cartoony and flat in the early days and keep shifting towards a more realistic look. The big eyes were always there though. I think it’s just a matter of finding what feels right for you. Ultimately, you’re the one you have to please with your work and I do think an audience responds to this passion.
5. It seems that a lot of artists’ work ends up resembling themselves in some way. Why do you think this is the case? Do you think your girls reflect you at all? In my opinion, all art is a self-portrait. You can’t avoid putting yourself into something you spend so much time creating. Look at most artists’ bodies of work, and I think you get an inkling into what made the tick. Some people have commented that they think my girls have a physical resemblance to me, but I think it’s just because I dress them up the same way I dress myself up. Also, from a physical point of view, it makes sense that many artists would wind up with work that looks a little like them as the easiest reference is the mirror. If you want to see how a nose looks, you check out your own and practice drawing that!
6. As a self-taught artist, do you have any tips or advice for those of us who are trying to figure it out ourselves? Muck about with different materials – you just don’t know what you’ll discover. For example, Chris Berens is self-taught and came up with this mind-blowing technique of ink on (*dramatic pause*) plastic! That’s not something you’ll learn in art school and it’s made his work look like a surreal photograph. I use pencils a little differently to the way I believe you’re supposed to. My understanding is that you’re supposed to gently layer your pencil and carefully blend it. Instead, I go at it like I’m scrubbing week-old pasta sauce out of a pot. I really press hard and I use soft pencils, so they wind up melting into each other. It can look a little like paint. It’s probably frowned upon in the art work, but it makes me happy, so there (*pokes tongue out*).
As for composition and form, as I said, I copied from other people’s work. If you watch that interview with Berens, he says that he learnt by painting over posters of the old masters. So you can learn a lot just from looking at art. And I mean really looking at it. Study each part of it and consider exactly what the artist has done to achieve that look. It’s like trying to figure out a magic trick. One of my closest arty friends is Bec Winnel. She’s been in the art game for years and years and her specialty is ultra-realistic portraits, yet she continues to find new things in a human face – I remember her telling me she’d found a new spot around the lips where the light usually hits that she hadn’t noticed before. There’s always something new to discover.
7. Have you found an amazing technique or approach that you wish you’d discovered earlier? Nothing that I wish I’d discovered earlier – simply because I think things tend to happen in their own time. But I’m glad I discovered ink. It’s a medium I really enjoy using and one I’d never considered. In fact I only did the class because I was a big fan of the teacher’s work (Anna Hoyle) and had been googling her name to see where she exhibited! The other two things I was really glad to stumble onto are Prismacolour pencils and Kum (yeah, I know) sharpeners. The Prismacolours are soft and almost crayonish, and I love that the colours melt into one another. It almost looks like paint. And the Kum sharpeners are about the only thing I found that can give a Prismacolour a really sharp point without breaking the lead. Great combo!
8. What are your favourite materials and why? Pencil, pencil, pencil! It’s so damn forgiving and controllable and it suits my complete lack of patience because there’s no drying time. I’m also a really big fan of ink, for almost the opposite reason. It has a mind of its own and you get these random elements in your work that can be really lovely. At the moment I’m using a mix of both. I’ll lay down an ink background and then fill in the details with pencil. And, I adore a little gouache for the really bright highlights.
9. How did you manage your time between creating art and selling it? I think I probably spent more time working on the marketing and sales side of things when I was selling on Etsy. I really had to pimp myself out constantly to get sales there! But then, I enjoyed the marketing side of things, so it wasn’t too much of a chore. If you’re selling online, it’s a tough ride. The internet’s a bloody big place and nobody will find you unless you tell them where you are.
The other way to sell is through a gallery which is harder to get into but much easier once you’re there because they do all the pimping. I made friends with a few galleries on Facebook, then sent them samples of my work and asked to meet with them. Just be careful, as there are different kinds. You really want to get into bed with the one that believes in your work and wants to be paid by commission. That way, they have a good incentive to sell it for you. I did one group show where we paid for the space and they didn’t take a commission – of course, they also didn’t lift a finger to help sell anything, and why would they? It’s not going to make them any more money. It was a good lesson for me anyway.
10. What’s your best tip for selling art online? And how did you go about promoting your work? I think you have to remember that when you first open an online store, you may as well have opened shop on Pluto. Nobody knows you’re there and they’re very, very unlikely to find you unless you promote yourself. I think a lot of new sellers think they can just put things in their store and the sales will come.
I didn’t know anything about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) when I was selling online, but now that I’m working in digital marketing, I’ve realised that I was being found fairly easily because some of the things I was doing just happened to be good SEO. Blind luck really! Anyway, it’s worth looking into, and if you can’t be bothered, at least have a blog you regularly post to and get your arse onto social media. Usually if you can be mildly entertaining, people don’t mind that you’re shamelessly promoting your work. A really helpful post can really get you noticed on a site like Etsy. I made a post in 2007 that’s still getting comments seven years later!
11. Many artist find it difficult putting a price on their beloved creations. How did you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your art? To be honest, I’m still pretty terrible at pricing (just ask my boyfriend who complains I sell too cheap every time something goes online!). It’s really difficult and most artists struggle with it. If you end up selling through a gallery you can get their advice which is based on what they know about the market. The difficulty with pricing is that getting it wrong either way makes you look unprofessional (damn!). If you price too high, you look like an amateur that’s too emotionally attached to their own work to set a realistic market value and if you price too low you look like an amateur that doesn’t have any faith in their own work. I tend to price based on the size of the work (bigger = higher price), the materials used (more expensive materials = higher price ) and my public profile (more shows/exposure = higher price). Keep emotional attachment out of it. If you’re putting several pieces in a show that are of similar size and materials, don’t price one much higher because you love it and want to hang onto it. Just mark it as already sold.
If you really want to make a career out of it, you’ll ultimately have to factor in your time or you’ll never survive. And plenty of people will tell you to do this right off the bat. But when you’re starting, nobody’s heard of you, everything takes a really long time to do and the bottom line is you just won’t sell an A4 drawing you laboured over for weeks for $1,000. If you want to sell, you have to price it for the market.
To price my work in the early days, I just checked out what similar artists were selling their work for on Etsy. Not what their ‘for sale’ prices were, but what their ‘sold’ prices were. That gave me an indication of what that market was prepared to pay.
12. Networking seems to be an important part of the art industry. How have you used it to your advantage throughout your career? Networking is vital. It’s where you’ll hear about upcoming art shows you may want to be part of, competitions you may want to enter and calls for entries for all kinds of things. And your group of art friends will send work your way if they don’t have capacity for it, or if it’s not quite their style. Basically you wind up with a whole bunch of eyes and ears on the street hoovering up opportunities for you. And you’ll do the same for them.
So what if you’re just getting started and you don’t have any art friends? Go to galleries that sell your style of artwork and talk to everyone you can. You’ll often find the same crowd hanging out at the same gallery – even if you just turn up for a few drinks each time, people will start remembering your face.
I’m a total introvert and loathe meeting new people, so I made most of my arty connections online first. I made friends through the Etsy forums and if I ever saw someone there who’s work I admired, I’d drop them a quick note telling them why I liked what they were making. On Facebook, I found that even the bigger players in the art world were pretty happy to write back to you if you had questions about how they got to where they are. Artists seem to be a pretty friendly bunch. Most are happy to tell you how they got to where they are and give you tips if you ask nicely.
13. Who’s your favourite artist at the moment? Ha! Just one? Impossible! There’s never, ever just one and the list changes constantly. I think today’s top 10 is: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, James Jean, Audrey Kawasaki, Del Kathryn Barton, Femke Hiemstra, Chris Berens, Bec Winnel, Mark Ryden, Dilkabear and Anna Hoyle.
14. Do you have any artistic plans or goals for the coming year? Goals bring pressure and I’m not into pressure. I am toying with the idea of doing some Botanical Illustration classes at the Botanical Gardens later this year. But I don’t have any goals or expectations. I’ve learnt not to try to make myself create art. When I do that it becomes a chore and the work suffers.
15. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? I know I’ve had plenty of good advice from all kinds of sources, but there’s nothing that really stands out. What’s more memorable to me are the mistakes I’ve made that have really taught me something.
Here are my top 3.
Mistake #1: Taking on commission work. I mean it seems simple enough. Someone tells you what to draw and you draw it and they pay you. But after a few disasters I discovered that I absolutely cannot do commissions! The second I HAVE to draw something I don’t want to draw it. Not unlike a petulant three-year-old. I’ve finally learnt to just say no.
Mistake #2: Having work in a gallery that didn’t take commission. I’ve already covered this one off earlier, but it’s important that your gallery has an incentive to sell your work.
Mistake #3: Trying to grab every opportunity. It’s hard when you’re starting out because you need to get your work out there. I didn’t want to say no to any opportunity that came my way and ended up taking on too much. But it backfired because the work started to suffer and I wasn’t enjoying it half as much. Anyway I learn to be more choosy about which shows to be in and what opportunities to say yes to. I still feel like I’m missing out when I say no, but that’s much better than feeling overly pressured by saying yes.
Thanks a bunch for talking to us Kate - you’re awesome.
The man behind “The Pea”, Sam has been painting and drawing since he was a young lad. But he’s come a long way from his early days painting Mortal Kombat characters. Developing his own style of portraiture, Sam’s skills as a digital artist have flourished in recent years. There’s nothing average about his characters, with their exaggerated lines and intense eyes, they never cease to enthral.
He’s had his work exhibited in Bar 291 as well as featured in Voiceworks and on Redbubble. We’ve sat him down for a chat, and are hoping his answers allow us to absorb a portion of his immense talent.
Pretty much all of your work features a figure as the main component, what is it that you enjoy about painting people over any other subject matter? As a kid, I was always most attracted to concept art and character design. So I guess in a way, the art I make is just a branch away from character design! I love the idea of creating a being – someone with a past and a personality. Something that people can relate to and be intrigued by.
What do you find is the most challenging part about being an artist? Much like any creative field, there are dry spells. Those weeks when creativity just isn’t flowing! Worst. Weeks. Ever.
What do you enjoy most about creating art? Hmm.. I’d say, looking at a finished piece, being content, and saying “Yeah, I made that.” The satisfaction really isn’t describable! Like a condensed pregnancy… I imagine.
There’s a certain level of vulnerability in sharing your art with others, particularly online. Do you worry about people judging you and how do you handle negative feedback/comments? It’s definitely a vulnerable venture to share your art around. Negative feedback doesn’t bother me so much, I try to pull something constructive from every comment I receive. Art is meant to stir up a bit of friction here and there. Debate is always better than indifference!
What does art mean to you? Is it theraputic? An outlet? A compulsion? A hobby? A career? All of the above! As artists, we’re one of the few people who have the chance to turn our compulsive hobbies into a career. And even though the career ladder is one with many rungs, the climb is that much more enjoyable because we like what we do.
Do you have a creative process, or do you just make it up as you go along? No process to speak of! I usually never know how a painting will turn out. Even if I plan ahead, the brushes inevitably take me in a new direction. I think my favourite nights are those when you pick up a blank canvas, then the frantic flow of tubes and brushes works its magic, and before you know it, the wee hours of the morning have arrived and your canvas is looking pretty schmick.
Your work seems to go between being quite light and humorous, and then dark and macabre. What is it about the play between light and dark that interests you? Much like everyone else, sometimes I need a good chuckle, and sometimes I like to explore thoughts and ideas. Lucky for me, I can do both of those through my art! I find a real joy in going to the dark side. Finding beauty where others might not see it, and in effect redefining beauty. That’s what I particularly love about creating macabre art.
Your work often features pop culture references, what do you love about incorporating it into your art? I guess I’m a purebred Gen Y, I can’t deny it. Saturated by pop culture since sitting on my SNES at 5 years old, I’ve been enveloped by pop culture my entire life. And whether we like to admit it or not, it’s part of who we are. It also helps with art as social commentary, using characters and icons that people recognise to help get an idea across.
Many artists produce work that has a similar look or specific subject matter. Do you think it’s important for an artist to develop a consistency to their work? Or is it better to experiment before settling in to one ‘look’? I think experimentation is key throughout all stages of being an artist. I applaud (and envy) all the artists who have a style so distinct that it becomes synonymous with their name. But I think my mind is just too erratic to stick to one style forever, at least for now!
It seems that a lot of artists’ work ends up resembling themselves in some way, why do you think this is the case? Do you think your characters reflect you at all? When you’ve stared at the same face in the mirror for your entire life, I think it makes perfect sense that certain aspects sneak their way into your art. It’s familiar. It’s safe. It just works! I would assume for most artists, it helps them to connect to their work if they can visually see a slice of themselves in it.
Have you found an amazing technique or approach that you wish you’d discovered earlier? I wish I’d learned to let loose a little earlier! Too many years of trying to paint “perfectly”. I’ve learned over time that realistic painting doesn’t necessarily translate to good art. But I assume I’ll forever be learning new techniques and wishing I’d learned them earlier!
What are your favourite materials and why? I go through phases. Currently in a hardcore gouache phase. It’s so… lively. I love it! But I really love making digital art. It’s a little more forgiving and allows for extra experimentation!
Who’s your favourite artist at the moment? Ooh, tough question. If we go with the classics, I can never look past Dali. The imagination in his work inspired me to escape to Wonderland any chance I could. But in recent times, I really dig the work of Jim McKenzie. The crazy cat with the amazing colours.
Do you have any artistic plans or goals for the coming year? I think the plan for this year is to really get my work out there. Galleries, exhibitions, art shows. That’s the dream!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? "Ya gotta stop drawing celebrities". My Year 11 art teacher. And she was right. As soon as I stopped replicating Google images of Jolie and Depp, my art bulleted into a new and better direction. The only way is up, right? Right.