I interviewed artist and illustrator, Katy Atchison, recently for a fun San Francisco Etsy interview exchange. You can read my interview on her blog. Katy is super active on the SF Etsy team and is a very enthusiastic and talented artist. She even illustrated some of the answers to my questions just for the interview!
What is your creative history?
When I was born, my Dad had his own ceramic business in Southern Idaho called High Prairie Pottery which, along with the rest of us, we owned and operated for 12 years of my childhood. We would get home after school and help my Dad sponge pots and load kilns at an early age. It was a wondrous world of giant pottery studios filled with porcelain molds, pug mills, multiple kilns and slab rollers.
During our tenure as full time potters, our family traveled extensively throughout the Western United States to shows such as: the “U District” fair in Seattle, The Boise Arts Festival, The Sun Valley Festival of the Arts, The Mountain Rendezvous in Jackson Hole, Westwood in LA, The Beckman Show (in LA), The Strawberry Festival, Union Street, The All West Crafts Show (in Concord), North Beach, Millbrae and The Pumpkin Festival.
My Mom is a textile artist and taught my sister and I how to use a small table loom when we were kids. My Grandmother Atchison would bring out painting projects when we would visit their East Bay home. Being around so many different forms of art as a child really molded who I am today. At the age of 8, I declared that I was also going to grow up to be an artist. Around 12 I decided I was going to be a Graphic Designer without fully understanding what that even meant or how to go about being one. It was all down hill from there.
You have a really unique, recognizable style, one that includes a specific color palette and color strokes or line work. How long have you worked in this style and how did your style evolve?
Honestly, the more comfortable I became in myself – the more confident my style became. Confidence in your own style is key – it's OK to be different than other artists. When I stopped trying to be like anyone else, my style evolved and I started to gain fans and followers more easily. I enjoy the strokes that my hands naturally make…I only pick colors that inspire me or make me smile. I also don't want to take away from the characters too much or hide the texture in my backgrounds. Sticking with a softer color pallet allows for more detail to come through in my work.
Your work often has a sense of humor or sweetness involving edible things, owls, verbal inanimate objects and the occasional robot. Have you always been inspired by drawing these things or was your work different in the past?
When you are truly creating things as your self without fear of what other's might think – you'll find your voice. Once I found my voice in my work, the characters naturally came to me. I often get ideas for paintings, stationary and drawings from silly things my friends say or when I'm on the bus and I hear someone make a joke. In the past, I drew a lot more people and portraits. Today, I steer away from people mostly because I've noticed that my fans can't relate as easily to a character in my work when it's a human. It sounds odd – but a larger percentage of my fans can relate to a humanoid broccoli over a portrait of a human character. Which, just so we're clear, is A-OK with me! I love painting silly dancing veggies. Watching a fan of my work get excited about a playful character that came from my imagination is one of the most rewarding things ever.
How is living in San Francisco for you as an artist?
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the amount of city intake – the noise – the constant Go-Go-Go. But! I find as an artist – It keeps me going. I Love the hum of the city that I hear in my little apartment – it's like a metronome for artists. A tick-tock reminder to keep the pace. It's a great reminder that the world is busy getting things done. The world out there is making something happen. It's a strange motivator for me to use up all of the moments on this planet that we have. Also, if it hadn't been that I live in SF, I would not have become the San Francisco Etsy Team Captain this last year… or grown the community to where it's at today.
Has Etsy influenced your art style? How has Etsy helped your business?
I wouldn't say that it's at all influenced my art style. However, Etsy does help my art business in many ways. I'm reminded as an artist to always take my business seriously. Etsy keeps the business side of art in the forefront of my mind. That there are some key pieces to running a business as an artist that one should always keep in mind: pricing, photography, color stories based on season, merchandising and also keeping my content in my work fresh as well as relevant to what customers might be searching for online.
What is your favorite time of day to work? Place?
This is a great question… because I feel like for most of us, the favorite place & time isn't a situation we get to make happen very often. I'm a late afternoon worker-bee when it comes to my art & expression. I enjoy working in cafes or sitting at a picnic table under a partially shaded tree. Natural light is my favorite. Having people walking by, asking me questions, or someone sitting with me always keeps me driven. For whatever reason I sink into my work and get most comfortable when that happens. However, working 9-5, I've had to settle for working in my apartment at a desk I set up with paints, markers and a nice task lamp that casts natural light. I still get cozy – just usually takes a nice craft brew & a favorite album before I get into my work.
What are your favorite mediums and why? Any that you would like to try? It looks like you are interested in making everything from greeting cards to soap and dyeing yarn. Do you see yourself venturing into other kinds of art or craft with your Etsy shop and business?
If I had to choose a medium, I'd pick just pen with some colored pencil over anything. However, yes… I do like working in other mediums. Going from one medium to another allows me to play more as an artist. Creative expression isn't limited to just one medium over another. I also have a huge fascination with how things are made and created. I think it really all comes from my history as an artist – my family being so unique and varied in their own artistic expression really motivates me to play and explore different forms of art myself as well. I know it feels a little all over the place but I really enjoy the variety. Plus, I'm not trying to hide who I am. I'm almost proud of my ability to dip my creative brush into almost any form of art. This week alone I'll be working on paintings, wood burnings and drawings. Talk about a life worth living!
Can you tell us about a new product or project coming up? What are your future goals for your art and creative life?
This year I'll be expanding my pyrography and wood burning line. I've been enjoying the challenge of creating something from nature and trying to get some of the same playful line strokes that I so easily get when I draw or paint in wood. It's a challenge that I've been enjoying. I just finished a line of cards for a client and will also be developing some art specifically for clients who are looking for nursery art. I'm also hoping to build some plushy designs this summer to build out in time for Christmas 2013. So keep your keen eye out for those as well.