Alright guys, I have another great interview with an amazing artist from TeePublic. Her name is Karen Hallion, she’s just amazing and her art is awesome! Karen is definitely one of the greatest artists I had the pleasure to sit for a chat.
Hi Karen. First of all could you tell us a little something about you?
I am originally from a small town in Massachusetts just north of Boston called Nahant. I went to Ringling School of Art and Design, and graduated with a BFA in Illustration. Up until a few years ago, I was an elementary school Art teacher and now am working full-time as an artist. I currently live in Swampscott, MA.
When and how did you first start getting into design?
Well, about five years ago, I lost my job. Up until that point, I had been doing a lot of mermaids, geisha, and art nouveau work in my spare time when I wasn’t teaching and had already started to think about trying a freelance career in art. When I lost my job, I looked around at some of my favorite artists and I thought I am going to focus all of my efforts to make this work as a successful career. I started doing some pop culture designs and ended up subbing some work to Tee Fury, which was my introduction into t-shirt design, and it kind of took off from there.
Do you have any formal background in graphic design or are you a self-taught artist?
I have a BFA in Illustration.
What does it take to be a good designer? Do you recommend going to school to learn art and graphic design?
I think school can help in a number of ways. I would suggest doing some research into schools and programs that cater to your interests; there is no one size fits all school so what matters is knowing you are going into a program that has expertise in what you want to ultimately do.
How long did it take to start getting noticed and actually selling your artwork?
It took many years of patience and late nights but I utilized a lot of social media to get myself out there, attended craft fairs, and started building up my Etsy store. I also subbed a lot of work to Tee Fury before my first print with them, but just kept at it.
Do you design full time or do you have a day job now?
This is now my full time job! Fingers crossed I get to continue doing what I love.
If you were to pick a favorite design you have created, which one would it be and why? ( show us some pics )
My La Dauphine Aux Alderaan is probably my favorite and was one of my first pieces. I have a print of the Mucha piece hanging in my house and I happened to be looking at it one day and it just hit me: Princess Leia. It is one of the first Art Nouveau pieces I did and even after all these years is one of the only pieces I still look at and think I would not change a thing about.
How do you get inspiration for your t-shirt designs?
Books, movies, television. Strong female characters, fantasy, science fiction. My work is a reflection of my personal interests; the artists, pop-culture, and emotional experiences that inspire me are what I aim to reflect in my work.
Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of work
I do a quick thumbnail sketch of an idea, and then do 3-4 rough sketches, working out composition and the idea. Next I do more and more sketches working to refine the drawing and working out proportions. Then I work on “inking” it, which it just the final line, concentrating on clean lines and line weight. Next is base color, then shading and highlighting. The typical process can vary anywhere from 5 hours to 20 depending on how complex the design is. My Belle/Who design took about 7 because it was simple and I knew exactly how I wanted it done; the Sleeping Beauty took more than 20 hours because it was so detailed and painstaking
When you aren’t designing T-Shirts, what are you up to?
I do a lot of freelance projects for a variety of companies, do illustration work, and travel throughout the year to a number of conventions. Sometimes I sleep.
Do you have any wisdom you’ve learned along the way you’d like to share with other aspiring artists?
It’s been over 15 years since I graduated from art school, and it has taken a lot of work for me to be able to make a living freelancing. Some of the things that have helped me, other than hard work and not giving up, are joining an artist’s group and learning from other talented people. Sub work to companies you want to work with, and when it gets rejected, do more work and sub it. Just keep moving forward (advice from Walt Disney). Use social media. Learn the best way to use it, and USE IT. It’s free advertising, and it works. Find artists you love, and study what they do, and learn from them. Take advice and critiques, ignore the haters. Draw what you love, not necessarily what you think will sell. Help out other artists when you can.