We're getting excited about our first-ever GeekCraft Expo Seattle, December 10 and 11 at the Seattle Center--have you RSVPed for this free, handmade geeky craft show yet? To give you an idea of the fantastic geek goods that will be available, we chatted with Katie Clark Art's Katie Clark, a former Nintendo artist who mixes traditional painting techniques with video games!
GeekCraft Expo: First, I need to ask: what’s your connection to Shy Guy?
Katie Clark: My connection is pure love! I just find them so charming and adorable and silly. I liked them already, but in the original Paper Mario there's a part where you see them running all over town, stealing frying pans and calculators and cook books--it was just so cute! Then you find out they live in a toy box and you get to go in after them! I think seeing them in their toy box home is where my heart just melted and I completely fell in love. Nintendo has evolved these characters bit by bit, and they only get better. The latest Paper Mario (Color Splash) features a lot of Shy Guys, and a bunch of them aren't enemies--they just have wonderful silly lines of dialogue to share. It's the best part of the game for me.
GCX: How old were you when you started to paint?
KC: I was super young, two or three. My mom was an artist, so I grew up surrounded by every art supply you can think of. I loved it. She was mainly a painter while I was growing up, and taught all kinds of art classes to children in our home (on a farm in Virginia). The classes became so popular, it was almost a daily thing by the time I reached high school. I had easy access to all kinds of supplies, and I was also the kid who was constantly drawing in class. I have always identified as an artist. I took almost a ten year break from painting to switch over to digital art--I decided to get a second degree after attending a local college in Virginia, and moved out to Seattle to go to DigiPen. Before graduating I was already working at Nintendo as an artist--my ultimate life goal. I did 3D art there, building environments and objects for DS and Wii games. After six years I left, and soon moved back to Virginia to be with my mom while she underwent cancer treatments. She set out painting supplies one of the first days I was back, and I probably played with them every single day while I was there. I hadn't really painted in years, and it was such a gift to have that time to paint with my mom again. I never stopped. At this point I have been painting regularly for a little over three years.
GCX: What are your influences?
KC: I just paint my favorite things! I painted a little three-quarter-view portrait of a Shy Guy for fun a few years ago, and it cracked me up so much. It just felt so silly to see this very traditional looking portrait of something as silly as a Shy Guy, and that was the beginning of Katie Clark Art! I started adding Shy Guys to famous paintings as well, and again these always made me laugh. I use characters from my favorite video games (I have been a gamer for as long as I can remember!), and I tend to be more drawn to cute and weird enemies than to main characters, even if they are more obscure references.
GCX: What inspired you to start selling your work?
KC: After returning to Seattle from my time in Virginia, I kept painting my little video game character portraits and item still lifes. I started sharing them online, and then happened to meet my amazing friend Cinnamon. She does these really cool acrylic pixel paintings and had been considering signing up for a show called GeekGirlCon. When she saw that I was doing geeky art too, she suggested we try out a show together! We paid for a table, started Googling what in the world to do with a convention booth, and got to work. I was so nervous, but it was great. "Showing my art to total strangers" turned out to mean "laughing with people over shared gaming experiences and loves." It's such a happy feeling to see someone laugh at something I made, or recognize an obscure character because it just happened to stick in their brain too. It's sharing happy memories with other geeky fun people!
GCX: What’s the oddest/craziest commission you’ve received?
KC: My weirdest commission to date was to add to a collection of paintings of "Presidents Riding Dinosaurs." There was a list of presidents and dinosaurs to choose from, to avoid overlapping with other pieces that had been done previously. I chose John Adams, and asked if I could bend the rules a bit on the dinosaur I went with. I of course chose my favorite dinosaur, Yoshi. I felt like Yoshi being Mario's number two would be fitting with our second president--and since I like to flip flop things and make them extra silly, I painted a portrait of Yoshi riding John Adams. I was dying laughing while collecting reference images of "men on all fours" and really had fun with that one!
GCX: I noticed some of your art incorporates elements of other notable artists or paintings--how do you choose who or what to parody?
KC: For the most part I try to choose paintings that are widely recognizable and obvious. My first one was The Scream by Edvard Munch, which has to be one of the most well-known paintings in the world. It was also an easy parody since the subject's face reminded me of a Shy Guy anyway! For others I will have an idea of what I want to create; when I knew I wanted to paint a strange/dark portrait of Magikarp, I researched different portrait painters and ended up choosing George Peter Alexander Healy's painting of Daniel Webster. This was not a painting I was very familiar with before, but it had the feeling and overall style I was going for, and I think it was a perfect choice.
GCX: What types of pieces will you bring to GeekCraft Expo Seattle?
KC: All the geeky things! I'll be bringing a bunch of my tiny original paintings--I really love these because they can be displayed anywhere, they're more affordable original works of art for people to collect, and since they don't take me 100 hours to complete I get to paint more things! I'll also have some larger paintings, and prints and mugs and random goodies.
Big thanks to Katie for taking the time to answer all of our questions. You can find Katie Clark Art--and dozens of other amazing geeky makers--at GeekCraft Expo Seattle December 10 and 11 at the Seattle Center: be sure to RSVP here, it's free to the public!