GeekCraft Expo PDX is less than a week away—have you RSVPed yet? Mark your calendars for this free, family friendly handmade geeky craft show June 10 and 11 at the DoubleTree Portland!
We chatted with Katie Clark of Katie Clark Art, a GeekCraft Expo Seattle alumnus who's traveling south this weekend! She caught us up on her art, the sad passing of her "studio helper," her dog Cookie (we're so sorry, Katie), and gave us a preview of the new prints she'll be bringing.
GeekCraft Expo: We first met you when you exhibited at GeekCraft Expo Seattle last December: what’s new with you?
Katie Clark: I’m still working on art every single day, whether it is painting or putting together reference ideas for new pieces. The biggest change in my life since December is that my little studio helper is gone. Cookie (my tiny amazing Pomeranian beast) passed away in April. That was rough—she was diagnosed with cancer in October, but I really believed we'd have more time. I spent her last few weeks on the couch right beside her—I moved my painting supplies into the living room so I could work with her. She had been my tiny shadow for 11 years, so this is a huge change. I stopped working on geeky paintings for a few weeks after she passed, and spent my time painting her face over and over. I now have a ridiculous shrine of Cookie paintings covering a wall in my home. My studio still feels strange and empty and sad most of the time, but I am adjusting. I also started a new website just for my pet portraits, since I am doing more of those now.
GCE: How did you get started with painting?
KC: My mom was an artist, and always had tons of supplies available and ready to go! I think I did a lot more drawing and painting than most kids do growing up, which I love. I stopped painting during college and my "career" years to focus on digital work—mostly 3D modeling and texturing. After 10 years without painting I rediscovered it when I felt like my life was imploding—I had left the career I thought was my ultimate goal in life, my heart had been broken, my mom was dying—it was a horrible time. But, I started painting again. I painted with my mom at the kitchen table almost every day for three months. I remembered that I loved to paint and wondered why I had ever stopped. It was therapy. One day I painted a little portrait of a [Super Mario Bros.] Shy Guy and just couldn't stop laughing at it. It was just so funny to me! After that I just kept painting things that made me laugh.
GCE: What are your favorite subjects to paint?
KC: I am a big fan of silliness and video games, so those are my main themes! I especially love mashing up famous paintings with my favorite characters, because they are extra ridiculous to me. I turned the figure in Edvard Munch's "The Scream" into a Shy Guy, and quickly followed that with a Shy Guy Mona Lisa, and kept going from there!
My latest painting is not a parody, but a piece based on my favorite quest in any game ever. It's a character named Claptrap from the Borderlands series. In this particular mission, you start by handing out his birthday party invitations around town, and each person makes a comment about how they hate him. Then you complete the "enjoy party" section, which involves watching Claptrap dance alone, his futile effort to use his own party favors, and his comment about how he ordered "waaayyy too much pizza." It's super sad and super funny. It does have a happy ending though—his final exclamation is, "That was the best party I've ever thrown!" I was in tears the first time I played through that mission, and am happy to finally have a painting of it. Claptrap is one of my all-time favorite characters! He is derpy and lovable, and reminds me of Cookie.
GCE: How has your past work at Nintendo shaped your art?
KC: I really think that working with 3D models affected the way I paint figures. I pay more attention to highlights and shadows than I used to, and I know I observe things very differently after spending thousands of hours creating real world objects on a computer. I still have a lot to learn, but I think it's so cool that a seemingly unrelated task like 3D modeling would affect the way I paint! I'm also really proud of the fact that I was an artist at Nintendo, and I love their characters that much more. Mario isn't just a character to me now—he's a former coworker.
GCE: What advice would you give to aspiring painters?
KC: Just keep painting. If you enjoy what you're working on, then you're doing it right. People joke about artists hating their own work, and I understand why! My skills are nowhere near where I would like for them to be, and I wonder how much better I would be if I hadn't stopped painting for so long. I also have pretty severe impostor syndrome, and even calling myself an "artist" is hard sometimes. This is not an easy job! If I step back and look at my work though, I can see progress being made. I know I am heading in the right direction. So my best advice to aspiring painters (and to myself!) is to stop comparing yourself to others and just enjoy what you do.
GCE: What are your favorite geeky TV shows, movies, or video games?
KC: It's super hard to narrow down my favorite games so here are a bunch! Earthbound, Paper Mario, Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, Fallout (3, 4, and New Vegas), Skyrim, Borderlands, Megaman X, Mario Bros 3, Link to the Past, Animal Crossing, Silent Hill, Phantasy Star Online.
I am currently addicted to Elder Scrolls Online, and am replaying Chrono Trigger for the 80th time.
As for TV shows, my favorites are Futurama, BoJack Horseman, American Horror Story, and King of the Hill. I also binge-watch Angry Video Game Nerd pretty regularly.
GCE: What kinds of things will you be bringing to GeekCraft Expo PDX this year?
KC: I will have a few new prints available for this show, including Claptrap, Specter Knight, and Psyduck! I also have a few new Shy Guy paintings, and will probably be bringing back my prayer candles, zipper bags and other little goodies plastered with my art. I'm looking forward to it!
Make sure to tell all your friends about this weekend's GeekCraft Expo PDX, and RSVP for our kickoff party June 9 at Bridge City Comics, where you can meet rad crafters, enjoy complimentary Hop Valley Brewing beer, and win prizes!