Still closing out the festival season, we've got a few more events left before we hit the fall and people start gearing up for the holiday baraazs. One of the more prominent illustrators you may catch at these events is Kate Wolsey, selling her prints and one-off cartoon creations, featuring an array of characters who often tell an entire story within their small world. Today we chat with Wolsey about her career, her artwork, the local art and craft scenes and much more. (All pictures courtesy of Wolsey.
Gavin: Hey Kate, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in 1981, making me 33 years old. I grew up in a really small town, which I feel greatly contributed to my wild imagination and sense of adventure. I love cozy beds, soft blankets, tea, VW square backs, film, sewing, photography, colorful sneaker, and art of course.
Gavin: What first got you interested in art and what were some items that inspired you early on?
The first time I realized that drawing was awesome was around the age of 6. My family had a Japanese exchange student living with us, and she taught me how to draw Snoopy. I fell in love with the process and would spend hours drawing and redrawing Snoopy which later turned into numerous hours of drawing the characters from the Sunday funnies.
Gavin: What specifically drew you toward illustration and your medium?
I'm one of those people that has to try a little of everything. So, I spent my childhood, junior high, and high school years drawing a lot. In my early college days I didn't draw much, I got more into restoring vintage bicycle, sewing, and street art. Around 2009 I was taking some film classes at the University of Utah for my major and signed up for a traditional animation class. There was a ton of drawing involved and it got me back into drawing all the time. It's been non stop for me ever since then.
Gavin: What was it like for you prior to college honing your skills and figuring out your style?
As I mentioned I have gone through a lot of different stages to get where I am now. I started with Snoopy and the funnies, then I moved on to an obsession with drawing men with mullets in cowboy boots. After that I had a series of characters I drew throughout high school, I got really into screen printing in college and stencil and graffiti art, I have pretty much spent the last five years changing my style and trying to find something I feel comfortable with. I feel like over the years my style has reflected whats going on in my life, and that is really true of my current style.
Gavin: You received your Bachelors from the College Of Fine Arts at the University Of Utah. What made you choose their program and what was your time like there?
I chose the University of Utah because I was living in Provo and wanted to get to the big city. Ha. I originally started at the U majoring in graphic design. I took a film class on a whim and fell in love with Final Cut Pro and the whole story telling/editing process. My time there was pretty great, mostly because it reignited my passion for drawing and design.
Gavin: During that time, what appeal did the mid-century style have on you and what made you decide to adapt your illustrations to that style?
During my college years I didn't really have a set style, I still think my style is evolving. I think I'm mostly drawn to the color palette of mid century art more than anything.
Gavin: How was it for you breaking into the local art scene and getting your works added to exhibitions?
Aw, man that's a tough question. I feel like it's really random. It seems pretty difficult to get your work displayed in shows. There's a lot of talent in Salt Lake City and if you know lots of people your chances are a lot more likely. It seems like if I'm looking for a show I can't find one, and if I'm not looking it finds me. Also, I take every opportunity I can get to hang my art. Even if it seems like nothing will come of it and it's a silly place to be showing my stuff. I want to reach all ages and types of people. For instance, I have a bunch of pieces going up tomorrow at the University of Utah in research park.
Gavin: What made you venture more into being a professional artist as a second-gig rather than go completely freelance?
That would be really dreamy to be a professional artist as my full-time gig. I actually work an 8-5 job Monday-Friday. I make art at night and on the weekend. I definitely put in a lot of hours between the two and just making art would be rad! That's what I'm working towards and if you were to ask me where I see myself in 5 years, I'd say professional artist, full-time gig!
Gavin: How do you go about creating a new piece, from the concept to the final product?
Lots of my ideas come on at the most random times. Most days I have pockets full of sketches, ideas and notes. If I don't have access to a paper and pen, I text message myself when an idea strikes, so I don't forget it. Once I have an idea I think I want to run with, I sketch it out and scan it into my computer. I use Illustrator and Photoshop to digitally color it. The digital process is fun but, I'm ready to switch back to a canvas and acrylics for a bit.
Gavin: Do you change a lot of things as you work on them or do you stay with the original idea?
I do make a lot of changes. Sometimes I finish things and something doesn't look right to me. In that case I will either try to fix it or move on to a new idea. I don't usually stay hung up on things that aren't going as planned, I feel like I have too many idea in my brain to waste my time on something that maybe didn't pan out how I envisioned it to.
Gavin: A lot of your work focuses on individuals or groups of people. What inspired this direction in your artwork?
Yeah, it's kind of funny because I'm not the most social person but, people fascinate me. I love people watching and I love seeing what people wear, listen to, and talk about. Most of my characters are based on people I know or saw in public. I have gotten a lot of inspiration from public transportation, coffee shops, old folks homes, and grocery stores. Whether it's a quirky clothing combination someone is wearing, a haircut or a hook nose, I like to bring those people into my art. The best part is they have no idea they're my inspiration, and chances are I will never see them again. Who knows someone reading this may be a part of one of my pieces.
Gavin: How has it been for you branching out beyond an online presence and selling your works at festivals and fairs?
It's fun to sell art in person. The thing I really enjoy the most is watching what types of people are drawn to the different pieces and why. Something I love to play with in my art is nostalgia, so I love when people tell me why they are drawn to a certain piece. When you sell online there is no story behind why a particular piece stood out to the buyer. It's funny too because often times people think the character looks like them or their sister, uncle, cousin, dog or whatever. I did have a guy recently walk up to me at a fair and tell me all my characters look just like me, I guess he could be right.
Gavin: Aside from prints and originals, do you offer your art on other items or are you mainly sticking with those formats for now?
I have sold my art on all sorts of things. I print a calendar every year, and that's always a lot of fun. I have also made mugs, t-shirts and other items. Right now I am selling prints and originals unless there is a request for something else.
Gavin: Do you do any personal requests for works? And if so, how can people get a hold of you?
The majority of the work I do is commissions. I do a lot of family portraits,and pictures of peoples pets. But, I have also designed several t-shirts for different companies, including The Salt Lake Bicycle Company, The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah and We Sing We Learn Chinese to name a few recent ones. I'm willing to do any idea someone may have. If you are interested in having me create your ideas on paper, you can get at me through my website.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
That's one of the things that is so magical about this whole process, I have no idea what to expect over the next year. I'm diving head first into the graphic design world right now, and hope to be a self taught designer within a year or two. So, I will be doing a lot of work this year to move in that direction. I also hope to finish a lot of paintings and maybe have a show or two. Everything seems so random for me, so I guess time will tell what the rest of the year will hold. Check out my website
to find out.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Visit my Etsy
shop, add me on Facebook
, or if you want to be friends who collaborate and make art in real life, email me