Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Artist Interview: Krista Charles.

I'm so excited to introduce you to this artist.  She has such a neat project that she's been working on for the past couple of years.  Her art caught my eye right away--drawings inside matchbooks.  Then finding out that the drawings were of what the matchbook's business site looks like now made me love them even more.  I wanted to know more about her, and she graciously accepted my request to interview her.  Here is Krista Charles of xacharles on Etsy.

1. Were you always an art kid, or did you stumble upon it later in life?

I don’t remember when I first started drawing on paper, but I was definitely drawing full pictures by the time I was four. My family moved to Juneau, Alaska when I was three and we did a lot of crafts to keep busy in the winter, plus I would do drawings to send as my letters to relatives before I learned to write. 

In the Heart of The Great Copper Basin: 

Ducktown, Tennessee

2. What style of art is your favorite and why?

If I had to pick a favorite style, I don’t think I could limit it to less than two styles, modern art and ancient art. I love most styles of art, but I find myself most excited either by art that is relatively new and unexpected and can connect me on some level to what its creator was thinking, or art that is old and its creator is long gone, but their work is still unexpected and original on some level and has that same ability to connect me to its creator and what they might have been thinking and experiencing.

3. What do you use for inspiration, or how do you generate ideas?

For my past work I have always taken direct inspiration from objects I have found at yard sales or junk stores or estate sales and my work at least directly hasn’t been influence by the art world or other artists, but I think with the matchbook landscapes I might be crossing the line, combining junk finds with the landscape genre.

A day at the beach (or at least a day on the road nearby to the beach)

4. Walk us through your creative process from idea to finished project.

I have been working with the same basic idea for almost two years now with the matchbook landscapes. To select a matchbook for my next drawing, I dig through three different boxes of sorted and unsorted matchbooks that I have. Once I find a matchbook that interests me for some reason, usually its design or its location, I go online and try to locate it in Google Maps and if I cannot easily locate it (which is frequent), I do some research. I can easily spend a half hour or an hour just trying to locate it online, especially if I am intrigued by its design or if it is for a business type I have never done or if it is a city I want to sketch in. Some businesses only list their title and no address, or cross streets but no street number, or it might not be recorded in Google Maps, and sometimes the Google map takes me to the wrong location and I have to figure out if it is just a few blocks away or not.   Once I locate it, I move around it in Street View, up and down the street, trying to find an angle that pops out to me. If I get an angle that interests me visually, I will then typically spend the next two hours or so doing the drawing. I always start and complete a drawing on the same day, but sometimes I do minor touch ups later. The first hour or so is the hardest part of the sketch when I am setting up the major basic lines of the design, getting the layout of space correct, and I need to use the most concentration, then the last half of the sketch is usually when I am doing the part that is most fun, putting in the details, getting shade and shadow to look correct, putting in the textures and sky, and trying to find the smallest details to include to reward the close viewer.

Wander Inn, Stumble Out

5. What is a typical day in your life?

My cat Binky starts trying to get me up about 5 am and I am usually am up by 6:30 am. After I take care of the cats I start in immediately with teaching online. I teach online for my main source of income and teaching online is seven days a week, so I like to start and finish that first. Depending on whether I have something to grade or not, and whether it is earlier or later in the term, I might wrap that up in an hour, or eight hours. Binky usually hangs out with me when I am doing my school work and the other two cats will usually visit depending on how long I am working. I have a separate office for school work, so once I am done with that I usually go into the spare bedroom where I have my studio area set up. Since I have been sketching lately, I don’t need much space. In grad school I found that having a large fold out table is about all the area I need. I may spend 2-6 hours a day on matchbooks, not all sketching time, but also researching online, or just some time spent randomly pawing through matchbooks, but I try to sketch at least one a day on average. And there is also all the other things I do that everyone is familiar with, keeping the house (relatively) clean, watering in the yard and having fun outside watching things grow, hanging out with my husband and my cats (who are all Hoosiers) , reading books, surfing online, going shopping for groceries, watching Netflix at night, going to art openings on Fridays.

6. What do you think draws you to other people's work?

It is when their ideas are unexpected and something new and original that I hadn’t thought of that most grips my attention.

7. What are your interests/hobbies?

Art, travel, reading, gardening, cats, junk shopping.

Matchbook Landscape: Tacoma Yacht Club

8. Is this your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?

My full time job to pay the bills has been teaching, either online or onground, for the past ten years.

9. What is your favorite piece you've ever made and why?

I made a fire safety poster when I was in Kindergarten that won $2 in a contest that the local firehouse sponsored. I still have the $2 although I have forgotten what the design looked like (the $2 was a purchase prize and it has been a long time since I did the poster). 

It's Raining Brass Buckets Somewhere

10. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the business world?

Go to someone else for advice that knows what they are talking about business-wise. And if they want to be in the business world, they might consider pursuing something other than art – there are easier things to try to sell than art. I found a way to pay the bills without having to worry about what art I am making, whether I am showing it or not, and whether my art sells or not and while that way works for me, that way may or may not work for someone else depending on what their goals are.

11. Describe your work space.

It’s in a corner in the spare bedroom, a couple of chairs, one wooden, one green cloth, a large fold out table with a cat bed on it by the windows, a bunch of little things I like to look at lined up on the table. Three boxes of matchbooks on the floor under the table. My laptop. And usually Binky on the bed in the room, and another cat in the cat bed either sleeping or on the lookout for birds.

Photo of the lovely artist herself!

2. Did you face any setbacks on your path to being an artist?

Not really. I have never tried to make money from my art that I had to depend upon for living expenses, so there hasn’t been financial constraints on what I do, when I do it, or how I do it, and what I have done for art has never cost much in terms of materials. Perhaps the only real setbacks that I have had is if I have been searching for an idea, but struggled to get to an idea that I felt was worth doing and original. I have learned from experience that it might take me years to come up with an idea for a series from the objects I find and buy and look at for inspiration.

13. What milestones, goals, or achievements are you striving for right now?

To become even more skilled at representing what I see and to make a breakthrough in my thinking to fully discover what these matchbook landscapes are all about. Plus I want to find more matchbooks of businesses located on the beach and New Orleans (so I have more time virtually at these places) and from the area around my hometown (it is fun to sketch places I already know).

--Thank you so very much Krista for such wonderful answers and for letting me share your work with everybody!!

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