Kate Carleton is a freelance Illustrator who calls Tampa, FL her home when she’s not traveling the convention circuit. Over the years, she has had the pleasure of working on properties such as Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Firefly, My Little Pony, Grimm Fairy Tales, Ghostbusters, and so much more. She also has done some comic work, from making her own self published books, to color and flatting jobs for companies as well.
Recently, Kate was kind enough to sit down and tackle our DorkUp questions. Check out the interview below, along with her incredibly creative work:
I was born in Jackson, MS, but lived in Tampa, FL most of my life. Growing up I loved a lot of things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Harry Potter, The Muppets, Nick Toons, Disney movies, and more than I can remember really.
What are you geeking out on now?
Still a lot of things like Game of Thrones, Netflix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, The Walking Dead, Star Wars, indie comics, Doctor Who, and anything Disney just to name a few.
How long have you been creating your designs & illustrations? What made you decide to start creating them?
I’ve always been drawing at a young age. I grew up watching Disney animations and wanted to do that, but after the industry changed into 3D animation I wasn’t sure what to do. After research and watching a documentary and buying art books, I learned of all the different fields there to work in as an artist. When I first went to college, I was on a simple Studio Art track. I got sick, and a little homesick as well, so I took a little break and moved back home to see what was out there for me and discovered the convention scene. I saw so many great artists selling their work and said “I want to do that.” So I asked around for advice and researched and did it. I didn’t start out great, and made some mistake booking at overpriced shows for turnout, but I solely learned about what shows to do and what not to do from my experience. However, now a days there are online groups and people rating shows to make it easier for people starting out now.
After establishing myself a bit in the scene, I decided I wanted to finish my degree so I enrolled in the University of Tampa. At first I went for Graphic Design, but felt after awhile it wasn’t for me so I changed my major to Digital Arts. From there I got experience in many things from coding, printmaking, 3D animation, and more. By doing a little bit from each field I knew what I didn’t enjoy and what I did. For me I love drawing traditionally and digitally. So I learned about Character Design and illustration jobs. I applied for internships but didn’t land any and was much older than other students due to my break so I decided to keep going in the convention scene and get my name out there more. I found things I wanted to do and made goals and slowly achieved them from juried cons that are hard to get into, the sketch card work scene, and even getting some comic credits. It’s a hard industry and for some they get discovered fast and some have to work harder and harder. To get where I am now took a lot of work for sure and I still have a ways to go in my career.
How did you learn your craft? Is this something you taught yourself? Or did you attend school for it?
I did a mix of both. Just drew a lot as a kid and took any art classes I could and eventually got my BA in Digital Arts and an AA in Studio Arts.
On your website, we saw mention that you’ve worked with Upperdeck, Marvel, and IDW. Can you tell us more about the work you did for them?
Sure. Currently my main freelance gig I get is sketch cards. Companies like Upperdeck, Cryptozoic, and Topps (to name a few) hire an artist like myself to draw on properties they acquire like Marvel, DC, Star Wars, etc. So they ship me a bunch of blanks cards with guidelines I draw characters I’m allowed to draw and once they get approved by the companies themselves like Marvel, they put the original card art in packs for collectors. The coolest one was for Upperdeck I did a Firefly set and Nathan Fillion Himself had to look at the cards we drew of him and approve them with Fox. Very cool to know he has seen my work.
Now with comics I started with a short story I illustrated for IDW’s Womanthology which ended up in the sketchbook released by IDW. From there I worked on my own comics with my boyfriend Josh Dykstra like Facebeast . After doing a few cons, some artists I admire asked me to color their comics. Katie Cook is one of my biggest influences in my field and had me start off flatting her prints for a bit, then let me draw a guest panel of Gronk, then gave me some ghost flat work on IDW’s My Little Pony to finally getting a credit from coloring a two-page mini comic for her in a issue. And most recently hired me to color her 3rd Gronk comic printed through Action Lab Comics. She has given me a lot of opportunities I’m grateful for and even gave me a chance on my first sketch card gig through 5Finity on her own card set.Then from there, Mike Maihack let me flat his comic I admire: Cleopatra in Space (book 2 and 3) which got picked up by Scholastic: Graphix!
Right now, I still have a lot of sketch card work, but want to get back into making my own comics again, and working on my portfolio more to showcase my character design skills.
From your Facebook & Twitter, we noticed you are getting a design printed with TeeFury soon! Congrats!! Will this be your first design with them? How did that come together?
Thanks! Yes, it’s my first print with them. I’ve been trying for years to get a design printed with them and have gotten quick rejections. However, you know how they say sometimes you succeed without trying? Well that’s what happened to me. I was at C2E2 this year right before Wondercon and a nice lady came by my table, looked at my stuff, and gave me her card. She worked at TeeFury. She told me how she loved one of my designs and told me I should submit it. So after the con, I submitted my design and mentioned how I was told to do so and magically I got chosen. They had me tweak it a bit, which was totally fine and great to get some input. And as far as I know, it should debut this month so keep an eye out for it. My username on TeeFury is keelhaulkate. I hope it does well so I can do more work for them.
I stopped by your booth recently at WonderCon 2016 and picked up a Rey mini-print. Great stuff! You had so many incredible pieces. How do you decide what to create? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Thanks! I’m glad she found a great home. Well, my cuties like Rey I launched just this year. They evolved with an older series I did called Doodlez and I’m happy with the way they turned out and plan to keep doing more. I get inspiration from things I love, so I mostly draw prints of things I actually like, so I do have some obscure art as well . I love connecting with people on our love for things and can talk about Disney all day. I’ve worked for years honing my style and keep pushing myself. It makes me happy to know someone can tell my piece from others and I like bringing characters to life. I also do my own original work and have a lot of art series planned for down the road when I get time to actually focus on each one.
How many conventions do you attend every year? Do you travel all over to attend them?
Well, this year I have about 10 events lined up and some on my waiting list to see if I got approved or can attend. I just started traveling more outside of FL for about 5 years with my art improving each time. I still have a regular boring day job. Shocking I know! I work myself hard that’s for sure. I’m lucky where my day job let’s me have time off so much since I don’t get paid time off to travel. I am hoping to be able to do this full time eventually though.
How has your experience been at Conventions? What’s your favorite thing about Cons? What’s your least favorite?
I love it! It can be tiring, sometimes I share a table with my boyfriend who is an artist as well (www.artofjoshd.com) , which is nice because I can take breaks more and enjoy the con a bit. Sometimes I’m by myself like at Wondercon and it can be draining and overwhelming. My favorite thing about it is seeing all the cool art and setups, meeting new people and old friends, and seeing how people react to your work. My least favorite is lines to the bathroom or food, some foul odors that emerge over time, and the dreaded con crud!
How long does a new illustration take to create?
Oh man, that’s a hard one to answer. It depends if I’m having a good art day or not. Some things can take hours, some can take days or weeks. I always start off with sketches and some are still waiting there in a pile to be finished or might never be.
What’s the hardest or most challenging illustration you’ve ever created? What made it so difficult?
Some personal commission work can be hard because some people aren’t really sure what they want or want to make a ton of changes or restrict your creative control. And if it’s a subject I don’t care for, it makes me not that excited to work on it.
What has been your most favorite illustration that you’ve ever created?
Oh man, I love when someone gives me commissions of things I love as well, I definitely add more to it. If I had to pick one from my current print line up, I‘m most proud of the Hamilton print series ideas I’ve had sitting around and I’m finally coloring up now to get some done before Megacon.
Besides conventions, where do you sell your work? And do you accept commissions?
Besides convention, I sell online. Here’s my online store : http://www.katecarleton.storenvy.com I also accept commissions, but take them through email and currently I have a waiting list. If interested you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote. I do have some commissions rules you can read here, because one person ruins things for everyone now a days: http://katecarletonillustration.weebly.com/contact.html
What are you working on now? Can you give us hints to what your next creation will be?
Well, right now I’m trying to get some new prints ready for Megacon. I plan to have some new cuties like some Star Trek, Disney, Marvel, and more. For bigger prints, I have new ones already ready for print, but want to get some of my Hamilton pieces done. You can see a lot of sketches I do and works in progress on my Instagram or facebook fan page. They are the pages I use the most. https://www.facebook.com/katecarletonillustration/ & https://www.instagram.com/keelhaulkate/
Do you have any upcoming exhibits? Or art shows? Or conventions?
The rest of my schedule I have left this year if anyone would love to come see me in person is :
Free Comic Book Day – May 7th – Yancy Street Comics | Port Richey, FL
Fan Girl Jamboree – May 11th – Heroes Landing | Clermont, FL
MegaCon – May 26-29th – Orlando, FL
HeroesCon – June 15th-17th – Charlotte, NC
Tampa Bay Comic Con – August 5-7th – Tampa, FL
Dragon Con – September 2-5th – Atlanta, GA
Waiting List: (Deciding if I can or got in, If want to see me there PLEASE let me or the con know)
NYCC- New York City, NY
Rocky Mountain Comic Con- Denver, CO
If there’s any show you’d love to see me in don’t be afraid to email me and especially let the cons know to contact me. When enough people ask they invite us out as guests which makes travel expenses a little easier to see you guys.
You’ve been very generous with your time! Thank you for this interview, and we look forward to seeing your next creations!
Be sure to check out the various Kate Carleton websites: