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The Pencil Pushers

Artist Series: Kara Mitchell

ART, INTERVIEW, Local, The Pencil PushersSteven SilvaComment

The Artist Series rolls on, this month featuring illustrator Kara Mitchell. We were lucky enough to catch up and pick her brain. Our Q&A covered a range of topics, including her start as an artist, her styles and influences, and even touching briefly on the nurturing of creativity. Ladies and gentlemen, Kara Mitchell:

TL: Kara, thanks for doing this!

KM: Thanks for asking! I'm pumped!

TL: I follow you on Instagram, and you put out a lot of content. Your work has a great storybook quality, featuring a lot of soft colors and textures. How would you describe your style and subject matter, and how did you develop it?

KM: Describing my work is tough. I'm a landscape designer, and the graphic nature of architectural drafting has definitely influenced my style. I've always wanted to illustrate children's books and, being the mom of two boys, I've read more than my share. Looking at all of those stories over the years has definitely given my work a particular slant. Subject matter is up for grabs. Anything goes, really. 

TL: You've actually illustrated a couple of books, and I want to get to that, but tell me a little bit about your inspiration – where does it come from? Who are some of your favorite artists and illustrators?

KM: Inspiration comes from anything and everything. I try not to wait for it to hit me. Over the years, I've made either mental or physical notes about things that interest me or make me laugh. Connecting all of those things together in different ways is where ideas come from. I don't believe in talent. I believe in skill and practice. Practice being inspired, practice being creative and you'll get better at it. It will start to become natural, and then it can't be turned off.

My favorites? I mean, who doesn't love Maurice Sendak or William Joyce?! Also, I really respond to David Shannon and the detailed simplicity of his work. I'm really inspired by people who have a great process. People who are always working on their craft. I look at people like Paul Simon, Stephen King, David Sedaris, and Picasso. They can't turn it off. They make mistakes and keep on. They turn mistakes into something wonderful. They copy from other people and make it theirs. 

TL: When did you become interested in art, and was there a moment when you began to take it more seriously?

KM: Being the youngest of three girls, I was always being dragged from one event to another. My mom always had pencils and paper handy, and I guess I took advantage. I graduated from OSU with a studio art degree and taught high school art for two years. Not really liking the teaching part, I went back to school to study landscape architecture. I've been practicing for 14 years now. About two and a half years ago, my business slowed as family life heated up. Having lost one role, I found myself looking for another. Drawing has always centered me. So, I started hitting it pretty hard. My dream of illustrating children's books hadn't gone anywhere, and so I figured I better get at it.

TL: When you think cultural capitals, OKC probably isn't at the top of the list. But what are some of the advantages of being an Oklahoma City-based artist? And let’s get real, what are some of the disadvantages, or some of the things you’d like to see change?

KM: Hands down, the people are the advantage. Everyone has been so supportive and helpful. It's been easy to plug in pretty quickly. Being small is our secret super power. I can't think of any major disadvantages. The internet has leveled the field. Social media has definitely gotten me out there, even though I'm a mom and don't get out much. 

TL: Switching gears, tell me a little bit about your upcoming show – what can people expect?

KM: I tried to include my most recent work since it's evolved so quickly over the last two years. I think people will use the word "cute" initially. But hopefully, as they look more closely, they'll start to shake their heads and laugh. Humor and telling stories with images is the way I approach most of the things I make. The subject matter runs the gamut but might let people see inside my head a little bit.

TL: Plug time – are you working on anything right now? Where can people find more of your work? And don't forget the books!

KM: I have illustrated two picture books. The first is called, "The Little Old Man, the Little Old Woman, and the Little Red Hen." It was written by David L. Roper of Midwest City. It really is a classic story and was wonderful to work on. I just finished the illustrations for, "Camping with Bigfoot" written by Matt Judkins. Matt and I are great friends and are both a little obsessed with the big guy, so it was an ideal project. It will be out in the fall. Both are published by a local house called Doodle and Peck that sells books through its website. They are also available through Amazon. On the horizon, I have several stories I need to get out there. I'm going to throw them at the publishing world and see what happens. It's a scary, risky step. But, what the hell. Right?

You can see more of Kara's work on her website, and you can also follow her on Instagram. Her show begins at 7 PM this Friday (7/14) during LIVE on the Plaza.

Artist Series: Okie Cody

ART, PLAZA DISTRICT, Local, INTERVIEW, Drink And Draw, The Pencil PushersSteven SilvaComment

      Okie Cody is an up-and-coming artist in Oklahoma City. He’s a friend of ours and a Pencil Pushers regular, meaning we’ve been lucky enough to see him get better and better up close. He proudly reps his born-and-raised Oklahoma heritage with the stately moniker, but none of the folksy horses, bison, or scissortail flycatchers of traditional, Great-Plainsy iconography oversaturate his work. Instead, he opts for a smorgasbord of bold lines, bold colors, horror, and pop culture. Read on for our interview, and catch his show next Friday, May 12th, beginning at 7PM.

Cody, thanks for doing this! You're an inspiration. I’ve coasted, gotten worse, gotten stuck, you name it…and then with you, it seems like you're always drawing and I’m like, “This guy…” and it pushes me. I think most people who usually mean really well say to artists, “Wow, you’re so talented!” And that may be – you’re a talented guy – but I think it undersells how much time you spend working on this. When did you start? And was there a moment when it became a bigger deal for you?

My dad taught me how to color, but I'd say I've been interested in art since my Grandpa introduced it to me at a young age. He liked to do pencil drawings of old cars like Model Ts and Corvettes. He would give me lessons on how to draw. After that I was always drawing or doodling, even to the point where in one high school class, I didn't even have to write my name on the paper. The teacher knew it was mine because of all the doodles. 
I started getting more serious about my art after high school. Going to Drink & Draw (now known as Pencil Pushers) every Thursday, and being around other artists made me want to improve. With that improvement came much encouragement and people asking me to do commissions for them. Doing that made me think about possibly doing art for a living.
...I didn’t even have to write my name on the paper. The teacher knew it was mine because of all the doodles.

What do you like to draw? How would you describe your style and subject matter?

I normally gravitate towards darker themes in my art. Things like skulls, zombies, pop culture monsters, and other creepy and gross stuff. Things that my dad really likes, but things that make my mom say, "It's good, but it's not very pretty." I'm not sure where it comes from because I'm a pretty goofy guy, but it's what I like to do. 
I mainly work in pen and ink, as well as digital drawings on my phone, but all of the pieces in this show were done in acrylic. I'd say that I have a graphic/illustrative style, with thick and thin lines and bold, solid, cell-shaded colors. 

Who are some of your favorite artists and inspirations?

A lot of my inspiration and growth has come from the guys at Drink & Draw. When I first started going, I would really look up to them. They would inspire me to be a better artist as well find a style that is consistent and could be recognized as mine. 
I also get inspiration from online. A lot of my time is spent watching art tutorials, speed-paints, and thumbing through artist profiles on Instagram. Some favorite artists that come to mind are Jerry Bennett, Edgardo George, Ashton Letton, Bailey Hart, Valerie Sisk, Josiah Brooks, Mary Doodles, Danica Sills, Sam Moore, Carrie South, and Nicholas Keiser. They all have very different styles, but each one has very specific things that I love about their art.

Are you a coffee shop draw-er? Do you lock yourself in a cave? Do you listen to music? What’s the process like for you when you're making art?

I'm more of a sit-at-home-with-no-pants-while-watching-TV kind of draw-er. Ha. Often times I will draw an image out on my phone before I put it on paper or canvas. That way I can get it just the way I want it. It makes it easier to test out and choose colors and highlights that way, too.

Tell me a little bit about this show, specifically. Is there a theme? I know you’re doing some new things with highlights and contrast in your colors. What can I expect? Why should I come out?

All of the pieces in this show are acrylic paintings of varying size, all on canvas. I wouldn't say that there is a theme, but all of the images are a consistent style, making up a cohesive body of work. I have been working on pushing the highlights and contrast in my art, and that can definitely be seen in each piece. As for the subject matter, there are skulls and other creepy things that are portrayed. 
What can be expected? You can expect to see graphic, illustrative art with bright colors and bold lines. There is also a nod to tattooing, as that is something I would really like to do in the near future. I realize that my art is something that not everyone would want to hang on their wall, but if you like dark and quirky stuff, then you will like the pieces in this show. Prints and buttons will also be available.

If you're a cheapskate, buy a print or a button. Okay, Plug City, where can people find more of your work?

A lot of my stuff can be seen on my website, okiecodyart.com. On that website, there are works in multiple types of mediums. 
Also, check out my Instagram, @okiecody. Instagram is updated more often than my website. 

Okie Cody's show kicks off Friday, May 12th, 7 - 11 PM.

The Pencil Pushers!

Drink And Draw, The Pencil PushersDusty GilpinComment

We've been hosting Drink & Draw for almost 7 years! It's hard to believe we've been having these drawing sessions that long! After a lot of thought, I've decided to rebrand and rename our drawing sessions.

This year, we want to make our drawing sessions bigger and better than ever. We want to plan some drawing 'field trips', and we might even host a class or speaking guest! In these events, I think it's wise to have a group title that isn't bound to location or activity. Instead of naming the event, we want to name the group. Instead of being an attendee, we want you to be A Pencil Pusher!

Lastly, I want these drawing sessions to be open to anyone. All artists of any age or gender are welcome to join us! Members are still welcome to bring their own refreshments if they'd like (BYOB), we're just taking the emphasis out of drink.

We will post every time we host a drawing session so follow @TreeAndLeaf on Instagram or join The Pencil Pushers Facebook group! We will also continue using the old DrinkAndDrawOKC hashtag alongside the new #OKCPencilPushers.

Sessions will take place on Thursdays (typically every other week) from 7-10 PM at the store. In the event we'll be taking a field trip, we'll give advance notice via social media and our website. 

Hope to see you at our next session - TONIGHT (01/05) from 7-10PM!