Carissa Kaye Powell
Carissa Kaye Powell (Simkaye) is a Texan artist seeing a lot of traffic on the internet and today you may get to learn from her artistic experience.
Many know of her work through her ever charming coon comic. If you look at her website you will soon see her talents and storytelling abilities are diverse, practiced and infatuated with fantasy. Just looking up "coon comic" by Simkaye gets you a host this cutely rabid racoon as they have invaded many meme and tumblr worlds.
I started supporting her through Patreon (crowdfunding for creators) as a way to give back and enjoy the new comics as they came out but you soon learn what else she is cable of. Simkaye's style is polished, clean, yet open to super expressive line and colour work. The balance of control and abstract flourishes further animates her visual work and its characters.
Recently, I felt some severe anxiety over spending more time on my own art with it's sporadic opportunities and pitfalls. Simkaye has been doing this awhile and by how many friends I know that love her comic, is experiencing certain measures adoration and success from her fans. So who better to ask about heading down this road? Being so approachable, Simkaye was open to answering some questions I had about art, life and its practice. With her permission here is that conversation in the hope it helps others considering the balance of art and life.
I learned a lot from this and respect her even more. Please consider supporting her for however much you feel on her Patreon page. Or even take in the sights and lovable merchandise on on her web page.
1. Would you say you have gotten what you wanted out of your art practice so far? How would you like it to look?
Sort of. At least, I think I'm heading in the right direction. There isn't much of an end goal for artists, I think. For me, at least, it feels more like an endless journey of growing and developing my skills, like chasing a horizon. Boundless. I don't think I'll ever stop practicing and pushing improvement in my lifetime.
2. Since making art more regularly, or at least as a major part of your working life, how do you think your art has changed?
A bit. My webcomic is my most popular output, and that's what sells 10x more than anything else I produce. So I end up putting more time and energy into it for those reasons and because people enjoy it and I know they want and expect to see more of it. When you're selling your work, you have to keep in mind what your audience enjoys and what is most marketable to them, sometimes regardless of your personal thoughts on the subject. Coon Comic, for me, is that. I don't think my art has changed per say, because i still draw and paint things I prefer to do in my spare time--but the balance of what I devote my time to has shifted a bit.
3. How did you first find Art and why do you think you keep at it? What would you say inspires you?
I've been drawing since my grubby little hands could grip a pencil! I first got serious about it when I was a child and first watched the movie DragonHeart. I was so inspired by the art department's CGI of Draco--how believable and inspired and utterly unique his design was--and by the completely captivating, creative storytelling. I swore then and there that I would start drawing and I wouldn't stop until I was capable of producing something which could have that effect on someone. Obviously my art journey has taken me down many paths since then, but the sentiment and the goal remains the same. As for more generally what inspires me, that's a massive list of odd things! I'll try to name a few: Nature. The American Southwest. Androgynous men and women. Dragons. Studio Ghibli. Quentin Tarantino. Deserts/cacti. Animals. Monet. Star Trek: The Original Series. Wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability. Charlie Chaplin. The Twilight Zone. Well written comedy that relates to the basic human experience. Other Artists. Edgar Allan Poe/Ray Bradbury/H.P. Lovecraft/Emily Dickinson.
4. Why did you decide to make your art more self sustaining? What has proved most challenging about it?
Mostly, I was sick to death of doing commission work. I wanted to draw what I wanted to draw, practice honing my skills, and maybe that would also be something I might be able to sell. Maybe not. Luckily art isn't my main career, so not making big bucks off my work isn't a concern for me. What I really want is to keep practicing, keep improving, become the best artist I can be, and have a body of work that I personally love and feel invested in and can be proud of. That's my ultimate life goal.
5. While building your art practice how were things similar or different compared to your expectations?
Growing a professional art practice for yourself is always more expensive and more difficult than you think it will be! Which is one reason art is NOT my main career! Being a freelancer is hard, the income is highly unstable and next to impossible to make a living off of. Equipment and supplies are very expensive. Doing your taxes for your art business is a complicated mess. Young artists often glamorize the freelancer career path, but the reality of it is anything but glamorous. No health benefits. No retirement. No paid vacation time. You have to be very professional, very jack-of-all-trades with your business management, and really able to hustle. It's anything but easy.
6. What would you have done differently when you were staring out?
I would have focused on honing my basic skills more. And this is advice I still need to take from myself! It's easy to get addicted to the instant gratification of posting low effort sketches or drawings on social media or submitting them to spitpaint groups. I did that a LOT when I was in college. Which, to be fair, I didn't have a lot of time for big paintings and illustrations back then. But instead I should have been honing my anatomy, composition, and basic painting skills in my spare time. Something I still should devote more time to practicing. And not just practicing for the sake of practicing--experimenting. Trying new things. Going outside your comfort zone. Drawing or painting what you usually don't. Learning from the masters. That's something I've only started focusing on more recently and it's made all the difference.
7. Do you feel your appreciation of art has changed in any way?
Oh yes! My appreciation for good composition and anatomy has just skyrocketed and completely changed the way I view art. As I continue to learn more, my respect for other artists and consumable art in TV, film, fashion, writers, etc. continues to grow. And when I see art I appreciate and recognize for its good craftsmanship, I go out of my way to support it.
8. How do you think trying to fulfil your artistic ambitions has changed your daily life?
It hasn't much, because as long as I can remember I've always been a very ambitious creature. Driven. Focused. Art is the center of gravity in my life, everything else sort of falls into orbit around it in its own way and always has. I understand it's not exactly common for people to have a passion they're that driven in, so I try to caution others not to push themselves too hard and burn out. Everyone has their limit!
9. Anything you would like to add about your experience as a artist in this day and age?
a) Never underestimate the value of social media! If you're looking to market your work, make an account on every major social media platform. Don't worry about spamming each time you post something, because some people will follow you only on twitter, some only on fb, some only on instagram, etc. Choose a username that you can use consistently everywhere and use as a brand or use your real name.
b) Be smart. Don't be ignorant on topics like copyright and trademark infringement. Don't sell fanart. Don't avoid doing taxes if you're really profiting off your work. Understand how to draft a legally binding contract if you're freelancing with other artists/game owners/book authors/etc. There is no excuse to be ignorant on these topics with the internet at our fingertips at all times, especially when there are potential legal consequences.
c) Also on that note--LEARN! Never stop learning. Learn constantly! YouTube. Schoolism. Online tutorials. There are so many resources available that weren't when I was a kid! Take advantage of them as much as possible. Art is a constant journey of growth for all of us!