Art, History, and Story

I went on an interview where I was asked how I went from teaching history to pursuing an art career. I kind of got stumped for a second. And actually after the interview was over, I thought if I didn’t get the job, it’s ok because the revelation that question provided me was enough.

Let me go way back first. As a kid, I had a nerdy habit to carry and read a book everywhere. You could find me at a restaurant reading Nancy Drew or the Hobbit at the table with my family. Or in the car I’d keep my nose down in Judy Blume or one of Cynthia Voigt’s books.

I loved a good story in book form as a kid. I also created my own books – consisting mostly of pictures. When I woke up in the mornings, I would read – actually I still do that today. And read again before going to sleep. And I still carry a book with me everywhere.

Since I’ve been a kid, these two things, reading and art, have been my things (and running but I’m not sure if that fits here). So when I entered college I naturally tended towards all the studio art classes I could take. I wasn’t very good or serious about it. I just loved it and wanted to keep doing it.

I explored other possibilities for a major though. Two things pushed me towards this: the idea that you couldn’t make money with an art career unless you were a graphic designer (this was the mid 90s and I hated the thought of being a graphic designer) and it was super hard as a year round athlete (cross country, indoor & outdoor track) to get the number of credit hours successfully in studio art (most of the classes were at the same time as practice too).

So I explored. I thought a business major would work but took an accounting class and thought I was going to never make it out of there with a passing grade. I knew science wasn’t for me and I hated writing so English was out. Then I took an intro class in international politics to fulfill a history requirement (I was also bored by history as it was taught or maybe my own approach to it). But somehow this class was different. We studied history but from the perspective of why, we discussed ideas, and there was never a wrong answer – like there seemed to be in history classes. We only had to provide ideas and back them up with history. I loved it because we were always searching for universal themes and theories that ran through history.

Fast forward to the present, and after the interview, I thought more about it. There’s a connection there I didn’t realize. Both art and history are heavily doused in story and themes.

I also began to think about why I create art, or which art pieces I love the most to create. I tend towards the pieces that have a theme or story connected to them. Maybe it’s why I began a podcast to go with my lettering, maybe it’s why I love including a story behind the art with each collection release. I love my pieces that evoke themes more than the pieces that I create out of emotion.

As I’ve developed my illustration techniques, I’ve also realized I love lettering (maybe it’s my literal tendencies or the actual love of letters, I’m still not sure) but lettering has become an important part of my illustrations.

When I read, I tend towards the classics. There is always a universal theme
within them that relates no matter the time period, much like history  and art
can draw on universal themes.

I started to piece all of this together through the end of last year and realized the congruence of these things is in the illustration of book covers and posters. These are all things that I’ve always shown an interest in. Why had I not done this from the beginning?

With this realization, I began focusing my illustration on story and creating book covers and posters. I also realized I have some more steps to take, and one of those was to create a different website for my illustration work. And I’m super happy to announce, I finished it. I still have a few things I’m working on, but it’s there and ready. You can take a look here:

Mary Kathleen Illustration

So yep, one of my goals is met – a online portfolio. Now for the other steps I need to work on to fulfill this dream. And to begin the work of finding clients. 🙂

Discovering Breadcrumbs

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