Welcome to Fun.com Interviews, a new series where we talk with some of our favorite artists, designers, and all-around creative people. Our first guest is Kate Willaert, the Senior Web/UX Designer here at Fun.com. That means she helps shape the look and feel of the website, but over the past five years Kate has been involved in a variety of creative projects.
Kate has co-designed many of our products, from our Iron Man Alter Ego suit to our Two-Face ugly Christmas sweater (which features a Neal Adams illustration on the front). In addition to product design, she helps develop content for our blog and she started our popular series of character evolution infographics. (See The Evolution of Batgirl, for example.) We asked Kate about drawing comics and her lifelong love of comic books and animation.
Interview with Kate
How long have you been drawing comics?
I started drawing my favorite movie and TV characters sometime in Kindergarten. I think the first characters I drew were Ghostbusters.
The first time I attempted a comic book was in third grade after reading the Marvel comic adaptation of Terminator 2: Judgment Day illustrated by Klaus Janson. I was too young to see the movie in the theater, but apparently the Code-approved comic was okay with my parents.
Did you go to school for that?
I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to art. For graphic design I went to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, which I chose partly because they were one of the few colleges at the time that had a comic arts program. I majored in Graphic Design and filled all my electives with comic-related classes, including coloring taught by Brian Haberlin and lettering taught by Comicraft.
What is your favorite art project?
I have the curse of the ambitious artist: I rarely enjoy looking at my own work. All I see are the mistakes.
If I had to pick one I'm still mostly happy with, I'd say Kirby Meets Kirby because I think it turned out almost as epic as I pictured it in my head.
Has your art always focused on comic books and superheroes?
I'd say heroic characters in general. Before I discovered comics, I wanted to be an animator. I was into things like The Real Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. The day someone told me cartoons were created by artists doing a series of drawings, it blew my mind.
My introduction to costumed superheroes were the TV commercials for Tim Burton's Batman and the reruns of the '60s Batman TV show that showed up around the same time. But the '90s X-Men cartoon was ultimately the gateway drug that got me into superhero comics and made me a fan for life.
Who/what are your influences?
I have a long list of influences that gets longer every year. I'm always keeping my eyes open for artists who are doing interesting things and trying to learn from them.
I enjoy a wide variety of comic art styles, from Brian Bolland to Bill Watterson; from Bill Sienkiewicz to Winsor McCay. Outside of comics, I'm influenced by old album covers, movie posters, surrealist artists, and movie directors.
If I had to narrow it down to just ten artists who've made the deepest impression me, I'd say (in alphabetical order):
- M.C. Escher
- Jack Kirby
- Stanley Kubrick
- Jim Lee
- Joe Madureira
- Katsuhiro Otomo
- Drew Struzan
- Storm Thorgerson
- Bill Watterson
What tips do you have for someone who wants to be an artist?
- Never stop learning. Artists begin to stagnate and atrophy once they think they're done growing.
- Don't go to an expensive art school.
- Youtube tutorials are your friend.
What do you do in your free time besides making art?
I consume a lot of movies, TV, comics, video games, and art on Instagram.
I also write about and research various geek topics. I write about comic cover design for The Beat, I write about video game history for The Video Game History Foundation, and sometimes I write things on my blog, A Critical Hit! I also run a Tumblr dedicated to Textless Album Covers.
Kate designed this triptych of posters for the 50th anniversary of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. [Source: katewillaert.tumblr.com]
This is a fun Adventure Time/Twin Peaks mashup referencing Cooper’s Dream. [Source: katewillaert.tumblr.com]
Kate wonders what would happen if Kirby met Kirby. Jack Kirby and Nintendo’s Kirby, that is. We love how it gets delightfully weird! [Source: katewillaert.tumblr.com and katewillaert.com]
You can see more of Kate’s work on KateWillaert.com, on Tumblr, on Twitter, on Instagram, and featured on sites like Nerdist.