AS AN ARTIST, IT SEEMS LIKE THE LANDSCAPE IS EVER-CHANGING FROM SIMPLY THE TOOLS TO THE AESTHETIC. I INTEND TO BE AN ARTIST THAT NEVER WANTS TO STOP LEARNING AND AS SUCH, I FIND MORE AND MORE INTERESTING ARTISTS EVERYDAY. EACH ARTIST HAS A UNIQUE INSIGHT AND POINT OF VIEW, NO MATTER THE EXPERIENCE LEVEL. NEW VIEWS HELP OPEN MY MIND AND TEACH ME THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO UTILIZE MY SKILLS AND I HOPE THAT SHARING OUR STORIES WILL HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WAY. I BELIEVE THERE ARE MANY PATHS ON AN ARTISTIC JOURNEY, AND EACH INTERVIEW WILL HELP TO SHOW THE STORIES OF THE ARTISTS THAT TREAD THEM.
TODAY WE'LL be interviewing "K.F." Golden.
Kaminski: Firstly, Introduce yourself. What kinds of work do you do? Where have you shown your work?
Golden: I'm K.F. Golden, and I'm an illustrator based out of Memphis, Tennessee. I'm primarily known for picking up stray animals and drawing things, and I make money by doing the latter. I've done cartooning and story boarding that's been showcased mostly at conventions and galleries around the mid south, packaging design that's been used internationally, and right now I'm crossing the country in a bright yellow Kia visiting as many different art shows as possible with my BFF, Alexis Stetson.
Kaminski: Since conventions seem to be very important to you, what made you get a start in them and not dive head-first into a specific industry? In that same vein, what keeps you coming back for more?
Golden: I got into the convention atmosphere super early. My parents let me go to my first con when I was around twelve, and I was fortunate enough to have older friends who would drag me along on road trips to cons during the summer when I was in middle and high school. I honestly just love the scene! And right now, I have my best friend and we have a car and the finances to do it, so it made sense for us to say, "Hey, this is the part where we're young and cool and we hit the road." I really dig getting to travel and meet other creators in different fields. That, and it's been surprisingly lucrative for us. One-off commissions are my favorite things to do, and we sell a lot of those at cons. Basically, it's good money, I get to sight see, and I get to do my favorite parts of my job without worrying about too much corporate oversight.
Kaminski: I bet the versatility of not having a day-to-day job is both relieving and terrifying at the same time. Add to that, I have what I coin, 'con-ADD', so I have a really hard time buckling myself to the chair to do live commissions.
Did your style develop naturally from having to work through convention commissions like this? Or was this style something you naturally did? In that vein, is style even something that you consider when attacking a piece?
Golden: Oh heck yeah. I'm super lucky that I can do cons as a main source of income right now. (It's definitely a temporary situation since my healthcare stuff is kinda tenuous at best. But that's a bridge I'll cross soon enough. Gotta get a job with actual benefits, which means workin' for the man.) Oh my gosh, how do you not consider style. That said, my style is definitely one that I've tailored for doing on-the-spot commissions and quicker pieces. I don't mind sitting down and working, but I've always liked simplifying my lines, and my preference for watercolor has everything to do with it being a quick and easy way to get colors down. When I have an idea in my head, I like being able to execute it right then. I definitely like to work efficiently and simply, so I often draw in straight pen and ink and then lay down flats right on top of it.
Kaminski: What led to your decision to pursue art in the first place?
Golden: This sounds extra lame, but it was a completely natural decision for me. I was always that kid in school that was drawing next to their notes, and I pretty much spent all of my time outside of class doodling with friends, too. I'm just used to being that geeky kid who makes stuff. I was actually removed from the art program in high school for making the wrong stuff. But I had an awesome teacher who basically let me stay in her classroom during lunch periods and such, and she ended up being the one to recommend me into art school.
Kaminski: Very cool! I wish that I had been more invested in my high-school career...
Golden: I was super lucky and I had a lot of nerdy friends that I drew stuff with. Somewhere in her possession, Alexis has a hundred-some-odd page comic that we wrote and drew together with two friends in high school. It's like a Shakespearean tragedy.
Kaminski: Oh, you're going to have to redo that and get it worked up for a one-off comic sometime.
Golden: We've joked about it, but it's some spectacular 15-year-old type writing. It's atrocious.
Kaminski: All the better!
Golden: Nooooopppppe. Plus, we'd have to draw in our friends' old characters, haha.
Concept art for Golden's Ren'Py work.
Kaminski: Outside of commissioned work, is there any project in particular you'd like to talk about - such as a large project that you're working on or a group of pieces that all interrelate?
Golden: I recently made kind of a weird decision surrounding one of my long term projects that's helped tremendously. I had been working on a comic for a while that I kept hitting dead ends on. I guess I wanted to do a comic since it seems like every artist I know these days is passively working on one, you know?
Anyway, I retooled mine into a visual novel and I'm enjoying working on it about ten times more now. It's a story I've wanted to tell for a while but just couldn't quite get out in a way that I quite liked, called It All Just Blew Up. It's sort of an epistolary novel-style story told in text messages and chat logs, and it invokes a lot of modern day fantasy and sci-fiction tropes as it goes along. I'm having a ton of fun learning how to program it and designing things for the Ren'py engine right now. I'm a not-so-closeted VN geek, but point-and-click games can be very pulpy and they tend to have a sort of cult following. I realized that I'd really like to make one that has more than just a dating sim or a choose your own adventure-style format. So that's what's taking up my time these days.
Kaminski: Deciding to dive into something fully can be both relieving and incredibly stressful at the same time. My fiancee, Ashley, and I have only really begun to fully-flesh out the work that began back at MCA with Honor: Decoded. It's become a much different project than it was then, so it's awesome to hear that fellow artists go on journeys to get inspiration and projects that they feel worth their time. Do you have any personal tips that help you stay on target with your personal projects or perhaps things that help to motivate you while you work?
Golden: I try to set aside some time every day to make sure that I'm doing something creative for myself. It's definitely easiest for me to work if I have something else engaging going on. I'm a big geek for tabletop and forum role-play to kind of get my gears turning. I love making things and writing stories with other people - I mean, that's how I ended up here in the first place - so doing stuff like that that gets me back to my roots is really good for my ethic. It reminds me why I want to make cool things in the first place. That, and following other people who are working hard on awesome projects. It makes me jealous that they have something good to show. So then I remember to get to work so I have things to post, too. Totally petty, that one.
Don't be afraid to erase things and take things apart. Even if you think that your piece is good the way it is. Experiment.
Kaminski: Trust me, I agree with you fully. I don't think I would work as hard myself if I didn't scour things like Spectrum daily. I'm a huge art book nerd myself.
What are some of your favorite themes or tropes to paint and why?
Golden: My sense of humor is super straightforward and blunt, and I'm pretty sure that carries through to my artwork and the style that I like to write in. One of the more popular series that I did in college was my "Gross Gyls," which were basically just my main female character in really casual poses. Standing around in her underwear, scratching her sides, that kind of thing. I guess I like to draw things that are very dry and not over the top, and present my characters in situations that are relatable and distinctly un-glamorous. I like fantasy elements, but when I incorporate them, I like to base them in that same sense of boring modernity. I like characters that are making potions in a blender and using necromancy on roadkill. Mundane situations with some element of silliness are my jam.
Kaminski: It shows in your work - the silliness that is.
When you hit lull points in your work, what are some artists or things you find inspiring? What gets you back to work after you get worn down?
Golden: It might sound weird, but as much as I love visual media, my favorite way to deal with lull points is to get out of my own head space for a bit and just read a book or listen to music. It's hard not to take inspiration from different mediums when I work anyway, so sometimes I just need to sit back with my headphones and listen to some punk rock and kick start my creative groove again. As for artists I like, Yoshihiro Togashi is my go-to (I love Hunter X Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho. He's got a really identifiable style to his manga work and I like his inks and watercolors a lot). His work is really what got me into the field in the first place.
E.K. Weaver (The Less Than Epic Adventures Of T.J. and Amal) is another favorite.
And lately I've been really into Night In the Woods and the Shadowrun series by Harebrained Schemes.
I mean, I could go all art history student on you and say that I really like Leyendecker, 'cuz I do, but usually my most direct influences are very pop-y and pulp-y, and whatever I'm playing with right now.
Kids ask me how I use it all the time when I'm at shows, and the answer is "recklessly," until you more or less figure out what you're doing. Like punk rock. Or science.
Kaminski: I don't think it's weird at all that you get your inspiration from non-visual media. A ton of artists like Wylie Beckert actually start with writing before they even begin to touch sketching, so it only makes sense that you would want to change it up that way. I mean, hell, I get really inspired when Ashley reads to me while I write. In some ways I almost think that getting away from art is a way to make visual breakthroughs more than anything. A lot of times right after or right before I really grind on a project, I'll take a few days and just lounge and play video games or watch movies just as a break away from all of the art, and then come back to it with ten times the tenacity that I would have if I just grind straight through. Sometimes it's pretty important to push the reset button on your brain pan for a minute.
Switching gears, what kinds of goals do you have set for yourself in the immediate, and the long term?
Golden: In the short term, I'm excited to keep upping my convention game by making more things for our table. I'm working collaboratively with Alexis Stetson (Castalexis) to do a table at a different con or art show every month this year. We're booked through the year and still adding more shows. I feel like we're really learning as we go and it's been a super rewarding experience for us. We've been busy every weekend in March, and I'm making more art than I can remember to post. It's a good feeling! I keep seeing my portfolio and my experience grow with every show. We get to travel too, which is a fun bonus. I love road trips. Long term, I'm stoked to work on my personal project, but I'd like to take on more collaborative projects with other artists and creative types. I might even consider settling down for a nice, solid illustration job, but who knows? I'm really hoping that our road tripping continues to pan out and I get to travel further and sell art in even cooler places. That's the dream, right?
Kaminski: Yeah, the dream is definitely to expand outward with our art! And I think you're well on your way.
My final question for you is, what's the best piece of advice you've ever received or what's the best advice you can give to fellow artists?
Golden: Don't be afraid to erase things and take things apart. Even if you think that your piece is good the way it is. Experiment. Draw a good thing and then paint over it. For me, it's important to keep making things and trying out new approaches. If I'm not sure if I'm about to ruin a painting or not, I try to go ahead and commit myself to the risk of something new. Sure, I ruin a piece every now and then, but most of the time, that's just the price of learning and adapting my own process. Watercolor is a bit unforgiving as a medium anyway. Kids ask me how I use it all the time when I'm at shows, and the answer is "recklessly," until you more or less figure out what you're doing. Like punk rock. Or science.
Kaminski: That's an incredible answer. Thanks so much for a great interview madam!
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