Interview to Karyn Lewis

8 09 2009

Karyn Lewis is a multifaceted artist that juggles being a mother with making T-shirts, postcards, abstract art, concept art, running a few blogs and providing fellow artists with invaluable help. Her sense of composition, colors and values provide her artwork with excellent quality. Let me introduce you to this wonderful woman

What is your education background?

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Drawing, from Colorado State University, with a minor in acting and directing. I also studied creative writing I school.

What do you feel that you gained from going to school to study art instead of being self-taught?

You don’t have to go to college to be a great artist, but I do recommend it. What you get from a college education is formal training in art technique, theory and art history from people who *mostly* know what they’re talking about. They provide you structured lessons and feedback. But the most important thing that an art school provides to budding artists is a network and culture of art.

Working in group of other artists, being able to watch them paint or draw or sculpt, being able to talk about your work with your peers or instructors is all invaluable stuff. Now with internet forums, chat and IM’s, it’s a bit easier to duplicate that camaraderie of sharing, but it’s still better to do it one on one, face to face, art to art.

If you hate the idea of college, or you can’t go back, books, online tutorials, galleries and communities are great to help you develop your skills, but I’d also recommend joining a local art or regional art group, perhaps through your local museum. Many regional art groups will do live drawing or other group activities and classes. And that’s a great way for artists of all skill levels to practice and mingle with other artists. It’s also a great way to network with local artists, which will help your career. Even though I’m long out of college, I make it a point to take outside lessons when I can afford it and have time, just to keep my skills up and to have fresh perspective on my art from others.

You have a multiplicity of styles, from design, to abstract, to realism, among others. Is there a reason for you to explore all that diversity of styles?

(c) Karyn Lewis

(c) Karyn Lewis

There’s no one reason… If you look at my college studies from the first question, you might notice a trend. I pretty much love anything to do with the creative arts. And I’m really curious. I love to “know” stuff. Part of that learning process is doing. For example, when I was in college, I had a professor who touted abstract painting. That’s all he taught, and all he wanted us to do. He was stuck in the 60s, man. LOL. At that time, I pooh-poohed abstract art. I thought it was all a gimmick, you know, something that people with no artistic talent did, slapped a fancy artist statement on it, and were able to hoodwink the snobby New York Gallery scene. But when I actually sat down and tried it, I realized that it was just as hard to pull off successfully as realistic or naturalistic paintings were to do. Sometimes even harder! And all the same rules of color, composition, etc., applied to abstracts. So much for my early theories that abstract art was easy!

Is there any style that you enjoy more than the others?

It honestly depends on the day. Some days I’m in an ‘abstract’ mood. Or a ‘graphic’ one. Or I want to paint realistically. On those days, that’s the style I like best. Whatever the muse dictates, that’s what I’m into at the moment.

Is there any style that you would like to develop more?

All of them! That might sound like a cop out, but I feel like I have so much to learn in every style of art. I used to take private pottery lessons. I would love to get back on a wheel and throw some pots. But I don’t have the budget or the teacher to do that right now.

I am trying to refocus my portfolio toward children’s art, and I hope to aggressively pursue this in 2010.

Self_Portrait___Past_Life_by_Nyrak

(c) Karyn Lewis

Thanks! I am my own worst critic, and I think that my realistic work isn’t up to snuff, and so I am usually frustrated by it and put it away, or scrap it and go on to something else. This hyper-critical perfectionist side of my art and writing has been known to get in the way a lot. It’s actually something I’ve been working on – learning how to quiet the internal critic.

How do you feel your style has evolved in the last years?

I think it’s hard for me to call that one. I do think that the more I’ve mastered my art programs, like Photoshop CS3, for example, the more diverse art I’m able to do. I’ve been recently obsessed with textures and vectors. No matter what style I work in, I have a very tight controlled, graphic feel, and I am always rebelling against that. Recently I’ve been embracing it, and I think it shows.

I love your flower series, how do you achieve that look? Can you share your technique?

(c) Karyn Lewis

(c) Karyn Lewis

Each flower in the floral series starts out as a snapshot that I’ve either taken, or which has been donated by friends/family. They are basically photo-manipulations, since I use the photograph as a base for the finished art.

Basically, I take the photo into Photoshop CS3, enlarge it, and then on a new layer, I create an ‘ink drawing’ of the photo by drawing right over the flowers. I’m tracing the contours because I want to keep the shape of the plant as close to the photo as possible, but I’m trying to be liberal in my lines, and what elements of the flower anatomy that I want to highlight. I also try to keep it fairly fast and loose, so it looks hand drawn, which it is! It want it to have a pop-art, urban vibe, rather than organic which is why I trace the photo. I want the structure of the drawing to feel like the photo I’m working from.

Once I have the drawing done, I transform the colors of the original photo using photoshop’s curves and other image adjusting tools. I custom build half tone screens and add textures using different grunge brushes. The background is treated very abstract, and in many ways these flowers are closer to abstract work than realism because I am concentrating on the way color and texture interact in unusual ways. Many, many false starts, layers, adjustments and tweaks go into these until I find something that I feel is harmonious, but stylized, and I spend several hours on tiny adjustments.

How did Billy’s arrival affect your art career?

He’s just turned two at the time of this interview, and I can say that right now, I’m finding it challenging to be a stay at home mom and meet all his demands. LOL. Now that it’s spring, he wants to be outside and away from my PC, which makes it hard to work! Also, I have chores and family time obligations which further cut down on my actual work hours. I think this is something that most art moms, or stay at home moms, run into when they try to juggle mommy time and career time.

If Billy has affected something in your life, it is certainly not your entrepreneurial facet. How many projects do you have going on?

LOL. I don’t even know. Honestly, I try to get as much online exposure for my art as I can, which means participating in online art communities, galleries and forums as well as taking advantage of the myriad companies online that can help artists sell their work.

(c) Karyn Lewis

(c) Karyn Lewis

Can you tell us about “Koncepts by Karyn”?

Koncepts by Karyn was one of the first online stores I set up to try and showcase my work. I originally wanted to sell greeting cards and art prints, but as you know, I can’t just settle for one thing. I saw that selling t-shirts could be fun and profitable, and I just kept creating design after design. Now you can buy my work in several different online stores in several different themes, from holidays to weddings, kids stuff and more.

How did “Moms that make stuff” come to life?

http://MomsThatMakeStuff.com happened because I was spending a lot of time reading journals on DeviantArt by people still in their twenties who were living the art life, cranking out work, basically, what I had done in my 20s before I had a family. There were many people who took for granted what a gift they had, how incredibly lucky they were to be able to work on their art as hard as they wanted or whenever they wanted. I was a jealous, and I felt left out and like I was getting farther and farther behind artists in their 20s because I just didn’t have the time (or energy) to work that I used to. Until you have kids, you never truly appreciate the conflict they can put on your “me” time. You think about having kids, and you know it will be hard work, but you truly don’t understand just how much work (and joy!) they are until you have them.

I know art dads have a lot of demands on them as well, but I still think in many cases, moms really bear the brunt of child-rearing, at least in the early years. I wanted to create a support network of other women going through the same things.

(c) Karyn Lewis

(c) Karyn Lewis

Has the current economy affected your business?

Sadly, yes. Sales are down, and although they’ve risen slightly, people still aren’t spending money like they used to. Hopefully things will pick back up in 2010!

Are you planning to exhibit in a brick and mortar art gallery?

I am trying to focus on getting art up at local venues here in my neck of the woods. I’m supposed to have a few pieces up at a local gallery in July, and I’ve started joining and showing my art in local art groups in my region. This is something that I intend to broaden in the next year.

What about writing? You take part in Nanowrimo each year, what are you working on?

Currently I’m working on a Regency romance novel and a YA science fiction story. I love writing! I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I’ve wanted to be an artist. I started writing my first novel about the American Revolution in the fourth grade. Sadly, I never got past that first chapter. LOL.

What happened to your cats’ comic? It was a lot of fun!

Like so many of my projects, my cat webcomic, Kitty Wars, isn’t dead, just on hiatus until I have more time to dedicate to it.

Where can the readers buy your art?

The best place to start is my web site, http://karynlewis.com. There you can find links to many of my online stores.

Karyn by Cris Griffin

Karyn is one of the nicest, most savvy people I know.  She has a great eye, a lovely sense of color and light, but foremost, her design skills are a great source of jealousy for me!  She’s a multi-talented artist who not only creates visual wonders, but literary and dramatic as well.  A true Renaissance woman!

Karyn by Jenny Dolfen

Karyn is an artist with an amazing scope of skills and styles – made even more amazing by the fact that the has a young son, and everyone who manages to elude the Child Swamp to still produce artwork on a regular (!) basis deserves the utmost degree of respect!

Karyn by Lou Poulson
I was first in contact with Karyn through the Deviant Art website.  I have found Karyn to be a great inspiration both creatively and professionally.  Being fairly new to my industry I have welcomed Karyn’s words of experience and have followed her own work with great admiration and interest.  When Karyn invited me to be a part of her new website I jumped at the opportunity.  I wasn’t sure if it would be possible to work alongside the demands of a family but I have managed and Karyn has been a big part in giving me the confidence to give it a go.

Karyn by Katherine Wadey

Karyn Lewis is, a very talented artist, who is also a very caring and sharing person. She handles a range of painting and graphic techniques beautifully. Best of all, she can share her knowledge in ways that help other artists learn and grow. I am delighted to call her my friend.


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