Meet Kelsey King- A Minnesota-native freelance artist and recent graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Kelsey is one of the exhibiting artists in the Station Zero Exhibition, but has also shown work in various other institutions, and has had several works featured in Juxtapose Magazine, ImagineFX, and Scientific American among others. Her illustration work is captivating- delving in fantasy, science fiction, folklore, and intimate and imaginary subjects.
What are some of your favorite subjects to illustrate and why?
If you look through my body of work, it is obvious to see that young women is probably the most common thing I draw. But honestly, who doesn’t love drawing pretty ladies? I think that’s why pin-up and pulp covers interest me so much. The art is really beautiful but unsatisfying or just plain ridiculous. I love using the imagery as inspiration to make something more complex.
More recently, I’ve been drawing animals in a folk kind of way. I’ve found it’s fun to do something unexpected- contrasting the more realistic landscapes and simplified animals.
Station Zero touches on some of the subjects and themes found in your work. Can describe the process of your work for Station Zero, thoughts, enthusiasm?
I thought it was really cool to work with a book that was so female-centric, especially in the Science-Fiction genre in the 1960s! I love seeing a SF story that is focused on a young female protagonist who is extremely relatable- struggling to try and seem older than she really is, growing up way too fast.
When I started working on my cover, I wanted to bring certain characteristics out. I really liked how powerful she looked on the original cover and the moody blue tone, I also wanted to emphasize that she was described as 15 years-old with tanned skin and dark hair. When the story begins, she is on vacation, and dressed like the kid that she is. In the end, I tried my best to capture the powerful feeling and the look of a 15 year-old on vacation in the future!
You have a large series of work incorporating Women and Wolves (including your piece for Station Zero). Can you talk a little about these two subjects, what they mean for you, and why they are narratively important?
The Women&Wolves series started when I became re-interested in Little Red Riding Hood story after I read "In the Company of Wolves" by Angela Carter. I was fascinated by reading a version of the story where, instead of being a cautionary tale about the ‘big bad wolf’, it used wolves as a metaphor for desire, death, and fear. I loved that wolves could be more than a generally masculine icon. I wanted to continue with that idea, so I made a series that paired wolves and women in a natural setting, in an attempt to convert the wolf to a feminine icon.
I don’t think women are often shown as both the positive and negative impulses of nature, honestly and without exploitation. This series was a subtle way to explore these themes, while also experimenting with different techniques and styles of working. Also, I was able to draw crazy long-bodied wolves is a lot of fun, and I’ve just only recently discovered how much I love drawing environmental scenes!
What are some of your hobbies outside of art-making?
Cats? Cats. That’s a weird answer, but I spend a surprising amount of time cat-sitting for people. Right now I’m taking care of my Mom’s two cats at my place while caring for a 9 week-old kitten that loves biting everything. They’re not getting along very well and take a lot of work, so getting things done and sleeping is difficult for me!
My biggest hobby outside of art-related things is watching movies. I watch them constantly, while I’m working, when I’m not working, while I’m washing dishes. I love stories! Lately I've been watching documentaries, especially ones narrated by Leonard Nimoy.
What is your biggest motivation? How do you get yourself inspired?
I always find that my motivation to work and my inspiration never happens at the same time! I’ll have a great idea of something I want to work on it, but I'm not in a place to actually work on it. Conversely, whenever I am inspired to make work and sit down at my computer to do something, I have no idea of what to work on. So now, I keep a list of ideas and things I want to make, things I think are really cool (even if it’s something as simple as ‘draw food') Then, whenever I sit down I just pull up the list and have some ideas to get excited about.
Motivation has been easier for me since I decided to do illustration full time. I always feel like I have to be making something, even if it isn’t for a job, because making things is my job- if I’m not doing something productive, I’m failing at doing my job.
You recently graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. What is next for you? What projects, goals, or series are you excited about?
Yup! I just graduated in May! It seems like forever-ago though- it has been a busy summer for me, full of changes! Other than professional illustrations, I’m planning and working on two larger personal projects. The first has to do with my new house- I’m going to try and paint a new mural in the basement every month. I love working large scale, and murals are always a ton of fun. I’ve just started my first one the other night, and it was a great break from staring at my computer screen!
My second project is somewhat of an offshoot of my Women&Wolves series, and I’m still not sure where I’m going with it yet. It’s a story centered around three contrasting young women, all from different fantastical backgrounds, who are all forced from their homes until they can resolve whatever problems that they are facing. So far, I’ve just been having fun designing and drawing the girls and coming up with their back stories! It has been awhile since I’ve tried to create an entire universe to base characters around, and it’s really something I want to get back to- trying my hand at more concept art and environment creation. Also, it’s just a great excuse to draw more ladies with weapons and bad-ass animal sidekicks!
Thanks, Kelsey! To see more of Kelsey King's work you can check out her website or view her work on the Light Grey Art Lab shop and view the entire collection on the Station Zero online gallery.