Kassandra Heller, Eric Orchard, Rebecca Dart, Alexis Barattin

Peeps to watch out for is a look at some of the next generation of up-and-coming creative people in the arts. For this installment, I’ve selected four very different and very, very talented artists working in book and graphic novel illustration, animation design, and more. With an emphasis on 2D illustration, these artists started out drawing as children and haven’t stopped yet.

Kassandra Heller KASSANDRA HELLER (Los Angeles, California)

What are some of your previous and current projects? Past or present employers?

There are not enough hours in a day for an artist! Right now I’m working at an animation studio called Oddbot Inc. I’m currently working on background design on a few different shows, but mainly I work on a super-secret Disney show. I also work on shorts for Mad TV for Cartoon Network. Before that, I worked as a background colorist at 6 Point Harness on a show called Good Vibes that just starting airing on MTV on Thursday nights, after Beavis and Butt-Head. I do Hallmark Ecards on the side and I’ve also done character design work for a handful of animated pilots. Just recently, I did coloring for Boom! comics for a new, yet-to-be-announced title. I’m also in gallery shows around LA with a group called Girls Drawing Girls.

Where did you go to school for art?

I graduated from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan.

What made you decide to pursue a career in art?

Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I knew I wanted to be an artist. I remember watching The Muppet Show and they had a “starving artist” character once… I remember thinking, “I would like to be a starving artist when I grow up.” Well, thankfully I’m not starving, but I am an artist!

Who or what inspires you artistically?

Looking at other artwork is always inspiring. Sometimes I’ll see an artist’s work that just blows me away and inspires me to work harder on my own art. I enjoy hanging out with other artists. It seems like if I hang out with other ambitious people, it motivates me to work harder. I like going to a coffee shop and drawing people I see — cute hipster couples, old people, or ladies with big hats [laughs]. I also like to listen to really epic soundtracks while I draw, or watch movies that make me feel a certain way.

Where can we find you on the web?
kassandraheller.com
kass204.blogspot.com
kass204.tumblr.com

Eric Orchard ERIC ORCHARD (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

What are some of your previous and current projects? Past or present employers?

I started out self-publishing minicomics in high school and throughout university, and later started working professionally in picture books. I’ve done work for comics anthologies like Oni’s Yo Gabba Gabba comics and Nursery Rhyme Comics from First Second. I’ve contributed illustrations to genre anthologies like Thackery T. Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosity, where I was lucky enough to illustrate a story by Holly Black. I’ve just completed a book with Tor — a comic book version of Jeff Vandermeer’s novella The Situation. We are also collaborating on a second book together.

My work has been featured in The Totoro Project and I’ve been included in the Society of Illustrators exhibition. I’ve won the silver in the Spectrum Awards for Fantastic Art. I’ve also won the Mayor’s Award for Illustration in my home town, Halifax. At the moment my main project is Maddy Kettle, an all-ages series of graphic novels published by Top Shelf that I wrote and am drawing. This is my dream project. It should be out next year.

Where did you go to school for art?

I completed a bachelor of fine arts at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. I took an interdisciplinary degree but focused on painting, drawing and art history. I think the art history impacted my work as much as any practical instruction I had there.

What made you decide to pursue a career in art?

I wanted to do art because I love comics and illustrated books so much. I also cared about them so much that I just couldn’t conceive of not being a part of that world. My art is driven by stories, it makes me feel connected to stories in a deep way. And I just wanted to make people and places and monsters up. I can’t overemphasize how amazing that is.

Who or what inspires you artistically?

I have so many heroes in art, I always leave some out. But I’ll do my best: Arthur Rackham, George Herriman, Walt Kelly, A. B. Frost, Moebius, Jack Kirby, John Bauer, Paul Pope, Guy Davis, Mike Mignola, Gustave Dore, Jaimie Hernandez, R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, William Joyce, Maurice Sendak, Jim Woodring, The Provensens, J. C. Coll, Howard Pyle, Hayao Miyazaki… I could go on and on so I’d better stop here and risk leaving out some important names.

Where can we find you on the web?

ericorchard.ca
ericorchard.blogspot.com
twitter.com/Inkybat

Rebecca Dart REBECCA DART (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

What are some of your previous and current projects? Past or present employers?

I’ve worked in the animation industry for about 14 years here in Vancouver, primarily as a background designer and character designer. I’ve worked on a lot of lesser known Canadian shows, but the ones that you may have heard of are: Mission Hill, which came out in 2000 on The WB. It wasn’t given a fair shake by the network, but it has a small cult following. I also did character design on My Little Pony season two, which has a very strong cult following.

In 2006 I published a comic called RabbitHead, which is a wordless comic that branches out into many different narratives, but eventually comes together to end where it began. Currently I’m working on a Battle Kittens graphic novel — a comic about warrior women who ride giant kittens into battle and have crazy sword-and-sorcery adventures. This is basically me returning to what brought me joy as a kid, watching all those monster movies and terrible Conan rip-offs in the eighties. I’m having a blast, and I hope that translates into the work.

Did you go to school for art, or are you self-taught?

I’ve never been to art school or animation school, however, I am loathe to use the term “self-taught.” I feel that you learn the most by hanging out with artists who are more talented than yourself. You also have to never stop learning, and keep your mind open to new things. There’s a great Ukrainian saying: “What good is the world being so wide, if your heart is so narrow?”

What made you decide to pursue a career in art?

When I was six years old I drew a picture of “Animals From Mars,” and on the opposite side of the paper, I drew “Plants From Mars.” From then on I was hooked; the scope of the human imagination is limitless. As a pathologically shy kid, this allowed me to create a world I felt comfortable in, and as I grew into my confidence I had the skill set to make it into a living, although a meager one. Besides, if I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be washing dishes somewhere.

Who or what inspires you artistically?

My husband. We don’t draw the same subject matter, but he draws right next to me and I can always trust his opinion. There is also my “mews” Orson Kittyman, who sits on my lap at the art desk and helps me out with Battle Kitten anatomy.

Where can we find you on the web?

twitter.com/R_Dart
flickr.com/rebeccadart
r-dart.tumblr.com

Alexis Barattin ALEXIS BARATTIN (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

What are some of your projects? What is your studio space like?

I do my illustration work from home. I’m lucky enough to have a little studio space that I sometimes refer to as “the batcave”. It’s got all my favorite stuff in it (supplies, books, computer) and it’s right beside the kitchen, which means I am just steps away from the coffeemaker at all times. I also work part time as a Junior Designer in an office with some really cool people.

As far as illustration projects go, I just finished a book jacket for a Canadian small press publisher, and right now I’m working on storyboards for a music video. I like to keep myself busy working on my portfolio or sketching or studying something. I’m trying to work on some portfolio pieces that do not have tentacles or fetuses floating in glow-y jars.

Are you going to school for art?

I’m just finishing up a Bachelor of Design degree at OCADU [Ontario College of Art and Design] in the Illustration stream. I feel as if I owe a great deal of my education to people outside of university as well. A lot of my personal learning has come from encouraging and talented people who have been kind enough to dole out advice or kick me in the pants, whatever the occasion calls for.

What made you decide to pursue a career in art?

I’ve always been really into drawing, but I think that must be true of every kid with a pencil. I just kept at it; my science teacher in high school used to confiscate my sketchbook at the door. I remember those classes as being very, very long.

I was actually kind of apprehensive about going into art because it’s not exactly the most practical career path. For a year I waffled between art and doing something “more sensible.” (For some reason I thought this more-sensible thing was history — I have no idea where I got that idea!) Thankfully friends and family intervened, which is great because I would be one miserable historian. The idea of not having gone into art seems ridiculous now.

Who or what inspires you artistically?

So many things! Blank sketchbooks, peeking in other people’s sketchbooks, fresh bottles of ink, drawings of any kind, full bookshelves, those tiny drawers stuffed with pen nibs at the art store; a long list of illustrators, comic artists, painters and other crafty people.

Where can we find you on the web?

www.alexisbarattin.com
www.alexisbarattin.blogspot.com

Artwork in header by (left to right) Kassandra Heller, Eric Orchard, Rebecca Dart, Alexis Barattin. All images © their respective artists.

Rosemary Van Deuren is the author of the young adult fantasy novel, Basajaun. View more of her fiction and essays at www.rosemaryvandeuren.com. You can also be Rosemary’s friend on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @rosemaryvan.

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  1. […] Next, the second installment of Peeps to watch out for — my Idler interview column about up-and-coming creative people in the arts — also went live yesterday. This Peeps highlights 2D illustrators in book and graphic novel illustration, animation design, and more. Meet a few new artists working in illustration media today: Kassandra Heller, Eric Orchard, Rebecca Dart, Alexis Barattin […]



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