Six years ago artist Karen Hallion lost her job as an art teacher. Karen found herself on a new career path that led her to doing work for Marvel, Lucas, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Studios, Disney, and many more. She is an artist, stay at home mom, and avid lover of fandoms. Karen is known for her Art Nouveau influences and her fandom related art. This year Karen will have a booth at the San Diego Comic-Con. She sat down with us to talk about her thoughts on SDCC and art in general.
JR:How did you get started in art?
Karen: It wasn’t until I was 16 and saw the movie “The Little Mermaid” that I became interested in being an artist. I walked out of the theater and thought “I want to do that.” I had always loved Disney movies, and had dabbled in drawing, but for some reason, this one really just jumped out at me. I went home and started drawing, and twenty plus years later, I am still going.
JR:How long have you been doing art?
Karen:Well, I went to Ringling School of Art and Design and ended up teaching elementary school art for many years. About six years ago, I lost my teaching job. Up until that point, I had been doing a lot of mermaids, geisha, and art nouveau work in my spare time. When I wasn’t teaching, I had already started to think about trying a freelance career in art. After I lost my job, I looked around at some of my favorite artists and I thought, “I am going to focus all of my efforts to make this work as a successful career.” I started doing some pop culture designs and ended up subbing some work to Tee Fury. That was my introduction into t-shirt design, and it kind of took off from there.
JR:What is something you love about San Diego Comic-con?
Karen: I love the excitement that touches the entire city and how immersive of an experience it is. From the moment you walk off the plane, you know you’re at Comic-Con. There is an energy and happiness everywhere that is unlike any other show I do. The fans are amazing and it’s a great show to meet and talk to other artists and creators.
JR:How does your daily life affect your art?
Karen: My own fandoms and things I love greatly inspired by . For example I just saw (and loved) Wonder Woman; so that influences where my art may go the next day. In terms of working, I have two sons so have to figure out drawing time, business time and mom time each day. It’s a balancing act that influences how much and how fast I work. I try and get some artwork done in the few hours my sons are in school. Late at night when everyone else is sleeping and it is very quiet, I can get in a couple more hours of really focused work.
JR: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Karen: In 2013, I won DreamWorks Studios’ “How to Train Your Dragon” t-shirt design contest and so they flew me out to the studio to meet the filmmakers. Gary Trousdale, who directed Beauty and the Beast, was working at Dreamworks and apparently is a fan of my Belle and Dr. Who mashup design. He showed up for lunch wearing that design on a t-shirt. I still can’t wipe the smile of my face when I think about it. I am a huge fan of his so it was definitely a “try not to freak out” fan girl kind of moment
JR:If there were one dead artist that you could hang out with for a day, who would that be?
Karen:Probably Walt Disney! I feel like there are so many amazing conversations to be had with him.
JR:How do you overcome creative blocks?
Karen: I will walk away from something and work on either non-art for a while. Answering emails or social media, go to the gym, or start a fresh project. Then I will return after a period of time, sometimes hours or sometimes days, and see things in a new perspective. A lot of my work has to be done at night when everyone else is asleep; it is quiet and I can focus really well.
JR:What’s your favorite Disney character and why?
Karen:It’s so hard to choose, especially after Frozen and I fell in love with Elsa. But I think of the movies, Sleeping Beauty would be my favorite. Ariel is always special to me because she inspired my entire career choice.
JR:Who is someone who has influenced your art and why?
Karen: My work is very influenced by Art Nouvea, Alphonse Mucha, Charles Dana Gibson. The flow and energy of it really speak to what I want to create
JR:What is something you would say to an artist starting out.
Karen:It’s been more than 15 years since I graduated from art school. It has taken a lot of work for me to be able to make a living freelancing. Besides hard work and not giving up, some of the things that have helped me are joining an artist’s group and learning from other talented people. Just keep moving forward (advice from Walt Disney). Use social media. Learn the best way to use it, and use it. It’s free advertising, and it works. Find artists you love, and study what they do, and learn from them. Take advice and critiques, ignore the haters. Draw what you love, not necessarily what you think will sell. Help out other artists when you can.
JR:What does art mean to you?
Karen:One of my favorite quotes that sums up how I feel is: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” by Pablo Picasso. I can’t say it much better than that!
Although Karen took a career path she she wasn’t expecting, we’re glad she’s pursuing her art career today. To visit Karen’s booth at SDCC, look for her at Artist Alley at BB-16. Or to find out more about Karen or her art, visit her website at https://www.karenhallion.com/ or follow her on social media at:
And as always,
have a geek filled day!