In May of 2014 I was interviewed by e-mail for an article in our neighbourhood quarterly paper, the Hillside-Quadra News, by Shylene Schlackl, an artist who is very active in community arts projects, including the paper. I’ve created this page with the full text of the article because the link to the paper has evaporated into the aether!
1) Tell us a bit about yourself ..
I’m an almost-sixty (and-can’t-believe-it) comicbook artist and illustrator. Making art is my day-job and I moonlight by making music. I grew up in the States and moved to Canada for romance — I’m married to a wonderful guy who plays guitar and electric bass and does all my tech support. Our handsome tuxedo cat, Mak, features in some of my comics.
2) Why did you move this area of victoria? What made you choose this neighbourhood?
Some good friends of ours, one of whom was a bandmate, invited us to come and check out a suite in their lovely craftsman-era house that had just come available. It was tiny, and we were living in a huge house in Gordon Head, but the location appealed to us, as well as the shared situation (mutual catsitters!) — it also made band rehearsals very convenient. We liked the idea of being able to walk to Quadra Village and downtown, the convenience of the bus lines, and my studio at Xchanges was nearby as well. The older neighbourhood also felt more like home than the suburban environment we had been living in, and we love all the garry oaks.
3) Can you tell us about your creative outlet and what inspires you?
My main creative outlet, visual arts, has also been my job for my entire adult life — sometimes not very lucrative but always rewarding in other ways! Currently I’m exploring a new career that is an outgrowth of my illustration work — telling stories through the medium of comics. Last year I completed the Comics and Graphic Novels program at Camosun College and have been continuing my studies through a private mentorship this past year with teachers Ken and Joan Steacy. I feel like I’ve finally found what I want to do when I grow up! Everything I’ve done up until this point feeds into this medium; the synthesis of years of illustration, landscapes, figure drawing, design work, wildlife art, dabbling in writing stories — it’s all proven useful in what I’m doing now. I have never felt so inspired, even driven, in my life —ideas for stories are everywhere, and they are all begging to be told in comics!
As for my music, I am a folk musician to the core — I started out doing folk revival stuff in the sixties as a kid, went through various phases of British folk, Celtic, Medieval, and songwriting, and am still doing some of all of those in two bands, Rig-a-Jig and the RabbleBerries.
4) Please tell a bit more about your art and what you are currently working on.
Making comics uses a combination of skills. Storytelling, the ability to convey a series of actions in a fashion that the reader can follow, is central to it, even over and above the ability to draw — but fortunately I can do that too! Making a comic or graphic novel involves intense concentration in a series of steps. For me, the first step is a script, which I like to be fairly detailed, so I plot out all the page actions and dialogue in written form. Then comes “thumbnails”, tiny sketches that help me plan out the action panel by panel and work out some of the compositions. After that I do pencil drawings at full size, either on thin paper so I can trace them through a lightbox in ink on better paper (I’m a messy sketcher!) or on good paper so I can ink directly over them. Then it’s back to the beginning again for the colour — I mostly work in watercolour for this. By the time it’s done I’ve been through the story five times!
Currently I’m just finishing up a graphic novel, written by science fiction/fantasy author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, about a cat detective named Spam, who meets up with a Sasquatch. I always have enjoyed her stories, and getting to participate in one in this way is a lot of fun. After this, I’ll be back at work on my own webcomic story about a girl who runs away to sea and finds herself in over her head, quite literally — in a city full of mer-people!
5) Are there any projects or ideas you are working on that you want to share with your neighbours at this time?
Besides the above-mentioned projects, I have an ongoing idea for continuing a project I started in school, when I did a comic about Cougar Annie. It will be called West Coast Tales, and will collect short historical stories of Vancouver Island history, mostly focusing on biographical vignettes. I’m also blogging on WordPress (just google Karen Gillmore Art), which has proved a creative outlet in itself, and I put lots of what I have learned in teaching art classes into it, along with updates on my projects.