Featured Artist: Kristina Carroll

For our first artist interview we reached out to Kristina Carroll to find out what makes her tick, how she made the leap from acting to art, and her main form of winter exercise.


Kristina Carroll



1. What are you working on these days? Paint us a picture 😉

I’m planning out my next several months right now. Spectrum Live is just around the corner so I want to try to have something new for the show. I also just signed on to illustrate interiors for a book project which I am very excited about because I’ve been eager to do black and white interiors for a while now. I am going to start working on a book collecting the best art from first few years of the Month of Love and Month of Fear challenges. I’m already thinking about the next Month of Fear challenge and how I can up the game even more on that. On the teaching end, I am looking forward to working with Gamblin oil paints soon, doing presentations and workshops around New England. (I get to fly out to Portland in June to visit them and learn more about how they make their products) I’ve been doing something similar for Strathmore for a year and it has been great. I love teaching and I’m a materials geek so working with these companies is perfect for me right now.


2. I met you when you were assisting Donato Giancola. Did you seek out that opportunity? How did you land that gig?

I met Donato when I was just starting to get back into art after a disappointing first career with theater. We were both interviewed for this documentary about Dungeons & Dragons and how it inspired people to be creative. Because Donato is one of the nicest and most supportive artists in the industry, he invited me to his studio to chat about the industry and what direction I wanted to go in. I had such a great time, I kept going back to the studio to talk and to paint and we became friends. It was the exact right moment for me to meet someone like him because I was just starting on a plan to go back to school for art and had to quit my full time office job so when I mentioned it, he offered me the position of studio assistant. For the 4 years of school and one year after, I worked with him.


3. How did that time influence your career and/or your work?

It was immensely important in my life. I don’t believe I am understating it when I say I would not be nearly who I am today (both as an artist and person) without his support. SVA is a wonderful school but Donato’s mentorship really pushed me to another level entirely. He took me to several conventions. As a result, I got to meet wonderful people. I started asking for portfolio reviews sophomore year in college. Donato taught me a respect for craft and method that I use to this day. He is a professional in so many more ways beyond his extraordinary art. That is a bar I continue to strive for. I will always be grateful for the experience.


nautilus4. Best client ever is _______. Why?

The next one who hires me of course! Actually, I loved working for Realms of Fantasy before it disappeared. Doug Cohen was art directing at the time and he was very supportive and enthusiastic. I got lots of creative freedom and just enjoyed the whole process. I am so sad that magazine isn’t around anymore.


5. After working with Donato, you moved to Boston. Why?

It’s the classic story: I met a guy. Scott lived in Boston when we met in NYC. Things were going well but long distance is rough so we decided we liked each other enough for me to give Boston a try. Here I am still 4 years later so I guess it was a good decision!


6. How much snow is too much?

When the snow piles become taller than me, and then I have to climb on top of the piles to rearrange them so we have room to put MORE snow…yeah…that’s too much. At least we broke the record this year! 2015 is officially the snowiest winter in Boston’s recorded history.


7. You started the Month of Love and Month of Fear projects. What are these projects and what pulled you to create them?

These are month-long art challenges twice a year in February and October where I invite a bunch of artists to join me in weekly art making. The goal is to set aside time to create a bunch of new personal work. I come up with new challenge prompts for every week and everyone creates art inspired by the prompt. While I do like to have a core group of artists who commit to the challenge, it’s open to everyone. I repost the best work I find via Tumblr to our page and I have discovered some amazing new artists as a result of this challenge. Many of these artists use these challenges to create standout new art and level-up in their work. It’s really wonderful what a little community and pressure can create. Many of these challenge pieces end up in annuals and get artists noticed on a larger scale. The first Month of Love started as a need to reconnect with the art community. I had a pretty vibrant social life in NYC but Boston turned out to be a very different vibe and I was feeling isolated and a bit stale. Plus it was January and winter out here just makes everything worse. I needed community and I needed motivation, so I had this idea for a big group art challenge and started sending out emails before I could talk myself out of it. Luckily a really great group of people thought it also sounded like fun! I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of artists to get this thing off the ground. The first MoL started as a daily art challenge. That was amazing but a bit intense so I changed it to weekly challenges when I did Month of Fear later that year. Now we are 3 years in and still going strong!


nautilus by kristina carroll8. Freelancer’s are understandably protective of their time, why start a project that features other people’s work?

Because being an artist is hard. Art is a self-sustaining community. This world is not kind to artists. If we don’t help each other, be each other’s cheerleaders, constantly strive to create an environment that makes it just a little bit easier to be these nonconforming creative weirdoes without starving- then who will? I could go on about the importance of community or the benefits of cooperation and shared experiences on happiness but I think the truth is pretty simple: We make each other better through engagement. Better artists and better people. Call it karma or enlightened self-interest or just good business but when you invest in the community, it invests back in you.


9. You’re dating another illustrator, Scott Bakal. Do you influence each other’s work in any way? How?

I don’t think you can be so close to another artist (or another human) without some things bleeding over. We’ve both introduced each other to new artists and I know my perspective has broadened considerably since being in a relationship with him because our tastes are so different. I love that. As far as seriously influencing the actual art, I really don’t know. We enjoy each other’s work and it’s great that we both like art and can talk about it. But our work and personal aesthetics are so different that there is not a lot of room for overlap. I think the way Scott thinks about art and looks at art (he’s a very conceptual illustrator) has certainly been influential. I love the way he thinks and he often comes up with ideas that knock my socks off. I think I’ve probably been more influenced by him simply because of where we are with our art and who we are as people. Scott is very comfortable in the way he creates since he’s been doing this longer but always striving to be better and trying new things.


10. Do you think you could date a non-artist?

I highly doubt it. I absolutely have to be with someone motivated, passionate and supportive so I’ve almost always dated some sort of creative person. Being a professional artist is sort of like being from another country. Relationships are hard enough without having to navigate a culture gap. And, as a woman, it is even harder. There are a lot of reasons for this and I think a whole book could be written about it. There’s generally a lot more scrutiny, jealousy and insecurity involved when the woman in a relationship is passionate and dedicated to an art career. Women are still fighting against a culture that is structured to give us less confidence and less respect, so take all the ups and downs of an art career and just put a magnification on it. Finding a partner who can be supportive of this life, especially in the harder times – because there are always harder times – is absolutely essential.


11. Do you collect art? What kind, and from whom?

I have a very minimal collection so far. I have not previously had a lot of space, stability or disposable income, so haven’t developed the drive to actively collect. Much of what I have is from trading with friends and a few very thoughtful gifts. The first piece of art I ever properly bought was an original from Ted Naifeh. It’s a beautiful page from the “Good Neighbors” Graphic novel he did with Holly Black. I have some precious gems from Michael Kaluta, Omar Rayaan, Charles Vess and a small collection of lovely cookbook art from Alan Witchonke (which is a long story) and I’m about to get another food-themed original from Anna Christenson, which I’m excited about. I guess most of my art collection is related to food and comics!


12. If you could have a piece of art from any living artist, what piece and from whom?

This is a really hard question and this answer will probably change weekly. Right now I think my answer will be something by Allen Williams. Apart from being one of the sweetest guys around, he is one of my absolute favorite artists currently. I have a few of his prints around the studio: Tree of Tales and his Minotaur drawing. I just get lost in them and would love to have the originals. He also started a painting at the IMC last year that I’m crazy about. I would kill to be able to look at any of those every day. (http://ijustdraw.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-new-painting-started-at-illustrators.html ) I think Allen would get a lot of my money if I ever started collecting in earnest.


house of leaves by kristina carroll13. How do you stay sane and keep from burn-out?

At some point in this career you do get burnt out and you do go a little nuts. I think the trick is to 1) Understand it’s temporary and 2) Forgive yourself and learn from it. I believe in order to grow you have to occasionally push your limits. This also this goes back to what I was saying earlier: If you have cultivated a good community and you realize you aren’t alone, this becomes much easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and treat yourself with respect. Mental and physical health are your business partners and they will screw you if you don’t give them their due. Practice mindfulness. Meditation is a wonderful way of exercising and strengthening mental and emotional self- awareness and control. Exercise regularly! Your body’s stress response system doesn’t know the difference between sprinting on a treadmill and running from a tiger. When you get your heart-rate up, you condition your body’s ability to deal with ALL stress among many other wonderful chemical reactions that make you smarter and happier!


14. There’s been a growing conversation around women in art. Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be a woman creating art at this time in history?

I have many thoughts. I’ve mentioned a few already but overall I think this a very exciting time to be a woman in the illustration industry. Particularly in the science fiction/fantasy genres because it’s fiction’s responsibility to give our collective conscious the tools to shape our world. Right now we are reaping both the benefits and some of the backlash from the previous women’s rights movements. There are some very important conversations being had that still need to be had. I am certainly learning a lot and very grateful for this community of so many thoughtful, smart and well-spoken women (and many men too!) The difference now is a lot of very intelligent and successful women are now in the upper ranks and becoming significant voices in many of these conversations, lending them an authority and perspective that is very important. I feel that I not only have the responsibility to affect change but I also have more power and confidence thanks to them.


15. Where can we find you this year? Conventions, coffee shops?

All of the above! I will be at Spectrum (table 15) and Illuxcon. Though whether I am able to snag table space at Illuxcon remains to be seen, I still plan on going. I’m hoping to show at Dragon Con this year as well but those jury results are not in yet. In the meantime you can always find me at the local Starbucks!


16. Any last thoughts?

Thank you so much Marc and Lauren for not only creating this terrific community in Every Day Original, but also inviting me to participate. Both personally and with the Month of Love crowd. I’m excited to see where all this goes next!




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