Meet Our ILW55 Judges: First Up – Kristina Carroll

The Call for Entries for our Illustration West 55 competition is up and running. We have a great show chair, Steve “Primary” Hughes and a wonderful panel of judges. Our first interview is with Kristina Carroll

flySteve: The Month of Fear and Month of Love projects seem like a real passion project for you, and for those that are unfamiliar, can you tell us a little about the community that’s grown as a result, and how it all started.

Kristina: These projects started as a need to re-connect with the artist community after moving away from NYC and re-invigorate my art, which had suffered from the emotional fallout of moving. It was very much enlightened self-interest to start but I think ended up tapping into a hunger many of us have. We all know a little competitiveness and pressure is often necessary to level up, but that sort of environment is hard to come by after college. Group blogs inevitably lose momentum and classes are expensive. So these month-long challenges, with a core group of already skilled and motivated artists, ended up being a quick and cost-effective jolt to the motivation circuits for all of us.The challenges have just enough structure to get the juices flowing but enough freedom to do meaningful personal work within the themes. It became quickly clear that a lot of the work coming out of these challenges was opening new paths in our art fairly consistently; so was an easy justification to keep them running. I really get a thrill when anyone achieves success with these challenges (and there have been a lot of successes!) Then when I opened it up to the public and realized artists I had never heard of were participating, I was floored and humbled. Now it’s become something many people look forward to every year (including me!).

Steve: What’s your biggest fear?

Kristina: The irrational ones are all the biggest of course and I have lots of those… but the overarching one is that that no matter how hard I work, how much I practice, I will never be able to achieve my goals or do anything meaningful with my art. Or that something will prevent me from continuing with art before I feel like I’ve made my mark.

Steve: Where do you find inspirations for the subject matter in your work and what’s you’re research process like.

Kristina: For my personal work I draw a lot from myth, archetype and the inner worlds that connect us. I often go back to the ideas of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung and the way they found interconnectedness and importance of story as a sort of record of humanity’s heart. Fiction, fairy tales and myths that fall under these ideas speak very strongly to me. Also the Symbolist movement, which I think was a beautiful marriage of personal and universal while still using aesthetic beauty and narrative. I often try to filter my work through a lens of beauty to draw in the viewer to look closer for the story. Research usually starts with reading and/or writing. I find writing really helps me hone in on what I’m trying to accomplish with my work. Then sketching and reference compilation as needed to give the work gravity of course. I will also often mine pinterest and create visual “mood boards”

Steve: How has your choice of mostly traditional media affected the work that you do, or your career path? Have you ever been seduced by the dark arts of digital media?

Kristina: I use digital for work when it made sense, but I’m nowhere near as comfortable with it as traditional media at this point. For better or worse, traditional media has its claws deep in my heart. Partly it’s because having a physical work of art after all the toil that goes into making a piece gives the work weight and makes me extra mindful of my time with a given piece. Having a physical interaction with art has always felt more enjoyable—it creates an intimate connection. I move more when I work traditionally as well which feels way better as well. Also the media I primarily work with, oils and charcoal, are partners in my process because they remain open and malleable for long periods which creates a sense of play that is deeply satisfying and more prone to happy accidents. The perpetual malleability and massive tool-box of digital media is a bit overwhelming and I just haven’t found a way to use it that feels authentic to my voice yet. Certainly working traditionally in my style does have drawbacks when it comes to time and limits it’s applicability in the current industry. I’ve been heading down path that weaves between fine art and illustration and have been very fortunate to find some welcome there.

Steve: Give us a sneak peek at what’s next, is there anything you can reveal or want to spread the word about currently? Or, any future plans for world domination, that you’re considering and might need some fresh recruits?

Kristina: The Kickstarter for the Book of Love and Fear is coming soon!  ( It will collect the first several years of art from the challenges with some extra bonus features and some terrific art for backer prizes. I’ve got a couple gallery shows coming up that I’m really excited about One with Hero Complex gallery, in Mid-May called Cardistry that looks amazing. 55 artists have done interpretations of playing cards with the results getting turned into a deck, art book and show. I’ve been dying to work with Hero Complex for ages and they have been truly lovely. There’s another group show coming up that I’m not sure I can say much about but can’t wait get started on. I’m also currently wrapping up some art for Fencon in Dallas, where I will be the Artist Guest of Honor in September. There are a “few” other things on my plate at the moment but I will leave it there. I don’t know about world domination but I could certainly use some recruits to keep me caffeinated…