THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, Katherine! How did you get into art and why did you want to become an artist?
Katherine Hemmings: Thank you for having me! I used to draw a lot as a kid. I always wanted to draw children’s stories but after having a horrible experience with my art GCSE I pushed art to the side and barely picked it back up until around about 4 years ago.
My partner, Karl, found a comic course called the Comic Creative Catalyst run by John McCrea and he encouraged me to get back into art and join the course! What’s the worst that could happen?! So I did! And I instantly fell in love with creating comics. It became a way of sharing my life experiences in a short funny way and it kind of just took off from there!
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
Katherine: When I Kickstarted Being Ginger, my first bio-graphical diary comic book in 2019. It got funded in 5 days and received so much love, I was blown away! It really hit me then that maybe people actually like my stuff and maybe I could start building towards doing this full time. It was an eye-opening experience.
TCC: Which artists inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
Katherine: My biggest inspirations were and still are Sarah Graley and Marc Ellerby. I was (and still am) really into Rick and Morty and I saw that they were both drawing it for the comics. I met them at a local comic con and it took me back. I just never thought before that someone from a little town in the UK would ever be able to draw something for such a huge show… I don’t know why it never occurred to me! I remember turning to my partner and going, “I am going to do that.”
There are now even more I look up to such as Rachael Smith, Sweeney Boo, and Babs Tarr just to name a few!
TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?
Katherine: I met Alex Hirsch (creator of Gravity Falls and so much more) at SDCC in 2018 while cosplaying as Bill Cipher. I asked if I could ‘make a deal’ with him as Bill does in the show Gravity Falls. He agreed and we shook hands and it is my favourite comic con/fan memory to this day.
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
Katherine: Squirrel Girl. Hilarious that you had to ask! Haha! Not that y’know, it consumes all my tweets or anything…
I absolutely love her character and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl run is something I often re-read and still laugh at.
As a kid, I saved a squirrel from certain death so when I found out about Squirrel Girl I found so much of myself in her character.
TCC: Outside of the ones you create for a living, what characters/stories do you like drawing the most in your spare time?
Katherine: Squirrel Girl, Batgirl, and Rick and Morty.
I’d love to eventually draw something official for one of these so I like to keep practising them.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
Katherine: I do really try to keep a set schedule and routine. I try to work 9:30am-5pm Monday-Friday but lately, it’s been all over the place with all the extra work I’ve been doing for my Kickstarter, and other projects for friends. I don’t recommend it! Having a healthy work/life balance is so important but I find myself just spending nights colouring and weekends drawing because I a) need to get it done and b) I enjoy it!
But again, I do really try to avoid doing this as it is very easy to let it consume you! Don’t burn yourself out!
TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some artists use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
Katherine: I mix it up quite often but I switch between watching random stuff on Netflix, the radio, or Spotify.
I feel I have successfully watched ALL of Friends twice now, ALL of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and an insane amount of dumpster diving videos… There was even a time I watched aeroplane journeys…
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
Katherine: Birmingham MCM Comic Con around 8 years ago… Maybe longer. My dad and my sister took me and I was blown away by seeing people cosplaying. I remember turning to my sister and saying “You mean, I can dress like a Disney princess and it’s ok?”. Everything was mind-blowing and awesome! And I’ve been cosplaying ever since!
The last comic con I attended was Meanwhile… In Coventry. A brand new con organised by a friend of mine. It was in September this year, and was a great start back into the world of comic cons after, what? 2 years without any?! It was small enough to keep social distancing but enough great guests that it got you buzzing and excited for Thought Bubble this November!
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
Katherine: My favourite is easily the cosplay element of it. I have been cosplaying longer than being a comic book artist and I would still refuse to table at MCM London just because I love to cosplay at it so much!
And the element I would get rid of… hmmm… I don’t know! I like it all! Maybe less Pop! Funko stands? But I do also collect them so I don’t mind them too much haha!
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
Katherine: You will 100% find me wherever they are giving out free stuff or outside doing cosplay photos!
TCC: During the pandemic, due to the lack of conventions, a lot of artists took to taking commissions online and mailing them out to people – was this something you did or did you find an alternate revenue stream to keep you going?
Katherine: Not really! I very rarely do physical artwork anymore. Everything is digital so it’s hard to offer that unless it’s a print which can get complicated.
And as I’m quite new to the tabling side of conventions (I had only done Thought Bubble and Not Another Comic Con before, both in 2019) I hadn’t really started to rely on that income unlike a lot of artists I know.
The pandemic instead gave me a chance to really reflect on if comics were what I wanted more than anything and then knuckle down and focus on doing that and creating ‘Being A Cosplayer’ and ‘ZomCon’!
TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that avenue?
Katherine: I LOVE Kickstarter. I honestly feel it’s becoming the way of a lot of comics for the future. We will always have the big publishing names but small artists like myself now have this incredible avenue to get our own stuff out when we want it to be out and how we want it to be out. I couldn’t have done what I have done so far without Kickstarter. All three of my books have gone through Kickstarter and they have helped me build my comic artist name and presence within the community without actually ever being approached by the big comic names.
TCC: The conventions are slowly but surely coming back, thank goodness! Have you attended one yet, do you intend to get back out behind a table soon? What’s your next convention or, if you’re holding off for a while longer, what’s your thoughts on cons right now?
Katherine: I’m really excited to get back to conventions and I have a table at Thought Bubble in November which I am super pumped for! I can’t believe its 4 weeks away, I still have so much to do!
I think as long as your safe yourself and take measures to protect yourself and others like wearing a face mask, hand sanitiser, traveling by car if you can, all these things help. I don’t feel comfortable attending cons yet as a ‘punter’ but at least as an artist I can keep my distance behind my table.
TCC: But let’s get back to the important stuff: your work! What projects have you recently finished, what are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
Katherine: I have recently finished ZomCom Issue 1 which has been funded through Kickstarter! In fact, it was funded in 38 minutes! It’s been a long project in the waiting as I actually drew it all last year but then decided with my partner Karl that we needed to rewrite it.
So we ended up bringing on one of our close joint friends, and because the story changed I had to redraw and colour the whole thing again! Trust me though, it was worth all the effort and now looks and reads 10x better.
ZomCon is something Karl and I started talking about on a train to Comic-Con three years ago so it’s very odd and cool to see it come to life now!
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
Katherine: I do really want to get into newsletters and mailing lists but haven’t knuckled down yet to think of how to structure it… Maybe in the New Year! So at the moment, I do it all through social media!
TCC: Where can people see an example of your art online and find out about your rates?
Katherine: You can see most of my work over on my Instagram here – https://www.instagram.com/khemmings94/
Although I tend to post more behind the scenes stuff over on my Patreon and Twitter.
TCC: Thanks, Katherine, for your time!
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