THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, Kelly! How did you get into art and why did you want to become an artist?
Kelly Williams: Thanks for having me! Drawing is something I’ve always done. Since I was a wee laddy lad. So becoming an artist was more or less just something that happened. Part of who you are and all that.
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!”?
Kelly: I spent years and years doing mini comics and zines and stuff. Then I kind of fell off for a couple years. When I came back around to doing comics Kickstarter had really taken off. I partnered up with Christian Sager and we ran a KS campaign for our graphic novel, THE CABINET. By the time we finished up the book I definitely built up confidence. I got laid off from my job at the time and things were picking up with making comics. So my wife and I talked it over and decided that there wasn’t going to be a better time to go for it.
TCC: Which artists inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
Kelly: I suck at this… haha.. There’s just so many! I can never answer this question without starting with Bernie Wrightson. I’ve said this probably hundreds of times at this point but, Wrightson is probably one of the main reasons I started drawing comics. Like, he was the first artist I stopped and thought about the fact that there was an actual person making these drawings. The first time I paid attention to the names and not just the work. I remember it blew my mind when I put together that the guy that drew Swamp Thing was also the same guy who did the Cycle of the Werewolf drawings. The versatility between stuff like Captain Sternn and then Frankenstein might be one of the most influential things on me I can think of.
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?
Kelly: Honestly… I don’t know. I have a tendency to avoid those situations? I get real nervous and silly. I also try to keep hero worshiping to a minimum. I find that most of the best interactions just kinda happen. I guess one thing that always comes to mind though is meeting Kevin Nowlan for the first time. It wasn’t an especially noteworthy meeting. He is just a really awesome and sweet dude. The thing that I think gets me though is that since that first time, if we are at the same conventions, he always seems stops by my table for a second to say hey. Every time I still kinda think about how crazy that seems. Like, I’m friendly with Kevin Nowlan.
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
Kelly: I… don’t know.. fandoms are such a weird thing to navigate now days. I’m a big fan of some things but I kinda avoid getting involved with the more hardcore sides of it. I love Star Wars, have Star Wars tattoos. I keep a tempered involvement in the fandom side of it though. Like I love a lot of things but I’m often faced with a “I don’t think I love anything as much as these people love this thing” type thing. I think I love that people love these things and that it brings joy to people. I feel like I like too many things? I don’t know. I’m pretty super into Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
TCC: Outside of the ones you create for a living, what characters/stories do you like drawing the most in your spare time?
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?
Kelly: Well everything is a little out of whack at the moment because of moving in the last couple weeks. Generally I try to work from around 9 or 10 a.m. until about 4 p.m. Then hang out with my wife once she is home from work and all of that. Then when she goes to bed I’ll usually go back to work. That’s usually like 9 p.m. until 12 to 3 a.m. I like to try an knock off with enough time to play a video game or read a comic before going to bed. Something to kinda break off from “work”.
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?
Kelly: It totally depends on mood. I tend to do one thing for awhile and then another. Majority of the time I’ll listen to music. Records or just letting random stuff stream. Other times I’ll have the worst horror movies I can find on Amazon Prime going all day.
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
Kelly: I think the first con I ever went to was Wizard World or whatever it was called at the time. It was the first year they put on the Chicago show. I think they bought out Chicago Comic Con or something? That was also the last time I ever attended a Wizard World show.
The last convention was C2E2 right before we kicked into full on pandemic mode. Like it all kinda started going down while we were all at that show. I was supposed to go to ECCC two weeks later but, well, we all know how that all went down.
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
Kelly: I like seeing friends and making new friends. I’m not the biggest people person but I’ve gotten better about being more friendly and open… I think. It’s still strange for me to sit at a table and have people talk about liking my stuff or whatever, haha. My least favorite part of conventions I think is maybe the idea that people have made it a “must” for the whole “bar-con” thing. I feel like there is a lot of unnecessary pressure put on people to push themselves too hard or to put themselves in positions to make bad decisions. We are already exhausted from being on a show floor for like 10 hours then we are encouraged to keep up the smiles and hang out in even louder settings in the midst of what amounts to a gaggle of cliques. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overly negative about it. You should do what you want to do. Just don’t push yourself or allow yourself to be convinced that you NEED to do something that you don’t really need to. I even pop in for a few sometimes, I just don’t stay long.
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?
Kelly: I almost never leave my table! If I do I’m probably looking for Transformers.
TCC: With the lack of conventions, a lot of artists are taking commissions online and mailing them out to people – is this something you’re doing?
Kelly: I was in the beginning. I’ve stopped taking new ones though so that I can get the ones waiting finished between deadlines and stuff. I probably won’t open commissions again until I do pre-orders for a show.
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?
Kelly: I think it’s great. If you have it, and you can deliver on it, why not? Some people probably make more crowdfunding than if they took it to a publisher. I’ve probably backed more Kickstarters during the pandemic than I ever have before.
TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
Kelly: Man… I’m so scatterbrained from juggling so many things. There’s, of course, BOUNTIFUL GARDEN. My short for TKO, RIVER OF SIN, just came out and I contributed a story with Vita Ayala to RAZORBLADES #4 which also just came out. I’ve got some stuff that is in progress that hasn’t been announced yet and I’m working on a five issue series with my partner on A LETTER TO JO called THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE BRAVE CAPTAIN SUAVE which will be coming out through SCOUT soon. Bunches of stuff.
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
Kelly: I usually wait for people to mail me letters and then I get the return address and drive to their house. Otherwise, I’m on the social medias. @treebeerd on Twitter and @treebeerdy on Instagram. I’m on Facebook too though I’m not on there much.
TCC: Where can people see an example of your art online and find out about your rates?
Kelly: I have a website thingy! www.treebeerdstuff.com!
TCC: Thanks, Kelly, for your time!
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