One giant part of fandom, as many will tell you, is the fan art. Whether it’s doodling in your notebooks at school, or creating masterpieces in your studio, the act of expressing your love of something through illustration has captivated geeks since the dawn of fandom.
The idea that you can still call Karen Hallion’s work Fan-Art is honestly a little strange. It is art, plain and simple, however recognizable the characters depicted within. Her scenes of Disney princesses encountering The Doctor on their travels are quickly becoming some of the most recognizable illustrations in the Doctor Who fandom, and her Star Wars themed “La Dauphine Aux Alderaan” has earned her a much deserved nomination at The Geekie Awards this weekend. So when I found out she would be making an appearance at this year’s Boston Comic Con, I snatched up the opportunity to sit down with her to chat about her beginnings as a pop culture artist, and how she feels about her success so far.
AGtM: So, what made you want to do this kind of artwork, this sort of fan-art, crossover thing?
Karen: Well, I lost my teaching job about four years ago, I used to be an elementary school art teacher. Up until that point I had been doing a lot of mermaids and geshia, and art nouveau, just in my spare time when I wasn’t teaching, and i started to think about getting a freelance career in art. I looked around at some of my favorite artists, and I thought it might be fun to try doing this, and I starteddoing work foe Pop Culture and TeeFury doing pop culture. I’ve always been a huge fan of Disney, and I’ve always wanted to work in the Disney Animation Studios a long time ago. This is sort of in that vein, so that’s how it kind of evolved.
AGtM: What piece did you start with?
Karen: I started with Malvin and Cobbes, which was a Firefly Calvin and Hobbes. I think that might have been the first pop culture piece that I did. But my favorite, and the one that got the most notice was this art nouveau Princess Leia. But the first one was the Firefly Clavin and Hobbes, and I did it — I didn’t even have a tablet, I was trying to do it on a touch pad on my laptop. Up until that point too, I hadn’t done anything digitally. It had been all pencils and acryllics and things like that. So when I started doing pop culture was also when I started working digitally.
AGtM: Now, that art nouveau one is the one you have nominated for The Geekie Awards, right?
Karen: Yep. That’s the one. It’s still my favorite. It’s two years old, but I think it might be one of my favorite ones that I’ve done.
AGtM: What fandom do you like doing the most? Because you do a lot of different kinds.
Karen: That’s tricky. I really got sucked into doing the Doctor Who, because there’s so much. Doctor Who is just so rich that I keep thinking of different designs. But I think my favorite is still Star Wars. Princess Leia. I will never get sick of drawing Princess Leia, ever. So it’s kind of tied between those two.
Princess Leia. Star Wars. Always my favorite.
AGtM: Now, I know I came to know about you through the Doctor Who ones, so what sparked the interest in doing Doctor Who/Disney Princess crossovers?
Karen: This [pictured above] is the first one I did, and it wasn’t even supposed to be Disney, so much as Cinderella. Obviously, she looks sort of Disney-ish, but I think I was maybe two seasons into Doctor Who, cause I was late to watch it, and I had been thinking about the companions. I was thinking about how he changes their lives. It’s not always romantic, it’s just they go on adventures, and he changes them eventually, in a good way. And I was thinking about other pop culture heroines he could do that for, and I was like “Cinderella could use a different story. It’s be kinda cool.” And that’s where that came from. It was so popular, I did Ariel next, and then it just spiraled. Everybody was like “You need to do Jasmine! Do Tiana! Do this! Do that!” I can only draw so fast, and I like to intersperse them, you know, I do one of these, and then go to the other fandoms. Otherwise, I’ll get bored too. But yeah, it was Cinderella first.
AGtM: Do you find that you enjoy doing t-shirt designs, or prints, or anything specifically?
Karen: I enjoy doing, like, this one [below] is not a t-shirt design. Everybody wants it to be, but it’s way too complex. This is what I enjoy doing. The t-shirts are really fun, and it is so great to see people walking around wearing your art, but the t-shirts have to be a different – you have to think about the borders. If you’re going to sub it to TeeFury, or Ripped, or Yetti, it has to be five colors. It’s definitely a different way of thinking about it. Usually, what I do – I didn’t do it with this one, because I just wanted to do it crazy. Usually what I do is I’ll do the design, make it for a t-shirt, do the five colors, sub it, and then go back and add all the colors that I wanted to add in the first place. So I usually start with it as a t-shirt, and then go on to adding the little nuance colors and things. But this one, I just wanted to go all out, just do it. So everyone keeps asking when it’s going to be on a t-shirt, I just don’t know how I’m going to do it. I’ll have to rethink it.
AGtM: So, when you started, did you ever think it was going to take off this much?
Karen: No. I had no idea, really. I was on unemployment for a year after I lost my teaching job. I graduated from art school in ’97, and I tried to freelance, and I couldn’t. I ended up waitressing, and then ended up teaching, which, I loved teaching, and would still be doing it if I hadn’t lost my job. I loved that job so much that the thought of going back into waitressing, I just couldn’t handle it, and so I said “I’m just gonna make this work.” and I lucked out.
The social media is so important right now. Back when I graduated from art school, you had to put together these expensive portfolios, and mail them out to all sorts of companies, and now with Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram, if you put the time and energy into it, it’s free, and you can really get your stuff out there, and get it seen, and that is really important.
But no, I am still really shocked that I was able, not just to make a living, but that my sister was able to quit her job, and work as my business manager. It’s insane.
AGtM: Alright, I’m going to wrap it up, because you’re getting really busy. If you could do one fandom that you haven’t done yet, what would you want to do?
Karen: That’s a tough one. You know what, actually, I do work for a company called We Love Fine, and they recently got an ElfQuest licence, and they’ve asked me to do some art for that, and I haven’t gotten a change to, and I’ve really been meaning to do that. I also would like to do more Wonder Woman. I’ve never really drawn, like, done a print for her. I’d love to do that fandom.
I really want Joss Whedon to do a Wonder Woman movie.
AGtM: Oh, god, so to I.
Karen: I really want him to make a Wonder Woman movie. That was always my favorite character, my favorite superhero.
If you’d like to check out the rest of Karen’s work, you can browse through her DeviantArt page. You can buy prints over at Etsy, and t-shirts on RedBubble. To stay up to date with her art and appearances, don’t forget to like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
And, of course, keep an eye out for her, and the Geeky ErrAU crew, at The Geekie Awards on August 18th at 7:30pm PST/10:30pm EST.