Friday, April 1, 2011

Talia Carlton - Comic Artist

“One of These Things… (We Were Having a Great Time ‘Til You Showed Up)”
graphite, ink, & colored pencil
Talia Carlton

Name: Talia Carlton
City/State: Bloomington, MN
Website: profile: Talia Carlton
Facebook page: Talia Carlton

I am 22 years old and have been drawing since I could hold a pencil. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a minor in Japanese language and culture. I lived in Minneapolis as a student, but recently moved back to my hometown of Bloomington.

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
Although I enjoy painting- acrylic and watercolor- and have some sculpting experience, my work is usually drawn. I have used oil pastels and conte crayons, but right now work mainly in brush marker and colored pencil. Though most would label my work illustration I find that label restrictive and insulting, since many believe that illustration is not art, while I firmly believe that what I am doing has artistic merit. I recently had an ink drawing shown at the Fallout for the STAND Anti-genocide He(art) show, and for about two years have been working on a comic about the life of an art student that I hope to publish. I think that there is great artistic potential in the world of comics and animation because of the unique way that these formats juxtapose words and pictures. I also consider myself a writer, because I am always working on stories and poems, and I write the scripts of my comics before or as I am drawing them.

“Refugees” graphite & ink

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?
I want my art to be accessible to the common person- anyone who is willing to take the time to look at my work and think about it should be able to understand it. I don’t like conceptual art that asks too much of the viewer without giving them an in. Most people don’t know the vernacular of the art world. The words we use to describe our medium and process are meaningless to non-artists, but our work should not be. Art for me is about opening a dialogue with people from all walks of life. It’s about breaking barriers, not erecting them.

That is part of why I draw in a style that most would consider illustration- where things are drawn as they look in real life, but simplified. I want my messages to be understood. That does not mean I don’t expect my viewer to think and process for themselves what they are seeing. I imagine viewing my art as similar to reading a book. I provide symbols that are recognizable much the same as words are, but it is the job of the viewer to put them to together to understand the whole story.

“Gingerbeard” graphite, ink, & brush marker

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
The sort of advice you hear as an artist is complex and contradictory. On the one hand, people will advise you to create what you want and not worry what others think, but on the other hand, they will tell you that without pushing yourself to do work that is new and difficult for you, you will not grow as an artist. Both things are true.

Artists should always try new things- new media, new subject matter- from time to time. But we should also be true to ourselves. And of course, they tell you to never stop creating. I think that’s the most important. Constantly hone your skills. Sketch from life, do color tests, doodle, whatever you can to do to make sure that even if you’re not working on a major project you are always thinking art.

Tell me about your working space and your creative process?
My work space right now is my living room. I have a cart overflowing with pencils, pens, markers, and paints. I have an easel with a self portrait I have been working on now and again. I have a bag of colored pencils and another of brush markers sitting next to the couch, and my most favored drawing pencils and pens are in a small box that is always with me. I have sketchbooks of various size and a pad of tracing paper (which I hardly use, but it is good to have ion hand). Pretty much everything starts as a pencil sketch. A lot of it stays that way. If I draw something I like, I outline it with the pens, base color with markers, and add a little depth with colored pencil. Sometimes I only use one or the other.

My drawing often ends up on scraps of paper or in notebooks that I originally meant only to write in. And then there are the stories. I write a lot of dialogue, people talking to one another. Sometimes I am compelled to describe a setting in words instead of pictures. I usually tells stories with both pictures and words, but occasionally I will write one with no pictures at all (though I often sketch the characters out to play with what they look like). I have a tricked out macbook from ’06 with some of my writing saved on it in case I want to rework a story. It also has Photoshop CS2, which I use to fix up sketches that I have scanned in so that they are dark enough to be seen, and to edit my comic pages together and add the lettering. My handwriting is indecipherable, sometimes even to me, so this is absolutely necessary.

I prefer to finish a piece all in one go, in one day, or even in just a few hours. Sketches only take minutes. If I am working on a bigger project I will still do a lot of work at once, then I’ll leave it alone, sometimes for days, before touching it again. I will often draw pictures from the middle of a story, or even the end, before the first pages. This sometimes makes it hard to show people what I am working on, so I make extra sketches of the characters and places that don’t give anything away.

“Great American Art” graphite

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?
I really admire Nancy Carlson. I’ve met her several times, and took one of her classes on children’s book illustration. I like her process for developing an idea. Her website is here:

I also admire Kate Johnson because she is so active in the arts community and is really a go-getter. We graduated from the same arts program and I’ve known her for a long time.

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a children’s book art show at the Bloomington Theater and Art Center where the works of Mike Wohnoutka ( and Beth Peck were shown. Both artists delighted me. Mike’s work was as whimsical as Beth’s was haunting. It was interesting to see two very different approaches to the same work. I will be watching to see what both of them are up to in the future.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
I would spend a lot of time walking the NE arts district in Minneapolis, where there are many fascinating small galleries. I also know of a few in St. Paul that are tucked into corners next to cafes so that you’d hardly notice them from the outside. I like to check out the galleries at the Bloomington Theater and Art Center regularly, because they showcase some of the best in Minnesota art. Bloomington is a large suburb and the center is a fairly big deal to artists trying to gain more attention.

One thing I like to do for fun is check out the art show at the MN State Fair each year. Depending on who is judging and who has entered each year, you get a lot of variety in terms of both media and message. It is unique in that there are artists of all ages and from all walks of life participating, which doesn’t happen in the small galleries.

“Computer Eye” graphite & ink

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

I like to check MPR’s State of the Arts blog.
I also follow other art blogs like Drawn
and the Center for Cartoon Studies

and others just for fun, like this
as well as too many individual artist blogs to count.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?
In the future I hope to do more experiments with color in paint and oil pastel and to make some larger scale work because so much of what I do is small and I want to push myself. I will also continue to work on my comics, such as Little Artists, because I feel absolutely driven to write them.

Hopefully I will have enough pages to promote a book, either in print or online, soon. I am trying to find a balance between meaningful, political discourse and humor in my work. I want to use my art to make a difference, but I’ll always be a comedian at heart.

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