We had the good fortune of connecting with Kara Fellows and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kara, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Always keep going. Every artist encounters blocks; the only thing to do is keep moving forward. I make some kind of drawing every day, no matter how small. I carry a sketchbook in every purse and backpack, even the smallest evening bag. The venerable old art instructor Andrew Loomis wrote, “Everyone has 10,000 bad drawings in them. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone”. I’d say I’m about halfway there.
For inspiration, I browse libraries and bookstores. In Covid times, I’ve turned to Pinterest more often. To get the creative juices flowing I’ll make something in a medium that’s different for me. Collage, clay, paper or fabric for example. Or I’ll do the billing, clean the house, work on my website…whatever I’ll wish I’d gotten done when the phone is ringing again and all I want to do is make art.
Most importantly, don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love. Surround yourself with supportive people. The creative process can be hard enough; it’s nearly impossible to make art in an environment where you aren’t being encouraged. Reject anyone who says you can’t make a living at it, and get them out of your way. Find like-minded people who understand how hard you work, and who take the creative life seriously.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I grew up in North Carolina, in a modern house of my parents’ design on 50 wild acres in the pines. We didn’t have TV until I was in high school, so my sister and I spent our time reading, exploring the woods, and drawing. I wrote and drew with equal interest throughout high school, but chose a creative writing program over art school for undergrad. It was only after graduating from college that I pivoted to illustration as a career.
I started out as an illustrator in Minneapolis. With its deep list of award-winning ad agencies and design firms it was a great place to begin, but I didn’t have any practical art training so I sought advice from established local illustrators. One of them was Jack Molloy, who works in copper and wood engravings. He hired me as an assistant on a book and film project, “The Song of Sacajawea”, for Rabbit Ears Productions. The project took about 18 months from start to finish and involved over 150 copper engravings, hand-lettered reproductions of historic documents and handmade native artifacts. My job included doing sketches for Jack’s other clients, like the Wall Street Journal and American Express, so that he didn’t have to turn down work while working on the book project. Our drawing styles were close enough that we could pull it off. Jack had a studio rule, ‘no erasing’; it taught me to work with speed and confidence. I drew more that year than I had in my entire life to that point, while learning how to talk to clients and manage a heavy workload. We still collaborate on projects once in a while, and he’s never stopped being my champion.
Meanwhile, I began putting together a portfolio of my own work and pestering art directors to hire me for jobs. I worked for Jack while I built my illustration business, and launched to full-time freelance after the Sacajawea book wrapped. I worked with an agent for the next decade and learned a lot about the business side of things from her.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Start with a mid-morning hike up Enchanted Mesa Trail, from Chautauqua Music Auditorium for a little taste of Boulder history on the way. Then head into town and check out the shops on West Pearl like Bedell Antiques, Peace Love and Chocolate, Two Hands Paperie, Trident Books, Carla Morrison Fine Jewelry, and Classic Facets. If it’s one of Boulder’s 300 sunny days, we’ll get lunch outside at Bartaco or the Rio Grande patio followed by a walk through my favorite Boulder neighborhood, Mapleton Hill. Then a relaxing spa treatment and a nap at the St. Julien Hotel. Finish the day with a hike (don’t worry, it’s more of a stroll) to the Boulder Star at dusk, and dinner at Flagstaff House for an incredible view of Boulder.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I moved to Boulder from Denver in 2015, I didn’t know a soul. I fell in with a group of creatives centered around a thriving co-working space called Roost, led by Chris Shiflett. A Brooklyn transplant, Chris runs Faculty, a web design studio. He has an impressive client list and a generous, welcoming soul. He’s passionate about his own work and also aims to foster a robust creative community in Boulder.