LLR LEGGINGS DAY’19:

OLIN KIDD - ARTIST SPOLIGHT

By Josh C. • Lifestyle Interview • February 15th, 2019 • 15 Min. Read

 
 
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Creativity is subjective. What you feel, what you see, how you interpret the world around you—all coming into play when you create. A compilation of well-orchestrated internal and external elements, blending simultaneously to bring your thoughts to life. But how do you start? What do you do after you’ve found your inspiration?

In anticipation of the second annual Leggings Day, we interviewed one of LuLaRoe’s very own in-house illustrators, Olin Kidd, to bring us into the world of illustration and imagination here at LuLaRoe. Read how this small-time comic book creator from Milwaukee, WI—turned his passion for art into a lifetime career.

 
 

EARLY YEARS

Tell us about yourself?

I got my start in doing comic book art. I always drew comic book art when I was a kid, and just never stopped. I ended up going to college for it.

Wow. That's so cool.

It is cool. In retrospect, I feel like it's negligent on my mother's part—letting your son go to a school that exclusively focuses on comic book art.

I had no idea a comic book college existed.

I know. Well, a comic book college sounds like a clown college, or like a Subway Sandwich Art college, it's funny. [laughs] That degree doesn't translate to anything other than creating comic book art. So after being there for a while, I decided to transfer to a real college. I ended up going to Savannah College of Art and Design—getting my degree in Advertising Design. I learned a lot about fine art there. I thought it could be a fun, applicable way to take art into business. Which is perfect for me because I just want to draw stuff all day.

Your mom was probably proud that you transferred.

Yeah, she was glad I got a degree that actually mattered.

What kind of artist would you consider yourself?

I guess an illustrator. I mean, that's like the highest thing I could aspire to. I feel like being an illustrator is more applicable to the real world, you know? An illustrator is an artist who gets paid.

I think they call that a professional. [laughs] Did you ever have those starving artist years?

I really didn't.

Because you knew you were going to get into commercial art?

Yeah, after school I went to a job in publishing—children's educational publishing. I just wanted to keep working. And I did.

EARLY INFLUENCE

Who was the biggest influence in your life?

Man, I had a friend that was maybe two years older than me, his name was Charlie; and we drew our X-Men rip-off comics, like all the time. Charlie’s responsible for the love of art that I've had my entire life. And so I looked up to him so much.

Man, I'd love to get my hands on one of those vintage comics you created.

Yeah, they're not great, [laughs] but I'm glad I did it. We had a label for our comics, it was called HK Comics. It was the first letters of our last names combined—Henshaw and Kidd. That was also my first tattoo, the label for HK comics, just because of the history and influence it had on me.

I know you created a comic book character. What was it called?

The character is called, Todd the Planarian.

I already love it.

It's a good name. The name is probably the best thing it's got going for it.

Yeah. So a planarian is like the largest single celled organism. Sometimes you dissect them in science class, in like eighth grade or something; because you can cut 'em and they divide into two fully identical halves. It’s like a metaphor.

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For…?

It's a good name. The name is probably the best thing it's got going for it.

Yeah. So a planarian is like the largest single celled organism. Sometimes you dissect them in science class, in like eighth grade or something; because you can cut 'em and they divide into two fully identical halves. It’s like a metaphor.

Is he a little like Captain Underpants style, or was it more like Wolverine?

No, it was very serious, very emo. [laughs] Some serious emotions?[laughs]

So, how do we get a copy of this epic comic?

Man, you'd have to go to my mom's basement in Milwaukee. I've got dozens of them stored there. [laughs]

 
 
 

CREATIVE PROCESS

So walk me through your process for creating art.

Often the Art Director (Brian Mitchell) will give us some kind of inspiration, something that he saw that he really likes—something that he wants us to focus on for a particular project.

For example, he’ll give us a JPEG of some old poster that he found, and say "Okay I want this look.". So we'll begin by emulating that style—whether it’s vintage, kitsch, or high fashion. He provides the original subject matter and we start creating from there. Then it’s up to us to create our own interpretation. I usually give myself a couple hours to bring something to life, depending on the complexity of the subject matter and inspiration provided for the project. It's fun to work this way.

Where do you start?

Sometimes I start with a hand drawing, then scan it into the computer. I’m a big fan of drawing it out first and scanning it in when I have worked out the basic concept. It's just as easy to draw it by hand a lot of the time. I try to get as much done on actual paper first and then do whatever treatment I have to do in Illustrator or Photoshop, to finish it up.

 
 
 

How many pieces of art do you create a day?

If I were just doing original stuff that day, I would say as low as six or seven pieces. And lately we've been cranking out a lot of these fun basics; you know, stripes, polka dots, a lot of aztecs—that kind of thing. We can get up to 20 plus a day.

What makes a great piece of art?

I think it's something that you never get tired of looking at. Some of my favorite pieces of art are like a good album you could listen to over and over again and always hear something new. It's the same thing with good art, it's something where your eyes bounce around the piece over and over again and see something new.

That's why I like to create repeat patterns in our art. Hopefully somebody is looking at the artwork and sees something new the fourth time wearing it. I like designing art that’s fun for people to enjoy over and over again.

 
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INSPIRATION

Who are your greatest influence as a working artist?

Yeah, I just really like what people are doing with posters right now. They're just doing some beautiful work, so anytime I'm not feeling inspired, I go to a few of my favorite websites, look at an image board I’ve created in pinterest, or actually go where these people are selling prints of their posters to reset and take it all in. I love people creating beautiful stuff that’s also inspiring.

 
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Is there a site that you can recommend the readers check out?

Yeah, it's called omgposters.com.

Where do your ideas come from?

For me, if I get a ton of inspiration at once, I get locked up. With too much stimulus, I start getting overloaded and I don't know where to go with the art.

 
 

So the best place for me to be is something that's called the flow state, you know? It’s a state of mind you get into when you're creating and you’re not judging at all, not thinking about any kind of outside influence. So I take something that’s influencing me and just get it into my head—I try to understand the feeling I want to invoke. Then I like to start creating and bringing a piece of art to life—not judging what I'm doing at all. Hopefully getting into that flow state where I'm not thinking about what I’m doing, I'm just creating.

 
 

I've been creating art long enough now, that usually I don't have to overthink it. I don't have to keep searching for inspiration, it's all kind of up in my head now, which is nice.

That's the first time I've heard the term "flow state."

Yeah it's great. Anytime somebody's just doing work—I mean we all have experienced this before; when you’re working and you're not even thinking about what you’re doing, you’re just creating. You don't have that superego part of you saying, "Oh, is this the right thing to do?” You're just making decisions in the moment, and that's where, for me, the best art comes from.

I feel like for most artists, when that critical voice of their superego enters their head or they get too overstimulated, or when they’re being pulled in too many directions—that’s when they fail, or get a creative block.

What do you think kills creativity the most?

Critical thinking. There's definitely a time for critical thinking, after a piece is done. You get to look at it and say, "Okay, that didn't work at all."[laughs] But in the moment, you can’t be second-guessing everything you’re doing. Because it's just never gonna get off the ground that way. Or when you're in the middle of creating, and someone comes up from behind you and comments on your work like, "I don't know about that." That's what stops a piece of art, or at least stops its momentum for me.

You can’t create art by committee. It’ll never be what you want it to be if that’s your mindset.

 
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WORK ENVIRONMENT

You work in an office with a few other artists. Does that play a role in how you create art?

If you look at our workspace, it's so diverse. We get a lot of art ideas from each other. It's so varied. It's not like we are creating alone, it's everybody collectively sharing ideas. I think it plays into how Brian delegates different arts to each of our strengths. David, who's been here a little longer than I have, is super analytical and there's just some art that is going to be super complex. And we know that David's the guy for it. He'll get lost in what he’s creating for a couple of hours and when he comes out, he’ll have created this amazing complex piece of art.
Savino's used to working in Photoshop. And so if there's a floral that's, you know, water color or something like that—he's the guy to go to for that. It'll always be beautiful and very high fashion.
And so for me, it's like the cartoony and completely tasteless stuff. [laughs] That's me. Yeah, he (Brian Mitchell) comes to me for that kind of art. [laughs]

What advice would you give to anyone trying to be more creative?

I guess just find what lights you up and listen to that; and don't dismiss it by saying, "Oh, I can't do that, that's silly", you know. Find whatever gets you going, and do that. And don't criticize yourself while you're doing it either.