This year we are celebrating a decade of showcasing women in horror! In honor of something so close to my heart, I am featuring ten amazing ladies in horror on my blog all month long to celebrate their incredible creativity and work in the field.
My first guest is Karlee Patton, whom you might know as the artistic mind behind A Stranger Dream. I am so excited to get to know more about Karlee.
Karlee Patton is a Horror Illustrator and Fine Artist living and creating in a small town called Duryea located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She received her BA in Visual Art from Keystone College with a concentration in painting and drawing in 2017. She was the Keystone College Outstanding Graduate of the Year (2017) and won numerous awards for art and poetry at Keystone including the Edward M Cameron IV Poetry Award (2017), Keystone College Outstanding Achievement Award for Excellence in the Arts (2017), Undergraduate Research Poetry Award (2017), 1stPlace at the Keystone College 2ndAnnual Draw-a-Thon, was Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities (2017), was a Keystone College Presidential Fellow, and a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. Along with being an artist, she is a heavy reader as well as a closet writer, which got her into the business of creating bookmarks. Her self-started business, A Stranger Dream, allowed her to take her love of reading, writing, and drawing and intermix them. She creates one-of-a-kind illustrations and transforms them into extraordinary bookmarks that seem to come to life. Her passion to be creative and unusual certainly is exhibited through her life and work, and you hardly ever see her without a good horror novel, or a paintbrush.
ST: Thank you so much for taking the time to share more about your work today. To start, tell our readers a little bit more about your background with horror? What creative outlets do you channel horror into (writing, art work, film, design, research, etc…)?
KP: My love of horror began when I was in grade school. I found the book In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. I was most infatuated by the story in that collection called The Girl with the Green Ribbon. This story starts out sounding like a fairy tale, but spoiler alert: at the end, Jenny’s head falls off when the love of her life unties the green ribbon around her neck.
I would check out this book from the library as often as possible just to bring it home and read it to my brother with my “creepy witch voice” before bedtime. I just recently bought his daughter a copy because she is already taking a liking to the horror genre. She loves when I tell her the monster in my basement will eat her if she acts up (which makes her act up more because she wants to meet him!) and already is growing a keen addiction to skeletons “ooooo, spooky!”
I always loved to watch horror films especially the old ones, but my favorite subgenre of horror is the supernatural. My favorite thing to do on a Sunday is sit on the couch in my PJs and watch Ghost Hunters or Supernatural. I also love to read any book with a title beginning with “The Haunting Of…” or anything about exorcisms.
However, I’ve never really created anything to do with horror until college. My research in college began with magick and symbolism. I created my own set of symbols to tell stories in my paintings. My paintings and drawings were generally low-key and some would say, creepy. The main character of this body of art was a black cat with white eyes that glowed from within. The cat was the symbol representing myself and my consciousness and was my way of inserting myself into the story. I was unable to finish this body of work in college due to time restraints and my research had me studying deeper into things like witchcraft, the afterlife, and the underworld. My final body of work in college consisted of large abstracted paintings that all derived from a domestic cat skull. (No cats were harmed!) It was hard for some people to see that they were cat skulls though, so I generally tried to not tell them at my exhibit’s opening night. A lot of people were set back by the fact that they were cat skulls when they found out, and thought I was a little whacky!
ST: Women being drawn to horror has always made perfect sense to me as a way to confront our own daily horrors, to unleash the brewing darkness in our heads, and as a way to just have fun with our creativity. What draws you personally to the horror genre?
KP: I am personally drawn by the artistic freedom to be a “little whacky.” If I painted a skull around here, you guys would love me for it. It’s socially acceptable to think of dark things in this genre and not be charged with insanity. Horror unleashes my inner psychopath.
Women being drawn to horror makes my heart so happy. I hate the generalization that women have to be cute and proper and passive. I love to be in your face, loud, and maybe even a little frightening. If a woman with a ton of confidence, their own mind, and their own individuality bothers you, you need to grow some balls.
ST: Your creations for A Stranger Dream are amazing. I’m obsessed with the bookmarks. Did your artwork always lean toward the darker side or is that something that has developed over the years?
KP: As I said in my big long tangent I went off on in the first question, my artwork didn’t seem dark to me, but to others they were definitely leaning to the dark side. My cat skull
series was about being a vessel, and about celebration of the bones that contain our spirits and the things our spirits can latch onto, but, when the general public sees a skull, they think of death. But, as J.K. Rowling once said, “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
The artwork for my bookmarks sprang from my love of reading and writing, and honestly when I first started A Stranger Dream, I was all over the map. The first few bookmarks I created were for Harry Potter, then IT, and then Beauty and the Beast respectively. I actually even made bookmarks for Six of Crows! I do love to read a wide variety of books including YA, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi so I am not ashamed of creating these things and may even do so again in the future. Some of my favorite fandoms include The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, and of course, Harry Potter. I began to stick solely to creating horror pieces when I fell in love with the amazing online community, and my creative freedom felt unleashed from there. I always wondered where my artwork fit in the artistic community and wondered what my calling was. I’m proud to finally announce, horror is my passion. I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged anywhere, but I belong here, amongst you. I belong to the horror community.
ST: Your website mentions that you now write graphic novels, illustrate for other authors, and are creating book covers for horror novels. Congratulations on how your beautiful work has taken off! Do you have any favorite projects you have worked on over the years, or is there something in particular you’re really looking forward to working on?
KP: I haven’t published anything yet, but I am working on writing the words to my very first graphic novel. Of course, it is about a haunting! It will all be done in digital painting, and if you are on my patreon, when I have some artwork completed, you will be the only ones to see sneak peeks on it before it’s released! I also have a few small chapbooks up my sleeve that I hope to share soon!
None of the work I have done has been released yet, but I recently did a book cover for Edward Lorn! He is the first book cover I have done, and I really hope to do more in the future because I had a blast doing it. This book hasn’t been released yet either, so keep your eyes peeled!
Another project that I’ll be doing in the future, is a collaboration with J.Z. Foster! We will be creating a graphic novel together, and I’m so stoked for this project. It’s still a long way off so don’t expect it any time soon, but I have goosebumps just thinking about it!
ST: I never hear enough about women in graphic design and horror artwork as much as I want to. I think it’s probably an even more difficult field to solidly break into because it’s been male-dominated for so long, much like comics. What kind of impact do you think more women in horror art could have, or what unique qualities will they continue bringing into these fields?
KP:Women generally have to fight harder in order to be taken seriously. So, when you have HEARD of a woman in art, or you have HEARD of a woman author, she is usually a BADASS. For this reason, I think a woman’s work will always be better because she freakin’ fought for that. She busted her butt making it happen. So, I believe women in horror will always break the boundaries, raise the bar, and will always take it to the next level.
I love to show people what I’m made of, and I can’t wait to release my own comics and blow everyone’s mind.
ST: I know there are thousands of incredible horror ladies out there, but who is one woman in horror who inspires you particularly? What is it about this person’s work or personality that speaks to you?
KP: One woman who always makes my heart flutter is Emily Carroll. She is a kick ass graphic novelist who creates stunning images and books that you just need to have on your shelves. Her stories are short, but pack just enough punch. The artwork is what truly sends her stories over the edge for me. Whenever I’m working on my graphic novel, I have a stack of woman-powered graphic novels and novels next to me that I use for reference and take note of how they got something to happen in their novels. Emily Carroll is always in my research stack and I seriously look up to her.
Emily has a new book that is available for preorder right now on amazon!
It is called When I Arrived at the Castle and it is set to release on June 19, 2019.
ST: What are you working on this year or what do you have coming out? Where can we find you to keep up-to-date with your work?
KP: This year, I won’t really be “restocking” my shop with old designs, but I will do it on occasion to have big sales etc.. My plan is to create more artwork and new designs constantly so that the bookmarks will “retire” faster. Meaning, I will create new designs and there might only be 50 of them in existence. I think this will make my work more collectible for those who collect them. I’m also toying with the idea of numbering my bookmarks, so those people know they have a collectible in their hands.
My goal for this year is to finish my first graphic novel. So hopefully by 2020 you will have some spooky goodness in your hands!
Get exclusive peaks into Karlee’s work through her patreon account.
To see her new artwork for bookmarks as she creates them, and to keep up-to-date with her releases, follow Karlee on Instagram: www.instagram.com/astrangerdream
on twitter @astrangerdream
To see her amazing shop, visit www.astrangerdream.com and to see her fine art, follow this Instagram:
ST: Thank you so much to Karlee for joining us. As you can see, she has a beautifully macabre and creative mind, and I strongly encourage everyone to keep up with her work and support our fellow horror sister!
Check back on Monday to read about my next guest!