Kate Bingaman-Burt is known for her distinctive style of illustration, which you can see in her two books, on her website, and in tons of other places as well. She’s an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at PSU and has a client list that would make a grown man or woman weep.

Show Notes

Recorded Monday, July 22th, 2013, and this is episode number 21. Follow Ray, Kandace, Dan, or Needmore on Twitter. Please rate our show on iTunes!

The Interview

Where are you from?
I was born in Wisconsin, and I didn’t live there for very long though, but my grandparents, they’re lifelong Wisconsinites, and then my mom and dad, they were weavers and we ended up in Missouri in the early 1980s based off of like they went to an art show in St. Louis, and they were going down in all these different back roads, and at that time, they were just looking for some place else to move, and they found this cabin at the end of this dirt road in the middle of Missouri and it was for sale. They’re like, “Let’s move here.” My mom actually recently told me that she thought that they would only be there for a couple of years, and they’ve been there now for 33 years.
Yeah, I grew up in Missouri.
You can see where I’m going with this.
Yeah, I know. Absolutely, it’s confusing. My mom was a Fibers major when she was in school, and she just was a weaver basically, woven tapestries, pillows, shawls, things like that, and my dad was an engineer and he worked in American Motors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and my mom was a weaver and he hated his job, this was the late 1970s, and basically, mom was there pregnant with me and American Motors was giving my dad crap because they’re like, “You’re not going to take that much time off whenever your wife has that kid.”

Then mom went into labor with me. She was in labor with me for three days and they constantly were like, “Come on, come on. You need to get back, you need to get back.” Then he quit, which I’m thinking about him like, “You quit the job right when you were having a kid. That’s crazy.” Then they both became weavers and then they were weavers for 20 years. That was their job. We lived in this really small town in Missouri, but my summers were spent going to different street fairs and art shows with them.

We go to Chicago a lot. They did several different East-coast shows and so I travelled with them there, then we were going to Florida a bunch, it was just super fun. It’s a lot less hippie-ish than it sounds. They ran a super tight small business and they’re in galleries, and they had small shops and things like that. It was like they caught the whole wave of crafts from the late 1970s and 1980s where I feel like we’re in the second or third wave of that, but they basically … their business came to an end in the early 90s when it just really wasn’t that in vogue to make things with your hands particularly.

No, that does makes sense.
Yeah, everything comes in waves. Everything is cyclical and just died off and now we’re starting … that the last several years it’s like, it’s popular again. My mom still does shows, too, now. She was an elementary school principal and then she just retired.
You’ve also mentioned before that you were influenced or inspired by your grandmother who was a children’s books illustrator, is that right?
Yeah, absolutely. She started doing children’s books illustrations professionally when she was 19 years old. She went to art school in Milwaukee at the Layton School of Art. She got her first gig when she was 19 and she was first published when she was 19 and from the ages of 19 until 75, 76, that’s when she lost her central vision, she was absolutely fulltime, self-employed children’s book illustrations. She would always tell me that the jobs are super steady, she was really fun to work with and people really liked her work.
That’s crazy.
I know it’s crazy.
Statistically you’d think that there’s got to be like everyone in America must have seen her work by now.
Yeah, and also, she was part of that age too, that era where it was a really wonderful time of illustration but a lot of times, their names weren’t on anything. She has these tons and tons of coloring books and things like that where it is Nan Pollard but then she did a bunch of other stuff and they didn’t want your name on it, she was almost like ghostwriting for different things. She would do Berenstein Bears and stuff, and she would do Curious George stuff, and she did some Disney stuff, and it was just like, “Okay, you can copy that style. We need you to work like that.” She just … and lots of paper doll books and …
Were you around much when she was just drawing and working?
Yeah, absolutely. I would go and visit my grandmother … and my grandfather’s also an artist, too. He was a portrait painter and he did illustrations and stuff like that, but she was just always … all growing up through the 80s, I would go an visit her a couple times a year, and then she would come and visit us and I always remember, she would always ship out a couple boxes of things that she was working on when she stayed with us for a couple of weeks. At night, she would just sit there and work on stuff and I would just sit there and ask her questions. It was really fun. Then she passed away last year and she was really interested in how the computer had changed the way illustrators work essentially. We would compare stories back and forth where I’m like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “So you can finish something and then you just email it and they get it.” She’s like, “I used to have to figure in how long it would take to ship things. Everything is just so much faster.” It was fun to have these conversations about the job basically with this awesome woman who worked in a similar way. I don’t know, I just loved that. It was really interesting.
You come from a long line of creatives, I guess you’d say.
Not that original with my job choice. I’m not that brave with venturing out.
They say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Exactly. It’s not so much of a risky venture, I guess.
That’s nice to know that you knew so many people who … I don’t think that I knew anyone who made their living doing anything remotely creative. I guess it was more like my dad was an engineer, technician type, and that just seemed like … but then again, this was Cleveland, Ohio or something. It was more blue collar, white collar? I don’t know. People had collars there.
They had collars, they had multiple colors.
Yeah, that’s how it was. You had collars, or you get out of town.
It’s funny because I feel like I credited a lot to growing up in that environment.

Kate Bingaman-Burt drawing 3

Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burt and a recent daily drawing

My mom and dad, and my grandma and grandpa, they were huge permission givers to me to be like, “It’s not crazy if you want to make things with your hands.” I feel like I’ve talked to a lot of friends and a lot of acquaintances where it was such a foreign thing to be like, “Oh, I want to be an artist or I want to make this, or I want to actually make something and try to sell it.” I just felt really lucky in that regard…

where I remember I was nine years old and I told my mom, “I’m going to start a pin business and I’m going to take all these magazine images and mount them on foam core, glue pin backs on the back of them and I’m going to go to the two floral shops in town and try to sell them.” She’s like, “Go for it. I don’t care.” I was have always been pretty self-entertaining.
Yeah, that’s interesting. I think for a lot of people, it seems like just getting into something creative seems like you wouldn’t seriously consider it full time work, or you would consider it like if you really want to do it, you have to be the one in a million who’s successful, like who’s a big rock band, or a famous artist. It does seem like maybe there’s a renaissance in Portland and it’s gotten easier here for people and there’s more outlets for that.
I agree, and I think that one of the hardest parts of doing anything creative is just putting yourself out there. It’s just like making something and sharing it with somebody. That’s terrifying. Again, I owe a lot to my mom and dad and my grandma for not making fun of that and encouraging it, but also not treating it like it was not big of a deal either. It’s wasn’t like, “Oh, look what you made. That’s amazing.” It’s like, “Oh, cool. Go …” Like I said, I was super self-entertaining because again, my mom and dad, they had all these loons, I grew up seeing them work all the time. They were always working on orders, shipping out orders. I saw how that infrastructure worked and I would go to shows and I would see how that worked. I was very much … mom was always like, “You never had a problem just making your own fun basically.” I still feel like a lot of my projects are just like making my own fun for myself.
Would you go to the shows with them and stuff?
Yeah, absolutely. My mom … I don’t know how she handled it, but remember a couple of shows, I would take it upon myself to be a sales person. Oh my God, I can’t even imagine how obnoxious that must have been to have a 10-year-old come up to you, “Do you have any questions that I can help you with?”
Let me tell you about the cloth here.
Exactly, it was just so annoying, so precocious. Then I never remember mom going like, “Cut it out.” I do remember some distraction and diversion tactics that over- imploring like, “Oh, Katie, you don’t have to do that.”
When did you move to Portland? Was it in 2000 …?
It was 2008 was when I moved to Portland. I went to undergrad in Missouri, and I was an English major there, then I discovered graphic design. The irony of the whole thing is like my aunt and uncle are graphic designers, my grandma and grandpa commercial artists and illustrators. I still just didn’t want to do any of that. I didn’t even really know what graphic design was. I feel like it’s just this level of awareness that just wasn’t there. I didn’t start doing graphic design stuff until late in college. Then I worked in Omaha, Nebraska for awhile as a graphic designer, and then I went to grad school in Lincoln, Nebraska. Then my first teaching job was in Starfall, Mississippi at Mississippi State University. I was there for four years, and then I moved out here, and I’ve been here ever since.
Why Portland?
Again, to go to the Jason Sturgill thing. I was interested there’s a lot of work that was happening in Portland. When I lived in Mississippi, I lived there from 2004 until 2008, and we were super isolated. Also, 2004 was around the beginning of “Web 2.0” and I remember Flickr was really huge at that time. I’ve met a lot of different people that were working in ways that I wanted to be working. I just hit the internet hard basically. I really sincerely feel that I made so many wonderful connections during that time period and those people turned out … I’ve met all those people in real life now, like I think about the illustrator Lisa Congdon who lives in San Francisco, I first met her on Flickr. I met Frank Chimero through the early days of Twitter and we discovered that he went to the same undergrad that my sister did in Missouri. It was like all these odd, funny connections that have turned into actual IRL relationships. At least for me, that doesn’t happen nearly as much since I moved to Portland. I think it’s also because I’m in Portland now, there’s other things that I can do.
Right, yeah. There’s a big difference.
There’s a big difference. Portland just seemed really appealing, but I also knew that you go where the teaching jobs are, too, and when Sturgill contacted me about this tenure track assistant, professor job that was open at Portland State, I was like, “Okay, let’s do this.” Because my husband and I had made up our minds, too, that we were comfortable and we actually like living in Mississippi. There’s parts of the south that I just absolutely love. Love, love, love, love, love. We didn’t like how isolated we felt, but we were very comfortable. We had tons of space and I was about to go up for tenure if I stayed there for another year. We’re like, “Yeah, we could do this.” But we also decided, too, that if another job came open, it had to be to these handful of cities that we would love to live in and Portland happened to be on that list. That’s how we ended up in Portland.
What draws you to teaching?
It’s something again, and I feel like a lot of the things that I end up doing and loving, I never really set out to do, and I don’t feel like … I didn’t go to grad school because I wanted to teach. I went to grad school because I had all these different ideas that I wanted to work out and I went to grad school because I wanted to have the gift of time, and the weird thing, my first year of grad school, I ended up having a lot of teaching responsibilities thrown onto me, and I also have this very naïve thing were I’m just like, “Yeah, sure. Let’s just try this. Let’s see what happens. I don’t know.” That was exactly what teaching was. It was one of those things, “Okay, Kate. You’re going to be teaching this type class and this graphic design one class.” I’m like, “Okay, I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m going to do it anyway.”

I feel like I end up in a lot of situations where I’m like that, and I discovered that I really loved it, but I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’m starting my … this is my 9th year fulltime teaching in the Fall. It’s like I’m just figuring out as I go and just remaining open to change, and remaining open to feedback. It’s just I always feel like I’m just retooling it, but I absolutely love it, and I love how it’s like, part prep, part improv, also just a part … there’s performance parts to it and then it’s also just really fun to work with students, too. That’s the best part, it’s working with the students. I love my Nebraska students, I love my Mississippi students, and I love, love, love my Portland State students, and it’s just … definitely, I don’t approach teaching as like, “Let me tell you everything that I know.” Which that would be such a short and boring class but it’s like, “What do you guys want to do? Let’s figure this out.”

It’s definitely more of a … I don’t know, this is cheesy, but more of like a facilitator/coach sort of thing, then just talking it out and making things happen.

Kate Bingaman Burt - drawings 2

It’s really fun. I don’t think I’d ever want to stop teaching. It’s also so connected to … it makes my freelance work so much more fun because I share with them a lot of the stuff that I’m doing in freelance, and then just like they are really so awesome in reminding me that what I do is actually really fun because I teach a class to sophomores every year and it’s just so much fun to bring in different types of paper that you’ve become so used to and then you show them to the sophomores and they’re like, “This paper is the most amazing paper that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I cannot believe …” I’m like, “You’re right. This paper is amazing.”

What the hell kind of paper do you have there?
I thought it was just normal paper. Just paper samples. I bring in paper sample books except that I feel like I can become totally desensitized because it’s something that I look at all the time. I’m like, “Oh, I got some new paper sample books.” They’re like, “Ah, paper sample books? Oh my God.” “You’re right, these are awesome!”
You get a little bit of enthusiasm vicariously from …
Oh yeah, so much. So much. Just seeing how quickly that they can solve problems and how quickly they become better designers and how quickly that they learn. Selfishly, it’s super inspiring for me just to see these students learn and grow and get to know each other and help figure out what it is that they want to do. I do a lot of advising and stuff, that’s really fun because not every single person who wants to be a graphic design major really should be a graphic design major but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be good at something else. It’s like talking that out, I don’t know, again, it’s a lot of talking and I like those conversations, they’re fun.
A lot of your work focuses on the concepts that the ideas of consumerism. I saw your TED talk, but for our lovely listeners who haven’t heard that, where does that come from for you?
Okay, I’ll try to do a short version of it, but really I feel like it goes back to me being a kid. When my mom and my grandma and I would all get together, our social activity was shopping. The best conversations would happen around clothing racks. The whole ritual of shopping so I would always associate those good memories also with consumption, which I know sounds really screwy, and then my grandmother would always send me a box of brand new school supplies at the beginning of ever school year. I have this weird office supply, school supply fetish sorta thing, and I always feel like anything can be solved if you’ve got a new notebook.
Right, right, right, yeah.
And these object connections and I think that’s when I started … that seed, I feel, was planted. These different stories and emotions being imprinted onto machine-made items, essentially, and how everybody has their own relationships with these objects. Again, I think consumption is a super emotional topic, and there’s a lot of material to work with there, too, because … again, I do explore that in a variety of projects, but the thing that really, really, I feel that pushed me into using consumption as basically my life’s practice, I guess, is my first job that I had when I was out of undergrad, I was a graphic designer for this gift company in Omaha, Nebraska, and my job … I was 21, 22 and my job was to research trends, was to figure out how to develop … it was a gift company so we did a lot of candles, jarred candles, potpourri, gourmet, I’m making air quotes, gourmet food. Then we would go to all these different trade shows and sell them to different stores and retailers and things like that. I was just immediately put into this world of trade shows which is so plastic and such a crazy, fabricated, constructed environment, which was fascinating.
This was the late 90s, early 2000s when I was doing that. I started seeing all of these crazy contrasts happening where … this is also during the era when beanie babies were huge. I would be in the same trade hall in this booth that I had designed. I did a lot of big booth designs, too, trying to fabricate all these different homey country experiences for our shoppers, and I was really close to the beanie baby booth, and I saw people get in fist fights, trying to get their Fall orders and I was just sitting there, I was like, “This is really, really, really messed up.” I’m like, “I am fascinated by this.”

Also, during that same year was when the whole Monica Lewinsky thing was going on, and as it died down a little bit and she came back into the spotlight because she had a line of handbags that she was making. For awhile, I was basically following the same trade show schedule as Monica Lewinsky and her booth would be set up with her Monica Lewinsky handbags, it’s just so weird. I just started filling up notebooks in different writings about the things that I’ve seen and I was a sales person for this company, too. I did a lot of these shows about myself and I just started … I was selling the products that I had designed for this company, then I started doing all these, “What if I arranged it like this? Would it stop somebody and force them to come?”
It was just weird. I did a lot of weird social experiments within the booth, too, and then I was like, “Man, I can’t work here anymore. This feels weird. I don’t want to do this. I’ve got all these different ideas of all the things I want to make.” Then that’s when I started applying for grad school and then that’s when I became really interested in history of objects and stories behind objects, and then that’s when I started tracking my own consumption, too, because I did a lot of photo work of thrift stores and yard sales and Target stores and interviews, and interviews, and interviews that’s … but when I look back at it now, some people that couldn’t have been classified as hoarders. I was obsessed with why people were buying what they were buying, but then, I didn’t feel like I was able to really get the stories that I wanted and I think that’s what moved me to start tracking my own consumption. That’s where this all came from.

You were taking pictures of things that you bought for awhile?
I did that for 28 months, and that’s were Obsessive Consumption, the term for that, came from. It was 2002 when I did that. Camera’s didn’t have cell phones, no, camera’s didn’t have cell phones attached. My camera has a cell phone. Mine as well be, I never use my phone for talking, but I switched from film to digital and just that whole … I’m like, “I’m going to have a website. This will be crazy.” Then I also archived everything in glossy envelopes, and meticulously filed the receipts and the photographs and date stampings and graded stuff, and then I uploaded them all to this website and then people started following that and leaving comments and contacting me, and then they would send me … for awhile, I would just gather emails from people that would just … they would just send me emails of things that they have purchased for the day, and I made this big zine, I remember, many, many years ago. That was just page upon page, upon page of small tiny type all the things that people had been purchasing and a little line about why. I was like, “Okay, cool. That project’s done. What’s the next thing?”
You strike me as a … this might sound a little arty, but a consummate maker, like you’ve always got these … you’re like a scientist of art. Every time I hear about these projects, this is like … not only do you just do this every day. Maybe I write in a diary every day but you will catalogue it and everything and end up turning it into a product. When you start this sort of thing, are you thinking you know, “I bet 28 months from now, I’ll put out a …” You’re not thinking …
No, totally not. There’s so many different things I … perhaps I should think a little bit more before I start projects, but whether good or bad, I just like, “I’m just going to start this and see what happens.” Sometimes they hit and sometimes they miss, and then like with that first project, it wasn’t like I started it January 1st, “I’m going to do this.” Actually it was January 23rd, and that was the thing because I’m a big fan of believing through making, basically, and it all, like one project evolved into the next one, it runs into the next one because the photo documentation project came out of me just obsessively taking pictures of thrift stores because I do a lot of the same things they’re making where a lot of the crazy … where I would go to thrift stores every Thursday … and I’m also very regimented with rules, “Okay, every Thursday, you’re going to go to these three thrift stores and you’re just going to watch, and look, and take photographs.”

It was during one of those trips that I was also happen to be looking for a couch for my studio, and I took a photograph of that couch that I knew I was going to buy. I was like, “Wait a minute, now I’m going to take a photograph of everything that I purchased. Okay, let’s do that.” Then at that point, “Okay, then how’s this going to be … what are the rules that I have to follow for that project just so I can keep going with it?” Because I have to have some sort of infrastructure or it’s just going to be like all nebulous and weird, and also, it’s got to have a loose system of rules just so … there’s some days where you’re just like, “I don’t want to do this”. Okay, make it easy enough that you can just follow those rules that you’ve set up for yourself and just do it and then carry on, basically.

The rules for the photo the first round, I would just take a picture of everything that you purchased and then every Sunday, I would sit there in front of the photos and put them in envelopes and date stamp them, and then I would upload them all to this really super cumbersome flash website that, oh my God, and checking all day on Sunday, which sounds so pathetic.

I know because now, in the days of Instagram now, it’s like you don’t even think about it, but …
It’s “Kate, like there’s this thing that’s happening on Sunday” and I’m like, “No, I’ve got to upload all this shit that I bought this week.” It just sounds so ridiculous. It’s just like, I don’t know …
It’s almost like having a set of rules of some sort of exercises like that. I think that at first blush, someone might think that makes it harder, but really, it frees you to not have to think through every time. You just have to check off, you just have to do these things.
Absolutely, and I’ve learned this and it’s been repeated and demonstrated to me so many times whenever I’m teaching, too. You don’t want to have an assignment that says, “Oh, you can just do whatever you want to do.” Because you’re going to end up making crap basically, or not making anything at all.
You’re just staring at a blank sheet of paper all day.
Staring at a blank sheet of paper and being like, “What’s wrong with me? I’m so stupid.” I usually go down, you take it to that really dark place. I actually teach this senior thesis class where on paper it’s like, “Students can pursue their own independent ideas.” “Aw, this will be so much fun. We can do whatever you want to do.” We go to this whole series, it’s like the full series of exercises of how we can really drill down to what it is that we’re going to be doing, what’s your schedule, how you’re going to execute it. It’s not fun, it’s just like I think about whenever you see those different … maybe I’ve seen too many things like this where someone’s put up this big public installation of a blank sheet of paper and it just says, “Get creative.” Then it’s like, “Here’s some markers.” It’s just a bunch of scribbles. Someone’s written poop.
We had one of those in here for awhile and it drove me crazy because it was like, I’d be sitting in here trying to do important whatever, and they’d do this thing out there that was … yeah, it was like …
Come on, we need some structure because it really … that yields more …
The constraints can be freeing.
Constraints are good. Constraints are really, really, really, really good, and within those constraints, really wonderful surprising things can happen when you’re following those rules that you set for yourself.
These days, do you work a lot on a computer?
Yes. Actually, we had … one of our friends came by the studio today and he came in, he was like, “Ooh, you’re making …” He was saying something like making all these crazy stuff and I said, “No, I’m just making lots of email right now. Making so much email. It’s all I’ve done for the last three days, is email.” Then he started to laugh, I’m like, “Ah, I just didn’t know if I can laugh,” but yeah, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. All the giants that I do originate on paper and how many pens, but then the only thing that doesn’t get really touched by a computer is just my daily drawings, but they still get scanned and uploaded, but all my freelance stuff, it starts on paper, pens, and scanning, and then the whole … then I just sit in front of the computer and I actually, oh my God, yesterday I ordered this Cintiq and I am freaking out. I am freaking out. It’s coming tomorrow. I have just been repeatedly told by people that I admire and respect that this is going to … especially with my freelance stuff. It’s going to save me a lot of time. I have to spend the biggest …
Do you use a graphics tablet now?
You just use a mouse? You go straight from the mouse to the …?
Yes, on screen. I don’t know if I’m going to …
I’m curious how that’ll work out for you?
I know, because I even tried doing a tablet and a pen, I’m like, “This feels stupid.”
Yeah, it’s weird because you’re drawing here and it’s over here and you’re used to …
I know, I know.
Maybe the Cintiq will work out for you, I don’t know.
I don’t know. I don’t know, but there’s just some freelance stuff that I know that it doesn’t matter if it originates on paper, basically. I’ve also been such a person, I’m like, “I use pens. I use paper. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Here I am, it’s like, “Now, I have a Cintiq and I’m going to draw in …” it’s like, “What am I doing? What’s happening?”
Yeah, well.
Yeah, I don’t know.
In general, do you … it’s hard after you mentioning the Cintiq, do you think that … your daily drawings will still be on paper, right?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I’ve got this crazy archive of drawings that’s still totally beyond paper, and if I’m ever doing any … honestly, I have this kick come back to biting me in the butt me saying this, but the only that I see myself using that Cintiq for would be for a quick turnaround freelance stuff where I just did those on … nobody needs the paper artifacts, but I am such a huge fan of the tangible that, everything else, it’s still going to remain very tactile and object-based and things like that, but we’ll see.

I tell my students they have to be open to change and not be bratty and obnoxious. I’ve been so bratty and obnoxious with the whole pen and tablet thing and that’s another thing, too. I catch myself when I find myself feeling very closed off to things, and I’m like, you tell your students that you really should remain open. I’m just like, “No.” When mine first came out, I’m like, “No, I don’t need another social thing.” Now I’m like, “I never needed mine, it’s on Instagram now.”

Yeah, there you go. I’m curious, you’re very good at having those daily routines, are you like that with meals and stuff?
I know what I like and I get really repetitive in that too, there’s some restaurants where I’ve only eaten the same thing and I haven’t tried anything else on the menu. Right now, Double Dragon is really close to our studio. It’s a Bánh mì place, it’s like a 14th and division, really, really, really good. I’ve only had one other sandwiches and I’ve had that sandwich maybe 20 times. We’ll grab one and like, “You want something different?” I’m like, “No, I know I like this.”
It’s easy for me, I like Bánh mì, a lot. There was a Safeway down on 82nd here and it was the worst. I was so thrilled that it closed and now it’s an Asian mart and they have a little café in there, and started serving food. They have one sandwich, one roll choice and then the bubble tea, that’s all you can get, so it’s like
I love that, I love that.
Yeah. Luckily it’s good, but it’s $3 and so exciting, it was just great.
No, I develop habits very quickly, and to the point where people make a lot of fun of me, a lot of fun of me. I know what I like and if it works, I keep doing it until it doesn’t work for me anymore, and then I do something else.
You have an amazing list of clients that you’ve worked with, how do those jobs usually come your way?
They all come because, at least I start it, it was because of my daily drawing project, and because again, when I started like to do daily drawings, I started that in 2006 and it was after I finished drawing all of my credit card statements. To back up a little bit, I hated drawing. That was not an area that I felt comfortable in at all, at all. I was way more comfortable with photography, I’m way more comfortable of like, installations, facial things, just way more comfortable in that world. Drawing, no way, I think that’s the main reason that I picked drawing as the kind of the vehicle when I was reproducing my credit card statements because it was also a painful way for me to work too, but then you do anything for so long.

At least for me, I discovered that I liked it. One of the reasons I started the daily drawing project was so I could draw something else other than my credit card statements. In 2006, that’s when I started drawing one thing that I purchased everyday and then had a little story along with each one of them and started publishing them on my blog and things like that. I started that project not because I was like, I’m going to be an illustrator, this is going to be great, it was just part of a way that I processed stuff and work, and so, that was just was, what I was doing.

Then about several months into that project is when people, art directors started contacting me, asking to start working, if would be interested in any freelance stuff and I was like, “Huh?” Like, “Okay.” That was, in 2007 and I feel like I’ve been pretty busy with freelance ever since. Freelance Illustration has only been just recently that I feel even comfortable calling myself an illustrator which is bizarre because I go to my website and everything on there is illustration and stuff but I’ve only just become like, yeah, I’m an illustrator. I’m not a graphic designer I’m an illustrator. I teach graphic design but I practice illustration. That’s what I love doing. I’ve been really, really fortunate that almost all my client work has come really from … if I hadn’t done that daily drawing project, I don’t know what I’d be doing. I really don’t, I don’t know, I don’t know.

Maybe it was just the consistency of execution.
I think so.
I think so. I feel like, yeah, and it’s very clear. I feel like when … and our director goes to my site I know what it is that I do. I feel like I’ve been really lucky in that regard too, or it’s not like I’ve got all this … I feel like, I don’t really know what this person does, this person’s like, I like the work but it’s all over the place. I’m not really quite sure what kind of job I would assign them. You go to my site and you, I feel like you can … I know what is it … I know what she’s about and I have an idea for what she could do.
I think it’s similar to our discussion about constraints, I think people want to be perceived, they think they’ll increase their odds of getting work by trying to show all the different things they can do. Paradoxically, that clarity consistency …
Because someone’s going to look … honestly, I feel like sometimes art directors look at the person’s website for 15 seconds. If they can’t figure out what it is, they’ll go on to the next person that they’re supposed to look at.
Looking at a resume or something is like, is it there or not.
Exactly, but it’s again, that leads into questions about, I think if you feel like specializing, that’s fantastic. If not, that’s fine too, I feel like I get a lot of questions like, would you really feel like, everyone should really specialize in one style? I’m like, “This is what I do.” You got to figure out what’s going to work out best for you and try to rock it out as best as you can so … and this somehow seems to be working okay. It’s also been fun too because through drawing now, it’s not just all like, you don’t go to my website and it’s not just all black and white drawings. My other earlier interests creep in like, I do photo scenes, it’s like, I’ve been able to, I still do installations but I’m so … I know it’s just like drawing is just a component. It’s a very dominant component but, I don’t know it’s … again, within that constraint there’s a lot of things that I can do within that.
A lot of that work is commercial, is it ironic at all?
Fully. Freaking … okay, so one of the…
Just making sure you …
Oh my god. It’s like, yeah, oh my goodness. One of my favorite things is though, the very, very first rule-based project that I did is when I went to Target because I was totally fascinated, absolutely interested with Target. This is 10, 11 years ago when I was basically doing an installation, or I was photographing and recording the sounds of shopping. Target was great, like I contacted the local, Lincoln Nebraska Target and said that, I was just doing this project and if it would be okay if I could do it, and they’re like, “Yeah, sure, no problem.” Which is absolutely unheard of especially around that time, it was just 2001, 2002, photographing in public was not the thing that … with all like 9/11, it was crazy. I remember Walmart had it on locked down, I got kicked out of malls. It was just like … I feel like photographers, you couldn’t be shooting at anything up without raising suspicion, but Target was great. I photographed all these Target shoppers for several months, I made wallpaper, had model released forms like, did all these interview things and it was really fun and I feel like that was the first project that was like, yeah, I really like working in this way. Then when I ended up doing work for Target in 2010, I was like, “This is awesome.”
I know like full circle, that’s funny.
Again, I love when those circles, those full circles do happen. I was like, “Yeah.” The Target circle has been connected.

Kate Bingaman Burt - drawing

Yeah, and especially I’m a big fan of anything that is hopelessly meta too, and so it’s just when I did this stuff for Target, I drew the products that I did for Target. I actually went to Target and purchased the products that I had in the Target store, I drew them for a daily drawing. It was just like, again, it humors me, it makes me laugh. It’s just like, yeah, this is just ridiculous and I’m fully embracing it.

Your work in your illustration, you’ve developed a typeface, have you ever considered making a typeface out of that?
I have had people ask if they can animate typefaces and I don’t know if I’m just putting myself out of a job.
That’s right. Right, right, yeah. You want how much? I’ll just buy the typeface, its 50 bucks.
It’s something that is definitely … I’ve thought about it, because I’m like, “All these.” Then I’m like, “God, it can save you a lot of time Kate, you can just type that out in your typeface. There’s something that, again like, and again this is, maybe this is why I sometimes feel like my work flow really could be streamlined in many ways, hence the Cintiq purchase, but I really like that I don’t have a typeface. I really like that I am drawing everything out, and it is a little, maybe it is a little ridiculous and it takes a little longer than it should, but I like that. I like that a lot.
Maybe it’s just as the designer, but there’s nothing that’s more heartbreaking than when you look at something that’s someone has obviously put a lot of work in the designing and then, you see the typeface looks nice and handwritten, but then you look in your like, there’s two E’s in a row and they’re clearly identical.
I see that all the time.
It’s like “Aww.”
I’m outraged, that outraged is never died down for me. I see handwritten typeface, Oh my god. The E’s and the R’s and the T’s, that’s all it’s saying, because like, “Oh, it’s so fake.” Because this one client of mine, knock, knock, where I draw all of … I do bunch of like, stationary for them and it’s all hand-lettered. I’ve had a couple of people go, “You could just have done that with a typeface.” I’m like, I like the obsessive, ridiculousness that there’s every single thing that’s on that product was drawn by me, and it was fun, and I just feel like it just … I don’t know, for me it makes the piece that much more special and thought out, than if you. Yeah, I guess, I just answered my own question, no, I don’t want a typeface.
Yeah, I think you did, yeah.
It’s good though to be able to work through that.
That’s what we’re here for.
Thanks for the illustration therapy.
How are you liking your new work space with the group?
I love it, I love it. Absolutely, love it. It just feels good, we love being over at ADX, absolutely love that space. I think it’s an awesome, awesome space, but we were getting just a little bit too big for that space, and then going over the four building was really again moving, it’s been really fun to add Jason, Sturgill and Tina Snow Le to the whole thing, and then, Clifton and I have been working with little Brian, he was my student in Mississippi state.
Oh funny.
Yeah, and as in, I taught him for his very first graphic design class, this is my first, it’s my first year of teaching in Mississippi state, and then he was Clifton’s intern, because Clifton worked over in Architectures and Graphic Designer, and Clifton hired him as an intern and so, they would sit across the table from each other, and then the three of us had a space in Mississippi, and so he’s great, we love him.
You guys are okay working in the closed quarters?
Absolutely. Will and I, we work back to back and it’s super fun. It’s actually really great because he just graduated, with his MFA in studio practice, at Portland state. This is the first time that we’ve actually giddy about it, I’m like,”We can be friends.” This is awesome, he’s like, “It’s really nice, it’s surely nice.” I’m like, “Yeah, I know.” Yeah, it’s good, so yeah, to answer your question, it’s really good.
He clearly wants to borrow your Cintiq.
We both … I think I’m going to be curious to see what he thinks about it too. Just because we have a similar process and so, I don’t know.
The thing with the graphics tablet is I actually have a temporary desk right now, but I love using the graphics tablet. The funny thing is that, I rarely do any design with it. I prefer to draw on paper, whatever. At some point, I was given one and I think we didn’t have a mouse in the studio I was working in, and it just became such habit like, picking up a mouse after that just feels like …
Like this weird like, foreign like, hockey puck …
Yeah, why would you like … when that’s available, I can’t see using a mouse, so I’ve become a big advocate of it.
Okay, my good friend, Josh Kenyon, he’s actually one of the big reasons as to why I’m getting this Cintiq because he and Colby, they recently got one, about a year ago and I worked with Josh at PSU too and he was just like going on and on about how, just like, “This is amazing, it’s amazing.” I try him for a couple of days ago and I was like, “Josh, I think I’m going to do it.” He says, “Do it, do it.” I said, “It’s in the cart, I’m clicking, I’m clicking. I’m going to buy it.” He’s like, “Oh my god.” He is going to show me because he’s such a awesome … he’s like taken the lead on all of the digital illustration classes at PSU, and he’s always, call him a unicorn because he was really good at teaching tact in a very fun, creative and conceptual way, and so it was just like, “Oh my god, you’re amazing and I never want you to stop teaching here.” He was great, he was like, “Come on over, bring your brushes that you use and your pens and all.” Like, “We’ll load those in.”I feel really good like, he’s like, “It’s going to be great, it’s going to be great.” I’m like, “Okay. Okay, Josh. Okay.”
Great, thank you so much for a …
Oh my god, it’s over.
Yeah, it is. At some point like, I feel like I don’t want the shows to go on too long. Yeah, maybe stop after an hour and then maybe we’ll do it again sometime if your up for it, but it was really lovely to have you here.
Oh, thank you so much.
What is your website that people should go visit immediately?
It’s katebingamanburt.com.
There should be a stampede of listeners any moment, except we’re not live.
I like it, except we’re not live. Thank you so much.
All right, thanks.
That’s fun. That was fun.