KRISTIE VARGO Q&A
What inspires you?
Inspiration comes from using all my senses. Colours, textures, music, books I’ve read or are reading, past and future travels, food, movies, poetry, and even a silly phrase has been known to spark an idea. My imagination is a fun place to play.
Who inspires you?
The people who inspire me personally are the ones that never discouraged me from my dreams, my parents. They are the reason I am an artist today. The people who inspire me artistically are the ones that express themselves unapologetically, such as Salvador Dali or Salman Rushdie.
How do you come up with your ideas?
It’s a very secret process called living. I consider myself blessed because ideas just come to me as I go about my day. Sometimes they stop me in my tracks at the store and I need to jot them down in a sketchbook I keep with me…or a scarp piece of paper. I find the quieter I am the more ideas flow right to me. Meditation has been a tremendous source for me; it’s where I first met Margaux.
When did you first realise that you had a talent for drawing?
Even though I was creating all the time, I probably first realized I had talent at about 10. It was the year when everyone kept asking me to draw them a personalized Garfield the cat. I don’t know if the artist would approve, but I even fulfilled a request of him wearing a Los Angeles Kings hockey jersey. It was also when I was asked to paint a portion of a mural in my school. It featured countries and cultures around the world. I chose Russia, a controversial choice for a child of the 80’s.
What are your favourite drawing materials?
My favourite place to start is a simple mechanical pencil, so I don’t have to stop and sharpen it, and a kneaded eraser. My lightbox is indispensable when I am refining drawings. It gives me the ability to change parts of my image without redrawing everything. Don’t tell anyone, but I do have a secret cache of Berol Prismacolor coloured pencils under lock and key and a box of 96 Crayola crayons, with the sharpener.
How long have you been designing / drawing?
I think I was born with a pencil and crayons in hand. Professionally, I have been designing and drawing since 2001, but it is something that I enjoy doing every day. I love learning new techniques and discovering hidden talents. I consciously devoted a lot of time to watercolour because it’s known to be such a difficult style. Now I find it a challenge to paint using acrylics or oils!
What is the design / drawing that you are most proud of and why?
There are a lot of designs and drawings that I love over the years. I’m still in love with a bespoke wedding invitation I created years ago for a client with a modern fairytale. I wrote and handbound a storybook about their courtship and upcoming marriage. The drawing I am most proud of is Margaux not only because she’s fun, but she is what led me to work with Pemberly Fox. Because of her, I am now an international artist, a dream come true. And she’s fabulous…
Who is your biggest fan?
My biggest fans are likely to be my parents and younger sister. They have certainly been around the longest. Like I said earlier, my mom and dad always supported my dreams, even the crazy ones, and they reminded us that we could do anything we wanted in life. When you have that kind of encouragement, anything can happen for you. My sister is the one that always rallies around me and makes me laugh through everything.
How did you get started in the business?
My career began in advertising but I was an artist at heart. I left the corporate job and started doing what I loved when friends and family kept encouraging me to start my business. At first I did a lot of bookbinding, working with leather and waxed thread and beautiful paper, but eventually I moved over to the custom correspondence side when I repeatedly had requests for wedding stationery and birth announcements. With that work, I began to use my drawing and design skills more frequently and led me to this point in my career. It’s been an incredible journey.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I still plan to be drawing and painting and creating beautiful things. I also envision having a art program for children to share the importance of creativity in our world. I would love to be living in a place with a fantastic view of the sea or a vibrant historic city. I will always be a Chicagoan but I have a tremendous desire to experience life in another culture. Maybe Margaux and I will have a fabulous pied a terre in Paris, close to a divine little Bistrot, which I know Margaux loves!
Which other artists / designers do you most admire and why?
When I was 18, I went with my studio class to an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago that featured original sketches of what would eventually become famous works by the four masters, DaVinci, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. It changed my life. I was just inches from drawings done by these amazing artists and I could see where they erased a line and moved it elsewhere. It was like having a portal into their minds and it was the first moment I realized that we, the four masters and I, were more alike than I knew. They were just men, incredibly talented men, who also made “mistakes” and altered their work, just like me. I admire their perseverance, tremendous talent and their ability to still reach artists of any age to create.
Why are you keen to work with Pemberly Fox?
The way they are curating a collection of great artists, through either greeting cards or other designs to become a larger family, all with our own style is just fabulous. Having my work seen and sold overseas is just as exciting for them as it is for me. I love how Pemberly Fox can blend traditional sophistication with a witty sense of humour; it’s just my style.
Please choose your five favourite locations to visit in your hometown, this could be anything such as bookshops, coffee shops, galleries, libraries, parks, places of beauty, buildings of architectural interests, places you visit when either happy or sad, or places which should always be top of the list when visiting your neighbourhood....
These are in no particular order. They are all equally fabulous!
The Art Institute of Chicago – It’s an obvious choice for an artist, however, my favourite nooks and crannies aren’t the tried and true exhibits. If you were to join me at this museum you’d see the Marc Chagall stained glass windows. Then we would see the less known suits of armour collection. Lastly, we would go to the bottom floor and visit the Thorne rooms. They are tiny replicas, like a room in a dollhouse, of various spaces in various places in various times in history. Uno’s Pizzeria – You have not really eaten pizza until you’ve had Chicago style deep dish and this is its birthplace. The restaurant is tiny and people have written their names all over the walls and you wait 45 minutes for your meal but there is literally nothing else like it. It’s totally acceptable to use a fork and knife and to loosen your belt.
Northerly Island – I’m a lover of music and this is an amazing outdoor venue for a live concert. Located on a piece of land that was the site of the 1893 World’s Fair, you can feel the cool Lake Michigan breeze on a hot summer night and see the undeniably beautiful Chicago skyline as the show’s backdrop.
The Newberry Library – I am a lover of books. I love to feel the weight in my hands, smell the pages, making the words come to life in my mind (one piece of my inspiration) and I love to handcraft them too. This gem of a spot is home to some amazing collections of manuscripts, maps, genealogy archives, and musical scores. The collection on the history of the book is one of the most extensive in the world! It includes historical bits on type design, calligraphy, papermaking, bookbinding and printing technology through the ages. It’s a fabulous place to get back to the root of book and paper arts.
Parades – Yes, parades! I love a parade and the joke that there is always a parade for something in Chicago is pretty accurate. With so many ethnicities and diverse cultures in this city, you can attend a celebration for Polish constitution day, Columbus day, Chinese new year, Greek independence to name a few. Then there are the multiple St Patrick’s Day parades, the big Pride parade, Thanksgiving parade and the ever popular local July 4th parades. If you want something a little different, how about the Disability Pride parade, the St Jude Police Memorial parade or the Bud Billiken parade celebrating the beginning of the school year.