Hello! Today I’m happy to share a Q&A with Dungeons & Dragons nerd, illustrator and comic creator Kate Sheridan. Kate appeared on the Nerdarchy live chat with Nerdarchist Dave, which you can find below, and had a great conversation about art, comics and D&D. After watching the chat, I checked out Kate’s work and picked up her comic Fallow Time, a terrific story that really captured my imagination. She has a wonderful art and storytelling style and I highly recommend checking out her work. I’m looking forward to adding a print of one of her pieces to my office. Kate was kind enough to share her time answering some more questions, so let’s get into it.
Q&A with artist Kate Sheridan
If I recall correct, in the chat you mentioned starting to play RPGs in the last year or so? What brought you to the hobby?
I’ve always been really interested in the concept and aesthetics of D&D. I’ve always loved fantasy and writing. I used to do a lot of play-by-post text roleplaying online, and then I got into listening to “The Adventure Zone” podcast in late 2016 and just really fell in love with the game. I joined my first campaign a couple of months later with some friends.
Were you into fantasy art before getting into gaming?
Always! Always. I grew up on The Last Unicorn, The Lord of the Rings, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and later on the Abhorsen books by Garth Nix, Discworld, Earthsea, basically everything Miyazaki. I’ve always loved stories with magic, prophecies, and girls with swords, whether it’s serious or comedic.
Your art has a Hayao Miazaki quality to it to me, in terms of a sense of youthful hope. It also makes me think of that video game Life is Strange. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, like brave young people who try to save their world, not necessarily THE world. Does that make sense? Anyway, are there any particular themes you try to evoke with your style? Who or what are some of your influences?
This has to be one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about my work, thank you so much! That’s exactly the thing that I’m going for and I’m so happy that comes through. I’m very character focused as both a writer and artist so a lot of my work is primarily about relationships, especially found families. These people who come together by chance or fate who end up changing each others’ destinies. And sometimes that involves saving the world, but it’s each other, or these personal things they love that are driving them.
I’m also really interested in redemption and revenge. The idea that you can have a life after a mistake, that even if you can’t fix it or you can’t get forgiveness you can still do good. And revenge stories I love both for the dramatic component and because it’s so interesting to see what a character does when they succeed or fail in that mission. That’s the part at which the character really starts to grow. Messy characters are my favorite, and these are stories that have historically been reserved for cis straight white men in fiction so it’s a big goal of mine to give those stories to people who haven’t gotten to have them.
Some of my comics specific influences are F Choo, who does really fantastic queer horror work and has been a huge inspiration of mine; Emily Carroll, another formative fantasy horror influence; Aatmaja Pandya, whose webcomic Travelogue is one of my favorites, and which is totally up your alley if you like Fallow Time; Jake Wyatt, who makes the stunning Necropolis comic; and Emily Cheeseman, my collaborator and one of my best friends.
I love your color palettes, they seem very deliberate. Is color one of the first things on your mind when you approach a piece?
Definitely! I’m more intuitive than strategic when it comes to color, but I usually have at least a vague idea of what sort of palette I want a piece to have before I start.
Your comic Fallow Time is phenomenal. Is that based on a gameplay you were involved with? Follow-up: can we get more Fallow Time?!
Thank you so much! It isn’t, actually. I created the characters almost two years before I played my first game. But I started playing while I was working on it, and that definitely influenced the feel of it and helped me push through some really bad burnout to get it done.
I hope so! I’m not exactly sure when that would be, but I’d love to make a full graphic novel about the girls and their hectic adventures.
You mentioned in the chat a project with Emily Cheeseman, a D&D-style comic if I recall correct. Can you reveal more about that? Will it be an ongoing series or graphic novel? Is it part of the zine collaboration mentioned on your site?
I can! Emily Cheeseman and I are collaborating on this comic called The Warden & the Wild, which is about the adventures of our D&D characters who have identical face scars! Mine, Touchstone, is a chaotic neutral half-elf rogue and adventure school dropout; Emily’s, Mazza, is a lawful good human paladin and renowned monster hunter who sees potential in her. They learn from each other and look out for each other, and even though they start out at odds they end up true friends.It’s about friendship, trust, redemption, defying fate, and cool face scars.
We’re still talking about how to release it: but at the least we’ll be printing the first (70+ page!) chapter to sell at conventions next year, though that might be the last bit of it we show until the whole book’s done.
And it is! The Warden & the Wild started from that zine.
What is the zine collaboration by the way? Where can people find that? Any other collaborative projects in the works or dream collaborations/projects?
The zine we collaborated on, Cool Face Scars, was basically the snowball that turned into an avalanche. It’s just a small book about who Touchstone and Mazza are and how they got their scars, and then we were like “wow, this would be a really cool comic” and now we’re working on a graphic novel, haha. It’s not available for purchase at this point, but we’re hoping to make another zine of concept art and other stuff leading up to the release of the first chapter.
Your residency in Iceland sounds terrific, congratulations! How did that come about? Do you recommend these sorts of programs for other artists to get involved with?
The gallery that’s running it, Light Grey Art Lab, is a gallery I’ve loved for a really long time! I’ve been dreaming about participating in their Iceland Residency basically since it started a few years ago. It’s a highly curated program where a group of artists all stay in a cabin in Iceland, go out during the day doing hiking and whatever else, and then at night after dinner we’ll all be giving lectures or doing workshops about some aspect of our work or practice that we want to share.
This past year was the first year I applied, kind of on a whim! I didn’t think I was at a point in my career where I’d be able to do it so it was incredible to be chosen and I’m really, really looking forward to it.
I definitely recommend it, if you’re able to afford it! Some residencies or fellowships offer a stipend or honorarium which help a ton, too.
Any advice for freelance artists out there?
Please take care of yourself! Be kind! Networking and putting yourself out there and working hard are all important, but you only get one body and you need to take care of it. Take breaks, set aside time for fun and friends, stretch. And treat people well.
Do you have a Patreon or other way for people to support your work?
I do! It’s at https://www.patreon.com/
What’s your favorite thing about gaming? Any games on your must-play list?
I love having this creative outlet that also helps me connect to my friends and make new friends! Apart from the handful of times a year I see my friends from New York or LA or wherever else at conventions, freelancing is a pretty lonely profession. So coming together with people whether it’s in person or online to do something that’s just fun and reminds me of the things that I love about writing and art has been perfect for me.
I’d been wanting to play Curse of Strahd for a very long time and joined a play-by-post online game a couple of weeks ago which I’m enjoying a lot! I’d also love to play Call of Cthulhu at some point.
Have you done any live stream or online gaming?
Any conventions planned where people might stop to say hi, get prints, etc.?
I’ll be tabling at Flame Con in NYC August 18 & 19 with Emily, and I’m also hosting a panel called “Dungeons & Dragons & Queers & Comics” there with Emily, Vita Ayala, Noelle Stevenson, Little Corvus, Molly Ostertag, and Barbara Perez Marquez. We’ll be talking about our different experiences with gaming and how that interacts with our identities and work.
I’ll also be at Thought Bubble with Emily in Leeds, England, September 22-23. Definitely come by and say hi and check out our stuff!
Thanks again to Kate for her time! Here’s some links for you to keep up with what she’s doing and discover more of her work:
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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, world building, or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy or his own blog The Long Shot, he’s a newspaper designer, copy editor and journalist. He loves advocating the RPG hobby and connecting with other nerds and gamers on social media and his site thelongshotist.com.