Charlot Kristensen is a Dublin based illustrator, designer, and book author. As a Black artist, she often depicts underrepresented characters in empowering ways to help change their narratives. Some of her most renowned clients include HuffPost, Google, Penguin Random House, and the New York Times. Charlot’s first big graphic novel “What We Don’t Talk About,” published by Avery Hill, is now out.
What do you create?
A lot of Black character designs usually in colourful settings. I try to incorporate a lot of emotions and atmosphere into each piece. My work also explores social issues related to racism and feminism.
Why do you create?
I love imagining worlds that don’t exist and art really gives you those unlimited possibilities. That’s always been what excites me about creating.
Who is your audience?
My work explores feminism, social issues, and the empowerment of Black people, so I’ve often found my audience to be quite diverse and young.
Tell us a bit about your new graphic novel What We Don’t Talk About.
It’s a story that explores the subtle racism that interracial couples face both externally and internally. The main character is a young Black woman named Farai who’s about to meet her white boyfriend’s family for the first time. The meeting turns out to be a horrible experience for Farai and every time she tries to address it with her partner Adam he plays down the situation. This leads her to rethink her relationship and wonder if she can be with a man who’s unwilling to address the problem and whose family doesn’t accept her.
Who or what inspired you to do what you do? Who or what continues to inspire you?
I only first got into art when I realised I love cartoon characters, so Disney was a big inspiration when I was younger. I later discovered my passion for comics with manga. Artists that have shaped my art and storytelling skills would be Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hayao Miyazaki, Yōko Kamio, Rumiko Takahashi, Craig Thompson, and Ai Yazawa.
Tell us why you lean towards such bright and colorful imagery.
I think it has a lot to do with the kind of art I absorbed growing up. I loved watching Disney movies, which always had such a rich vibrant look, and when I discovered anime I just fell in love with their strong use of colour. Even outside of art I always wear bold colours, it helps brighten up my mood and that’s the feeling I want someone to feel when they look at my art.
What is your favorite piece or series you’ve done?
Probably the piece I’m most proud of is my “Lovers” piece. It’s the image of the two Victorian ladies caressing each other. It was the first time I challenged myself to do some dappled sunlight and I’m really happy with how it turned out. But it’s also the level I would like all my art to reach, in terms of the emotions and atmosphere captured. It’s been quite hard to replicate those strong feelings in my other pieces.
Why is it important as a Black person to create?
Because there’s a real need for our voices. The industry so far has had a lot of white creators and this has resulted in a lack of diverse stories or worse stereotypical depictions of Black people and other ethnicities. So we need Black creators to tell our stories and help add variety to our own perception.
How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
When I was working a full-time job this was very difficult to manage, I was so exhausted that I didn’t feel like drawing most days. I made a difficult decision to leave my job and go freelancing while finding a part-time job. This has definitely helped give me more energy to create. It’s important not to overwork yourself, sometimes that means creating less and making sure you have breaks.
Any advice for new creators?
Don’t draw what you think will make you popular, draw things you enjoy, and have an interest in. Only when you do the art you like will other people feel that passion you put into it. It’s okay to take your time finding your voice. I think it’s something we spend our whole life figuring out so don’t be harsh on yourself if your art doesn’t have a distinct look yet. That will naturally shape as you learn more about yourself and what makes you tick.
Any future projects coming up?
I just got a new book offer where I’ll be the illustrator for a graphic novel titled “CARLOS ALEJO HAS TO LOSE HIS CHICHOS” written by Mathew Rodriguez. It’s set to be released in 2023. I’m also currently developing a new story that I hope to work on in the future.