Illustrator Robin Kachantones learned the hard way that the devil is in the details. She was working on a project for Major League Baseball when they asked her to render a portrait of Barry Bonds. "This was back when you couldn't just Google somebody and get a million pictures of them," Kachantones told us. "At the time all I got was a head shot and they told me that he was a batter. So I put this bat in his hands, and made him look really strong and powerful." So far, so good, right? Actually, no.
"The art director called me at the last minute freaking out, telling me, 'He's left-handed!' I had been so proud of myself. I had gotten the logo and everything and I thought I had done such a good job, but really I screwed up. I lost that job and after that I became obsessed with details. Now, if I draw somebody, I find out what kind of rings they wear, what kind of cigarettes they use, how they wear their hair, everything!"
In the 1980s, Kachantones was studying graphic design; she later went on to get degrees in design, public relations and journalism. Digital design was just becoming common when she was in school. "Back when they had those little toaster oven Macintoshes and all of the instructors were just terrified of them. They thought these weird little [boxes] were going to destroy the integrity of design and type and all of that. They didn't even want to teach on them."
One day the owner at the design shop where Kachantones was working got his hands on an Apple computer. "There were four artists and one scanner, one printer and one computer. We fought over it like kids over a video game," she laughs at the memory. "When I went to look for jobs after graduation, people would say, 'Oh, you know how to use that Macintosh thing?' Luckily, I did."
What she does: "When people ask me what I do, I tell them I'm an illustrator. I say, 'You know the images you see in magazines and products? I'm the one that draws those images.'" Her local clients include Opera in the Heights, which uses her illustrations on event posters (see above).
Kachantones says that unlike fine art, her artwork tells and sells. It tells a story and helps to sell a product. "Art that sells something -- that's pretty much what illustration is. I don't care if you paint with your toes or with macaroni and cheese, if it communicates, that's all you need. It doesn't matter if it's watercolor, or digital or paper cutout. Does it communicate? Does it sell? That's the whole purpose of illustration."
Despite Kachantones's explanations, some people misunderstand the term illustrator. "Lots of people think that I'm a children's book illustrator because I'm a woman. Little do they know I did the Hooters drink menu!"
Why she likes it: "It's not so much about the money, it's about the show-and-tell. It's the whole idea of sharing. I have a God-given talent that I can use to communicate. I can create images that sell or tell. I love that.
"Lots of people can get a likeness, but it takes a real talent in order to capture more than that. If that's all you want, why not just use a photographer? I add to the image. I put my style, my take and interpretation on the image. I tell a story. And of course I like the end result when people go 'Ahhhh!' "
"Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it, when I make art I always think of ways to sell it. There's just this commercial side to my brain that says, 'What can we do with this?' My daughter just made these amazing tennis shoes, sugar skulls...that she drew on these high-tops, and I said, 'Oh my God, we can sell these!'"
What inspires her: "I just try to get the energy of the project. I like the research, I find out so much about the project that way."
If not this, then what: "I would be the hostess with the mostest. I would be an event planner or a chef. Because I like to make people happy, I like to share. I like to get people excited about something that I'm excited about."
If not here, then where: "I like it here in Houston. I used to think I wanted to live in New York or San Francisco, but here recently, I'm just wanting to learn how to live in my own skin. Wherever you go, there you are."
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What's next: "I would like to do more murals and do more personal work. Commercial work pays my bills, but I really enjoy the personal work as well. I've been through some amazing hardships in the last six years and I'm still coming out of that. I find that when I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days. I hope I have more of those."
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Libbie J. Masterson, artist, curator and creator Leighza Walker, theater owner, actress, writer, theatrical everywoman Macy Perrone, costume designer Elsa Briggs, Painter, jewelry maker Baldemar Rodriguez, film director/producer and actor Linarejos Moreno, photographer Heather Rainwater, artist, jewelry maker Detria Ward, actress and entrepreneur Justin Cronin, book author Mark Ivy, actor Lauren Luna, painter and shoe designer Sarah Cortez, writer Kent Dorn, drawer, painter, artist Lillian Warren, painter Carl Lindahl, folklorist, UH professor Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer Tom Stell, actor, writer, director Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician Matthew Detrick, classical musician Travis Ammons, filmmaker Florence Garvey, actress Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist JoDee Engle, dancer David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor Jessica Janes, actress and musician Dennis Draper, actor and director Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright