Kat Wharton: A Scribbling Start
Careening into Comics
Kaitlyn Wharton, a Cumberland native, has been scrawling since she could hold a pencil. With reckless abandon, the young artist has been decorating her world with everything from stamps to oil
paints since she can remember.
“My grandmother has this vanity that used to be in my room,” Wharton reminisces, “I remember I used to crawl under it and draw on the bottom of the drawers. It’s all still there, and it’s completely covered with my childhood.”
While scribbles are not uncommon for young children, Wharton’s doodles have led her on an amazing artistic journey.
Like most other children, Warton spent a good deal of her childhood free-time watching cartoons, but, unlike her peers, Wharton spent this time copying the artistic style of the characters onto anything she could draw on.
“I had a ton of notebooks,” recalls Wharton, “but if I ran out I would draw on anything. Sometimes it was even the walls! My mom was never too happy about that.”
Although she had been drawing since dexterity, her real artistic inspiration began in fourth grade when she started getting interested in demons and the supernatural. Mystic movies such as Hellboy were just becoming popular in 2004, and they influenced young Kaitlyn. She continued her interest in all things otherworldly in all of her drawing experience, but it wasn’t until part-way through her high school career that these interests began forming into something bigger.
This is where her comics began.
“My friends would see me drawing things like werewolves and fairies and they would ask me to draw them as their favorite creature,” Wharton bubbled excitedly, “and that’s when I started drawing my friends into my story lines. I remember I would draw and construct my own comics like the Captain Underpants kids and pass them around the lunch table.”
Her friends’ enjoyment of her talent led Wharton to the Baltimore Comic-Con with her uncle, whom she describes as “the nerdiest human I’ve ever met.” At the convention, Wharton attended a panel with Walter Simonson, the creator of the Thor comic books. It was at this panel that she discovered that writing and illustrating comics was a viable career option.
“I remember he was talking about his comics,” Wharton explained “and I realized that the silly comics that I had been writing for my friends were something I could do for a living. I could take that one thing that I am so passionate about and live like that. It was incredible.”
Wharton is double majoring in Fine Arts and English at Frostburg State University in order to help her achieve her goal of comic and children’s
book writer and illustrator.
“This industry is really difficult to get into as a woman,” Wharton laments, “comic books are completely dominated by men. I actually got really hopeless about the whole thing last semester. I was overencumbered and overdone and just flat out tired, but the classes I’m in this semester have gotten me back to being excited about the whole thing. It’s just a matter of right time, right motivation.”
Wharton, now a 19 year old sophomore at FSU, has had an unprecedented five solo art shows since her first show on her 16th birthday. Featuring her favorite technique, the mix of ink outlines with watercolor filling, Wharton has been exhibited in Dante’s Bar, City Hall, the Bev-
Walker gallery in the Cumberland Theatre, Lunch with the Arts, and a special Graduation Show in the Cumberland Mall.
She doesn’t put her comics on display. Instead, Wharton exhibits her other talents on canvas. Many of her pieces are centered on a natural theme because that is where she gets most of her inspiration.Her best-selling piece was a series of three paintings depicting natural sprites of different elements. The set was sold to a professor at Frostburg for $100, but the water sprite was commissioned for three separate re-paintings for different customers.
“I just think to myself: that’s so pretty, I wanna paint it. So I do. I keep lists of things that I want to paint,” Wharton explains, scrolling through the never-ending “to-paint” list contained in her smart phone. Many of the inspirations on her list arise from things she sees around her in everyday life, such as nature and her dreams.
The exhibit show in the City Hall led Wharton to be a featured artist in the permanent instalment of the Allegany Art Walk. The Graduation Show Wharton put on featured 28 pieces, 27 of which were sold during the exhibition.
“I price my work very modestly,” Wharton reveals, “I think that’s why I sell so many pieces. I just feel so self-conscious about selling some canvas stretched on some wood with plastic paint smeared all over it for more than $75.”
Wharton had shown early interest in art, but she very rarely participated in school art functions, so Wharton got most of her pre-college education from art books. She learned many techniques that she still uses today from books that she has had for a decade.
One of Wharton’s favorite book-taught methods include putting salt down on a wet watercolor painting to create a puckering effect. She utilizes this technique to give a starry effect to skies. Another preferred method is that of paint splattering using a toothbrush.
“I had never really used any art supplies other than pencils and those crappy circle watercolor palletes until 8th grade,” Wharton sighed. Perking up, she remembered her first real art project when she was in 8th grade. “We had to do research on an artist; I chose Van Gogh,” she recalled, “he was the first artist that really inspired me. He took all of his torment and pain and created something so beautiful.”
To present her findings, Wharton had to create a tri-fold board for a fair that they were holding.
“I decided I wanted to paint the back-board,” Wharton chuckled, “I had this whole grand idea to start on the left side with sunflowers then transform the sunflowers to those balls of light Van Gogh loved so much, and those would transition into a Starry Night kind of deal.” Seeing her excitement, her step-father, an artist himself, gifted her a large duffle bag full of all of his old paints. Ecstatic, Wharton began immediately on her project.
“I had never worked with real paint before,” she exclaimed, “I had no idea that there was a difference between oil and acrylic, so I ended up mixing them up! Some of my swirls took over a week to dry, and everything in the house smelled so bad.”
Her stepfather Eric Breighner, realizing his mistake in giving an uninformed artist free range on paint, then became Wharton’s artistic mentor.
“I’ll never forget one of the first things he taught me,” Wharton smiled fondly, “I always had pencil marks smeared all over my arms. One day he told me, ‘Kat, always draw in pen. That way you always have to work with your mistakes.’ I carry that advice with me in everything I do.”
Featured picture and all artwork belongs to Kat Wharton.