08/14/14 By Olivia Bartz
Khristian A. Howell is the talented color and pattern expert featured in Pinterest Perfect! She is currently working out of Chicago, but being married to a news correspondant leaves her never really sure of where she'll be living next. Under her brand, Khristian A. Howell Color + Pattern, Khristian licenses her work to manufacturers; consults on trend, color, and design; and gives advice as a color expert and lifestyle consultant. Her art has been featured in ELLE DECOR, Real Simple, and HGTV Magazine to name a few and she is a frequent contributor to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I had the opportunity to chat with her about her beautiful patterns and things that inspire her.
Q: How do you describe your artwork? From where do you pull inspiration?
Khristian A. Howell: The artwork I create is specifically to adorn products—bedding, paper, gift boxes—for the consumer. I describe my artwork as romantic, modern, and chic. I love the juxtaposition of these opposing forces—of combining something graphic with something soft and romantic—it creates an interesting tension. That's how I build my collection. [Each collection] might feel different because I'm trying to express a different mood—but I think there is this running DNA through my work. My main [sources of] inspiration are travel, culture, and fashion. I started out designing for Nordstrom Products Group, so fashion has always been a strong influnce for me. I am always looking at runways, fashion shows—trying to see 'what's next' so I can be on the front edge of things. A lot of times it is a feeling in a place that inspires me—I'll go to Paris and be inspired just sitting in a cafe and people watching. I'm always trying to create a feeling with my work—I don't ever want it to be super literal.
Q: Where/how did you learn your artistic skills?
KAH: Well, I have an advertising and French degree. The true answer is that I bothered other artists that I worked with long enough to teach me, and I just dove in. I started off as a colorist [for Nordstrom Products Group] but I sat with the other artists and they were always overloaded—so I asked if I could help them and they said sure. I would stay very late working on their projects with them, which was amazing. Working with these other artists was essentially an MBA—it was incredible to actually see my work go out in the world under this major retailer.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you struggle with as an artist and how do you deal with it?
KAH: I like to create really progressive work. It definitely is "on trend" but when I am designing I am looking at what is happening a year from now. A lot of time when I'm creating my new work, people have trouble digesting it. Usually my most popular work is stuff I created a year or two ago. But this is my biggest challenge and my biggest gift at the same time—I wouldn't want it any other way.
Q: What are the best and most frustrating things about your work or your field?
KAH: The best is getting samples. When I've been working on a project or with a company and then I get product samples as its hitting stores—it's like Christmas morning. It never gets old and I never take any of it for granted. [Knowing that] that feeling I'm trying to create is going to be picked up by someone else to go in their home or wear or give as a gift is really special. The hardest part, I guess, is trying to get people to try something new. It's easy for people to get stuck in design ruts—both consumers and manufacturers. I try to encourage people to believe that it's not that serious—it's fun.
Q: What advice would you give to other artists looking to follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps?
KAH: Find your own voice. There is so much finesse and deep truth in design—it can be really profound and make people stop. No one knew what a textile designer was when I started—no one really thought about who designed the pattern on the clothes they were wearing. I feel like the industry has really exploded in the last 5-7 years. And a lot of people jump in thinking, "I can do that" but finding your own voice is really important in a field that is becoming more and more saturated.
Q: Any new or exciting projects you are working on?
KAH: I just redid my site! I am doing a lot more direct-to-consumer sales. People are always asking to see my artwork and I am working on having a more direct connection with consumers.
To see more of Khristian's artwork visit www.khristianahowell.com or connect with Khristian on Pinterest and Instagram: @KhristianHowell.
Olivia is the Marketing Intern for Quarto Publishing Group USA and is excited to graduate from UC Irvine this June with a B.A. in English. She is happiest when reading a good book or writing about her adventures abroad, and continues to be inspired by all things outdoors. Olivia loves to try out new art mediums and techniques but has yet to be disappointed by a pencil and sketchpad.
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