My next post is an interview conducted recently via email with a wonderful alternative model called Kristie California. I see this piece as a real coup for my blog, and I’m honoured Kristie agreed to be featured. She is a model and artist whose work I was recently introduced to in the most fortuitous manner. While researching a piece on tattooing for a magazine article, I came across one of Kristie’s drawings online. It was of a face, sideways on, and was featured on some far flung website with no real link back to the original artist. I scoured the internet looking for the person behind such an intricate yet gorgeously simplistic image. Finally as luck would have it, the mighty Google produced the very same image that first tantalized me, with a name below. A quick search later and I was introduced to Kristie’s wider range of work, as well as her awe-inspiring modelling portfolio. I took it as a sign, that I had by tremendous fortune been exposed to this talented and beautiful woman. I enquired about interviewing her, and this article was born. Kristie is a hard working and passionate lady. Her love of all things artistic is evident in every word she utters on the topic. She speaks so enthusiastically about her tattoos, and in amazing detail. It was a pleasure to ask her these questions, and I am filled with anticipation as I post this piece. Please enjoy, and show your support.
When did the modelling adventure begin for you Kristie? What made you want to go down that career path in the first place, and where did the opportunity come from?
My sister had owned two tattoo shops at one point, and one of the piercers was into modelling. When I was going through a rough time she said she could set me up a shoot to make me feel better, after that I made an account with modelmayhem.com and it took off from there!
What was the most surprising aspect of the industry that you weren’t aware of before you started modelling professionally?
I wasn’t really sure of anything, I also didn’t have a great eye for anything specific in this field. I was into photography, but I took pictures of plants & what-not, so I really didn’t know how much hard work this would be on both ends… but now I do!
How did you feel being in front of a camera those first few times? Was it a comfortable experience, were there many nerves and how did those first shots come out?
The first real shoot I did was nerve racking. I had done one before for Valentine’s Day (for my boyfriend) at a salon once, but that was all the experience I had. I was so shaky my first shoot, but I got lucky and shot with a great guy who made me feel super comfortable, and confident enough to go for it again. The photos didn’t turn out too bad at all.
Your portfolio of fantastic work has grown very rapidly in a short space of time. Does it take a lot of work to keep generating shoots and projects, or are you in a position to pick and choose what you work on these days?
It all depends, sometimes it feels like I have a million ideas and a bunch of photographers to choose from (those are usually trade shoots), but now it’s more of whether or not I can shoot cause money’s tight and getting paid work is a must, (this is my job, some people don’t see that) and a lot of photographers aren’t available to pay models right before Christmas, so it’s a bit of both. I love working trade, but I gotta pay the bills. However in terms of picking and choosing photographers, I’ve worked with enough that yes, I do have decently high standards for this, but it’s only professional, so I hope nobody takes that personally.
Being in your line of work I’m sure maintaining your appearance is important. How do you stay in such terrific shape? Your vegan lifestyle must help, but is there a lot of gym activity as well?
I’ve always been extremely skinny. I actually got teased in school sometimes for being skinny and short, luckily I grew a little bit and I have good proportions so you can’t tell on camera ha-ha. A lot of photographers say they’re surprised how short I am when we first meet (5’2”). I don’t go to the gym, but I do think the way I eat is a big deal. My boyfriend always says if I ever ate meat that I’d probably implode because I’ve never had it before ha-ha. Overall, I think it’s just my size, it’s never really changed, I don’t usually gain a lot even when I eat like crazy, so I guess you can say I got lucky.
How do you interact with the photographer while on set? What is the chain of events during a Kristie California shoot?
Well, to start out I usually try some different poses and see what they’re feedback is, do they like what style of posing I’m going for, if not they give a little direction, but from there they pretty much just let me do my thing, I don’t need much direction anymore.
What is an average work week like for you in terms of modelling? I imagine it’s a lot of meetings and networking, shoots and events. Are there less glamorous aspects of the job (office work, administration etc) that actually go into having a successful modelling career behind the scenes?
Well, since I’m not interested in working with an agency I handle EVERYTHING. The good and bad. I spend a good amount of time online networking, nobody will do it for me, so I gotta promote as much as possible. I think that’s a big part of why I’m as well known as I am. Sometimes there are meetings, sometimes we (my escort and I) have to drive a ways to get to the shoot, but once I get there it’s all fun, and usually by the end of that same week I get to see the result, which is the best part. The worst is the back pain I get ha-ha, it’s a lot of physical work.
Moving on to your artwork if I may. I think your pieces are fabulous! Each new image you publish or share just blows me away. Have you always been skilled with a pencil in hand?
Thank you! ha-ha, I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember! I’ve always had art supplies nearby and I’ve been really serious about it for about 4 years now. I started painting with acrylics about 2 years ago and tried oils for the first time this year (love em!)
What is your process when it comes to creating a piece? How does an idea become an image for you?
Most of the time I try and pull images from quotes that I think up. Say I’m going through a bad situation in life, I notice that as a time to vent, so I try and create a quote in my mind that I turn into a visual. That doesn’t mean I always have to be unhappy to make art, but the more emotional I am the more ideas I have.
Your Misfit Graphics designs are sublime in my opinion, as well as your painting work. You have the kind of artistic talents I want to showcase to everyone I know. What do you think about your artwork, and do you exhibit or ever plan to?
:) Thanks again! Like many artists, when we start out with a personal piece, we love it, we love it for it’s meaning and if it goes the way we like, then we love it for it’s look and how others may see it. But after a while, we’ve seen it so much that it can get old and because we created it, we know every little flaw and tend to pick at them in our heads, but it’s always a learning experience, that’s the great thing about it. I have yet to exhibit, but plan to in the future.
You also display a lot of artwork on your skin, in the form of your tattoos. What do you find so appealing about the art of tattooing?
Because I’m an artist, I’ve always loved to see other people’s work, and with tattoos they’re usually symbolic. They show something that isn’t always there… the true meaning is something totally different. I love trying to figure out stories on skin. On top of that, like I stated before, my sister owned two shops a few years ago and my boyfriend is a tattoo artist. It’s not just another tattoo to me anymore, it’s a lifestyle and each one means something to me. It’s a therapy when I get tattooed and it feels good to be able to express who I am on the inside, on the outside.
Who has done your tattooing work? Who is responsible for your gorgeous pieces?
My boyfriend Anthony at DV8 Tattoo & Piercing in Roseville, Ca. It’s nice to be able to have him do it because I can be blunt about how I feel about his ideas. We get along really well in that sense. Even though we have two totally different styles of art, we can always come to an agreement on it, or he at least understands what I’m trying to say.
I know you have loads of designs on your body, and I’m sure you get asked all the time, but could you give us a brief history of your ink? When and why you got the pieces you have?
Yep! My first piece was sort of stupid, I was 15 and I knew a guy who knew a guy… (NEVER get tattooed by a guy from his house please!!!). A band of music notes going around my right wrist (it was a time when music was my everything).
The next year I got a 45 vinyl adapter, another music related tattoo. Kind of a tribute to my mom as well, as she introduced me to vinyl :)
My third; A small peace sign on my left shoulder. I got it because it represented a spiritual state of mind that I’ve always had.
My fourth; A trail of butterflies going up my side. It represents a struggle that I’ve always had with anxiety. It was a bad design that I drew up that doesn’t fit the flow of my body. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it removed for something more appealing, but with the same idea.
My fifth; A sea horse on my right shoulder for my home town (Santa Cruz, Ca) by the beach :)
My sixth; A blue bird on my right thigh. I wanted something that would represent growing up, a bird seemed like the best idea to me.
My seventh; An hour glass. One of my favourites. This was an emotional one for me. The only one that wasn’t done by my boyfriend (or a scratcher, but that was only the first two). I was going through a lot of mental changes and one day I drew up an hour glass with ghosts on one side & sun rays on the other, (meaning that the bad in life will always cycle around to good over time). I gave the design to my friend Kevin and he simplified it so it was tattooable and made it happen :)
My eighth; A pencil on my left forearm. I got it for my love of art.
My ninth; Still a work in progress (my biggest tattoo so far). Another favourite and another tribute to my hometown. It’s a carousel horse jumping out of water framed off by sea shells. There’s an amusement park in Santa Cruz, Ca (the Boardwalk), when I was little the carousel was my favourite ride and it’s by the ocean, that’s what the waves and shells are for.
My tenth; An all seeing eye on my chest/stomach area. Something to remind me to stay grounded and see through all of the drama in life. It won my boyfriend his first award. 2nd place for the most unusual, Redding Ink 2011.
You are indeed a multitalented and multifaceted model. You’ve worked in many different styles, from fetish work with latex, to pin-up and more fashion concept stuff. What are your favourite styles of shoot, and is there a shoot concept you’d love to be involved with?
That’s a toughie, but I have to say Alt in general. I love photos that are different from the norm, but on the other hand, I love hi-fashion! Love it. Big hair and makeup is always extremely fun. There’s one thing I’d love to try out, a mix of hi-fashion and alternative. I think it would be interesting.
Speaking of latex, it’s also clear you love the material and the many clothes and outfits created with it. What is it about latex that is so appealing?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I think it’s because not everyone does it. It’s gone from one thing to another, it used to just be strictly fetish, now its fashion, that’s why I’m drawn to it. It’s different and fun. I think when girls shoot in it, it gives them a confident feeling that those shots are going to be sexy, and that’s a good feeling for a model, maybe not all the time, I mean I wouldn’t cram my entire portfolio full of latex, but it does give that edge that’s wanted.
I’ve noticed that music plays an important part in your life as well as your work. What have you been listening to of late, and do you get along to many live gigs and performances these days?
Yes! It’s very important to me. Recently I’ve been listening to mainly two genres, Punk and Underground Hip-Hop. Well that and Deftones (my favourite band). I spend a lot of time on Pandora Radio (internet radio). My main stations right now are Rancid/NOFX radio, or Atmosphere radio. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to go to as many shows as I used to. My first concert was in 2004, since then I’ve gone to about 50 shows… hopefully I can add to that list soon.
It’s always a vague question, but I love to ask it. What inspires you when it comes to your artwork? Where do you get ideas from, and are you ever struck by inspiration and have to do a piece right then and there?
Yes! Inspiration is everywhere, sometimes from music, sometimes from relationships and sometimes it’s just, “Hey, that would be cool”, out of nowhere. There are times when I’ll be sitting watching TV and run out of the room to get paper and a pencil. Everyone looks at me weird ha-ha.
Are there any models working out there right now that you’d love to collaborate with?
Of course! I have a list of favourites in general, if any of them would want to collaborate and I can afford it, I’m there! My top favourites would have to be Sabina Kelley, Mosh, Rachel Anne Aust, Little Linda, and Cervana Fox.
We haven’t really touched on it yet, but you are an alternative model by your own admission. What does the word alternative mean to you? Do you see it as a stylistic choice, or an attitude, or something else entirely?
Well, my life isn’t exactly the mainstream, so you could call it a lifestyle and attitude that switches over into my job which is style and fashion in that sense, but it seems like it’s cool to be alternative nowadays, especially with modelling. I see girls trying to look different to be cool left and right, taking photos in their bathrooms with their phones claiming that they’re “alt” models. Alt has made its own little category, which is nice to a point, but bad in other ways. Everyone should just be themselves and if you want to model, model from the heart. The concepts you come up with should represent you and what you like, yeah it’s fun to play and dress up, but remember that you’re representing yourself in the long run.
Is there a photographer you’d like to work with in the future, or someone you’d like to work with again?
So many ha-ha… Shannon Brooke, Christian Saint, Philipe, 666 photography, No Regrets, Danger Ninja, Andy Hartmark, and Andy Silvers, to name a few. Of course there are many who I’ve already worked with that I’d love to shoot with again.
What does the future hold for Kristie California? What projects are you working on at the moment, and where do you hope this journey takes you in your professional life?
I’d love to make some magazine covers, features are great but covers are a big deal for a model. Some work with bigger names and hopefully some more artistic exposure as well. I think the New Year will be good for me.
Could we please finish with Bernard Pivot’s classic questionnaire?
What is your favourite word?
What is your least favourite word?
What turns you on (creatively spiritually or physically)?
What turns you off (creatively spiritually or physically)?
Anything that’s fake.
What sound or noise do you love?
Music and my loved ones laughing.
What sound or noise do you hate?
What is your favourite curse word?
Fuck… it makes everything very blunt. People understand how mad or excited you are if you use it :)
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Writing. I’ve always loved writing. Or sculpting.
What profession would you not like to do?
Doctor/Dentist… too much pressure on me ha-ha.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Sup Gangsta!? Here’s the brother you never met.
What a labour of love creating this piece was. I am very happy with how the interview turned out, and I hope Kristie feels the same way. I’m sure if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to know more about this highly talented individual. If that is the case then head on over to her tumblr and follow the links to Kristie’s various sites and pages:
All images used in this piece are done so with Kristie’s permission.