The artist

PHOTO/KRIS VAGNER

Kate O’Hara drew the illustrations for this year’s Best Of Northern Nevada issue. She’s a Reno High School graduate who earned a degree in illustration at University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2014. She has since shown her work in Reno and Portland galleries and developed a versatile roster of clients, including Artown, a couple of bands and a historical prison in Philadelphia. For more information, visit kate-ohara.com/.

Your style is striking. It’s this combination of realism and fantasy. It almost veers into creepiness, and it almost veers into cuteness. How did you develop it?

It’s mostly just how I work. It’s continued developing as I’ve been making work. It’s just kind of how I ended up being. I do like to be on that edge between cute and creepy. I don’t want things to be cartoonish, but at the same time, to have that element of darkness to them. I just practiced mostly.

Were there philosophical or stylistic steps you took to get there?

Sort of. I think I’ve always sort of drawn that way. That’s just been innate. I tried to tone down my realism—I used to try to be more photorealistic with it—learning how to simplify shapes and forms to get it to the basic form and still be happy with it.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on?

One of my favorites was a skateboard design that I did for a small company. I think they’re out of the Netherlands. And it had this big crane on it, and a bunch of snakes coming out of it.

How did you get that commission?

They just hit me up online. I get most of my work that way. Just people see my website or see my work online, and they end up emailing me and asking to work with me.

One of your clients is the Eastern States Penitentiary. What kind of graphics does a historical penitentiary need?

They were looking for all sorts of stuff. They had a little shop, so they were trying to sell notecards and calendars and T-shirts and shot glasses, so they were just looking for anything they could put on all their products that they sell.

What kind of images did you draw for them?

I ended up doing shank designs, little drawings of shanks they had collected there through the years.

Have you done any album covers?

Yeah, but only smaller bands. I did one for a small band called Twink. It’s, like, a really, really small band, and he does all this stuff on toy pianos. So, I did a fun album cover for him, and I’ve done one for a local band called Running With Ravens.

Let’s go back to the beginning. How’d you start drawing?

I’ve always grown up drawing. My mom’s a graphic designer, so she’s always had me and my sisters drawing from a really young age, and I was just always good at it in school. I’m much better at it than anything else.

Where else can people see your work?

I do sell a lot of stuff through Society6, and Inprnt as well. My Instagram—I put a lot of stuff up as well. I work with a few different galleries in the Portland area. I don’t have any shows up there currently. Recently I did a show with Nevada Fine Arts.