As I’ve mentioned quite a bit on this site already, I love Hyaena Gallery, and I love their roster of artists. One of the most unique and different of the bunch is the incredibly talented Kat Philbin. There’s a quirky sense of fun and whimsical in her illustrations and yet an underlining dark humor to her pieces as well. She’s been a stable of the art gallery for years now, but her work got a lot of attention last year during a special Wes Craven exhibit when she did these cute drawings of two of his most famous creations, Freddy Krueger and Ghostface, with cats. Since then, there’s a whole series of these at this point, and we here at Blumhouse.com wanted to take a few moments to shine the spotlight on her and discuss her art career as a whole.
Blumhouse.com: Can you tell me a bit about your art history? I know you have a background in fashion design and your brother “Big Tasty” is also an artist (often featured at Hyaena Gallery) so was drawing always a part of your life?
Kat Philbin: I’ve been drawing since before I can remember. Like all kids, I guess, crayon scribbles everywhere. And I’ve kept going ever since. My parents were always pretty encouraging of creativity and my brother is ten years older so I looked up to him a lot. He was good at drawing and I wanted to be too.
As I got older, I was usually the weird kid by myself with a sketchbook. Or doodling on any scrap of paper that came my way. Even if not drawing, I just like to be making things. I once talked a high school art teacher into letting me spend a semester carving sculptures out of cheese. I also starting making clothing and costumes around that time and ended up going to school for fashion design. But I started showing and selling artwork while still in college and I’m still going.
BH: A lot of your drawings tend to have a comic book vibe, at least to me because I’m a comic book nerd and I love that. And some look like the intricate and beautiful illustrations that would accompany a storybook. Did any of those things influence you growing up? Are there other artists whose work inspires yours?
KP: Influences can be hard to talk about because I think it just devolves into this huge list of stuff I like. And of course, there’s so much awesome stuff that I don’t want to leave out, so that list can get huge. I would say my biggest influence style-wise is probably Edward Gorey, which is most apparent when I’m working in black and white with lots and lots of tiny lines.
As a kid, I loved to read Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side comics. And Shel Silverstein’s books with their sparse, scribbly drawings that are always just perfect. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for the Scary Story books were both terrifying and endlessly fascinating. And of course, fairy tales and their accompanying illustrations have always been a huge influence. I especially love the work of classic illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac.
I was also always super into animals, so I spent hours and hours poring over illustrated almanacs of birds and wildlife, which is probably why there’s a pretty diverse array of animals that creeps into my work.
BH: Not too long ago, some of the horror sites started running articles about your pieces with horror icons surrounded by cats. What’s the story & inspiration behind this series? Were you just combining your love of two things? And were you surprised that they garnered so much attention?
KP: The first two drawings in that series were “Screams and Purrs” and “Dreams and Fur” (Ghostface and Freddy Krueger respectively) and they were created for a Wes Craven tribute show at Hyaena Gallery. The man himself was in attendance and I was too shy to say, “Hi, I’m the one who did the drawings with all the cat buttholes.”
There’s honestly not a lot of story behind them. Cats are funny and everybody likes them, so why not these scary dudes from movies?
I’m really pleased with the positive attention they’ve received and though I didn’t expect them to get so big, I’m not totally surprised. Everybody loves cats! Reaction to the buttholes, however, has been mixed.
BH: Speaking of horror, where do a lot of your personal genres tastes lie? Are you a big horror fan, and what are some of your favorites?
KP: My tastes tend to stray more toward dark fantasy and sci-fi rather than pure horror. I love a lot of horror, but I’m also a total wuss and have to sleep with the lights on if I watch a particularly scary movie by myself. It’s a very fine line I tread sometimes, but totally worth it.
Some of my favorite things which are horror, or at least horror adjacent, are:
TV: X-files, which I grew up loving, and Twin Peaks, which I only watched recently and can’t believe I missed out on for so long. And Pushing Daisies, which isn’t horror at all, but involves bringing the dead back to life, so I’m including it. Actually all Bryan Fuller’s stuff is great; love Dead Like Me and Hannibal, but Pushing Daisies is my favorite.
Movies: Everything Guillermo del Toro does is incredible and he’s a huge inspiration. Pan’s Labyrinth is definitely a favorite.
Books: Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite writers. Especially We Have Always Lived in the Castle and the Haunting of Hill House. She does an unreliable narrator like nobody’s business and she creates an atmosphere that’s just beautiful and dark and haunting.
BH: You’ve been featured at Hyaena Gallery a few times and you’ve even participated in “$20 dollar doodles” there, something that your brother has also done. Can you talk a bit about your experience with the art community (Hyaena regulars & fellow artists?) And what’s the strangest doodle request you’ve ever gotten?
KP: To me, Hyaena feels like a family of amazing, talented weirdos. I’ve been showing there for a few years now, since before I moved to LA. Moving to a new city is always tough, even though I had my brother here, but having Hyaena made that transition so much easier. I’ve met some of my closest friends through the gallery.
The owner, Bill Shafer is one of my favorite people. He’s an incredible guy who is super passionate about the things he likes and the artists he shows and Hyaena is his place to share that stuff with the world. I’m so glad he’s got my back and I wouldn’t be where I am today without his support.
There have been some pretty great and weird $20 doodle requests through the years. I think one of the weirdest was of this guy who had been arrested multiple times for having sex with a pink inflatable pool raft. The doodle itself was pretty tame though, and didn’t involve any man on floatie action.