North Texas Daily

KB Illustration: From crafting in Denton to designing and freelancing in Dallas

KB Illustration: From crafting in Denton to designing and freelancing in Dallas

KB Illustration: From crafting in Denton to designing and freelancing in Dallas
March 08
12:00 2020

KB Illustration creator Kristen Barnhart was first featured in the North Texas Daily almost two years ago, four months after she graduated from UNT with a bachelor’s degree in communication design. Since then, her portfolio of freelance clients has grown and she is making strides in both her personal life and in her career. 

“In 2018, a lot of [my art] was product-centered because I was selling things online and trying to make money so I wouldn’t have to work a crappy job,” Barnhart said. “I’d say now I’m able to focus more on just drawing for fun, whenever I want, and also focusing on freelance projects that have come up.”

Barnhart now works full time in Dallas as a junior art director for Frito Lay. Her typical workday consists of meeting with her creative director, attending brainstorming meetings for different projects and occasionally designing and illustrating content for various social media platforms. Aside from her 40-hour a week office job, Barnhart also manages social media for The DIME Store in Denton.

“I’ve seen Kristen change in that she was a way overworked, overstressed student when we met her,” said Shelley Christner, owner and co-founder of The DIME Store. “I think that what she’s doing in her work now is fulfilling. I think that it’s probably stressful in a different way, but she still stays consistent.”

Christner and Barnhart first met when Barnhart visited The DIME Store’s first Denton location during a school field trip with her then-communication design professor Jude Landry. Landry no longer teaches at UNT, but he continues to sell his work as a part of The DIME Store’s co-op, as he did when he was a professor. During the class visit, artist and DIME co-op contributor Allie Biddle announced she was looking for a studio assistant and Barnhart volunteered. From there, Christner said Barnhart became part of The DIME Store’s “inner circle of makers.”

“I love [managing The DIME Store’s social media] because I’m still a part of the co-op there and I used to do shifts and spend time at the shop,” Barnhart said. “Since I can’t do that, I love being able to help out in this way with social media. I have experience with that and my full-time job is centered around social media, so I’m glad I can use those skills to help a business I love.”

With more than 70,000 followers on Instagram, Barnhart is not a stranger to social media management. While she thinks social media is invaluable to independent artists, large corporations like Frito Lay and local shops like The DIME Store alike, she said she has noticed that the motivation behind some of her posts has changed over time.

“I think a lot of my personal drawing and just doodling in my sketchbook stuff has always been the same,” Barnhart said. “It’s a way to relax and process feelings. But I think now I also draw with the intent of just posting on Instagram because I’ll be like, ‘Oh, I haven’t posted in five days, I should probably do something so I can stay relevant to people.’”

Christner had the opportunity to watch Barnhart grow over the years, and she said she believes her future holds even more opportunities.

“I love [Kristen] dearly,” Christner said. “She’s like a quiet storm. She’s just a little powerhouse, you know. She’s really kind of quiet and very thoughtful, but she can get a lot done. She’s a creative genius.”

Freshman sculpture major Ryan Semegran found Barnhart through social media. Semegran said they first discovered her Instagram when they were in middle school.

“Some of my moral standings on art [are] I feel like I need to have a personal connection or know that there was personal intent to it,” Semegran said. “I definitely can feel that with her work.”

Semegran said they did not know Barnhart had worked in Denton until they moved to UNT last semester. They met Barnhart at a pop-up art market at Voertman’s last semester and bought one of her screen-printed shirts.

“[Barnhart’s] work always makes me smile, and I laughed out loud when I saw [the shirt],” Semegran said. “I think I wanted to have other people have that same experience.”

When she is not working on projects for Frito Lay or posting on The DIME Store’s Instagram account, Barnhart dedicates her time to other freelance projects. Currently, she is working on sock and bag designs for Blue Q and illustrating a children’s book about drag queen RuPaul Andre Charles.

“It’s been a dream of mine to illustrate a children’s book, so this is a huge moment in my life,” Barnhart said.

Since studying at UNT and kickstarting her design career in this city, Barnhart said what she learned in Denton has stuck with her.

“I’m just really thankful for Denton,” Barnhart said. “I wouldn’t be the same person, I think, had I not been there. I just think it’s a really good community and I feel like the young people who are there are really lucky to have that kind of community.”

For young, aspiring artists like Semegran, Barnhart’s success can make goals of establishing a name for themselves in the art community seem more attainable.

“I just think that Kristen’s a huge inspiration, at least for me as an artist, because I have seen her grow as an artist online,” Semegran said. “I hope to get to that point, eventually, being able to have that sort of name in a city to be able to distribute my art and inspire other smaller artists.”

Featured Image: Some of Kristen Barnhart’s merchandise, including cards, hats, stickers and pins on sale at local art shop, at the DIME Store on Feb. 28, 2020. Image by Samuel Gomez

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Briana Lao

Briana Lao

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