Interview by Andrea Stoica, portrait c/o Kylie Ratto
I first found Kylie Ratto’s online store, indiemusicfreaks.com, on Twitter. Someone I follow retweeted one of Kylie’s photos, and I was struck by her colorful and clean-looking designs. I was instantly a fan, and began keeping up with her website and her brilliant fanart. Whether it was art inspired by Halsey, the 1975, or Twenty One Pilots, her merch is always aesthetically pleasing (and sometimes even cooler than the actual artist’s merch!). I got the chance to pick Kylie’s brain about her artwork and the inspiration behind it– check out what she had to say below!
When did you start graphic design?
I started messing around with digital art when I was around age 12. I mainly would just Photoshop my dog to look like a giant horse-sized dog. In high school, I won some regional and national awards- you can see one here. Probably about a year later I started designing shirts for Dan Smith (of the band Bastille). I believe Indie Freak Shop has been open for around 4 years now.
Since you’re self-taught, I’m wondering how you started teaching yourself? What inspired you to start making art?
My dad is a broadcast designer, so when I was 12 he just sat me in front of an open document in Photoshop and said, “keep yourself busy”.
Right now the fans are what inspire me to create the type of art I do now. I love seeing people who are passionate about music or people they adore and look up to.
How do you decide what bands and artists to draw and bring to the shop? Is it based purely on the artists you personally love?
Pretty much anything that invokes an emotion in me. If I don’t vibe with the music, it’s pretty much impossible for me to create work that I feel is up to par for the shop.
Are you interested in branching out to different types of design?
I’d love to go back into digital photo manipulation again. I’ve also been watching a lot of watercolor time-lapse videos lately; the fact you can’t just manipulate something on paper terrifies me though. I think I’m too comfortable with not having to commit to every choice [when I’m working with] digital.
Do you plan on expanding the shop at all? You’re starting a new shop, Sigh Fy, right?
I am! I’m super excited about it. It launched at the end of April. It’s a lot of older science fiction inspired art and designs. I’m also going to start more collections that are “for everyone” and not tied to fandom or bandom. And of course I’m always thinking up new designs for Indie Freak Shop.
I know you’ve had to deal with people stealing designs and/or not giving credit. How do you deal with that?
I deal with it terribly, haha. I really utilize DMCA take down notices. People just don’t understand that reposting work is super uncool. A lot of Chinese websites (where there are no copyright laws) will rip off my designs. I’ve even had bootleggers try to sell me my own designs on cheap shirts outside of concerts.
I know I come off quite stern and probably bitchy but I try to stand my ground as much as possible. I’m the creator, I should be able to have control over my work, gosh dang it!
Fun question! Have you been to any good shows lately? Or are planning on going to any in the future?
I recently saw the 1975 for the first time and they were absolutely insane live. There are too many future plans for shows to mention, but one I’m looking forward to the most is this band called Islands. They’re putting out two new albums that everyone should preorder!
Lastly, what advice do you have for young artists?
When you stop comparing yourself to others is when you can start to develop your own style and when your best work will be created. Your art, in any form, should be positive for you. Don’t take criticism too hard; even your friends’ and family’s opinions are just opinions! ✿