What started out with a table at farmer’s markets quickly turned into a full-scale business. At the time, 14-year-old Kaytlyne Dewald didn’t think it was possible to turn her hobby into a business and even now, 15 years later, she still can’t believe it.
“I never thought it was actually going to be a real business, every year it grew and kind of got bigger and bigger,” Dewald says.
It all began when she applied at an art show held in St. Albert Centre in 2004. Dewald entered the show displaying small wooden boxes painted with French scenery, and the paintings won her an award.
“Once the boxes took off, I did it every summer and it paid for trips here and there throughout high school,” she says.
The MacEwan University alumna majored in Arts and Cultural Management because the degree is on the business side of her creative endeavours.
“I never thought I could do it full time. I never thought I would be able to make a living from doing it because I’ve always done little shows.”
For Dewald, turning her art into a full-time business was a risk.
“Once I graduated, I was like, ‘Oh, there is no way I could do this full time,’” she adds.
But it all changed when she displayed her work at her first Fringe Festival right here in Edmonton. It was her first time doing a 10-day show, 12 hours a day. While at the Fringe, Dewald spoke with other vendors and learned how they ran their businesses.
“I made enough money that it became realistic,” she says, adding, “It was neat being there and just talking to other people who do it full time and just talking about what they do, what shows they do, and it really expanded from there.”
The Fringe convinced Dewald to pursue her art career full time and to buy a scanner. The scanner would allow Dewald to make multiple copies of her paintings.
“My first year at the Fringe was overwhelming — just the amount of prep I did beforehand. I needed 40 paintings. So I bought a scanner and started producing prints.”
She notes that she can only pursue her career full time because of her print work. “You can only produce so many paintings.”
Growing up, Dewald was an avid reader, drawn mostly to fantasy stories, such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. These stories later became the main inspiration behind her paintings. The paintings come in different sizes, and depending on the piece can take anywhere from six to 60 hours. The smaller cartoon- based pieces take approximately six hours, while the bigger, more time-intensive pieces feature portraits and landscapes.
“When you’re dealing with faces, if one little thing is off the entire thing is off. I remember when I did a Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones because she was going to be at the Edmonton Comic Expo the week later,” Dewald says.
“So I had been working on this thing for hours and hours and hours. And her eye was just a little bit off so I decided to move it over. And the entire painting was wrong. I actually painted it white and restarted.”
After three days of hard work, however, Dewald was able to present the painting to actress Gwendolyne Christie, who plays the featured character, at Edmonton’s Comic Expo.
“The face worked out perfectly and meeting her was really cool. She was really excited about it,” she says, adding, “It’s one of my favourites.”
This isn’t the first time Dewald had to restart a painting. She admits that her tendency to perfect her pieces usually means that she picks her paintings apart. But her hard work pays off, and her pieces speak for themselves.
Now, Dewald paints an original piece herself and prints multiple copies of it to sell. In the early days of her business, with the help of her brother, Dewald printed copies of her pieces onto mugs. With her studio constantly evolving and growing she has added tote bags, her own range of skirts, and even pop sockets.
She found a new challenge when creating paintings for clothes, simply because of how the clothing is supposed to sit on a person’s body.
“And then you have to also think about how much extra fabric or material you need,” Dewald says. “A painting is just a rectangle and it goes on the wall and your edge. You do it so it looks the most aesthetically pleasing on the wall, where with clothing, you have to have so much extra that might not look as good as a painting. But you need that extra material in order to worry about scenes on the side, hems on the bottom, like pleats or even just the way like clothing sits on your body.”
Dewald’s first skirt was a black and white Hogwarts castle with Hedwig flying through the scene. She had initially collaborated with her sister-in-law to create them. But soon enough, Dewald wanted to offer a variety of sizes and lengths to her customers.
“I think we’re fairly unique in that aspect that we’re printing out work and it’s so customized and so unique,” she says, adding that she wants the clothes to be a wearable fashion for teachers or librarians. She feels that with their line of profession makes them the perfect customer for her clothes. The clothing line is also available in a variety of sizes.
Originally, Dewald used to do custom work to build up her clientele, but with business increasing, she is unable to continue doing so.
“Now, I only do custom work that I’m also interested in,” she says. “Anything that someone would come to me with, I have to watch, or read, or play with, depending on what it is. Whatever they would like, I have to have the same connection with.”
“You have to have a passion for it, you know,” she explains with a laugh.
The art studio held their first show at Toronto’s Fan Expo Canada. Dewald shipped her pieces and flew to Toronto two weeks later to attend the largest pop culture comic expo in Canada.
The show opened up a whole new clientele to Dewald. She found the experience to be new and fun.
“Usually, when I’m at a show, I always say ‘have you seen my work before?’ and people will say yes,” Dewald says. “But, we were in Toronto! It was just completely new people.”
She admits that it was odd having to explain who she is and what she does, instead of simply being known.
“It was a lot of talking and explaining what the paintings were and how we do all of our prints.”
The show inspired Dewald to take her studio on the road for a small tour in the United States.
“Think of the biggest van you can think of; the van is bigger than that,” she says. “We’ve designed it so our business actually sits below the bed in the back of the van and we installed the kitchen last week.”
While Canada has five major expos every year, the United States have an expo in almost every major city. Collectively, they hold more than 100 expos every year. Dewald hopes the tour will give her more exposure.
In the meantime, keep an eye on Kaypop Art Studio’s Facebook page for any shows or events they will be attending.