atherine Batka tries to finish a drawing. Staying focused is not an easy task at Indy PopCon, where so many of the potential customers who stop to admire her work are dressed up as superheroes, video game characters and pop culture icons.
Batka, 25, a Greenfield- Central graduate, makes her living selling artwork at conventions like PopCon, ComicCon, Anime Central and Gen Con. With fantasy and science fiction as her artistic influences, it’s a perfect fit. She loves drawing characters and monsters — especially dragons.
Although Batka does most of her artwork on a digital drawing tablet, at PopCon, she sat before a drawing pad with a pen in her hand. The drawing was of a woman, a character commissioned by a client attending the convention. Her table display included detailed pen and ink drawings of creatures with wings, horns and wispy clothing. Some looked magical; some look downright demonic, but all are intricately done.
“I like drawing things that are creepy and at the same time pretty,” Batka said.
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Batka and her boyfriend, Brian Cappucci, have been going to fantasy and popular culture conventions like the recent PopCon at the Indiana Convention Center for the past four years. She attends up to 12 conventions a year in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and sometimes as far away as the east coast.
When she sets up a booth, many people stop by to admire her work. Some buy, but some just want to talk. Batka and Cappucci can pick out a buying customer almost immediately.
“There’s a friendly vibe from people who are more likely to buy,” Cappucci said.
Batka gets a lot of commissions from convention attendees who want custom work done.
Batka has been drawing ever since she can remember.
Her grandparents still proudly own her first work of art — blue scribbles.
It was during her final two years at Greenfield-Central High School that she decided to get serious about making art a career. She took advanced placement art classes, and when it came to selecting a concentration, she decided to try her hand at reimagining folklore and fairytales. Her portfolio included a colored pencil drawing of Ichabod Crane from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in a business suit and Alice in Wonderland in a 1970s setting.
After graduating in 2009, she enrolled in Ball State’s art program and then filled one of only 15 spots available in the animation program. Her animation specialty was 2-D character design.
She is now an independent artist and owner of Cat Bat Studios — a name that comes from the first three letters of her first and last names. Batka said she believes that part of being an artist means that you’re never satisfied with your level of talent.
“I can always improve,” she said.
She tries to draw every day, sometimes spending up to 10 hours on her artwork. She studies the art of others. If she sees something she likes — a particular style of ink work or the grunge feel of a painting or even how an artist draws noses — she will imitate what she sees and practice until she has mastered a new artistic skill.
Music, comic artists and historical art inspire her to create new pieces. She points to a number of works in her portfolio — drawings of what she calls monster anatomy paintings created with coffee and pen and ink. They are reminiscent of Leonardo DaVinci’s sepia-colored “Vitruvian Man.”
Batka’s ultimate goal is to design characters for video games.
At the conventions she visits, Batka rubs elbows with game developers, YouTubers and other indie artists. She’s gotten a little closer to that goal through her association with Emily Willis and Ann Uland, the creators of the comic book “Cassius.”
Batka met Willis and Uland at IkasuCon in Fort Wayne several years ago. They hit it off as friends and when the convention was over, they stayed in touch through Facebook, Willis said.
Willis said she loved the way Batka drew people.
“She draws with a quality of emotion to her figures so that you feel connected to them,” Willis said.
Willis and Uland agreed to hire her to assist in the artwork for the second issue of their series.
“I knew there were characters in the comic that would fit beautifully in her style,” Willis said.
In addition to “Cassius,” Batka has also provided the art for a card game called Scoundrels Society for Action Phase Games.
Batka does a lot of fan art for commissions.
“Fan art,” she explains, “is typically of characters that already exist, but you do them in your own style.”
And fans have their own fun ways of letting her know they appreciate her talent.
She recalls a piece she sold of a character from a video game. After the sale, the person she sold it to sent her photos of the artwork — seat-belted in the car, sitting in a chair at the dinner table and being tucked into bed.
“It was good to know it was going to a good home,” Batka said.