In honor of President’s Day, this week’s edition of “Sub Spouse Small Business” features Katie Scarlett Faile, stationed in Guam. You may recognize some of Katie’s illustrations from various submarine swag, artwork and online graphics. Read more below how Katie got started as an illustrator and her latest project with a presidential tie-in, illustrating a children’s book, “Baby Abe, A Lullaby for Lincoln” available now.
Name: Katie Scarlett Faile
Hometown: Clayton, GA
Current Duty Station: Naval Base Guam
Q: Tell us about your business.
Well, I really have two businesses, one as a freelance children’s book illustrator, and one as a maritime fine artist, painting submarines and all things nautical.
My illustrative work can be found in print publications, books, blogs, and museum instillation archives. I’m typically hired by publishers and art directors looking for a whimsical traditional look that evokes the style of Carl Larson or Alphonse Mucha. I work almost entirely in traditional mediums, ink, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and oil. I love combining elaborate intricate borders with central illustrations that evoke movement, color, and emotion. It’s a great career to have when you are chronically creative and it’s conveniently portable in this navy life where I’m forever traipsing about to new locations.
The nautical works I have done through the years can be found in submarine and ship wardrooms, on command challenge coins, command stationary, custom cribbage boards, in various private collections, and in the homes of my fellow submarine spouses. My publicly available work can be found in the Modern Rosie Shop, where I’m beyond thrilled to have had a guest artist spot over the past few years, and in my small Zazzle shop, The Submariners Bride, where I seasonally list submarine inspired stationery and gifts.
My submarine and nautical art is my own personal love letter to the community I’ve built my life around. You can’t be an artist in a community without seeing that community represented in your art. The submarine art I create is my outlet to create works that reflect my love of the intricate, botanical themes, submarine, and nautical motifs, as well as heraldic imagery. I’m so incredibly proud of my husband and all that he does, and I am continuously in awe of the everyday acts of bravery, dedication, sacrifice, and resilience that I’ve witnessed from the sailors and spouses we’ve met throughout our Navy journey. I want my art to be something lovely that gives back to a community that gives so much, and to be a beautiful representation of our lifestyle.
Q: What made you choose this type of business?
I grew up in a family where everyone was an artist. I’ve always painted and drawn and always knew I wanted to illustrate books. I can’t read or write anything without seeing a litany of accompanying images flashing through my mind. But, growing up in Appalachia I learned to value financial stability over creativity. I knew it would be difficult to achieve fiscal stability as a professional artist so I chose the more practical “real career” as a paralegal. When my husband joined the Navy, I tried to maintain that career state to state but it became difficult to do so when I kept having to relearn state laws only to discover after I had, it was time to move again. So, after our third duty station change and battling some health challenges, I decided it was time to try to make a go of it doing what I love, painting.
I was lucky enough to get picked up as a freelance illustrator right away. A few years later I started painting submarines because there weren’t really a lot of artistic renderings to be found. I wanted art to represent our life on my walls and figured others probably did too. Additionally, I love Christmas cards and I wanted to create Christmas cards that incorporated our navy life into the nostalgic tropes of the season. I thought others might be looking for the same thing. I started by painting my own Christmas designs then posting them for sale on my Facebook page. It took off and soon I was doing command cards and stationery, then challenge coin designs and retirement pieces. Taking on private submarine commissions really became an extension of my illustration brand and eventually became another portable outlet for my work.
Q: What motivated you to start your business?
As an illustrator, your dream is always to get picked up by one publishing house and work exclusively for them enjoying the benefits of marketing, art direction, and physical resources that come with that. As a fine artist in the world of maritime art, your dream is to become a member of a juried art guild, have dedicated space in a gallery, achieve regional then national name recognition, become a member of the Maritime art Society, then attend regional and local shows and conferences as a guild approved artist.
Unfortunately, most of those things require that you stay in one place for long periods of time. That’s not an option as a submarine spouse. But artists make art, and it has a way of organically making its way into the world. I was fortunate enough that happened with my work and I’ve been able to make a career of it.
Working freelance for publishers and being able to work remotely (thank you internet) has allowed me to maintain a career in publishing even with all the moves. In some respects, being a remote freelance illustrator has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had working strictly in house for one agency. I’ve worked for publishers all over the world! The book I illustrated most recently, “Baby Abe, A Lullaby for Lincoln” was illustrated in Guam and published from Alaska! How amazing is that?
With my submarine art, I started looking at it as a viable business after I found that I was being asked to do submarine commissions several times a month. While I loved the personalization of private commissions, they are very time consuming. It’s hard to maintain deadlines for my illustrative work, muddle through deployments, motherhood and moves, and maintain deadlines for private commissions all at once. So, I decided to step away from private commissions and only do a few a year, then focus my efforts with submarine art strictly on art that could be purchased by anyone on platforms like Modern Rosie, Zazzle, and in Dolphin stores.
Q: How do you manage the work/life balance as a submarine spouse?
Honestly, I don’t. I’ve discovered that I’m only ever truly good at one thing at a time. I think multitasking is a myth. I’m one of those people who hyper focuses on whatever I’m doing at that moment. So, if it’s an artsy day, I’m an artist to the exclusion of all else and my son and I have egg sandwiches for dinner. I equally throw myself into mom activities, domestics, and Navy things on other days. Luckily my husband and son love me a lot, so they put up with it. I’m also an introvert so usually after a flurry of productivity, peopling, and doing all the things, I must take a hermit day to play in my plants or read in my jamjams while petting my pooches, Maximus and Petunia, to recharge. I try for balance and a schedule but in the end, we are who we are and we just have to do the best we can.
Q: Any advice for fellow submarine spouses that want to start their own business?
Just go for it. Don’t wait for the right time or over think it. Just dive in and see what happens. The hardest part of anything is starting. But we are submarine spouses, which means we are excellent at inventing and reinventing ourselves, blooming wherever our anchor drops, and we can always do the hard things. We find our place wherever we are. If you have an idea, think, is it something I’m passionate about? If so, make a plan, research, write all the lists and go for it. Remember to give yourself grace and dedicate a portion of your day to it every day (even if you can only find ten minutes here or there). Don’t live in someday land. You are a submarine spouse, you can roll with the tides, dive deep, and do all the things with efficiency and eloquence.
Q: Favorite thing(s) to do in your current duty station?
We are currently stationed in Guam and my favorite thing to do here is to walk by the ocean at sunset with my family. My son and I look for sea turtles and the famous blue starfish and just enjoy the winds off the ocean while we watch nature paint the sky in hues of russet, gold, coral, magenta, and aubergine over turquoise waters.
Q: Where can we support and learn more about your business?