Remembering Katie, Inspiring Hope with R2-KT Art, Part 2

In my last blog post I shared a little of the artwork that the fan world has created featuring R2-KT, the pink astromech droid created by the R2 Builders in honor of my late daughter. Here I offer another selection of beautiful artwork, from bold to expressive to just plain fun. It’s amazing to me how Star Wars helps artists channel their creative side, evoking emotions from much-loved characters. The galaxy far, far away has a well-stocked menagerie of characters that serve as archetypes for every kind of message that people want to convey. Leave it to an unlikely pink droid to add some pluck to the mix.

R2-KT logo

Making KT iconic.

No discussion of KT artwork would be complete without discussing the man who created KT’s logo: Thomas Spanos. A longtime member of the 501st Legion, Thomas’ work crosses many forms of media from graphic design to sculpting to elaborate custom costume design. When asked to create a logo for the newcomer to the Star Wars universe, Thomas responded with a beautiful icon that made sure to include KT’s heart of gold while simultaneously anchoring her allegiance to the Empire. He followed this up with an equally beautiful likeness of KT’s namesake which was later cast as a challenge coin.

Cat Staggs' R2-KT painting

No droids in here! Got any Reese’s pieces?

Famed Star Wars artist Cat Staggs did this beautiful painting of R2-KT reprising the role of a certain extra terrestrial who also loved children. The painting was done at the request of the 501st Legion for a Droid Hunt badge. Droid Hunts are games the Legion runs at conventions to liven the Star Wars experience for con attendees. Each participant is given a badge and told to hide their “droid” from the Imperials, who are looking for them the entire weekend. Over time the artwork for the badges has become more and more elaborate, and we were lucky Ms. Staggs created an instant fan favorite with this one. You can see more of Cat’s awesome work on her website, catstaggs.com.

George Calloway's R2-KT and Princess Leia

Princesses come in many forms.

March 2010: George Calloway emailed me out of the blue to tell me that he read Katie’s story a couple years back and it stuck with him enough that when he recently completed cards for the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest foundation charity, he thought Katie and R2-KT would be a great symbol for the need. So he proceeded to try to capture her likeness based on the site photos. Although not on an official Star Wars card set the foundation was authorized to use Star Wars. A little from the man himself:

“I actually stumbled on Katie’s story about two years back while looking for reference for R2-D2 to be used in the first “Comics for a Cure” auction. I had just lost my uncle to brain cancer and was really moved when I found out about Katie. Since that point I wanted to do a tribute but the timing never seemed right until now. I was very picky about who I would do Katie for in regards to charity fund raising. This year I was contacted to do some cards for a place in Chicago. When I saw the name I knew this was it. Perfect. The Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest foundation. Katie, a girl I never knew, has become an inspiration for me in life.”

Cassandra James' R2-KT painting

Vader made cuddly?

Artist Cassandra James was challenged to create a sketch of a unique astromech droid and was given some examples to work from. James recounts: “This was an odd request in the swap but I had fun drawing it… They gave some examples including a sketch card they owned drawn by Katie Cook of a chibi Princess Leia and a pink astromech droid. I decided to draw them a partner to that picture and draw another pink astromech droid with a chibi Padmé.”

This piece is particularly special because it was Padmé in Attack of the Clones who inspired the idea of R2-KT to begin with. Our daughter Katie, for whom KT is named, was struggling with her cancer treatment and couldn’t leave her bed. So when she saw Attack of the Clones and R2-D2 watching over Padmé as she slept, Katie was determined she wanted a droid watching over her. The rest was history!

You can check out more of Cassandra James on her tumblr site.

Black Holy by Aoibarax, featuring R2-KT and Anakin Skywalker

KT power attack GO!

Drawing off an anime background, this piece is titled “Black Holy” created by the artist Aoibarax in Taiwan. She sent it in to the KT website, saying, “The story about R2-KT and Katie Johnson truly touched my heart, that I was motivated to make a version with R2-KT. The title of the artwork, Black Holy, comes from the J-Pop song sung by Japanese voice actress and singer Mikako Komatsu…I listened to this song as I worked on Ani and R2-KT due to the feeling as if you were in a fantasy space setting like in Star Wars. I am truly happy that I know the amazing fan power of Star Wars!”

You can view Aiobarax’ work on her Deviantart page.

Rene Clement's R2-KT art

The lighter side of pink

Rene Clement from Germany has shown a passion for capturing KT and her quirky spirit. His artwork has decorated 501st ads, the KT website, fund-raiser patches, and Celebration Europe II signage. His style shows an astromech droid in a different light, changing the proportions for different effects and using the color scheme to convey the mood. Rene describes his work this way: “I just love KT and it means a lot to me knowing her. These drawings show the way I think KT would be with other people, giving a lot of love!”

Star Wars Gamer #7 featuring R2-KT

Star Wars Gamer #7, featuring adventures KT never told me about.

Star Wars Gamer # 7 featured a brief glimpse of KT, although artist Justine Mara Andersen admits she didn’t know the full story until after she created the work. Still, a pink droid was what the artist felt was needed, so who am I to argue? In a brief conversation with Justine, she revealed that a pink droid felt like an element to set it apart and give the scene a different feel from what fans had seen up to that point. The result was Star Wars-meets-Heavy Metal, and every time I look at it I just want to see more of the story. Wow, I had no idea R2-KT was living so dangerously. I wonder what’s in that bottle she’s hauling around?

Dave Liew

A sample of the many fund-raiser designs KT has adorned.

Dave Liew is a graphic artist in Malaysia who started doing artwork for 501st Legion fundraisers, bringing aid to disaster areas around the world. When asked if he could help with R2-KT fundraiser runs, he was happy to reinvent the pink droid in a lot of fun ways — including adapting Tsuneo Sanda’s painting into line art suitable for use on patches. “I think my favorite was the Ewok Zapper for Celebration VI. My love of illustrating for Star Wars was a bit of a late development… I just want to give back to the Star Wars community for all the friendship and support that they have given to me. Thanks to everyone who came knocking at my door and gave me the opportunity to be in service to the Empire and charity.”

Okay, so I’ll save the rest for our next installment and wrap up our tour of KT art. It still blows me away just how cool Star Wars can be when fans channel their imagination through art. Thanks to them, droids take on all new lives outside of the movies and books. And thanks to KT’s artist friends, KT has reached countless fans through her illustrated antics and fund-raiser efforts.

For more of KT’s appearances in various art forms, check out the KT art gallery and see just how far imagination can take you.

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