What’s your background?
I have a BAS in Digital Entertainment and Game Design from ITT tech (it was a waste of money) and a ton of classes towards other degrees in everything from physics, political science and an electrical apprenticeship. It took a while for me to work out that art was what I was supposed to be doing.
What got you interested in the arts to begin with?
I really don’t know. To be honest I think I just spent enough time making art that I fell in love with it. I started drawing because I wanted to have drawings of my characters, vehicles and weapons for paper and pencil rpgs. Doodling was also more fun than taking notes in class. Eventually teaching myself to make better drawings turned into an obsession with art.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?
Last spring, when I realized being an artist was my ikigai, or calling. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been committed to becoming a professional artist on an intellectual level since I went to school for my game design degree. There was always a strong element of doubt before last spring though.
Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say yes I am an artist!
It was a piece I did years ago when I was still using ratemydrawings.com for digital painting.
Do you collect anything?
I used to collect books, but I sold my library to make room for my convention supplies. They were really hard to part with.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t work alone, art doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Was there a moment or decision that was a big setback? And what did you take away from that?
Yeah there have been a few actually. I used to have a bad habit where I would let a couple bad pieces stop my progress in its tracks. This usually happened when a few failures followed a really successful piece. The repeated failures were hard to take, so I would walk away and not come back to art for a long time. Not coming back is always a massive set back because you end up losing momentum (it’s still there even if you can’t see it). I make sure to work on at least one digital painting or serious drawing a week even if everything I produce seems like garbage.
Do you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, why and how have you overcome that feeling?
I haven’t had to deal with that doubt recently but I used to run into it all the time. The only way I got past that feeling was to power through it. If you want to do something badly enough there is just a point where you have to have a little faith in yourself and keep going no matter what doubts you have. In my experience if you can overcome doubt for long enough eventually it goes away… sort of. The fear changes from “am I doing the right thing” to a frantic “Oh @#$%! How in the world am I going to make this work”.
What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?
To become an artist. I had no idea what I wanted to do 10 years ago, and it didn’t even occur to me that I could make a career out of my art.
How do you measure your level of success/achievement?
I compare my recent failures to past successes. I know this sounds weird but I measure my success by my worst day. The way I see it, if my failures would be called a success by my past self then I’ve made a lot of progress. I think that’s a real key to becoming professional too. My “bad” pieces still have to be good enough to make a client happy.
How has your practice changed over time?
I’ve become more consistent about when I practice and I use a lot more reference now.
How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?
I’m starting to feel like a bit of a downer here, but I don’t. I just make sure to have time set aside for art even when I lose my creative spark and motivation. For me the spark and motivation lies in creating art, so if it’s lost I have to keep going until I find it again. I usually change mediums or painting styles when I’m not feeling motivated or creative, and I work around other artists as much as possible. This gives me some accountability I wouldn’t otherwise have, and the change of pace artistically helps me get back on track. I also make sure to post some work on social media at least once a week (even if it’s not good).
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I go to in-person art jams, or join google hangouts with some of my artist friends a few times a week. They’ve become essential to keeping myself going as an artist.
What was your first step towards being a professional?
Signing up for my first art show. It was the first time I sold any of my personal work.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
My short term goal is to get enough freelance work to quit my day job. I’ve been focused on getting freelance work from game companies like Wizards of the Coast and publishers like Tor to pull this off. Long term I want to be able to make a living from my personal projects.