What’s your background?
I have been drawing my whole life, but my formal art education is very limited. At various stages of growing up, I drew dinosaurs and Sonic the Hedgehog rip-offs, but I didn’t focus much on the fundamentals. Unsurprisingly, I languished in a poorly-executed anime phase for quite a few years. Even in college, I never grasped how to improve my art, and I studied graphic design, thinking I couldn’t really make money in another art field. Obviously, I had no idea how any commercial art industries worked (to be fair, I am still confused sometimes). I worked as a web designer and front-end developer for 4 years after graduating. Last year, I left my design job and began pursuing my art self-education full time!
What got you interested in the arts to begin with?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t draw, but I think Super Nintendo games (Star Fox and Donkey Kong Country especially) and certain cartoons really fueled my interest in art. I loved colorful characters and I would often daydream and draw my own versions. Art has always been an outlet for my overactive imagination.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?
It’s dramatic to say, but I can remember the moment exactly. I worked as a contract web designer at Microsoft, and I often listened to art-related podcasts, such as Chris Oatley’s ArtCast and One Fantastic Week. The week before my 25th birthday, I heard an interview with the artist Chris Campbell on the ArtCast, and I was supremely inspired. I saw a bit of my own situation in his. The fact that he didn’t know he wanted to be an artist from day one and that he worked other jobs before going back to school really resonated with me. His dedication and hard work paid off for him, and I found myself thinking, “What am I doing here? Did I really give up on art before I even tried? Why can’t I do it, too?”
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 is fairly recent. My final image for a class called “Painting Drama” is probably the first piece I was truly proud of. The piece is made traditionally, with graphite and ink on bristol paper. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried to make something completely different from what was already in my portfolio. It had a lot of scary, ugly stages, but I am happy with the end result!
Do you collect anything?
Other than cat hair? Art books, most likely, but I try not to overwhelm my house with them. I used to collect BioShock figurines around the release of BioShock 2; at one point, I had them all! When series 2 was released I snapped out of collecting mode (probably for the best).
What sacrifices have you made on behalf of your art career?
Luckily, I have not had to make massive changes in my life yet. I spend most of my time indoors, drawing, but I am pretty happy that way to be totally honest. Also, I don’t really play video games as much anymore, even though I love them. They were a huge time sink for me throughout High School and College, and I wasted a lot of the time I could have been using to, you know, figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
What themes/ideas do you pursue?
My interests generally lie in the darker side of fantasy: I love bizarre monsters and unsettling environments. The feeling of something being “not quite right” is very appealing to me, and I am fascinated by elements of horror. My sketchbook is filled with these explorations. I find this pretty interesting considering I am easily scared; I don’t watch any horror movies or play horror games!
What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?
Take learning much more seriously! Getting a degree doesn’t mean you will have professional-level skills or any job prospects. If you are not finding the education you need within school, try and find other avenues on your own and talk to other art students who may be in a similar boat. Above all, focus on the fundamentals and stop trying to skip past them!
How has your practice changed over time?
I didn’t know how to practice for a long time. I have always drawn characters, but now I spend a lot of time studying subjects that I find important. I watch a lot of videos and read a lot of books, and I often take notes about what I am studying. I draw a lot of figures and I try to take life drawing classes now and then, in addition to classes online. Most importantly, I try to practice something everyday. Earlier in my career I found myself neglecting to practice, which slowed my artistic improvement considerably.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I have difficulty naming three, and I can’t help but feel a bit sheepish about listing such wonderful artists, but here it goes: Jen Zee and Wylie Beckert. I look at a lot of art, but these are the artists that I always return to.
How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?
I am motivated by the love of simply creating, but also a kind of fear. I suppose it is a fear of failure: the idea that I might languish in the cycle of mediocre art jobs or my art won’t have any kind of impact on the world (not even a small one). A little depressing, maybe a little irrational, but this thought enters my mind every so often and I try to outrun it by pushing onward and making more art!
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I love video games and I want to work as an artist in the video game industry. I know working for a studio isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, but this is the direction that I’m leaning at this point in my life. More specifically, my goal is to design characters that people will fall in love with! Mario and Link already exist, but I like to think that awesome new characters and stories are still waiting to be created.
What’s your main challenge when beginning a new piece of art?
Deciding on which direction to take! I second-guess the beginning stages of a painting fairly often, which can lead to progress being greatly slowed.
What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?
I am working on a fantasy concept art and illustration project with the goal of focusing my portfolio and exploring new themes. This unnamed project is in the beginning stages, but I am hoping to gain more momentum soon! Currently, I am pretty obsessed with trying new tools and techniques (especially when it comes to my personal project).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
You will hear this over and over again, but “forget style, focus on the fundamentals.” is probably the best advice I have received. It is especially relevant to me as the poster child of chasing style and ignoring the basics all the way through college.