What’s your background?
I am a freelance artist and designer currently living in Austin, Texas. I graduated from Penn State with a Degree in Art with a focus on digital media. I studied engineering for the first 2 years of college but changed my major after I realized I was spending all of my time drawing and painting. Since graduating I have worked as a bartender, stained decks, worked as a graphic designer, and taught graphics and printing. All of these jobs helped to support me while I improved my art and worked to get better at the business of art.
What got you interested in the arts to begin with?
Probably my parents. Neither works in an artistic field and I don’t think they would say this, but they are much more creative than they realize. When I was a kid my mother would make these elaborate Halloween costumes for my brothers and I from scratch. It always amazed me that various bits of nothing could become something totally new. And I can remember one instance in particular where my father, on my grandmother’s porch, did a quick doodle of the Charlotte Hornet on my T-shirt. It wasn’t perfect but it was clear and I was fascinated that he had done it right in front of me. That little doodle has been burned into my brain ever since.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?
I had always wanted to be an artist, but I don’t think I ever really believed it was possible. I wasn’t improving at the rate I wanted and it didn’t seem like I would ever reach a professional level. Then one night I went out drinking with a friend and his army buddies. I hadn’t seen him in a while and thought I could use a break. At one point I had to stop, I couldn’t keep up with them. They just continued the party for hours. These guys were way better at drinking than me.
Even though I had cut myself off, I woke up the next day feeling terrible. My friend called. He and his friends were going back out that night and wanted me to come along. I was stunned. I felt like garbage and these guys were heading out again. How?
Then I realized: these guys do this all the time. That is why they are so good at it. Everything came together and I realized that whatever I spend my time doing now, I’m going to be great at in 10 years. I chose art and I have drawn every day since.
Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say yes I am an artist!
I was really proud of the illustrations I did for Jenn Ely’s Mentorship Program. They are these three full color illustrations of Ray Bradbury’s The Long Rain. It was the first time I recognized that the level I wanted to be at was an attainable goal.
Do you collect anything?
I’ve never really been much of a collector, but maybe books? I read a lot.
What was your first step towards being a professional?
Jenn Ely had a mentorship program through the Oatley Academy and I applied for it. If nothing else applying felt like a symbolic gesture, an attempt to pursue art more seriously. I was accepted and I learned a lot. That program was definitely a turning point for how I approach and study art.
How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?
Surrounding myself with really talented and motivated artists. And old sketchbooks. The difference between my old sketchbooks and where I am now is crazy. I can only imagine where I will be in a few years.
What sacrifices have you made on behalf of your art career?
Mostly time. If you want to be good you have to practice quite a bit. It’s easier when you enjoy what you are doing, but spending all that time practicing means you have to cut back on other things. You might watch less movies, play fewer video games or hang out with friends less. It is a tough call but there are only so many hours in a day.
What research do you do?
I read just about everyday. I read about anything and everything. It’s all amazing. You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you are not reading.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
This wasn’t said to me, but when Jon Hamm was a guest on the “You Made It Weird” podcast he said that before he was famous he would tell his acting students, “ Show up, and don’t be a dick.” It basically means show up, be present, let people know you are there and why you are there, and just be nice. It will all work out.
How do you measure your level of success/achievement?
If I feel like a piece is conveying the emotions or story that I intended I consider it a success. I’m not concerned with much else.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Draw every day. Warm up with figure drawings or master studies before your project. Try new things as frequently as possible.
What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?
Right now I’m working on some level design stuff, a children’s book, and a series of personal paintings I’ve been working on for too long. I’m also doing an ongoing series of posts on Instagram where I pair whatever style or subject matter I am trying to become more familiar with with a joke or something that made me laugh every friday. It has been fun so far and forcing myself to have at least one post every friday helps me stay present on social media.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I would love to work in either the video game or film industries designing environments. Ever since I was a child I have always been drawn to setting and surroundings. I love the character and emotion they create in a film or video game.
What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?
Tell everyone you are an artist and become friends with the people who care.