What experiences if any led you to the arts. What was it that made you decide that you wanted to make a career of it.
-I've always been interested in drawing. It seemed like the thing I was best at and I kinda just stuck with it. I always wanted to be an artist from 2nd grade up, but what really got me into the field of 'illustration' was seeing Sam Weber's work right before I went off to college. I thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever and said to myself "THAT is what im going to do"
Was your high school experience influential in any way? I know for myself, that was the point in time where I made that decision.
-Highschool was a pretty terrible influence on my love for art. I went to a big public school with hardly any funding for the art program, so I was kind of left to my own devices in terms of getting serious about it. I was lucky enough to have my parents be super supportive of anything that I did that had to do with drawing, so they sent me to a ton of art and drawing classes over the summer. I feel like that's where i really started to see my art go places. In highschool i felt like i was the only one who saw art as a career. In my senior art class, out of the entire class of 2007 of my large public highschool, there were only 6 people. And i was the only one in it not to get an easy A haha.
Often the breaking point for some is that shift made from high school and college. How was that for you? What jewels of information did you acquire from college that you may not have picked up elsewhere. I must ask who your influences are. Who are the people that you look at when in desperate need of inspiration?
-First day of college was the first day of my life pretty much. I felt like I finally was where i was supposed to be. And having just graduated, itll be sad to see the best 4 years of my life go. I'd say that the shift for me was nothing but positive- being immersed in art pretty much. The hard part was weeding out the people and friends that just didn't care about what they were doing. My best advice would be to surround yourself with only the most driven individuals you know, because it really makes you push yourself and not waste your time with people just looking to get by. In terms of influences, I'd have to say Sam Weber was clearly my biggest one as i started getting my act together. These days, I have pages and pages of bookmarks of contemporary illustrators and artists that blow my mind with how amazing they are. I make it a point to keep up with everything that they do, so if you wanted a list of people that inspire me, check the people I follow on twitter or blogger. These days it seems like i get less inspiration from certain artists, and more from individual images that speak to me. Tumblr has been amazing for that. I would say thats my number one go-to source when i need some inspiration.
Something that ive learned form the college experience is the importance of learning from my colleagues. How important do you think that is association with instructions from professors as well as observation of the work coming from out competition and contemporaries?
-I think it's very important to take what the professors say to heart. But only at first. You need to be open to criticism and accept it in order to learn and in order to grow. However, I also believe that you will reach a point in your college career that you need to make certain decisions for yourself and not necessarily listen to what your teachers are telling you. I found myself doing this more and more as college came to an end, and a lot of opportunities sprung from it. Another important thing to keep in mind is to never compare yourself to your classmates. You need to look at the big picture and put your stuff side by side with the professionals. See what the best of the best are doing and try and match that. Chances are you wont, and it'll take your confidence down a notch, but the truth is, as soon as you get out of school, THEY'RE your competition. Not your professors, not your classmates. The higher you set the bar, the more you'll grow.
As I look through your sketches (or the few you have presented on your website) I think to my self that they are quite refined. Is this the preliminary spot or is this further along and how important to you is the thumb-nailing process? Could you describe briefly the way in which you narrow down your composition choices?
-I almost hate calling them sketches. I dont keep a regular sketchbook. And sketches are a place to experiment, mess up. Sketches aren't meant to look good or refined. The pieces on my website are just drawn from when i go to coffee shops or museums and draw the people around me. It's one of my favorite things to do and it really helps with my portraiture. In terms of sketching for a project, thumb nailing is one of the most important parts, for me, when i start a piece. I always make sure to have a well thought out foundation before I embark on any sort of important project. Sometimes when I'm lacking ideas for compositions for pieces, I'll draw up little thumbnails of shapes that dont necessarily represent anything, and then take a step back to see what comes out of it. It helps things from losing that organic flow.
This one here is going to seem a bit open ended but could you describe a work day; specifically your process when working on a piece, and your ideal work environment.
-Wake up, eat lunch (i wake up at like noon), plot out a drawing (or continue from the previous day) till about 4, nap (i usually find it really hard to work between 4 and 6, i get too sleepy), eat dinner, and then work from about 7pm-4am straight (my prime hours, definitely). I live in a studio apt right now, so my bedroom is my studio, but I prefer to try and keep my focus on the task at hand as much as possible. I like to get out whenever I can, so local college buildings that I'm still allowed into I sometimes work in to help me focus more. Oh, and always having music playing helps. Process usually goes something like: thumbnail, value sketch, full-sized sketch, and then final. Usually in about a week i can knock out a full piece.
I love the work you've done for Coheed & Cambria. How was that experience?
-Amazing. Never in my life did I think i would be doing work with my favorite highschool band. Claudio and Chondra Sanchez are some of the most rad people I know and they've been nothing but supportive of my art. More work to come for them in the future ;]
And if you could share a secret or two about self promotion; ie how it is that you got in contact with Coheed & Cambria.
-Here the secret: luck. I mean, yes, perseverance and drive play a big big part with getting work, but sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time. I would say 90% of my work comes from that mentality. As far as how i got in touch with them, long story short: I did a portrait of Claudio Sanchez back in Junior year of college for class (which ended up being my lowest grade for the quarter because i didnt stick to the curriculum) . I really wanted him to see it, but found no actual ways to get it to him. 3 months later, I come to find a ton of hits on my website from somebody tweeting about my art, and that somebody turned out to be Claudio's wife Chondra. I guess she found my work through one of the artists that works with them on their comics, and I found her on facebook and we started talking. Fast forward 1 more month, and im back stage at their show in Atlanta hanging out with Claudio and Chondra and living in a dream pretty much. I ended up giving him a print of the portrait i did and was able to get some work out of it too! Not to mention being able to be friends with my 10th grade idol. All in all, make a presence for yourself. If you do good work, and you have passion, and you keep that drive, good things will find you.