A little bit about myself...
I am a 22-year-old visual development artist, illustrator, and BG painter. I was born in Santa Cruz, California, in 1996. At 17 I moved to Laguna Beach to attend Laguna College of Art and Design with a major in Illustration. I began to feel that a traditional art college wasn't the place for me, and left LCAD after my first year to continue my freelance career and pursue other educational opportunities. I moved to Burbank and freelanced for two years while I took classes at Concept Design Academy and Schoolism. In 2016 I began exhibiting at conventions and have continued to grow that business alongside my illustration and concept work. In 2017 I started a background painting position with Rough Draft Studios in Glendale and have been working there ever since.
My hobbies outside of art include wildlife photography, drone photography, videography, hiking, writing, playing guitar, and cooking. My boyfriend and I have a Shiba Inu named Kira, and I love teaching her tricks and taking her to the dog park. I am a fan of live music and regularly attend festivals and live shows.
What tools do I use?
For my digital artwork I use a Wacom Cintiq 22HD tablet. For many years I used a screenless Intuos tablet, and while it served me perfectly fine, I have immensely enjoyed my Cintiq and definitely will continue to use them over Intuos tablets. I currently work off of a Macbook. The primary program I use is Photoshop CC, though I sometimes will use Clip Studio Paint for lineart-heavy illustrations. I also have an iPad Pro, and I use Procreate along with the Apple Pencil for sketching and studies.
For screen recording, I use Screenflick.
For photography and video I use a Canon 6D. I use a Rode Videomic Pro as a shotgun mic for video. For voiceover I use a Blue Yeti microphone. I also use a DJI Phantom 4 for drone photography and video.
What is my preferred medium?
My preferred medium is Photoshop CC with my 22HD Cintiq Tablet. Traditional materials I enjoy include watercolor, graphite, ink, and Copic/Chameleon markers. I have experience painting in oils, acrylic, and gouache as well.
What is a typical day and week in my life?
Monday through Friday, I wake up in the morning between 6 and 7. I take a walk with Kira (the dog), eat breakfast, and then sit down at my desk to work for 2-3 hours on personal artwork before heading into Rough Draft Studios at 10. I work 10-7 at my background painting position, and in the evenings I usually sketch, answer messages and emails, maintain my social media, and relax. I walk 3 times a day with Kira and make sure I stretch often during my workday. On the weekends I work on freelance or personal paintings and videos. I make sure whenever I can to take at least one day off each weekend to spend time with friends and relax, hike, or go out. On Sundays I typically cook meal prep for the coming week.
When did I first decide I wanted to be an artist?
This decision came very early for me. I remember as early as age 10 thinking that I wanted to be an artist professionally. Throughout my childhood I adored Disney, Ghibli, and Dreamworks movies as well as the many cartoon TV shows I watched. I read through every "Art Of" book I could get my hands on. I loved comics and manga, and initially wanted to create comics for a living. During high school I began to freelance and was highly motivated to become a professional artist. As I grew to love digital painting I strayed from that precise goal but continued to enjoy working on sequential art and storytelling alongside my illustration. Working in the TV animation industry now definitely helps fulfill this storytelling dream, and I have multiple personal storytelling projects as well.
Where did my interest in animal and creature artwork come from?
At an early age I was obsessed with Disney and Dreamworks animal movies like Brother Bear, The Aristocats, The Lion King, Tarzan, and Spirit. In addition, the characters that enchanted me the most from Studio Ghibli movies tended to be the creatures such as the forest spirit, Totoro, Moro and her children, and the fox creatures from Castle in the Sky. Avatar: The Last Airbender debuted while I was in third grade, and Aang's flying bison Appa and winged lemur Momo were some of my favorite characters to sketch and draw. I was also a huge fan of Pokemon and logged hundreds of hours of playtime on the Gameboy and DS games. Nowadays I think the creature theme is unique in my artwork and helps create a unifying theme of nature, magic, and wonder in my artwork.
What were my early inspirations?
As I mentioned above, Disney, Dreamworks, Studio Ghibli, Pokemon, and Avatar: the Last Airbender were some of the major influences on me as a child. Other notable mentions include Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, Children of the Sea (comic), Kimba and Jungle Emperor Leo, Tekkonkinkreet, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and the Bone comics. I gravitated toward fantasy stories with themes of nature and magic.
What are my inspirations now?
I am inspired constantly in my day-to-day life. Any time I spend in nature is inspiring. I love to go to gallery shows and look at art books. I keep a note on my phone with a list of ideas that come to me in the moment that I am inspired so I can draw from this pool of inspiration later on when I need it. I have a catalogue on my computer full of inspirational artwork, with keywords and artist names so I can easily sort and organize the pieces. And of course, I am still inspired by all kinds of movies, TV shows, and video games.
How long does a painting typically take me?
My morning warm-ups which I commonly post on social media tend to take me 40-90 minutes. However, beyond that, my larger pieces vary immensely in time taken. Some pieces have taken upwards of 20 hours.
How do I stay motivated and inspired?
I have suffered from burnout in the past, and the recent years of my life have been strongly dedicated to avoiding burnout and treating myself and my body with care and love. I keep a strict routine most weekdays which ensures I will have time to eat good food and get plenty of sleep. I make sure to always sleep for 8 hours, and only use alarms if it is direly necessary. I allow my body to wake up naturally, and due to my daily routine I wake up between 6 and 7am feeling far more refreshed than when I used an alarm. I try to always be in bed by 10pm, but if for some reason I am not able to, I let my body sleep until it is ready to wake up in the morning. I prioritize cooking and eating healthy food. I exercise daily, even if it is only walking, and often go for long walks during my lunch break. I know that none of these things have involved art directly, but I have found them to be of the utmost importance in maintaining a healthy mindset and staying energized.
I have a chronic illness called Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome and it is easily triggered by stress and an unhealthy lifestyle. It has been vital to my success (and my actual wellbeing) to treat myself with kindness. It has not always been easy; I am someone who naturally feels restless when I'm not accomplishing something. It has taken and will continue to take dedicated mental energy put toward reframing downtime, rest, and self-care to keep me healthy and as non-stressed as possible. What has made this process easier and more rewarding for me is seeing how much more I have accomplished since beginning to prioritize my own health and wellness. This last year has been one of the most productive of my life and I am happier, more rested, and healthier than I have been before. I am, of course, far from perfect, and do slip up and fall into pits of stress and restlessness, but it has been important for me to forgive myself during these times and prioritize my own recovery over productivity.
How did I continue my education after dropping out of art school?
As mentioned earlier, I attended Laguna College of Art and Design for one year before dropping out to pursue freelance and other educational opportunities. I began by taking classes on Schoolism.com and found the personalized feedback very helpful. I began to take environment design classes at Concept Design Academy in Pasadena about 6 months later, and the portfolio I developed from two years of sparse classes (2-3 per year) led directly into my current studio position. I have no degree and have personally never had an employer ask to see one.
I think that educational needs vary immensely from person to person, and I highly recommend looking at all options available to figure out the best path for you. What worked for me may work very well for some, and very poorly for others. It is very important to note that I supplemented the classes I took with hundreds of hours of personal study: Youtube videos, Gumroad tutorials, livestreams, constructive criticism from friends and peers, educational books, and life drawing.
Where do I show and sell my artwork? How is my personal business structured?
Alongside my work in the animation industry I have maintained a separate personal business. The bulk of the artwork I create is digital, so I have not pursued the typical gallery show route (though it is a totally viable path that I may pursue in the future). I have emphasized my social media presence on DeviantArt, Instagram, and Tumblr. Through these online galleries, I sell prints in short runs and ship them around the world. I also sell educational video content through Gumroad. However, the main facet of my business though has become the conventions at which I exhibit. I began in the WonderCon artist alley in 2016 and have recently begun to branch out into larger exhibit booths at a variety of conventions both inside my home state of California and across the country. A list of conventions I will be attending in the upcoming future can be found in the header link bar. I intend to continue to grow my personal business alongside my industry work.
Do I make a living solely off of art? Are artists really "starving artists?"
Yes, I do. It is very possible to make a good living working in the animation industry, game industry, movie industry, etc. It is also very possible to make a good living as an independent artist. I currently work both in the animation industry and as an independent artist, and I have met a great many artists who are very successful in both of these pursuits. I think that the view of artists as "poor and starving" is largely outdated and unfortunately scares parents into dissuading their children from pursuing the arts. That said, fighting for fair and livable wages across the many artistic industries around the world is still very important and we do have a long way to go still in some fields.
What has been most valuable to me in my career?
Meeting people and creating a network of supportive, passionate, and dedicated friends has been of utmost importance to me in my career. Study and practice has been incredibly important, as has developing my personal voice, but above all my friends and peers both online and in person have been vital to my success. Supporting the people around me has been equally as important. I am a huge proponent for a culture of sharing and support among artists. Conventions have been wonderful for enabling this; I have met a great many of my close friends through conventions. Classes and school (both in a typical art school setting and in a non-traditional setting) have also been incredibly important for meeting fellow passionate artists.
What advice do I have for aspiring artists and students?
1) Study hard, but more importantly study smart. Make sure you are dedicating your practice hours to things that will lead toward your goals and benefit you long-term. Take advantage of the many free resources on the internet, but be choosy about the information you take in. Initially I recommend studying the fundamentals and developing a strong base to experiment from.
2) Develop your personal voice and vision alongside your fundamental skills. Remember to spend time putting the reference material away, putting the inspiration away, and drawing from the heart.
3) Above all else, nurture your love for art. Be kind to yourself when you fail. Those failures are vital to your long-term success, and you will learn so much from them. Dedicate energy to loving the process of creating, rather than the results you create. Dedicate energy early on to creating balance in your life whenever you can. Remember that your worth as a human is not determined by your productivity. If you love to create artwork, you are an artist, no matter how any individual piece comes out. Without balance many artists burn bright and then crash. Structure and balance will carry you to your goals.
How do I deal with self-doubt? Am I ever unhappy with my work?
I try to never be satisfied with my work, but to always treat that as a positive. I want to constantly be improving myself, which means never feeling totally comfortable with where I am. What I try to always be sure about is that I will get to where I want to go. I may doubt the skill I have at the given moment, but I know that I will chase down the results I want until I can achieve them. There is plenty of time in my life, however long it may be, and I love the process of learning and creating. For this reason, I am always striving for better work and better knowledge. I consciously try to reframe my negative thoughts with positivity about the future, and I refuse to put myself down even when I experience failures. It can be hard to do this, very hard, because often as artists we attach our self-worth to the work we create. But if we can reframe a good artist not as someone who makes good work, but as someone always striving toward better work, the pressure shifts. As long as I'm working toward improvement, I am succeeding. Every failed piece along the way is just a stepping stone toward better results in the future.
What does art mean to me?
Art is something that I can't imagine living without. Even if I were to become unable to create the type of art I currently make, I know I would find a different medium to pursue. I love the process of creating above all else. For me, art is simply an expression of life. Art is everywhere, and creating it in its many forms feels as natural as speaking or walking.