Your work has a whimsical, a surreal quality to it, what influences have effected your work? Was there something that inspired you as a child?
My father was a school teacher and he stored lots of picture dictionaries, a full set of Childcraft Annuals that had incredible illustrations and stories, Safari Animal Wildlife Cards, and illustrated history encyclopedias for kids. My parents were obsessed with recording movies from cable tv, and ended up having a massive library of made for tv B movies and cartoons for the kids. My mother had a penchant for organizing scary monster movies too. She also had some pretty disturbing Japanese graphic novels that I'd peek at. I absorbed it all.
Have you experienced any obstacles trying to pursue a career in art? If so did they strengthen, or motivate your work?
A pretty consistent obstacle is getting paid in a timely manner for work you have done as a freelancer. Its good to say yes to most jobs, you'll learn a lot and get better doing so. And then later get better at what to say no to. I'm a bit pessimistic and think everything is going to fall a part so I've tried to carve out a bunch of niches that I can get my art sold. Contrary to what a lot of my teachers and gallery directors have steered me towards, it works for me to have a wide range of styles and outlets instead of something super consistent. If all the markets needing artwork shrinks, I have a finger in a bunch of them and have an edge to keep making a living even if I can't on my personal art alone.
When I was still in college I worked for a website company making educational web cartoons, it was fun and challenging, and also full-time. It was really hard to sit down and do personal artwork when you had spent all day doing it on the computer. The same creative muscles are being used even though you are doing someone else's ideas. After a year I was able to start painting in my spare time, that was the beginning of what I'm doing now. This was 1999. Even though making a living doing art is the goal, its important to have the mindset of giving it your all because you want to better yourself and impress your audience than thinking of money.
How do you approach a commissioned piece as apposed to a piece you are doing for yourself? Is there a difference?
When it comes to actual commissioned artwork, I've been lucky to be able to do what I want or have very loose art direction. With illustration work, I usually have art direction and/or a summary or article of what its about and find myself concentrating more on composition than mood. Fitting the elements of the story in a scene that explains a plot, rather than a framed moment. Most of my personal work has a very central, portrait style and is set in a scene that could exist, even if that existence is in a surreal world.
I know you have experience with web design, but is there any other skills that you have acquired that have helped you show, and promote your work?
Yeah I learned to do web animation and design at my job at Alfy.com, it was an educational kids website. First was hired to draw objects and scenes for interactive flash games for kids and learned the program gradually until I could program and animate more on my own. I made my website with what I learned. The silkscreening class helped me with color separating for skateboards and t-shirt designs. I've been messing around on my own with time-lapse photography to help show my process.
What sort of education and/or training have you pursued in your career as an artist? Was it worth it? What were the most valuable things you've taken away from your education or training?
I drew all my life and took artmaking pretty seriously in high school, but my formal training was a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. I learned how to keep a meaningful sketchbook, draw the figure sorta decent, but it was the classmates that were so talented around me that pushed me forward. It was worth it for me definitely, I got a lot of practice that I normally wouldn't have had access to otherwise. Just being able to make art in a studio setting with others is good, and learning some art history. I had to finish SVA by taking nightschool classes my senior year because I couldn't afford it. I even had a 4 year half tuition scholarship that I gave up. If you are learning a skilled trade, sometimes a trade school might make more sense than a full curriculum.
What was your entry point into doing illustrations for comics, and design work for skateboards?
Both of those were through friends. My friend James Jean had gotten a job doing cover work for a new series called Fables for Vertigo comics. I went with him when he was turning in the painting, equipped with a 8x10 portfolio. It was a special circumstance to get chat with the art directors at DC comics, but they were looking for new talent at the time. I kept in touch, but it was like 6 years later before I got any work from them. For skate decks, I grew up skateboarding in Arizona and was good enough to be sponsored locally, even in high school I dabbed in doing designs for a local board company. When I went to artschool, I was asked by my good friend Erik Ellington to do his first pro-model on Zero. At the time I was taking a computer silkscreening class just so I could have some kind of knowledge about it. Later on there was a fallout between company managers for Baker and Bootleg Skateboards and they needed an artist asap. I filled in the position for about 5 years before my fine art career started taking hold. Now I design them occasionally.
What percentage of your time do you actually spend working in your studio? And what do you spend the rest of your life doing to support that time?
I've been fortunate to split freelance illustration work and my fine art paintings to make my living. I worked at Utrecht Art Supplies, in a gallery basement as an art handler, a copper circuit board factory, a chemical plant.
Who is your audience? Who buys your work? Does your audience consist of one consistent demographic, or different demographics? How have you expanded your audience over time? How do you market your work?
The majority of my audience are young people between 16-25 because of my work for the indie band Circa Survive. The people that buy my artwork are usually a bit older. Even though my artwork has a dark moody feel to it, I do try to cater to a wider audience. I want people to be excited to see what I will do next. Not focussing on being ever grandiose, but changing up my approach. I like to bounce around from realism to cartoony, monotone to colorful, humorous to somber. All of it trying to connect the viewer emotionally to something unfamiliar and strangely familiar at the same time. I try to spread myself thin doing the album artwork, skatedecks, comics, book covers etc.. and stretch my subjectmatter from the tattoo and skulls crowd to the wildlife fineart crowd.
Do you belong to any professional associations? If so, why? What are the advantages that membership provides you?
I do not.
Do you belong to a wider artist's community, beyond any professional associations? What is that community, and why do you participate in it?
No I am not, I'm acquaintances with a bunch of artists and have lunch, go have a drink, or go drawing with like minded artists occasionally. Its great and important. Most of the people I know are busy with family and set in careers now, but when I was in my formative years it was so important to be around other artists that pushed your creative limits. There was a renaissance during my time at School of Visual Arts and I met the most amazing classmates that are still all working in the field today.