Tell us about your journey that shaped you as an artist and your work?
I was born and raised in Iowa City, IA. After high school I moved to Seattle, where I studied both fine art and computer animation. I then spent several years working for a small game studio while creating work for gallery shows on the side. But I eventually got frustrated with splitting my time and started looking for a way to combine these two types of work. I’ve always been a fan of illustration and it seemed like a logical way to combine the collaborative, commercial work I was doing for games with the materials and approach I was developing through my gallery work. After moving to New Zealand for a year, I returned stateside to pursue a masters degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. And now two years later I’m living and working in Brooklyn as a freelance illustrator.
What inspired you to begin making art? What does your art say about you? What emotions or messaging do you try to convey in your art?
When I was younger, drawing was something I did in my spare time while most of my creative energy went into more social endeavors like music and theater. But when I was 18 I made a some changes that really shook my confidence: I came out, moved halfway across the country, and started school in a city where I didn’t know anybody. I felt isolated, insecure, and aimless. I turned to drawing as a way to create a visible measure of progress and growth, even if at times it felt incremental or inconsistent. I dove headlong into my sketchbook and began rebuilding an identity page by page, eventually gaining back the confidence to pursue art as a profession. For me, making pictures is ultimately a way to communicate with others. My objective is not so much to convey a specific message, but to create room for thought and invite the viewer to share that space with me.
How has art helped you in the good times and the bad?
As a fairly introverted person, art has given me both a way to expand outside myself but also retract when needed. So many of my favorite moments have been the result of connections created through artistic collaborations. These friendships were formed by drawing, performing, showing, learning, and working with a wide range of talented people. And while art can be a very social activity, I like that it can also be a solitary one. I use drawing as a retreat when things get too hectic, a way to reconnect with a part of myself that feels confident and calm.
Colored pencils seem to be one of your favorite art tools. Is there a reason?
I initially gravitated towards them for their portability; they’re an easy tool to throw in a bag for location sketching or drink-n’-draw sessions. But over the past few years I’ve really focused on streamlining my process and a large part of that has been unifying my approach to both informal sketching and finished projects. I’ve been fortunate to have instructors and peers who helped me see the value in my rough sketches and I’ve been working to embrace the type of mark making that comes naturally to me. I’ve found colored pencils to be a great way to preserve the spontaneity and personality of my sketching approach while still ending up with a finish that feels rich and fully formed.
Which Bee Product is your favorite and why?
I have two! My tried-and-true, go-to sketchbook is the 9”x9” Super Deluxe, I love that its pages can handle whatever I throw at them. My other favorite is the bogus recycled rough sketch paper, which I got hooked on only within the past year and a half. Lately I’ve been carrying around a Big Black Bee sketchbook for location sketches and figure drawing sessions, I love the way that colored pencils really pop on the textured brown pages. So satisfying!
Now that you’ve finished art school, what was the most important lesson you learned along the way?
I think art school gave me a much clearer perception of my strengths and weaknesses, and a better acceptance of both. So much of art making is a mental game and it took a lot of work to clear out a headspace where I could get an unobstructed view of what makes my work my own. At the end of the day, creating from a mindset of honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability will always be more interesting than technical perfection or “style”. I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to learn from some incredible instructors, but I’ve found that being open to your peers is just as important. You can always learn from others no matter how much time, money, or energy you have to devote to your craft.
You’ve done illustrations for the NY Times and have had your work in art galleries.
Any advice for artists wanting to get their work in editorials or art galleries?
The opportunities that have come my way have often been the result of being recommended by a teacher, previous employer, or fellow artist. While I would hope that this is due to the quality of my work, I know a lot of it comes from simply interacting with others in a professional way. It’s easy to see art making as a solitary activity, but getting your work out there requires cooperation with curators, art directors, etc. Be punctual, be reliable, be kind