I’m an illustrator based out of Denver, Colorado. I’m drawn to creativity, so I create drawings. Excellent artwork inspires me to make something excellent as well. Creativity is a discipline. Artistic skill doesn’t come from magic; it comes from hard work. That’s why I take my illustration work very seriously. I’ve been drawing, tracing, copying, sketching, observing, and experimenting since I was four. Although I’ve amassed a significant visual vocabulary and an increasing awareness of how to use it, my artistic growth ploddingly continues, never complete. There’s no place for crippling perfectionism in my art. I just love making stuff. That’s why art is part of me.
My process begins with visual and conceptual research. The two tend to overlap for me. Google is basically magic, but I also try to research from things around me: the vents on the ceiling in a coffee shop, junk parts from my old car, a weird leaf. Online pictures tend to give me exactly what I was looking for, not always what I needed. I also research a lot from classic movies and old books of illustrations and comics. I try to take mental pictures of things I observe in my life and in pop culture. I may photograph some references and document main influences, but I also rely on the things I’ve seen to sort of leak out of my subconscious and flavor my work. Next, I start drawing very small thumbnails. This gives me an overall vision and a strong sense of composition. Then I make a series of rough sketches or digital collages that I refine by hand with transfer paper or tracing paper until it’s right. Then I go to work on the final.
I generally use traditional media in my work before I bring it into Photoshop. Digital tools are ideal to enhance something handmade. Digital and traditional media involve different approaches to artistic problem-solving and produce unique results, so I try to use both in balance. I love the aesthetic of traditional media. Sometimes when I’m doing linework, I’ll work small just so it retains that inky impercision. I like to improvise with mixed media. Paint is a good friend of mine, particularly oils. I’ve also achieved very pleasant results from collaging cut paper. After sketching and scanning my work, Photoshop cleans it up and teaches it to be civilized. But it’s not just a jar of digital correction fluid. It still has that creative spark: problem-solving, discovery, and experimentation. I find it extremely useful for the colors. I use Photoshop to tweak and harmonize colors or use hues that don’t really exist in pigments (not cheap pigments, anyway).
I enjoy obsessing over details. Details are a great place to continue refining and even inventing when the overall vision is mostly locked in. I often hide surprises in the details. I especially love jokes. Humor is one of the main reasons I do what I do. Even my serious pieces generally have a twinge of absurdity. Humor is how I grapple with life. It can create a satirical or hyperbolic view of issues to make strong point or it can simply generate a new, safe context to foster understanding of the subject matter. And it’s an end in itself: something that rings true and tickles both me and the viewer. Not that my work is always laugh-out-loud funny, but it is almost always underscored by a carefully calculated goofiness embedded in the details.
Illustration seems very pedestrian. I love that: what an unpretentious, human form of art. Illustration reaches people where they are. Maybe it’s through something as simple as shirts, stickers, buttons, or posters. It tells a story and connects with people. So I like to make stuff like that. I’m also fairly experienced with social media. In 2016, I illustrated a pun cartoon on Instagram, coauthored by my best friend Joe West. “Punday thru Friday” stemmed from love of wordplay and gave me a chance to experiment with visual storytelling. Illustration is always changing, but the ability to reach people with images is greater than ever. I try to be adaptable. I dabble in animation. Designing a moving image is a rich challenge. In particular, I like working in stop-motion, combining sculpture, photography, set design, and animation to create a story. It takes forever, but it creates a visual style that is profoundly handcrafted. I also animate in digital 2D. Storyboarding, and comics are rewarding endeavors I play around with as well. I have an ongoing interest in visual storytelling, whatever form that takes.
I am especially drawn to artists who skillfully wield narrative. Dr. Seuss was one of my earliest influences. His ability to express events in a kinetic, madcap way and his expressive creatures and characters captivated my little brain. His inventive rhymes gave a sense of order to his slightly insane world. A little later, I became taken with Sir John Tenniel, the 19th-century illustrator of the Alice in Wonderland books. His elaborate woodcuts depicted strange creatures with personality and detail. Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, is my favorite influence. Watterson elevated his medium through both skilled illustration and understanding of character. Watterson’s work combines depth and accessibility. The meaning on the surface is relatively easy to grasp, yet with layers of subtlety, satire, commentary, or philosophy at the core of the work. Some other influences include Norman Rockwell, H. R. Giger, M. C. Escher, and Ralph McQuarrie.
I grew up in Broomfield, Colorado and I like to wear collared shirts with sweaters. These facts are probably the main reasons I have never been asked to join a gang. Also, I was homeschooled, which is another reason. I’m very close with my three siblings. Growing up, we each sort of grew in our own defining skills. My older sister had writing, my younger sister had athletics, my younger brother had music, and I had drawing. I constantly hear things like, “I’m the least creative person ever,” or “I wish I were artistic like you.” That’s absurd. I didn’t invent linear perspective or color theory; I learned them. Initially, I learned via The Ream Method: my mom bought reams of paper and I drew on them. At age 11, I bragged to the kids in my Sunday school that I was a professional cartoonist, unaware that a “professional” generally makes money at what they do. Actually, as an adult I was initially afraid to build my career in art because I’d heard that it wasn’t financially tenable and that I would surely starve. However, I decided it didn’t matter because I didn’t expect fabulous riches out of life anyway and I just really like making stuff. I haven’t starved yet; we’ll see. Anyway, I went to the University of Colorado Denver for my BFA in Illustration. There, I had the opportunity to refine my style and my studio practice and to grow as an artist and as a person. I also had the opportunity to critique my own work and the work of other students and to hear their perspectives. Analysis and observation are some of the most useful skills I learned at UCD. Now, the trick is to push forward and keep making the work that appeals to me because that’s the best way to make something meaningful to others.
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