INKtober 7 – The Passion to Practice

Several years ago, I made the decision to put away miniature war games and focus on art. The idea was that the artists who I admired didn’t just get good at it. One day, they made an actual, active choice to be a better artist. They intentionally decided to begin doing the work of being an artist. I realize that it might not sound like a huge epiphany. I mean, it’s pretty obvious really. Coming to that crossroads of working a regular job, and then going home to play games, or working for myself, creating something new was a big deal though. That decision changed the course of my life.

I began looking seriously at artbooks, mining techniques and inspiration. I’d go and draw my apartment complex in the mornings, slowly beginning to¬† learn to see my world and tell it’s story. I’d spend my lunch breaks sketching story ideas and characters, and eventually telling illustrated stories about my life as a dad. Looking back, even with four years of art school behind me, I still knew so little of the craft of making pictures. Heck, I’ve been doing this professionally for ten years and still feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark. I still have a lot of work to do.

The year I got my first job, I went to an art conference/workshop in Montreal. Needing to have a portfolio for the workshop meant that I stopped to make one, and having that made it possible to get hired to a small graphic design shop when I got back. On portfolio review day, they asked me what I wanted to do with my art. What was my end goal for being there. I don’t know that I’d really thought about it before that, you just made a portfolio and got a job, didn’t you? I just wanted to make things and tell stories, so I told them that I wanted to illustrate role playing games and children’s books. While those are two very different markets, that statement set me on a new path, narrowing from “I want to make art” to “I want to tell stories.”

First though, I had to make more art. A lot more. I wasn’t there yet.

That first job at the graphic design shop was hard. I had to produce drawings quickly that were good quality, and were things that I wouldn’t normally draw. There was a lot of pressure, but I was building a visual vocabulary as well as expanding my portfolio. Which allowed me to get work for an indie game publisher called Hex Games.

Role playing games don’t pay well, but I got to do a lot of work under someone else’s direction. It gave me the opportunity to draw a lot MORE things that I probably wouldn’t have drawn otherwise. I began to learn to draw backgrounds. I learned more about painting cover art. I became good friends with the people at Hex Games. Work that I’m passionate about helps me grow in ways I never really imagined. I believe in Hex’s mission (whatever that is) and love working for them.

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