How did you get to where you are today?
Like any good story, it all started with a dream.
I vividly remember sitting in my bedroom, circa 2002, looking at my journals and thinking, "This is what I want to do for a living." But of course I knew nothing of how to accomplish my dreams back then. I mean come on, I spent my summers cleaning golf carts and throwing away old beer cans. Ah, the good ol' days.
Let's fast forward to 2007 after I part ways with the Air Force and return to normal civilian life. Moving back from Japan was a total act of faith. Putting one foot in front of the other for a greater promise of life worth living. We moved to Dallas with no job, no car, and no place to live. But within a couple week we were on our feet. I took a couple jobs working by the hour for a month before I had this epiphany that I did not leave the benefits of the military just to work for minimum wage again. So with the help of my friend, and her friend the headhunter, we put together a little resume and BOOM! I landed my first job doing web design.
I spent about 4 years deeply invested in the web community. I was hungry to learn and grow. But somewhere in the middle of it all I got kind of burnt out. The web seemed so shiny and new, and when I sat down to draw it was anything but that. So I started experimenting with a scanner and illustrator. Seeing what I could come up with on my own to help translate more of who I was on paper, on the web. Side note: I've learned along the way that the tools we use should not control the work we do, rather let our work determine what tools we use. The results were astounding. I finally felt like I found my voice. Then to top it all off, my friend Samantha Warren goes and shows off my website in her 2010 SXSW talk, Get Stoked on Web Typography (slide 105 to be exact)
January 2012 I turned a whole new chapter in my life. That's when I waved goodbye to my 9-5 and ventured out among the vast wilderness of self-employment. In the past 3 years I've stumbled, climbed, cried and laughed in more fullness than I've ever known before.
What exactly would you say you do?
Probably one of the hardest things a creative person can do is describe what they do. I can tell you that design solves problems, photography tells stories and art ask questions, but that still doesn’t give you any greater insight into my day-to-day world.
I spend my days somewhere between sending emails and the piles of sketches on my desk.
Drawing is my first love. The possibilities are endless when you start to move your pencil on the paper. To me, it makes more sense to sketch my ideas on paper first, then start pushing pixels. It’s so exciting to just start doodling and not have an end goal in mind. I think it’s great to make it up as you go along. There are no rules to being creative. There isn’t any magic formula that will help you get better. The secret to getting better is sitting down and doing the work, day in and day out.
Where did you go to school? Do you have a degree?
I attended a local community college for three semesters. I still say, if you plan on going to college, that’s the way to do it. Save your money while you can. But I stopped going to school and wound up working dead-end jobs for another year or so. Still living at home I was faced with an ultimatum, either find a full-time job and go back to school or join the military. My brother had already served a few years in the military and he made it sound just like any other job. You wore a uniform, you did what they said, and you didn’t make any trouble. Sounded pretty easy.
In August 2003 I left home for basic training. The next four years would turn out to be some of the most challenging/rewarding years of my life. And after I separated from the military they sent me a piece of paper that said “Associates Degree from the Community College of the Air Force” on it.
Not one client I've worked with has ever asked to see my degree.
You were in the military?
Yes. Some people have their college years and I have my military years. I realize it’s not as common as college is, but it’s the path I choose and ultimately the one God would use for good. Things you never thought possible soon become the possible. If I learned one thing from my time in the military it would be this: Anything worth having is achievable with enough practice and patience.
How can you be so open about your faith?
I think having faith is as natural as waking up each morning. The realization that God is real and always near is what brings me peace and joy every day. Not to say that faith is easy, because sometimes it feels really hard to hear/see God. We are only human after all. But I can't find a reason to doubt God. I've had my faith tested and found God to be true to His word. For that reason I feel honored to share His goodness with others.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Get out there and meet people. There is nothing more important than meeting people and building relationships.
Work hard to refine your craft and keep track of your journey. You don’t have to be a good writer or anything, but I’ve found that keeping a journal is a great way to go back and reflect on where you started. Also, don't get caught up in having the "right" utensils, just find something and start writing.
Don’t listen to the voice inside you that whispers it can’t be done. Remember that there will always be those ahead of you and those behind you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Be humble with whatever amount of success you receive. The more you recognize your talents as a gift the better off you’ll be.
And when you start to feel like you’ve learned a thing or two please share your knowledge with others. Chances are there’s someone else out there who needs to hear what you’ve learned.
Where do you find your inspiration?
This is “the” question I feel that everyone always wants to know the secret behind what makes somebody else so great. I don’t mind sharing who or what inspires me, just so long as you know there is no such thing as a “secret ingredient” to success. It is simply sitting down and doing the work day in and day out.
With that said I find my inspiration probably just like anyone else, in a lot of different places. From the work of my contemporaries to much more established artists, architecture and interior design, the mountains, the open road, and even when I am at rest. Intentionally quieting my mind to take time away from all other distractions is often the best way I like to be inspired.
Just name a place and I bet you can find something to inspire you there.
What tools do you use to help you create?
SKETCHBOOKS: I’ve used everything from expensive moleskins to plain printer paper. But I think it’s more important to just use what works best for you. I actually prefer the cheap printer paper when I’m doing a lot of work with pen. The paper seems to absorb the ink quicker, whereas the moleskin paper seems much thinner and needs extra time for the ink to dry or it will smudge.
PENS/PENCILS: My preferred pen of choice is the Micron .08 but I can be just as happy with a ballpoint if that’s what I have in my hand. It also depends on what I’m drawing. Sometimes I require a really fine point, something like .001, for all the tiny details, and then other times I just need a fat chisel tip to get the job done. As for pencils, whatever has lead in it usually works just fine.
OTHER: The sharpie paint markers are a great multi-purpose tool. Every mural I’ve done has been with those ink markers. They are available in both oil-based and water-based inks. One of my other favorite mediums to work in is india ink and a brush.
DIGITAL: My current setup is a 13” macbook air with an external 27” monitor. I use an epson scanner to scan all of my drawings. I use cocoapotrace to convert everything I draw to vector. I don't use a wacom tablet.