Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why do we do this? (Part 2)

Today I have for you the second group of artists that are sharing their thoughts on why they are artist. If you missed the first post, you can see it, HERE. Be sure to head back over and read what Felicia Cano and Lars Grant-West have to say since they were added after the post went up on Monday.

As a recap... The goal of this was to ask working illustrators at all levels of experience, background and specialty the same questions to see what similarities and differences could be found. The three questions are:

1) What was the first thing in your life that made you think, "I want to be an artist"?

2) What do you like LEAST about being an artist?

3) What do you like MOST about being an artist?

It has really been interesting to see what common threads come out in these. It shows to me that I made the correct choice in opening this up to so many more voices instead of just repeating my own. Enough from me, let get on with the show!

Kekai Kotaki
1) Probably the time in kindergarten I won a dinosaur book in a art contest. What sealed the deal was when I graduated high school and I realized doing art was really the only thing I was good at.

2) It can be pretty intimidating staring at a blank canvas knowing you've got infinite possibility to succeed but just as much to fail as well. But after all, overcoming that hurdle with every piece is also what makes art so rewarding.

3) I like the constant challenge. The better you get, the more clear it becomes how little you know. You're never done, you're never perfect, and its a lifelong struggle to keep reaching for that next step. Hopefully when you're an old man you can look back and be proud of what you've done, but its all very personal.

Jeffrey Lai
1) Well I don't think there was any one eureka moment for me. I just sort of fell into it because I liked comics.

2) Talking about money! Paperwork! Gah!

3) of course, doing what you love to do!

Todd Lockwood
1) I honestly cannot remember that far back. I've been drawing since before I could remember, and always knew that that was what I wanted to do. I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be an artist. The covers of Frank Frazetta and Michael Whelan had an impact, for sure, plus all the great album covers on the LPs in the 60s and 70s --man, THERE is a lost art! But I don't think there was a single, memorable moment that kicked it all off.
I had a dream when I was five or six, that I was in a long dark hallway, and there was a stairway at the far end, with a man standing at the top. As I walked closer to the stair, however, I realized that it was not a stair at all, but a stack of consecutively smaller platforms, with a tiny little man standing on the top! A perspective dream. At five. :o)

2) The fact that my lifelong favorite form of recreation has become my avocation. Really; sometimes it's just plain work, especially when the manuscript is deadly dull or lacking any visual inspiration at all, or when deadlines accordion.

3) The fact that my lifelong favorite form of recreation has become my avocation. I can't imagine doing anything else.

J. Lonnee
1) I don't think there was a moment that made me think " I want to be an Artist". I think everyone else identified it in me before I was old enough for the concept to even occur to me. I was always the "Little artist" in the family, class or whatever. The reasons I resisted being an artist for as long as I have are probably more telling...

2) People seem to think this is easy work, and are always asking you to do stuff for them for free... "You know, when you're just sitting around." The business side of things and self-promotion is also a real challenge for me. On an existential level, I feel like my time would be better served making cogs or digging ditches, but I hate that kind of work.

3) I love all the freedoms and perks associated with "being an artist" but the greatest of these is the ability to be paid to live in escapist alternate worlds. There is nothing you can't build, and nowhere you can't go when the toys in your sandbox are light, color and form. There aren't many things I'd rather spend my time doing. I also like that the arts, for the most part, are about a process of self-improvement. The satisfaction that comes from that is what compels me.

Chuck Lukacs
1) There's a ton of "firsts" but one that stands out, is reproducing Kelly & Mouse LP illustrations with crayon, and thinking, "This would be a Boss job!"

2) Not having a dental co-pay or National Health Care, now that I really need it.. Forgoing having a child, as I just can't afford that.. Freelance doesn't normally offer us the sort of benefits and security that a desk job, or good solid manufacturing job might supply.. Those of us who Love it, just eat all the cons in order to create at the level that we do, and smile when the next magical brief comes in.!! =)

3) Artists have the rare opportunity to have an influence on the Future of this mushy bunch of monkey brains filling this Sphere.!! We've forgotten just how much Artists have shaped civilization, we're living in the SF&F artists dreams of yesterday.. I mean, unless you're Oppenheimer, what's not great about being a creative mind, and giving folks something to think about??

Howard Lyon
1) I have always loved to draw, but I remember a couple things distinctly that I believe led me to where I am at. Sitting around playing Dungeons and Dragons, looking through the books, creating characters, but rarely actually playing, because I spent most of the time looking at the pictures or drawing my own. At that point, I told myself, someday, I am going to create for D&D. Another point for me was when I was 11 and I took a photo, gridded it off and did a pencil copy of it. I still have it, and it must have taken me many many hours to complete at that age. When I finished it, I remember a sense of pride, but a huge desire to get better. I went in and told my parents that I wanted to be an artist and asked if I could enroll in classes.

2) The sense that I won't have the ability or time to create everything that I want to. I often see other things that I want to do, carpentry, metalworking, sculpture... But feel that I am robbing my time as a painter to explore them. I need to let that go and be content to explore and pursue some of the other things in my life.

3) The feelings that come with starting a painting and finishing a painting, two very different experiences, are among the greatest pleasures in life.

Chris Malidore
1) I don't honestly remember thinking about it, it was just the next progression of where I was headed. I loved drawing when I was young, it was my own personal therapy, it became a hobby, but I never looked to make a career of it - just pay a few bills while looking for a real job... and it developed. Then as that took hold I began to actually push and cultivate it into something.

2) The lack of stability is my biggest hurdle. I am a person who likes to know what's going to happen next... I'm a planner. And in this field that can be very difficult unless you secure longer term contracts/employment. I was never in it for the money, but not knowing when it's coming, and waiting on very busy art directors for replies, etc can stretch out timelines out significantly and often without warning.

3) Where else can you draw dragons and cthulhu based creatures out of your head and call it a job? These fantastic visions aren't just entertainment, they're now the inner workings of your life, and that's exciting. Not to mention the joy of getting to know so many others in the same field - there's a great camaraderie in all of this that I greatly enjoy.

Patrick McEvoy
1) Comics were my gateway drug to being an art-junkie. I drew comics characters from a young age, and by the time I was in Jr. High I was pretty sure I wanted to be an artist for a living.

2) Looking for work. As a freelancer, that's something we have to do all the time, and it gets to be a real grind.

3) I live for that all-too-rare feeling when I've finished a piece and think "hey, that's pretty good". That's a nice thing.

Jeremy McHugh
1) When at age twelve I realized that there were people who made comics, book covers, and game art for a living! You can get paid to do this stuff?! Sign me up!

2) I suppose what I like least about this business is something that is common to most businesses ---and that is having to chase down payment for my hard work. Such is life, though. Some clients make it easy; while others ( the ones that don't last very long it seems) make it very difficult.

3) Pretty much everything else that comes with being a freelance artist!
From ideation and conceptual design, to collaboration, to the marketing of my business. I find something to enjoy in almost every other aspect of the trade. It all blends together to form the picture of the career and work that I love. To be more concise, I suppose it is the overall creative lifestyle.

Brynn Metheney
1) Animals. I was convinced I was part velociraptor until I was about 14. I was (and still am) obsessed with animals. I remember drawing dinosaurs, cats, and horses all over everything when I was in kindergarten. There was just something about their forms and the way they moved that made them irresistible to draw and even imitate. My parents got me one of those "How to Draw Big Cats" books and I was hooked ever since. Drawing was awesome! I drew Disney Cartoons, Looney Toons, Tom and Jerry... Whatever cartoon animal I came across, I drew it. Of course, what sealed the deal for me was seeing Star Wars - Return of the Jedi for the first time. Seeing that rancor move about made me want to draw animals and monsters forever. I really wanted to be part of the "movie magic" and make things that could live, breathe, and walk around. Its really exciting being able to do this today!

2) It's hard because I can't imagine myself doing anything else. Although sometimes just being an professional artist is tough in its own right. Explaining to people that you're an artist for a living can be tough at times. Most people don't really "get it" or take it seriously. They usually think it's not a lot of work and just something I do for fun. I hate having to justify it. I suppose I'd like people to know how hard it can be to be creative everyday, all day, and still be your own boss through all of it.

3) I get to draw all day! Ha! I suppose that's obvious. I always like when people connect with my work. Either through email, at a show, or on my blog; getting comments is always great. Because I focus mostly on creature design, I love the opportunity to show people how awesome nature is. Our planet is amazing! Telling people that my inspiration comes from nature is sort of a way for me to give back to what got me here in the first place. Really when it comes down to it, there is nothing else I'd rather do for a living or a pass-time.

Aaron B. Miller
1) I met a toy sculptor in a shop my grandmother worked at in Andersonville. It was my first lightning bolt. I wanted to sculpt at the time. I switched to all the art course in high school (the catalogue from the school showed kids sculpting) but, none of the classes ever had it but i kept drawing and painting.

2) I guess it can boil down to the difficulties in generating an income. I think we'd all be fine if the standard of living was the same as some out of the way country most people never heard of.

3) Success. And not necessarily the monetary kind of success, I think we can all agree on that. It's that feeling you get when you're in the groove and everything is working. Your body is responding to what the mind wants and sees. The connection is live and you have a great painting as a result.

Christopher Moeller
1) Not sure about "I want to be an artist", that's kind of always been with me, but "I CAN be an artist" arrived in 10th grade, when I was watching all of the seniors putting their portfolios together in Gordon Muck's art class. I knew, right then, that that's what I wanted to do. it never seemed possible until that moment.

2) No paid vacation or sick leave, no employer matching my retirement savings and paying half my social security, no health care.

3) I love the flexible lifestyle. I got to see my kids grow up. Most of all, I love that my job is more than a job... it's a passion. It defines an important part of me. It's central.

Ania Mohrbacher
1) I remember knowing I wanted to be an artist since I was very little, but not a specific moment that made me decide that. I just always loved to draw, and that was my main activity during most of my free time. Even when I’d have friends over I’d come up with an excuse to sit and draw together.

2) My least favorite part of being an artist are feelings of self doubt, and that I failed to achieve what I’m striving for. At the same rate these feelings often propel me to get better. Sometimes it’s like a roller coaster with highs when I feel I accomplished something great, and lows when I think I’ll never be as good as I want to be.

3) There are two aspects of being an artist that I enjoy the most. The first is the ability to create something, and knowing that it’s one of a kind, because I made it. It makes me very happy to have something in my life that I’m passionate about. The other thing is the welcoming artist community. There’s something very exhilarating and wonderful about getting to know other artists, and being able to spend time with them.

Peter Mohrbacher
1) I woke up one day back in 2000 and wanted to draw. It's been a constant in my life ever since.

2) Digging into the part of my brain that makes creative stuff also stirs up a lot of other odd feelings. When I am getting into a really good flow, I tend to get irritable and paranoid. It really sucks digging up bad moods in order to feel accomplished. But it's manageable, so I stick with it. It never mixes well with the innate self doubt that also comes with the job.

3) Most people don't get recognized for their job. I imagine bankers aren't always excited to meet other bankers. But there is something special about being an artist. It's wonderful to feel appreciated and connect with other people whose work you appreciate. Getting to meet someone who you idolize and having them swoon over your creations is a rare and wonderful thing.

Jim Nelson
1) I never had a revelatory moment where I realized I wanted to be an artist. For me, it was something that happened organically. When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I was really into Peanuts comics and I used to copy and draw the characters. That quickly led to an interest in other comics and the art in those books really inspired me to draw! From that point forward, I drew and drew and all that art-making created a certain momentum that just never stopped. By the time I realized I wanted to be an professional artist, I was already far enough down that path that no other career choice ever made sense to me.

2) The frustration of not being able to translate my vision for a picture from my mind to the paper, canvas, screen, etc. It happens less than it used to but my hand won't always reproduce what my mind imagines. On the other hand, sometimes that inability to just translate an idea straight from your head to paper leads to something unexpected or even preferable so even the thing I like least about being an artist can have an upside.

3) That's actually a tricky question because there are a lot of things I like about being an artist. Ultimately, I think it's the act of invention I enjoy the most. It's fun to work with color, value, shape, form, etc. The elements of art are a blast, as are the materials, but for me the biggest joy is just making something from nothing. When I can invent a creature, a character, a scene, or even an abstract composition straight from my head, that's the best part about being an artist.

There's another great benefit to being an artist and that's the way it can connect you to other people. There's a camaraderie between most artists that I really value and when you see something you've created give someone else joy, that's a tough to feeling to beat.

Andrew Olson
1) I always used to love drawing when I was little, but my first few distinct memories of thinking "Wow, people actually do this for a living" was when I saw the illustrations in the Warcraft 2 game manual. When I saw the paintings on Magic: The Gathering cards really affected me too.

2) I feel like this is a cop out, but I'd have to say deadlines (especially when they overlap) are my least favorite thing about being an artist. I like being able to sit back and noodle a piece for a while :)

3) It's always cool to see someone's positive reaction to a piece you're proud of. I hope that someday I'd be able to influence someone's artistic career in the same way that I was when I was younger.

David Palumbo
1) I can't really remember any crucial moment of inspiration. I remember really enjoying comic books and science fiction movies and this book that my dad had about if life existed on other planets, what it might look like. Beyond those things, I feel like it was a gradual progression but I always just enjoyed drawing and figured that was what I would do.

2) dealing with financial institutions that don't understand how my income works is a big one, though luckily it doesn't happen too often. Oh the hoops I have to jump through for a mortgage. Though I am slowly learning how to better prepare for that sort of thing, but it feels like a bunch of red tape lawyer nonsense. Semi-related, the stereotypes and assumptions held by many people outside of my insulated artist and performer populated world can be kind of annoying too.

3) The obvious best thing is getting to make cool pictures every day. Beyond this though, the idea of always building and improving. That I can stand behind what I do as an individual. I've always imagined it like building a structure or tower and every new painting is like adding another brick. Also, making my own schedule, pushing my own goals, and always pushing to new plateaus (though at times that part can be in the "like least" category too)

Jim Pavelec
1) Charlez Shultz and Snoopy.

2) Taking direction from people who have no art background and don't know how to express themselves in the vocabulary of our trade, and waiting nine months to get paid.

3) Getting to draw and paint things that I want to, and getting to meet all of the other great artists in this industry who are to a person super cool people.

Justin Peterson
1) Two instances come to mind... first, when I was super young, maybe no more than 3, my brother and I spent an entire night drawing on our bedroom wall. My dad thought we were being super good, but little did he know. The good thing was that we drew our mural in pencil. My mom made him erase it over the next few nights. But I remember drawing on the wall being FUN. And that stuck with me. The other time was in middle school, when I was introduced to the X-Men. That really was the game changer. I thank my brother and my friend Shaun for showing me X-Men and ruining what chances I had at being an astronaut.

2) The isolation. Both artistically and socially. I'm a control freak, like most artists, I guess. So, isolation in terms of going at it alone. Socially, it's two fold. My arty friends live elsewhere, so I'm "alone" here, and the hours and hours spent chained to my desk make it hard to be a social person, even in my own house. I guess it's all about finding a balance.

3) The isolation. Haha! Not really. I guess I like the end result of "the process" the best. It's nice to look back, see what you've done, learn, and move on. It's also nice to see your hard work appreciated by others. I'm not really doing this for me... because it's already in my head, I LIVE these ideas floating around in my noggin 24/7. But I think other people enjoy what I have to say and draw, so I do it for them, and if my comics or art make someone's day better, then all the isolation and work was worth it.

Michael Phillippi
1) First edition Dungeons & Dragons... I was 5 years old in 1980 when my older brother (he was 11 at the time) started bringing home D&D books as well as fantasy books/games. I remember stealing the books whenever I could to look at the illustrations and to attempt to copy them. That sowed the seed. The realization that i could make a living as an illustrator didn't truly sink in for a few more years with the heyday of Advanced D&D's and I started distinguishing the artists (Easly, Elmore, Parkinson, & Caldwell were the first artists I could identify by style)

2) I actually hate the title "Artist"... it has been thrown around and applied so randomly that I feel the term is meaningless at best. Unfortunately, the word is unavoidable, but I try to only refer to myself as an illustrator or a designer. Those two titles actually carry weight and meaning in my opinion. Err, after that little trip to soap box land, what I like least about this vocation is never feeling my work is "good enough" while knowing that if I ever do decide my work is "good enough", I might as well call it quits because I will have lost what is most important... to try to make the next painting better then what came before.

3) Ironically, it is basically the same answer as above (minus my diatribe about the title "Artist")... There is always something to learn and improve.

Linda M Pitman
1) I always liked painting and drawing since I was a kid and throughout school. I had always loved dragons, fantasy and mythological creatures, though, at the time, I had not realized (or discovered, should I say) that there was such a variety of wonderful fantasy artists and areas possible to work within on such creative things.

After school, I enjoyed painting things for both friends and myself. At the time, I had not realized that so much could also be created digitally and so I mostly painted in acrylics, but it was more as a hobby. Before about 2005, when a friend introduced me to D&D 3.5, I had not even realized that such games were out there. It was so exciting to realize and be told that there were also books written about such fantasy worlds. Sadly, it was for only a short time we actually got to play, but I decided to check out my local Waterstones and spotted a book by R.A. Salvator, which was about a Drow. I remembered Drow from the game and the cover art by Todd Lockwood totally enthralled me. I felt the need to look more into his art and, of course, read the books. From then I started checking out stuff on the internet and stared to realize that there is the possibility of making a career as an artist and getting to work in the fields of fantasy, horror, etc. I also discovered Deviantart and continued to be inspired by the works of other great artists out there. Discovering the wonderful works by Anne Stokes, who's work and kind, honest advice, got me thinking more seriously about becoming a professional Freelance Artist.

2) Probably, at times, the thing I like least about my work can be the need to sometimes put in some really long hours; for example, when there has been given a last minute deadline, but at the same time you don't want to miss out on it. With a 9 to 5 job it can be easier to just walk away from it all at the end of the day and just start up again tomorrow, but as an artist, and with the nature of some deadlines, that's not so much the case. Though, saying that, I still would not change my job for the world.

3) What I love the most is the chance to work, make a living and be creative within an industry I love! Knowing that I am helping to realize such ideas and creatures people have imagined and to create such visions of my own imagination. In the end, if you think about it, just how fun is that. :)

Ryan Portillo
1) Watching "movie magic" back in the 80s when i was a young tater tot inspired me to explore my imagination further as I seemed to have a knack for being able to communicate that "other"verse on paper.

2) What annoys me within the assumed notions of what we artists are like, is that drawing and painting just comes from the ether and we do what we do because we would explode otherwise, as if we're channelling some art Demon/God that commands we create. So the constant requests to "draw this for me" and then the clueless expressions followed by explaining how long it takes and is work and No i don't understand your "know what I mean" image do furrow my brow. But by and large with time, i've learned to cope and deflect and or assume the mantle of the possessed art vessel to create oddities needless of sarcastic comment, even when they say " you must have crazy nightmares...."

3) Being an artist is great as it allows quite a wide range of freedom: freedom to pursue the multiple avenues of creative industries. Likewise the ability to get paid to do what I would've been doing otherwise. Clearly with the previous answer there is some ironic overlap, however it is truly a wonderful thing to sit down or stand up or hidden tiger crouching dragon and create characters, creatures and or environments that until pen/stylus/brush gets put to paper doesn't exist anywhere else. AND get a paycheck from dancing with my imagination... some paychecks are certainly bigger than others, but the art shim sham with a waggle of mark making to blank surface is uniquely satisfying each and every time.

Steve Prescott
1) Though I'd been making art since as far back as I can recall and further, I never put 100% down on my path to being an artist until I saw "ALIENS" in seventh grade. It wasn't completely conscious, but I felt an emotional creative explosion in my geeky/artist spirit that vanquished any thoughts of having a career other than in creative arts.

2) I guess it's a good sign that I am really struggling to come up with an answer for this. Oh OK - even though I prefer solitude when I work, there are times that I wouldn't mind a little more "real" social interaction amidst the long hours, days, weeks when deadlines pile up. Also, jobs that offer minimal/no creative freedom (these are few though).

3) On the other hand, with this question, it's too difficult to pick just one thing! It's a very satisfying and fun job - I can count on one hand how many times in my life that I have dreaded "going to work" (so to speak). How many people can say that?

That is all for today's group, see you back here on Friday (Part 3) for all the rest! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact
me regarding my availability head over to my website:


  1. Hey Christopher! Thanks for putting this together - it really is awesome to see everyone's responses. I've featured your post on my blog at Keep up the great work!

  2. You are very welcome, and thanks so much for reposting this! Very appreciated! Glad to hear you have enjoyed it so much.

    One question, could you not have used a piece of my work that was a little more recent and not 2 years old? :P

  3. Oh, haha sorry. I can replace it if you want.:) I tried linking to some images on your site, but blogger wasn't having it.

  4. :) Yeah, it's not a deal breaker, but I would not stop you if you felt like changing it... that isn't the best example of my work! :D

  5. Already changed, sir.:) Is the purple worm drawing alright?

  6. This series is amazing, Christopher! Really enjoying it while up late painting/feeding the new baby.

  7. Thanks, Gledon! Very nice to to hear you are enjoying these posts. They turned out much better then I could hope for :D