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?
Not sure I have anything to really say that will add to these posts, they really speak for themselves. I will say I tried my best to get as diverse a group as I could to see if the experiences of working artist changed depending on specialty, local, experience level, etc. It is nice to know that there is a large group of people all dealing with the same issues, enjoying the same experiences and share a common background! Enough from me, let get on with the show...
1) I didn't really have one specific event really. Kind of the culmination of the age of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Gatchaman, Speed Racer. GI Joes first coming out and reading comics when I could get them (still only 35 Cents!). I sort of fell in to drawing all the time, even though I failed art (hated drawing fruit, so I drew faces on the apples, oranges and pears...and the teacher hated that sort of thing.)
2) I hate having to justify my work as...MY WORK. Yes, this is what I do for a living. My mother in law doesn't think highly of it and says I should go out and get a real job. Even my own parents think it's weird to draw dragons, warriors, monsters and superheroes as a job.
3) I love being able to look at books my work is in and say "Hey! I did that! Look inside the cover, yeah, that's me." A paycheck is nice and all, but frankly they tend to be pretty small, irregularly timed (opposed to a weekly/ bi-weekly paycheck). I'm not doing this for the money really. I do it because I need to express myself in some creative manner, and this works best for me.
1) After watching the original King Kong as a young kid.. with my eyes wide watching a lost world unfold where tribes, skull-shaped mountains existed.. seeing dinosaurs, giant snakes and a huge gorilla living and fighting on such an epic scale was truly inspiring to me.
That pretty much was the start for my over active imagination.
2) Taxes, paperwork.. ugh, please
3) As an illustrator achieving something for myself and my clients that they and I are proud of... and getting paid ;)
1) My first and biggest influence was something of a 2-parter. I seemed to discover both comic books and super hero cartoons about the same time - the late-60s. The comic books illustrated by Gil Kane (Green Lantern & The Atom), and the Hanna Barbara series, 'Jonny Quest', 'The Herculoids', and 'Space Ghost' were all magic to me. When my mom explained that actual people did these amazing things, and that it was their jobs, all I knew was that I wanted to do it, too!
2) My least favorite part about what I do is shopping my work around to new art directors.
3) My most favorite part about what I do is meeting the people who have found my work exciting in some way. Talking to such people is truly gratifying. It gives my work and efforts a deeper meaning.
1) When I was in third grade I traced Chris Van Allsburg's cover of "James and the Giant Peach." That was probably the very first thing, though I wasn't serious about that sentiment until much later. It wasn't until mid senior year of high school that I realized that what I loved actually could be my profession, for realz.
2) At the risk of sounding lazy, what I like least about being an artist is the time and effort that it takes away from everything else. But of course, when I say time, I mean all of it. Art requires a lot of alone time for thinking, developing ideas, getting things right. I'm a social person, I love to learn new things about anything, and I love to be outside on a beautiful day, who doesn't? But I usually have to seclude myself indoors to make anything good. I also wish I had the time to research and invent better solar panels and other solutions to global problems, but art just leaves no time for that sort of thing.
3) What I like most has to be all the art I see. Other people's work is continuously amazing and inspirational. There is so much art that I know I would not have experienced if I wasn't in the business, looking all the time.
It took me a while to separate this from my motives. The idea that my work could be beneficial in either an individuals life or in society as whole is quite compelling, but more of a 'why' than an 'what.' Though I do very much 'like' Joseph Campbell's idea that the artist is the contemporary shaman who shapes and tells the ever-evolving myths of the current times.
1) During middle school, a friend of mine and I were working on making our own role playing game. Having viewed another friends 2nd ed. D&D Monster Manual I was super jazzed by all the great art... We needed a monster manual of our own, not to mention maps, and player character portraits! It just so happened that I was the only kid that could hold a pencil, with out falling out of my chair. With that said I don't know if I ever independently thought, "I want to be an artist", I have been drawing as long as I could hold a crayon, and I've read a shit-ton of Fantasy and Scifi, which always has good cover art. When an art college gave a demonstration at my high school it planted the seed that I might be able to do this thing I loved every day and all day.
2) That I can't stop time, I need more time! When working an almost-full-time job, keeping relationships good with the family, and eating and sleeping every now and again, I got no time! Please feel free to submit your excess time to the Give Nick a Seconds Free Time Fund. Seriously though my own limitations, and when I feel that I have to haggle price with the art director, before he just uses 24hour-illustration.com. My best experience with an art director was my one pro-bono job.
3) Man, what is there not to like. The actual act of creating though is probably the best part. From the idea generating to the sketching, the first agonizing moments I paint over the sketch through the heart wrenching moments when I have run out of time and need to submit the final. I can say that I am a recovering addict of the Zen moment that one may get into during an immersive part of the process, and that the interactive problem solving with the art director is a bunch-o-fun too.
1) a Thomas Cole painting in the Houston museum of art
2) can't think of a least
3) making worlds were nothing existed before
1) I basically decided to pursue art professionally in grade 11 in high school. I was always very committed to it and loved drawing and painting all through my youth. It was just natural to go to art school and continue this passion because I had no interest to do anything else. There was no hesitation or concern about "making a living", as I pursued a Visual Communications degree, where one could find different kinds of work. My first job out of college was with video game startup BioWare in 1996, and getting into a company that made fantasy games allowed me to enter this exciting field working full-time doing a variety of art tasks.
2) I think the low wages and difficult market conditions are the worst things about this field. These conditions weed out anyone who doesn't have the skills, work-ethic or professionalism to apply themselves wholly to meet these daunting challenges. In addition, many passionate people are kept from entering the freelance realm due to family and financial constraints.
3) The best thing about being a fantasy artist is being one of the few who manage to surmount the conditions above to get the spotlight and take part in the wonderful community of artists that populate this field.
1) Watching cartoon adventure shows when I was a kid. I loved Robo-tech, Thundercats and He-man just to name a few. Star Wars was a big influence too. My Father took my brother and I to see Return of the Jedi in the early 80's. I remember rushing home and trying to draw every scene I could remember from the movie. The one scene that stuck out in my head that I remember drawing was the Skiff and Boba Fett scene. I remember getting really anal about Luke's Lightsaber! Awesome!
2) Not getting paid shortly after completing a job, if i had to say anything.
3) Getting to know other artists with amazing talent!
1) It was more gradual than that for me. I always loved to draw, but didn't really consider it a career until I went to school for computer science, spent years programming/designing, and then only about half way into an art degree. I then quit my job and went back to art school full time, and haven't looked back. I remember the first time I drew. My dad is a pediatrician, and he used to take me to work (I assume this was around the time my mom was back in school getting her Masters). He had stacks and stacks of pens and sticky pads from pharma salesmen trying to get him to prescribe their product. So he'd sit me down and I would just draw and draw all day (and drink ginger ale and chicken soup from a vending machine). After that, my older half-brother showed me his comic books and I got to drawing some more. I remember him asking me to draw the best thing I could draw. I was getting really good at this one parrot, so I drew that. He said, "Is that the best you can do?" My first crit! I kept working on that parrot, well past the point where I knew if it was getting better or worse. That was the first time I was really challenged to make anything better. That was the first time I knew I wanted to be able to make it better. When I'm at the end of a painting, I still see his face and hear, "Is that the best you can do?" and I usually keep going.
2) All the parties and friends. It's so tiring having this much fun! I kid. It has not been an easy road. There have been times when I really wondered if I was going to pay the bills that month, and times it put stress on my personal life, and times when I wondered if I should just go back to computer work. I know I will always be working towards goals I may not ever feel like I've achieved. At the same time, while I like that the least, I also like it the best. Those are the times I felt challenged, and the times when I experienced the most growth both personally and in my work.
3) All the parties and friends.
1) When I realized as a kid that some folks actually get paid to draw and paint for a living, I was hooked. My mom started taking me to Saturday art classes when I was about 9 or 10 after my teachers mentioned to her that I spent most of my school time drawing.
2) The whole feast/famine cycle. Currently I'm in a feast period, but last year was horrible.
3) The ability to create worlds and tell stories is like crack. I don't know if I could ever give it up. People talk about taking it easy later in life, but I hope I never retire. I'll probably die of old age with a pencil or brush in my hand.
1) I knew I wanted to be an artist when I realized I couldn't stop drawing or painting. I was hiding doodles from my boss at a reception job, and knew it was time to pursue my real passion - painting and tattooing.
2) I dislike the uncertain income - if I don't have demand for my work, I don't get paid. I suppose I dislike having to put so much effort into the promotion of the art instead of actually making the art.
3) I love expressing emotions and ideas in a way that transcends words, I like interpreting others' ideas and creating something unique with them. I like the fluid nature of this career. So as much as I dislike the uncertainty, I actually love it, too. Two sides of the same coin. :)
1) My dad is a painter, and he used to draw with me all the time when I was a little kid. I would say aspiring to be like my dad is what made me want to be an artist.
2) My least favorite part about being an artist is that there are only 24 hours in a day, and I can't be painting for all of them.
3) My favorite part is the wave of euphoria I get from finishing a new piece. Nothing in life can top that feeling.
1) When I was little my older brother doodled a lot but he'd never draw anything for me. So eventually I just started trying to do it myself rather than asking him to draw for me.
2) I don't like the business side. If a client won't tell me their budget it pains me severely to have to quote them a rate. Then there's contract stuff, invoicing and chasing down payments.
3) I enjoy figuring out how to approach a piece. What's the best composition/angle/lighting/mood for a particular brief? Am I going to shoot reference, sculpt reference, paint traditionally or use photoshop?
Craig J Spearinng
1) Hot groupies and huge piles of cash. In 5th grade a friend of mine was drawing, and the prettiest girl in school sashayed by in her fuzzy sweater and leg warmers. She looked down at the drawing and said: "cool dragon". Later he sold the drawing for a whopping $20, a gold mine at that age. So, I abandoned my nascent dreams of becoming a rock star, putting all my energies into being an illustrator instead. Later I learned this line of work does not, in fact, attract hot groupies or generate millions. By the time that realization hit I was already addicted to drawing, and missed the opportunity to be in a rock band.
2) Contracts, invoices, tax forms, non-disclosure agreements, endless self promotion, and any other part of the job that doesn't have to do with making images. It would be wonderful to have an assistant take care of the paperwork so I could just focus on the illustrations. But, finding a gorgeous business savvy assistant who's willing to wear a gold Princess Leia bikini, listen to the TRON:Legacy soundtrack on repeat all day, and work for next to nothing is proving very difficult to find. So, I'm stuck with doing the paperwork myself.
3) The variety. There aren't many careers where one gets to make demons, elves, zombies, underwater creatures, combat scenes, steampunk robots, vampires, and arcane devices (to name just a few). It's like being a kid again, everyday different than the last, everyday filled with strange new worlds. A publisher recently asked me to do an illustration of someone's head exploding, and they specifically requested it be "bloody and gross". Seriously, aside from being a wealthy musician, it's one of the coolest jobs in the world. Though, it would be a lot better with groupies and huge piles of cash.
1) I loved to draw, paint, make stuff etc.. ever since I was very young. I don't remember the first thing, just that I always felt happiest when I was being creative. The rest, as they say, is history!
2) Working alone
3) Being my own boss and earning my living doing something that I enjoy
1) I always drew. I liked drawing, but I lived in a small Hungarian village, and there weren’t any opportunities to do it for money. I tried anything else: I worked for a toy-packaging factory (it was funny but not so well-paid) and I worked for a hospital on the traumatology (it was horrible and not so well-paid). Then I didn’t have any job, and one of my friends said one day: “there is an RPG publisher, why don’t you try this?” I did some portfolio drawings, travelled to Budapest, and got my first illustration job. It was in 1997, I love it for the first time, and I've been a full-time graphic artist since then.
2) I hate the paperwork and the bureaucracy. The tight deadlines, the sleepless nights, the stress. The insecurity, the constant "fight" for work. The frustrating artwork by great artists.
3) The freedom, the opportunity to improve, the interesting orders, and the diversity. And yes, the frustrating artwork by great artists :)
1) The first time I remember actually enjoying making art, I was six, and I was doodling all over a huge piece of paper with a friend. I drew a lot of things, but the only image that I can recall today, 17.5 years later, is a green chameleon with a spiky orange brain. Yes, a spiky orange brain. I dunno. Prior to that, drawing was a chore. I had a fantastic imagination as a young child, but I just didn't like drawing. I'd draw if I had to, like for an activity at school, but I didn't enjoy it. This was the first occasion that made me realize that drawing could be fun. From then on, I drew daily. All though my school years I was known as one of the "drawing guys." All little kids draw, but most stop at a certain point when they get older. I never stopped. That was the first time I realized that I actually liked drawing. The first time I specifically thought "I want to be an artist" is harder to pinpoint. The closest I can pinpoint is the day I found a certain book in Barnes & Nobles. That book was "The Art of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi." It was that book that made me realize that, not only did I want to be an artist for a living, I wanted to be a concept artist.
2) There are two things that I like least about being an artist. I hate that feeling when I'm working on a painting that just...isn't...working! When I've erased and repainted an area half a dozen times, or when I was perhaps too impatient to start rendering and neglected drawing or composition issues. I guess that keeps me honest, though, reminding me that if I don't start a picture on a good foundation, it won't work, and it won't be fun.
The second thing I like least about being an artist is the uncertainty of making a living at it. It's easy to feel insecure about the viability of my chosen career path. I guess the only thing I can do is keep working on improving myself, nurturing my relationships with the clients I already have, and constantly keep my eye open for opportunities.
3) What I like most about being an artist is being able to draw what I imagine. When I drew as a kid, I never gave a crap about landscapes, still lives, or old master paintings; I cared about monsters and dinosaurs and robots. As I've grown and learned I've of course learned to appreciate and enjoy all kinds of art, but my heart is still in imaginative work. I love being able to take my imagined worlds and characters and put them on a page. That's the whole reason I do this, really.
Cyril van der Haegen
1) I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I've always drawn when I was a kid. Never stopped.
2) As a freelance, the fact that money isn't constant or assured. Some months are dry, some are ok, but it's hard not to have a guaranteed paycheck . Recognition is also a bit random: depends on the AD and whatever style is popular at the moment. You will have to do jobs you don't like to pay the rent, on occasion.
3) as a freelance, the fact that I have no boss, that you can make up your own hours, that you do what you love. Inspiration is omnipresent and if used successfully, very rewarding.
4) if you work as an artist in a game company, you do get the paycheck, so money is secured, but you got bosses and you never really ever develop YOUR art: it's more a vision of many people, which also means it gets filtered through a lot of different views (lowest common denominator). It can be a good experience, though, if the company's good and mature. If not...a waste of time.
1) I think that was in my childhood days, during the winter I was always drawing pictures of flowers and laughing animals and sunshine and I pinned them to the windows, facing outside. I wanted to summon spring with them and eventually it worked =P I was proud my artwork was convincing and I sticked with drawing ever since. Later on I became interested in fantasy and roleplaying and I always remember flipping through the core books and looking at the illustrations, thinking that those artists who did the fantastic pictures are just human as myself, so there must be a chance for me too...
2) To be honest, I don't know about anything I would change in my artist life. I don't like wrist pain, though. And short deadlines!
3) That I have the job I always dreamed of and that I even made a living out of it. Every day is filled with fantastic worlds, colours and stories. Can you ask for more?
1) I've drawn all my life ...I came from a little backwater school in a little backwater town. I didn't even know such a career existed until I took a creativity test my first year of college(I was a business major for one day). The Art teacher(there was only one in this 2 yr school) brow beat me into switching majors. He opened my eyes and thats when I chose to be an artist.
2) The ego centricity that the field produces and the need for external validation.
3) Working-not for someone- but working in the moment. Watching things happen on the board as you do it and that occasional surprise when the parts conspire to produce something that you don't entirely feel responsible for. Does that make sense?
1) I don't think there was a specific moment or Epiphany that prompted me to become an artist. However, my father is an artist so I grew up around it, but I was always inspired by comic books. Around the time I discovered Brom and started looking at comics for the art was when I became more serious about making it a career. The subject matter attached to dark fantasy is what drew me in.
2) This response is a double-edged sword. The thing I like least is making my own schedule. Right now I only really do personal work and it can be very difficult to continue on with a project, or even start an idea if YOU are the "client" that can let yourself off the hook. It takes alot of discipline, and I will admit, discipline is hard to master. Again this goes both ways, making your own schedule, or rather not adhering to someone else's is great and can be a relief from daily monotony. Of course you are on somebody else's time with projects, and are adhering in the general sense of their deadline but you have the freedom in the time between.
3) The perspective. It may sound cliche' but I think, not only having the interests towards art but the ability to execute ideas visually is something that I find alot of people are afraid to do. This perspective allows for a type of freedom. The knowledge that we can find inspiration in movies, video games, nature,our peers artwork or anything really and possibly create something from that lends to that freedom.
1) I think the first time I was aware of artists, and that it was a real job, was seeing the Elmore covers for D&D. I couldn't have been more than 9 or 10. That was the beginning of remembering artist's names, recognizing an artist's work by their style, and understanding that art wasn't just stuff in museums and galleries, but could be really cool. (A later appreciation of art in museums and galleries developed of course, but it was fantasy that opened that door for me).
2) Needing to treat it as a business. I don't mind a lot of aspects of that, but when money starts to be a consideration on which projects I can take and how long I can reasonably spend on a project, it does start to lose some of it's magic. Knowing some publishers take a REALLY long time to pay, puts a damper on your ability to keep doing what you love too.
3) That's tough, because there is a LOT to love. I love getting to work (or is that play?) in these cool universes and stories. I love hearing feedback from fans and upcoming art students when they enjoy something I've done. I love the other artists that work in this field. They have a similar passion, and I've found 99% of them are very giving of advice, encouragement, and they honestly love to see each other do well. Seemingly, we are all each other's biggest fans, and we're all geeking out at the same stuff. I think everyone involved in this field is here because they are passionate about it (you couldn't get here if you weren't), and that's a pretty magical thing.
1) Easy. Star Wars. Lucas and ILM fueled the imagination for decades.
2) The combination of perfectionism and under paid-ism is a doozy.
3) Its a tie between PJ's being my work pants and not having to deal with commuting to an office. There's the whole fulfillment of artistic expression and stuff, but mostly its spending my days in clothes with drawstrings.
1) The art of Jim Lee in uncanny x-men I believe was the first time I can remember I wanted to be an artist. I drew a lot before that moment, but there was never a dream of being an illustrator. My goal was to pencil for comic books and Jim Lee was my idol.
2) Least thing I like? That would be that the job consumes much of my time. Being a freelance artist your time is valuable. As a result personal paintings are few and far between.
3) What do I like most? Being able to capture a moment in time in an imaginary world. I suppose thats what drew me to it as a kid. A pencil and paper could always take me to a better place. It was my tree house.
And so, we wave farewell to our wild artists as they charge into the horizon. A HUGE thanks to each and everyone of you that took the time to answer my questions and be a part of this, I could not have done this without you!
This wraps up an exciting week on the blog, be sure to make it back here on Monday for something new! Until then...
For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com