I've been drawing my whole life, but working professionally at it for about fifteen years. My style is best categorized as Low Brow Illustration or Pop Surrealism, and is influenced primarily by cartoons, comic books, tattoos, and graffiti.
As a freelance artist, I primarily make my income from art festivals, conventions, commissions, exhibits, and drawing classes. At some point my wife and I hope to open up a gallery space of our own. My typical day consists of me waking up around nine, drinking some coffee, feeding the cat, then drawing for five or six hours until my wife gets home.
As far as artistic influences, there are hundreds of artists that I look up to and admire. I try not to emulate any one artist too closely for fear of becoming derivative, but you can definitely see a variety of influences in my work. Pretty much anything I read, listen to, talk about, or see feeds itself into my work. As I said earlier, I grew up watching a lot cartoons and reading a lot of comic books. I learned to draw by watching the Simpsons. My life changed when I first discovered Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library. Other influences include, but are not limited to: Ralph Steadman, Salvador Dali, McBess, Mark Ryden, Audrey Kawasaki, James Jean, Chiara Bautista, and Van Gogh. I also think Utah has a great local art scene. Some of my favorites right now are Isaac Hastings, Travis Bone, David Marshal Haben, Heather Mahler, and Sri Whipple (but that's just the start of a very long list).
The biggest question I get asked by emerging artists is how I got to be where I am now. (I know it's the question I always asked when I was an emerging artist.) But it's the wrong question to be asking. The truth is there no secret to success, there's only hard work and persistence.
The advent of social media has altered the way we think about art. On the one hand it's democratized the process of creation and consumption. Artists no longer need advocates to connect them to collectors. Instead an artist can go directly to the people with whom their work resonates, and can begin building a career without having to "break in" to the industry. On the other hand, we've come to quantify the value of art in likes and followers. As my friend Squid Vishuss put it, "Being Instagram famous is like being monopoly money rich." When an emerging artist asks me how they become successful, what they're usually asking is how they can get ten thousand Facebook followers. But that's an impoverished way to evaluate art. No matter how many Facebook or Instagram followers you might have, there's always going to be another artist with more, and if that's the way you measure the value of your work, you're never going to be satisfied.
I wonder sometimes what would have happened to Van Gogh's work if he would have been working in the age of social media. Would he have been happier? Would he have created the same body of work? Would his work have the same lasting power and emotional depth?
A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:
“If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.”
The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?”
Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then?” asked the student.
“Thirty years,” replied the Master.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
I make art because I need art. For me, art is catharsis. I have bipolar disorder and drawing helps me keep balanced. I do feel lucky that I'm able to make a living doing something that I love, but the minute I start equating my work with financial or commercial success, I start to lose my purpose for creating.
For me, success in art is being able to effectively communicate on paper something I genuinely feel or see in my mind's eye. In my work I strive for vulnerability, honesty, and technical proficiency. Once the piece is down on paper, the work has to speak for itself. One of the big problems I've always had with conceptual art for example, is that I feel like it needs an artificial narrative to compensate for it's lack of craftsmanship. So much of it just feels like the Emperor's New Clothes to me. I don't need for my work to be loved by everyone, and not every viewer needs to interpret an image the same way, but for me, in order for a piece to be successful, I need to be able to see myself in it. Each piece I make is a psychological self-portrait. My body of work is an encrypted journal. Whether or not it continues to be commercially successful, I hope to always make work that satisfies me emotionally.