Thank you so much for talking to us! Let’s start with: What it is that you do?
I find myself most often doing animations, illustrations and game development. It took me a long time to figure out how those things worked together, but they magically do! I do a lot of two dimensional sprites as assets for video games. The animations are animated gifs and they range from really detailed Photoshop paintings to line based corporate identity and branding projects. The projects I like to do are making abstract emotions concrete through art. I haven’t done that in a long time. But looking back through my sketchbooks, if I had a feeling, I didn’t know how to put words to it — even though I read a lot, words didn’t seem to do things justice — so I would draw distorted people and weird shapes that expressed what was going on in my mind. I shaded and colored them in pen so I couldn’t erase and it wouldn’t fade over time. That’s a big thing for me. Pencil doesn’t work in sketchbooks.
I use art to think and figure out the world.
It sounds like you work a lot digitally right now — what sorts of tools do you use?
I usually sketch things out on paper — and by that I mean a napkin or something random — and then I look at it. I take things into Illustrator. I clean up the lines and do the vector work. If I have shading or textures to do, I do that in Photoshop. The whole Adobe workflow is so seamless. I can tweak one thing and further down the line all the changes are reflected. I’ve found myself evolved into this very clean but textured style. The same thing holds true for my work in games — I like doing the low poly look with highly textured details.
Whenever I go to a bookstore, I only go to the scifi/fantasy section. And I’ve never been like “I’m totally a fan of this stuff!” but that’s all that my bookshelf is. I mean, it started off very young — all the magical mystical books I read as a kid. Books came first, because we were not allowed to play video games in the house. I played tetris on the original gameboy, and then pokemon came along and the games got smaller and the consoles got smaller, so we could play pokemon in our room — bought wit birthday money — and no one would know. But books were always allowed. I don’t remember my first fantasy novel — but I always had these big illustrated Russian children’s books with gorgeous illustrations and they were about: “the princess with the bird transforms and she can save it if he goes to the sun…” I made that up. But. They were gorgeous drawings. So for me, the fantasy world is really rich. Harry Potter was the perfect bridge — the illustrations were gorgeous and the writing was hilarious the way she [Rowling] expresses everything — Then there’s the Ender series — and things are weird with that — but the stories are really good.
I read all the Dune books out of order over the years and I think that works, because that’s kind of the premise of the whole series: “I know everything at once and not at all.” Neil Gaiman is also a favorite. There is one fantasy author in particular that really brought the fantasy world to me in a tangible way. That was Elizabeth Hayden. She had this Rhapsody book series. My little sister got it for me on a whim, she was like “Here, they didn’t have the book I wanted to get you but this was one sale.” And I read it and I was like “oh my
gosh.” There is some really weird stuff in this, but the lady was really cool. It was this strong female lead from a female author and I guess at the time it was sort of surprising to read something that wasn’t a big sweeping dude thing. I read it six times. Or more. The lady is an herbalist and musician and everything she does is tied to her magic and it made me realize that everything I do could be tied to my creativity. That sort of brought my fantasy into everyday life. Science fiction I always associate with space and desolation. Barren landscapes. Fantasy is a chance to connect with other people. It’s the pretty things and we make a world and we can live in it. Whereas the science fiction is colder. It’s more abstract: “These are my feelings and this is how I have to confront them.” It’s a cleaner feel.
That’s fascinating! So these are some of your formative geek series and authors. What do you engage with now? Are you into any of the bigger franchises?
I don’t really know. I watch whatever is on Netflix right now. I feel like they are feeding me whatever I should to geek out about. Whenever I see Lord of the Rings stuff I have to stop and stare at it. But… Gravity Falls. I don’t laugh at cartoons, and I laughed at that. Netflix is feeding me anime right now.
Do you have any recent music or podcasts or comics or whatever that more people should know about?
Well. Elizabeth Hayden. I love her as an author. I always look for her new books. I like “Welcome to Nightvale” and “Radio Lab”. I’ve started looking at tumblr to find artists I like or that have a similar style. I always listen to the “Back to Work” podcast. Which is a productivity podcast some designers got me into. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books about figuring out what to do with your life and bringing the creativity. I’m embracing this “You can do it!” philosophy.
Do you have a routine that you keep to as a working artist?
I do. It changes when I’m busy. So. I wake up around 10am. And I make a pot of coffee — French press, so I grind the beans, put it in the press, etc… — and I sit and I look out the window and I journal. I find that if I don’t do that, I end up with a lot of thoughts and feelings effecting what I’m doing throughout the day. So I start with that. Then I go to the study and start sketching or drawing or pick up where I was the day before. When I’m in that room, I’m in a time bubble. So I have to set alarms to eat and go grocery shopping and stuff like that. That’s helpful — because my boyfriend has the same things going on. So we’ll be like “We’ve been working for ten hours. We have to stop and go for a walk. Even though it’s 2am. Let’s go.” I typically make phone calls throughout the day. Usually around 4pm. I’ll call people, see how they are doing and check in. Grocery shopping is a big event. Come home, continue to work, maybe play a game or watch a movie on Netflix — I make homemade popcorn for movie nights. Bedtime is typically 5am.
Hopping back to your earlier question: Guild Wars. One of those MMOs. I’ve never played an MMO, because I know how my personality is… I know. So I didn’t play. But. I had a chance to work remotely for three months and I wondered “How are we going to stay connected?” and my boyfriend offered, “How about we play this free MMO and we can visit each other in our world?” And then I leveled up way too fast and I didn’t end up going away and I surpassed him with like… four characters. And I haven’t done any of the things people do. I’m just like: I’m going to play a different race and figure out what their story is about. It’s fun and a time sink. I’m a completionist and perfectionist, so I’m going after those achievements. It’s the same with Skyrim. The main story I haven’t played, but I’m level 70.
Are there any things you get asked a lot or would like people to know about as a working artist?
A lot of people ask “how do you make a living?” And there’s really no answer to that. Ever since I was a kid, I believed I was going to be an artist, and I didn’t know how it was going to happen. And then I worked in the corporate world for a long time and realized I couldn’t do it. I was stifled. But for anyone in the creative fields, the answer is “charge what you’re worth.” Know what your worth, know what you can do and what you can bring to the table. And that’s a journey. Figuring out “Animator, illustrator, game designer,” took seven years. Because I like a lot of stuff. Know what you are worth and respect that. I have to remember that a lot.
Take projects that interest you. Yes, you need the projects that pay the bills, and I’m doing a lot of those right now, but the end goal is that in a few months I can focus on a my own projects. I just have to do the footwork now. And that makes it easier and lightens everything considerably.
Drawing was just something I always did. And it was one of those things that I really enjoyed and people would say “You’re really good.” I could do math and science and whatnot, but drawing had that “I’m losing hours” quality. Something else that got me into art is that it’s accessible. I always carry around sketchbooks and journals. If I don’t know what’s going on, I draw it out. A trick I’ve learned is always do it in pen and get a cheap water color set — it’ll always look cool when you color it in a little bit.
It’s so true. Thank you so much for talking to us!
Thank you for having me!