When I was growing up, turtles were one of my favorite animals. I remember I had a number of turtle figurines, and even had a turtle jewelry box. But of all the different species of turtle out there, my absolute favorite was the sea turtle. I thought they looked like such elegant creatures.
The other day I decided to piece together my first sea turtle collage, and as I was working on it, I remembered all those years that I was in awe of this creature. I think I should definitely tackle this subject matter again in the future.
“Mark and Sophie” is a portrait that I was commissioned to make for the wife of a former boss of mine – she wanted to give it to her husband for their anniversary.
It’s been a while since I’ve made a portrait collage, so this piece was definitely a bit of a struggle for me. Usually my collages are relatively flat when you look at the surface – I don’t usually use that many layers. However, for this piece, there are definitely sections where I built up the layers more so than others.
Here’s the sketch that this piece started off with:
You can see that it looks a lot different than the final piece. Sometimes my sketches don’t exactly look the way I want the final product to look, but they do give me an idea of how to block out the entire composition.
Anyway, although this piece was a struggle, eventually all the pieces fell into place. Just goes to show that if you keep at it with something, eventually you can accomplish your goal.
The other day I had a chance to finally finish a new collage – this fox portrait. I also was able to make another time lapse video, which was a lot of fun to put together:
What’s actually a little amusing is that for the previous time lapse videos I made, I used to sit underneath a tripod that held the video camera, trying with all my might not to bump into it while working on the collage. With this one, I realized I can just film the whole process upside down, then flip it when I edit the video. That way I’m free of working under a tripod. In the future, I’d also like to work on using better lighting for these to make it easier to see my process.
People often think I’m a full-time visual artist, although I’m actually a full-time web developer who makes artwork part-time. I still consider myself a full-time artist in a sense, since my day job involves the art of developing and building applications and websites. Instead of using scissors and paper for my tools, I’m using different pieces of code, and thus creating what you could almost call a digital collage. Regardless of what tools I’m using, I’m still able to satisfy that inherent drive I have to make things. I am able to live the creative life full-time – whether it’s code I’m writing or collages I’m constructing.
I like to tell people that I’m a code artist by day, and a fine artist by night. And I like how these two worlds of mine inspire each other. I first got started with working on websites because of my artwork. Back in college when I was studying painting, I took a class where one of our projects was to create an online portfolio. The first version of my site was pretty terrible, but I was so proud that I made a functional website all on my own. I managed to teach myself enough about coding to create and deploy a website – and that’s what got me hooked with web development.
Over the years, I’ve continued to grow as a developer. The direction of my art career often inspires changes on my portfolio site, such as updating the overall layout or adding an online store. And sometimes the coding I do for my art website inspires the coding I do for my day job. Other times I’ll make something at work that inspires the direction of my portfolio site.
As a web developer, I’m able to tackle problems with my web presence as a fine artist and come up with creative solutions. When my site was fairly new, I noticed that I kept hearing from students and teachers who wanted to learn more about my work. So I came up with the idea to make things easier for them by developing an education section for my website. The section includes information about my process, as well as online lesson plans to help teachers teach my technique in class. As a result of launching this section, I started hearing from more and more classes around the world.
When people hear that I’m a full-time web developer, they often ask if I want to some day become a full-time visual artist. I always answer “no,” because I enjoy the variety in my work. I like how I’m able to live the creative life with two fields that inspire my work in both areas. I’m happy that I’m able to challenge myself creatively in a number of ways, and because of that, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Animals are one of my favorite subjects to tackle when it comes to piecing together my collages. Here’s a piece where I was commissioned to collage a dog that has two different color eyes. I’m thinking my next couple of collages will involve some more wildlife.
In other news, I’m planning to get started with exploring a couple different mediums. As much as I enjoy making collages, it’s always good to change things up every once in a while.
I’ve been told that as a kid, I used to draw an abnormal amount. I’d spend hours with coloring books or craft projects, like making my own paper dolls. When art stopped being a hobby for me and became a part of my daily routine, I noticed a pattern – some people shot down my dreams of becoming a professional artist almost immediately.
When I was graduating from high school, and was getting asked the whole “what’s your plan” question, I remember talking about my creative interests. And I remember hearing a few people tell me sarcastically, “good luck trying to make a living at that.”
And this pattern continued. Later on I decided to pick up art as a second major in college, and started exhibiting my work in galleries after I graduated. Even then I remember hearing the phrase, “it’s difficult making a living as an artist.” Or sometimes, “not many artists can make it big.” And although I had a wonderful support network of friends and family who encouraged my artistic endeavors, I kept having run-ins with people who were trying to dissuade me from the creative life.
So why do so many people feel the need to discourage the artistic lifestyle? Is being an artist really as tough as some people say it is?
Well, being an artist is difficult and so are a lot of other careers. As an artist, you’re essentially running your own business, and being an entrepreneur is a lot of work. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible and that there aren’t people out there who live and work as full-time artists.
For whatever reason, our society likes to feed the idea that art isn’t important, that it’s valued less than math or science. Society tells us this in a variety of ways – let it be the starving artist stereotype or how funding for the arts is usually one of the first things gutted whenever money gets tight. Cultivating this type of thinking gives birth to art naysayers. Or should I call them art un-enthusiasts?
So the next time someone tries to discourage you from your artistic dreams and goals, just remember, you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it. If it’s your dream and passion, then you’ll make it happen. When faced with setbacks and failure, you should never give up – you should pivot or rethink your approach, but never give up. Success happens when you persist. As for all the naysayers you run into along the way? I say you use them for motivation to work even harder, so that you can one day prove them all wrong.
I get asked this question a lot, and every time I hear it, I’m always surprised it was ever asked in the first place.
“I’m an artist because I don’t have a choice.”
I guess it’s hard for non-artists to understand what I mean, and to understand what fuels me to live the creative life. I’m an artist because I need to be one – I have this inherent drive to make things. It pulses through my veins, and makes me fiercely resistant to the thought of ever giving up the artist title.
When you’ve been making art every week of your life for years, the process of art making gets ingrained in your mind. What may have started as a hobby, or something that was “just for fun,” blossoms into something you can’t live without. It becomes a habit through repetition, and when you finally go without it for a few days, you feel like something is missing from your life – the pangs of art withdrawal. It’s moments like those when I realize I can’t live without being an artist in one form or another. Being an artist is what gives me purpose in life.
Art has also been one of the few constants in my life. Even when times have been tough, like grieving the loss of a loved one or coping with the pain of a broken heart, art has been around for me. During those times, art has not only been a creative outlet, but also a form of therapy that helps me through the days when it’s difficult to stay afloat. I guess you could say that when life gets messy, making artwork is one of the few things that makes sense amid the chaos.
When I was growing up, art had a major role in my life, which is why it makes complete sense that it still does. As a kid, I took art classes at local galleries and whenever it was possible at school. I remember back in high school, it didn’t matter how stressed out I was from my other classes, because I could always count on feeling a great sense of relief when I went to art class. I could momentarily forget all my other worries as I focused on drawing or painting.
Although I went to college for creative writing, I quickly realized that visual art needed to have an active role in my life every year, so I picked up a second major in painting. It was at that time that I realized something – that no matter what criticism I received for my visual art, I was always able to bounce back. Rejection is a pretty tough thing to overcome when it comes to an artist’s work, simply because we are putting ourselves out there when we share our art. And even during the worst critiques, when I felt incredibly sad and didn’t know if I should continue making artwork at all, I’d find myself painting in my room late at night and realize it was meant to be.
As an artist, you would think rejection is something I get used to since it happens often enough in an artist’s career. Although for whatever reason, whenever a gallery has rejected my work, I still find myself wondering if there is any point in continuing to make art. I’m glad that I’ve never given up entirely because of the opinion of a handful of people. No matter what, I’m still drawn to creating something, let it be a collage, drawing, or painting.
So whenever I’m asked why I’m an artist, all I can think is it’s not something I choose to do – it’s something I have to do. I’m an artist because making artwork is what drives me through each day.
After relaunching my portfolio site, I’ve finally had some time to make some new artwork. This is the first eagle portrait I’ve ever done, and it was interesting tackling an animal portrait after spending so many weeks immersed in coding websites and not making artwork.
You may have noticed that over the past few weeks my website has gone through quite a few changes. I redesigned the overall look and feel, and then started adding a few improvements here and there. One of the big improvements of the new site is the new online store experience. Previously I used Etsy to sell my smaller, original collages. Now you can purchase collages of all sizes directly from my site.
This is a commission that I completed for an author who lives in California. She wrote a story about a collage artist in the DC area, and she thought it was only fitting to hire me to make a collage inspired by a description from the book. This piece was inspired by a passage that described a work of art created by the fictional artist – a box of memories with light swirling from it. I definitely had a lot of fun creating this piece, especially since it was a little different from what I normally make.