I am frequently asked the question. "Wow! You draw really good. When did you start drawing?" To which I reply "I have always drawn." For World Drawing Day I figured this is a great chance to answer that question. This is a brief story of how I got to where I am today (artistically). The artwork is from a gallery show I did in 2006 about how I became an artist and one-page comics. For directions on how to draw your own one-page comic click here.
How did I become an Artist?
Growing up, my mom was an art teacher. That doesn't mean that she sat me down and formally taught me as she did her students, rather, she always had a pencil and paper in her purse and to keep me occupied she would hand them to me.
She has kept many examples of my early artwork to this day, and I can see the progression in my drawings. One of the earliest things I could draw well was an Elephant. I loved elephants (and I had a ratty old baby blanket in the shape of an elephant). So when I was little, my mom would fold paper and write the words and I would draw the illustrations for my own little books. (One of the first stamps Our Craft Lounge had me draw was a cute elephant, I thought this was very ironic). My next favorite things to draw were dinosaurs (because they were the only things bigger than elephants). When I was in 1st grade there was a program at school called "Young Authors" and I wrote a book about dinosaurs.
Although she would encourage me to draw and give me supplies, she didn't seem to approve of the things I would choose to draw later on- the characters from comic strips or from cartoons on TV.
Really, the main reason I would draw these is because this was what my friends wanted. I would draw Garfield, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Simpsons characters and sell/trade them to my friends. I had a cool collection of toys by 5th grade because of all the artwork I would trade for them. It made my friends happy and I got neat stuff.
In elementary school my teachers would also ask me to help them draw special things to decorate their doors or bulletin boards, or help make posters for school plays and things like that. Thus began my graphic designing- combining pictures and words into books and on posters. Once someone asks you to design a poster then it's kind of contagious and you keep getting asked to draw posters, so you keep getting better, so that you get asked more often to make them... and then you see what happens.
I was also lucky enough to be one of the first kids in school to have a Macintosh computer. By this time my mom was self-publishing quilting books and I would help her touch-up her artwork in Mac Paint because of my "sharp eyes". My best friend would come over and we would spend hours drawing crazy things in Mac Paint, then Kid Pix and then I got into middle school where I was the computer lab assistant and I'd spend my free time drawing on the computer. I was also in art class, but I didn't really like the teacher, so I didn't get much from it.
Can you see what I'm getting at so far? If your child likes to draw then let them draw! Encourage them without pushing or forcing them to do it a certain way, just let them explore what they are interested in. Art is NOT encouraged in public schools after 5th grade, so if your child is good at drawing wheny they're young, don't let them give it up as they stop getting encouragement at school. It's much harder to re-learn as an adult.
I appreciate that my mom never forced me to draw, and she also knew that I wouldn't have listened to her if she had tried to give me advice anyways. She would always tell me "Don't get a degree in art (like she did), you'll never make any money." I also was never good at drawing hands or people realistically enough for my mom (she was a landscape and portrait painter and I still can't draw people up to her standards). Now my mom has said many times that she wishes she were 30 years younger so that she could do what I do now.
In High School the art teacher I didn't like moved up to teach at our school, so I never took art. I took stained glass instead because that teacher would let me explore the medium. I would make blown glass dragons and flowers and things like that.
In 9th grade the Journalism teacher came to our class "recruiting" students for the newspaper. I thought it sounded like the dumbest thing based on her presentation, so I wasn't interested. But many of my friends joined the next term. One day, a couple weeks into the new term my friend invited me down to the newspaper room so she could finish an article. I saw a room full of computers, so I sat down and started drawing on one. The teacher came out to chew me out about being on off-limits computers. Then she saw what I had drawn and "hired" me for the newspaper. Thus began my formal graphic designing.
For the next four years I never left the computers. I learned PageMaker 3, Photoshop 2.0, Illustrator 3, and all the old software in black and white. Oh how this helped me in college!!! We also worked on tight deadlines, and by my Junior year our High School newspaper came out every two weeks, and we were winning State awards for layout and art. This is also where I learned photography.
We picked up freelance graphics jobs from around our school district and earned enough money to pay for training trips to Seattle, San Francisco, and other cool places. I got my first illustrating/graphics freelance job on my own when I was 17 doing a series of books/workbooks teaching kids to be safe. I would also draw comics of my friends and their exploits, and I would draw some really complex stuff for my best friends.
Becuase I was a teenager and just to irritate my parents, I went to the University of Oregon (which my dad hated) and studied Art (which my mom was opposed to). I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Multimedia Design with a Minor in Journalism Communication (Advertising). I graduated a year early and I got to study cool things like animation, sculpture, (almost had a minor in geology), photojournalism, advertising, and all sorts of cool things. One of my professors, Ken (who is important later on) taught comic drawing classes and animation classes. I liked Ken because he would let us explore in whatever direction our art would take us, as long as we were productive.
I also did a lot of freelance work in college, some of which included Learn To Read and Write books (all graphics, only some of the illustrations), sports programs for Eugene Thunder Hockey Team (1 season), and Thurston High School (6 years). One other freelance project I worked on when I was 20 years old was for this little company called Imagination International, Inc. (who you know as the North American importer for Copic).
I also spent 2 years earning independant study credit by teaching art once a week to 4th graders in my brother-in-law's classroom. When I graduated college I continued teaching comic drawing at many of the local galleries, museum of art, and through the city recreation department and the public libraries (I'll be teaching a couple teen-Manga workshops this summer if anyone is local). At one point I was working 30 hrs./week for Copic and teaching 5 different workshops to kids each week. That's a lot of art!
When I was still a Sophmore in the U of O Art department an e-mail went around the department for some company (Imagination International, Inc) looking for a graphic designer. Paid position! I was between freelance gigs at the time so I replied. I guess I was the only one who did, so I was given a Japanese brochure, a disk of images, and an English translation. My task was to make a US version of the brochure for these new markers. I hadn't seen Copic markers before, so the more I worked on the project the more intrigued I got.
When I finished the brochure I got my very first 12pc. set of Copics (which I still have today). The president of the company is Ken O'Connell, who was my drawing professor the next term at the university. That was over 8 years ago. Over the next few years I did a couple more projects for Copic and shortly before I graduated they offfered me a full-time job as the graphic designer. Thus my employment with Copic. Slowly, over time, I moved from the graphic designer on to being the product specialist and getting to travel, meet new artists, and help others learn how to use their art supplies.
I would teach Manga drawing at conventions for Copic (come see me at Anime Expo in LA) and travel to art stores and art schools (This fall I will be doing class visits to Savannah College of Art & Design) sharing how to use Copic products. So I had to look proficient in many styles of artwork- from the Japanese Manga/Anime, to Landscape Architecture, to product design.
Then a few years ago papercrafters really got excited about Copic products. So I have slowly become a papercrafter as well, and now for my freelance artwork I illustrate stamps for Our Craft Lounge (you can read that story here).
Now I get to help other people improve their art, learn how to use Copic markers, and I get to teach kids how to draw. Every day I am thankful that I had encouragement to keep drawing and the opportunities to work on so much.
World Drawing Day, I challenge you to inspire a child to draw.
Give them encouragement. Sit down and color with them. Give them a set of crayons, or pencils, and of course- markers :) Go visit a gallery and leave a message of encouragement. If you don't think you can draw today, it's because someone way back never gave you the chance. You can change that! Know that what you do today changes the next generation (the photo is of my daughter doing what she loves the most-drawing).
If you have no way of helping someone locally, then help people who will appreciate it far away. You can donate to Pens for Kids, an organization that donates used ballpoint pens (like the ones you steal from the bank) to kids in rural Africa who have no writing supplies. This gives them the chance to go to school and learn to write and draw.