Duration: Three years.
Location: Tiverton, Rhode Island.
Education: BFA in illustration from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston.
Career path: I grew up surrounded by nature in Scituate, Rhode Island. It’s a small, rural town full of forests, rivers and the Scituate Reservoir, the largest source of freshwater for the state of Rhode Island. Living in that quiet town led to my love of the natural world and certainly influenced the subject matter in my illustrations.
At my tiny public high school, I was “that art kid.” People were always pushing me down this path because of the “talent” I had. Now I’m not fond of the word talent—I think what made me good at art was the time and effort I put into it through study and practice. I always loved drawing from observation and creating pieces that looked realistic, so I was able to combine my style with my love of the fantasy genre.
I began freelancing professionally at the end of my senior year at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2017. Since then, I’ve become the gallery director at the Rhode Island Watercolor Society, where I work three days a week and illustrate for the other four. Having both a predictable, steady income with a fluctuating freelance schedule has worked well for me over the past few years.
Artistic influences: Recently, the world has seen a rise in nerd culture, especially in the popularity of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve always been a part of that culture, even at times I’ve felt like I had to be ashamed of it. I’m embracing who I am and what I love as much as I can now. Whether it be for games or books, creating work for the fantasy genre is extremely fulfilling. I’ve also long been influenced by illustrators like J. C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell and N. C. Wyeth. They all had immense technical skill but chose to use that skill to tell stories and entertain the masses in a time when illustration was seen as a lesser form of art.
Favorite projects: My most recent pieces for SmArt School. It’s rare that full-time illustrators have the chance to create personal work, and I’m lucky enough to be able to attend classes and simply make the best work I can. I’m also extremely proud of client work that not only satisfies me creatively but also satisfies the prompt—and, in the end, makes the client happy. A great example would be my cover illustration for One Cruel House by Noa Fay.
Work environment: I’m lucky to have a beautiful studio in my hometown of Scituate. I have a computer with two monitors and a tablet that I work on for my digital pieces, as well as an easel, lots of paints and other supplies for dabbling in traditional media. It’s a spacious, quiet place to work and learn, surrounded by my collection of art books and prints from other artists I admire.
I’ve always felt most comfortable when I can look out my window and see nothing but miles of trees, natural and mostly untouched. The scenery changes every day with the seasons and the weather. It's wonderful to be able to observe it and let it influence my work.
Approach: My approach to illustration is constantly evolving as I learn. I’ve continued my education by taking various workshops and online classes focused on fantasy illustration. As an artist, I don’t think my education will ever truly end; I love learning and I hope to continue taking classes whenever I can.
I also love trying new things and being open to different methods. There are many valid and popular approaches within the fantasy art genre, so it can be especially difficult to stand out. I’m constantly adapting my approach to suit each project. I’ve yet to find a perfect and unique way of working for myself; I think only years of practice and growth will lead to a solid answer to this question.
Philosophy: Work hard and learn as much as I can. If I’m doing something, I give it my all and try to improve myself or my work in the process. I try to be flexible, listen to new ideas and give other working methods or theories a chance. Being stubborn can be detrimental to growth and can ultimately lead to a product that isn’t as well-executed as it could be. At the same time, I try not to lose sight of what I love most and what makes me an individual. I try not to compete with other people, but instead respect the path they’re walking and compete only with myself.
Anything else? You don’t have to be exclusively creating art to be considered a professional artist! There are many career paths to explore and many different ways to earn a living by still being creative and making art. I used to feel uncomfortable about my job as a gallery director, but I’ve come to realize that it is something I should be proud of. I’m happy to be enriched by fine art and to learn from gallery artists as well as illustrators. Everyone’s road to success is different and equally valid!