~ definitions from Oxford Languages
Getting to this point has been a long and bittersweet journey, one that began with art early on in life but detoured during what would be a tumultuous childhood and adolescence.
Later, as a young adult, I found the art vibe was still with me, albeit dull and long ignored. Luckily, my first few jobs in the professional world had some implicit design aspects to them, and these opportunities gradually allowed my inner graphic designer to rise and make itself known.
As I climbed the design and communications ladder in the marketing and advertising arena, messaging and design became more digital and multiplatform, so my design skills over time did as well.
However, by 2015 — nearly twenty years into a flourishing interactive design career — I grew more and more unfulfilled. This dissatisfaction was accompanied by a most unexpected yet growing interest in drawing.
Before long, I was drawing everything I could, including comics, people, and all kinds of objects. This drawing episode overtook my creative world. I will even say I became pretty hooked and just didn’t want to stop drawing, ever.
A year later, I found myself wanting to pursue drawing professionally.
And a year after that, I officially began my MFA in Illustration with the Academy of Arts University.
The school started me off with oil painting. While exciting, this was also extremely intimidating because I’d never held an oil brush or worked with any kinds of paints before in my life. In fact, the closest I’d come to painting anything prior to this course was digitally using Adobe Photoshop.
Despite my insecurities, I dove headfirst into the oil medium, never imagining I’d become as enamored as I did with how luscious and beautiful painting with oil would be.
The same kind of thing happened when I started drawing with charcoal. By the time I’d complete a charcoal drawing, I’d be covered in layers of black soot. Nonetheless, I’d still feel giddy with just how beautiful the visual outcomes were when rendering drawings in charcoals and chalks.
After the oils, pastels, and charcoals, I next learned to paint with watercolor and gouache and these water-based mediums further expanded my ideas about illustration and painting.
My academic journey hasn’t been a bed of roses. The first half of my program was especially difficult as I grappled to balance the intensity of the classes and sheer volume of learning with my work and life outside of school. I can’t tell you how many nights were spent, covered in paint or soot while juggling multiple assignments, where I’d second-guess my decision to pursue an MFA. I wondered if belonged in such a program and contemplated quitting … regularly.
Those earlier nights of burden and doubt, I believe, were in large part due to unbelievable levels of stress; understandably so because I was academically overwhelmed and significantly sleep-deprived 🙂
But that was then.
Today, I feel much differently. I realize now that my two decades working as a successful graphic designer did not make me “an artist.” Nor did I set out in the MFA program to “become an artist.” This was never a specific goal, but it’s one I believe I’ve since achieved, regardless. I’m so grateful for the artistic experiences and learnings throughout my MFA; collectively, they have holistically transformed my approach towards image-making and visual expression, no matter the medium.
As I near the end of my MFA (with four classes remaining at the time of this writing), I’m beyond excited to forge ahead, leveraging the best of both digital and traditional worlds. I also have various professional projects underway, including some self-publishing, and am overjoyed with my latest explorations into the paper arts and mixed media.
As for how I’m feeling these days about my art and design adventures, one of my favorite artists, Vincent Van Gogh, pretty much sums it up best with this famous quote:
“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”
Freelance opportunities with ad agencies, graphic design boutiques, creative marketplaces, publishing houses, and art licensors who find my unique perspective curious and refreshing are welcome. And yes, collaborations with small business proprietors, nonprofits, and individual consumers are also of interest.
MRM Illustration Studio | 331 W. Colonial Highway, Hamilton, VA 20158 | firstname.lastname@example.org