(Gee, that title rhymes...maybe I should have been a poet?)
My name is Fred Lang, and I'm a "newly pro" digital artist, so I'll have lots of questions for you all as things move along.
After a 15-year career in law enforcement in Texas, I decided to take an early retirement, pack up my savings and move to San Francisco, CA to pursue art as a career. I gave myself 18 months to find something solid, or I'd have to go find a "real" job somewhere.
Thankfully, 11 months in I got hired by Hasbro to create artwork for their Star Wars line of toys. Now, I'm not designing the toys, but I get to draw the cool action poses that are on the packages. Pretty much my dream job.
So, while I'm knee-deep in work right now, I still have a LOT to learn about digital painting, the industry and probably a bunch of things that I don't even know I don't know about yet!
Happy to be here. I never joined CA.org before because I didn't feel "legit", but now that I'm officially working in the industry, I think I've earned the right to at least create a login name. *hah!*
I'm looking forward to learning everything I can from the amazing artists here.
***And because CA.org won't let my reply to my own thread somehow--at least not completely--I'm posting this addendum to answer Yooee's question two posts down:
Sure--lemme take a break from drawing General Grievous...my head is hurting anyhow. ;-)
Let's see, how to explain without getting too long-winded...
I was completely, utterly blocked artistically for the entire 15 years I was a cop. I dismantled my art board, stuffed it in the back of the garage, and let it rust there. Though I had aspirations of becoming an artist when I was younger, I was far too hard on myself, which translated into hating every pencil stroke I made. Art was something I loved, but that hurt me so badly when I did it that it was a strange relief to just put it away.
Problem was, as time went on, that dream kept singing to me, quietly at first, then louder as time went on. At work, I promoted quickly, threw myself into the work, and kept my head down while trying to ignore the nagging idea that I had a better destiny somewhere.
Finally, after promoting to lieutenant, I realized that, while I was *good* at police work...I didn't love it anymore. I just didn't. I outranked 99% of my police department, nearly nobody could tell me what to do, I had a nice office, and people did what I said. Most guys would love that.
I hated it.
I was 38, coming up on 40, and realized I didn't want my epitaph to read, "Fred was a cop, did that for 35 years, then retired and died." By now, the shame and self-loathing about my art had, over 15 years, turned into a "Why CAN'T I try again?" mindset.
So, on January 19, 2009, I picked up a pencil for the first time in 15 years.
And it was *fun* again. The joy I had when I was 9 and drawing was back, and the horrible internal critic that had strangled me when I was in my twenties was gone. No fear.
I started to host my art on DeviantArt, and some pros stopped by from time to time to say, "Hey, man...you might be able to do this for a career if you keep it up." And it clicked...I was sold. So I started to aim for that, drawing in between shifts, bringing my sketchbook secretly into my office, closing the blinds, and sketching in my office at lunch.
I was afraid to tell my wife. I mean, she knew I used to draw, that I wanted to do that when I was a kid...but I was making $85,000 sitting in an office and telling people what to do after 15 years invested in law enforcement--what would she say if I told her I wanted to give it all up to try to draw comic books for a living?
Well, I'm a lucky guy--the luckiest. My sweet wife said she knew I was deeply unhappy, and that if I could find something to do that would make me happy, the money didn't matter.
I was set. I pushed all of my efforts into getting better. I begged for critiques on DA, telling them to cut my stuff to pieces if it was bad, and to cheer it if it was good. Over the months, I improved very quickly, and in June of 2010 I submitted my resignation letter to my police department, packed up and moved to San Francisco, giving myself 18 months to find a permanent job making real money drawing comics while using my savings and investments as income while job hunting in the art world.
Why San Francisco? My wife is a native of SF, and had only been in Texas for 2 years when we met. She wanted to go back home. More importantly, I fell in love with San Francisco in a way I'd never loved a place in my life. Our visits to her family were great, and I hated--HATED to leave SF to head back to Texas every time. And hey, if you're gonna be an artist, why not San-freaking-Francisco, right?
My first convention was the 2011 Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. I made a short portfolio, printed up giant copies and went to see if anyone would like my stuff. Imagine my surprise when C.B. Cebulski, Marvel's Senior VP of talent liked my stuff! He gave me his card, and I went home to find an e-mail from Marvel with test scripts to complete and return.
While working on those, I took a break from pages to play World of Warcraft (which I did most evenings). While healing for a particularly good group, I got into a conversation with another player about Marvel and Star Wars and my eventual goal to draw Star Wars for Dark Horse. He asked, "Would you rather draw Star Wars or Marvel Comics?", and I answered that I'd prefer Star Wars any day.
He replied, "That's a good answer, because I'm the Creative Director for Hasbro Star Wars." He asked if I was any good. I answered, "I'm pretty good, I guess."
So he gave me his Hasbro e-mail and a week to draw some Star Wars stuff for him as an audition of sorts.
I was done in three days. I e-mailed the 4-piece portfolio to him (with a few other pieces I'd done), and he e-mailed me back in one hour. He called an hour later, we talked for 1 1/2 hours about all sorts of stuff, and he hired me right there on the phone. 45 minutes later Hasbro e-mailed me a contract, I signed it and returned it, they FedExed me a hard copy of the counter-signed agreement, and BAM--I was working for Hasbro...just like that.
So there you go. My gamble to leave my comfy government job and make my own way paid off. I can't say that it would work for everybody, but it worked for me. I wake up every day, put on my pajamas, make a pot of coffee, and draw Star Wars every day. That's my life now. I'm 40 now and I'm the happiest I've ever been in my entire life. And things will only get better as I learn more and more about how to make better art. I LOVE to see how many people on CA.org are so much better than I am, because their successes and mistakes will only help me find my way faster and more confidently.
Really looking forward to my time here.
Aaaaaaand sorry--this answer was freaking long. I apologize to your eyeballs.