So I made it a year in LA! In late 2014, after years of planning our move from Australia, selling our house, packing and selling our possessions, we made it to the USA.
2015 was our first full year in America. To say it was a BIG year is an understatement. It was like being 18 again. Establishing a credit history, getting an apartment, sitting a driving test, more study, looking for work and making new friends. The only thing missing was acne and wondering what the future will hold. Luckily, I knew exactly what my future is - to create great art in the LA animation industry.
At the start of the year I applied for positions with many animation studios and gaming companies. I also attended a character design course with Stephen Silver (I highly recommend his classes) and started attending as many events as I could to meet new friends and find out about all the opportunities LA has to offer. I was optimistic and eager to start working.
I was happy to see my wife get her first job in America and it was great timing. We could finally stop watching our savings dwindle down and being here started to feel more real. We could make it work. I was quickly realizing that my opportunities were not going to come easily and I had to reassess my next step.
Throughout the previous few years we had very specific goals to help us get here. It was difficult but we knew what needed to happen and we just had to find ways to get it done. Now that next step was not so obvious. Finding the best way to get my work seen was the next challenge. Social media, email and networking events helped but I felt an urgency to be working straight away. It was clear that it would be harder to get noticed or even to get the experience that would get me closer to my goal.
I was starting to feel a little dejected but had to keep advancing my art and work experience on my own. This is when I had the idea to develop my own project. The tabletop game Icons of Awesomeball was born and it would lead to a Kickstarter campaign that would see me through to the middle of the year. The idea was to have a project that I could be creative with, while also having to design new artwork and characters. I wasn't quite ready for the plethora of other skills I needed to learn to make the campaign successful. It was a crazy blur of business but I came out the other side with a successful Kickstarter campaign and a game I am really proud of.
During the Kickstarter campaign some very cool things happened. Firstly, I entered the Nickelodeon Artist Program competition. My folio also included much of the artwork I had created for the Awesomeball project. I made it through to the first round of the competition and was happy just to be selected. Secondly, I was hired as the illustrator and character designer for a children's book. It would become one of the largest freelance jobs I would have for the year and involved turning iconic condiment bottles like Heinz Ketchup into animated characters. This proved to me the benefit of personal projects. My Kickstarter campaign helped boost my folio for the Nickelodeon submission and my Sleeping Beauty book project from 2014 helped me learn more about children's books.
The motivation from personal work helped me get the ball rolling with freelance projects and allowed me to work on more illustrations and character designs throughout 2015. It was enough to keep me working and gave me valuable experience. As the year went on I would continue developing the children's book and focus on my own art, in particular, my love of pastel. The last six months of the year I produced more art than ever. I managed to sell many original pastels at my table at the CTN Expo, exhibited work in the 12 Days of Star Wars exhibit at Pop Secret Gallery, and exhibited and sold work in the Alice in Wonderland Exhibit, Curiouser and Curiouser, at Center Stage Gallery.
I have produced some of the best art of my life during 2015. Sketching, studying and learning constantly has helped make me more confident with how I approach every idea and design. I can't wait to see what I can produce in 2016. Personal projects, more learning, plenty of new friends and great experiences are in the near future.
No matter the ups and downs, it was an amazing year. I made so many little steps towards my animation dream and this year I feel like I can reach out and grab it. I won't stop until I do! If you take away anything from my year in review, let it be this. If you have any dream or goal that you really want, just keep doing the hard work to take the next step towards it. Don't stop! Keep taking the little steps and don't stop. I look forward to this time next year so I can write about how I achieved a lifelong dream.