Monday, November 21, 2011

How Teaching Art Put A Ferrari In my Driveway

I created the image above in my media techniques class at UVU.

Ok, follow me on this one.

I was stagnating as an illustrator 5 years ago when I was living in a small town outside of Fresno California. I didn't know it but I was losing my passion and energy for children's book illustration and I wasn't evolving. If I didn't have a commission I wasn't drawing.

When we decided to move to Utah I was contacted by Perry Stewart, head of the illustration dept. at UVU, who asked me to teach (currently teaching for Don Seegmiller ). I accepted and jumped into my classes. I had no idea that I would soon have a brand new Ferrari in my driveway!

I soon found myself reading and researching the principles and techniques I was teaching. I started discovering new artists- devouring their work and making collections on my computer from which to teach.
I started this blog with the encouragement of Lael Henderson- a friend. I figured if nobody visited my blog I could at least use it to post things for my students.

I started going to visiting artist lectures at UVU and BYU a few miles away. It's amazing how exposure to accomplished dynamic creators can influence your thinking and the way you view your own work. I found myself wanting to improve my craft and began to realize that I had been stagnating in Cali.

I was invited to teach the illustration track at "Writing & Illustrating for young readers" an annual children's book conference out here. In class I mentioned that I wished I could render my style in Photoshop and one of the guys in my class (Jed Henry a recent graduate) told me he could show me how. A month later I finished my first Photoshop piece (below) even though I had to start over three times.

I started making speed painting videos and posting them on YouTube just for fun. One day a former student emailed me and basically said, "neat- but no educational value....why don't you make a tutorial?" I thought, " yeah, why not?" now I have those as well.

Working in Photoshop was so much faster - I could produce more work in the same amount of time. When I learned about the possibility of producing my own ebooks I realized I could work them into my normal commission workload. Fast forward and my ebooks are earning a nifty amount of money....enough to put a Ferrari in my driveway? Not quite- but they could some day!...but I would never buy a Ferrari - not my style - couldn't even fit in it....I'll probably buy a beat up used truck.

Sorry for the bait & switch with the Ferrari but my point is that I've gotten way more value out of teaching than an exotic car could ever give. It's given me fulfillment, satisfaction, and re- tooled my process for the future. It makes me accountable in my own art. It forces me to revisit design principles regularly. It exposes me to new technology and methods and ways of thinking. Sure it puts food on the table but I get so much more than that. Probably the biggest thing I get is the satisfaction of helping others find the joy of turning their visions into realities. Helping someone have an "aha moment!" can't buy it.


  1. That's some really good stuff Will :D Really, really good...btw.your tutorial on digital painting did change everything for me, how to use my texture more than anything, and it suits me the way you teach too...sooo def. looking forward to get some more tuttorials from you (I've seen you have digital painting II!)
    Cheers :D

  2. Will, as always, you are inspiration.

  3. Yes, absolutely an inspiration. I didn't even mind the bait and switch! :o) I hate to say this, but it's always reassuring to know that really great, successful illustrators have had their struggles. And TRIUMPHED!!
    Hope this isn't obnoxious, but just for the record, I have a painting of rocks in my head. NO! Not the rocks that are in my head! I've been visualizing a painting of rocks. Just so you know........ the visual thought was there before I saw this. Hope I get around to it one of these days.
    Terrific post, Will - Thanks!

  4. p.s. That's another point, actually. Visual thoughts don't really count do they? Just DO it!

  5. I find that teaching helps me codify the accumulation knowledge of lifetime career. I work in a vacuum, so when I'm teaching digital techniques, I sometimes learn a few short cuts from my students. It gets me out of studio so I can talk to real people for a change!

  6. Thanks Will! As usual reading your post gave me a much needed shot in the arm. Thanks for always being willing to share!

  7. Nice, I had no idea that I helped get you started with all this...well, at least the blog part. You're welcome! You've paid me (and all the rest of your followers) back with all the great posts. thanks and keep up the fantastic is very motivating and inspiring to see how much you do.

  8. Thanks guys! Paint those rocks Marion or they'll stack up!!! I hear you Michael - I steal I mean learn from my students too :) Lael - don't you remember that pep talk you gave me about blogging??? I didn't understand the blog until you set me straight. I've since noticed quite a few illustrators from out generation who still haven't started one. You're right - I never go to their websites.

  9. Hi Will,

    Great and inspiring post!
    I got your Illustrating Children's Book series and it help kick-start my creativity and creations.
    Funny, I grew up in a small town outside of Fresno myself. (Reedley).


  10. Just read this Will, Thanks for all you do & your inspirations bountiful!


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