Thomas, when talking about art education, you actually learned to paint by studying art independently, using online resources. What kind of work ethic did you have back when you were starting out? Were you an ambitious learner?
I certainly worked hard. I had virtually no contacts or friends in the digital art space and a lot of the advice that was spinning around in my head stressed the importance of diligence. Since I wasn’t talking to other humans, all I saw was the incredible work that was popping up on ArtStation each day. That really lit a fire underneath me, so I was trying to cram as much new information as possible to create a portfolio that could stand its own.
Speaking of portfolios, you’ve mentioned that one of your biggest challenges back then was knowing what to create next, in order to improve your body of work.
How did you view your own portfolio back then? What did you feel a portfolio “should” have, and how did you feel yours measured up to that?
It was a question I desperately struggled with, and I wished there could have been someone who could tell me exactly what I needed to make. But the biggest problem was that I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to work, so it was a fool’s errand to try to make a tailored portfolio. In retrospect, it’s clear that regardless of the content of my oldest work, it’s the images that I most enjoyed making that still hold up.
Did that frustration towards the absence of guidance spark your interest in teaching art to others?
Absolutely. When I finally started to reach out and talk to professionals, I found I grew so much more quickly and confidently. I’m now more than happy to be able to pay that back to a new generation of artists.
Did your thoughts about what a portfolio should look like change as you gained more experience in the industry?
Yes, I went through that moment when a strong portfolio crit had me throw out over half of its contents. Essentially it boiled down to focusing on quality over quantity, and including your sketches, ideation and process.