25 years ago, I started this journey as a professional artist.
I was just finishing up my last semester at the California College of the Arts in Oakland CA. I had studied there since Fall 1991 and, knowing I was not going to finish my degree, was finishing up the coursework I intended to get out of my experience there. My plans were that I would finish my Spring semester, take the summer “off,” painting for myself and working on some new portfolio pieces, then I’d start pursuing work in the Fall.
Late March or early April, my friend called to tell me Magic’s Art Director Jesper Myfors (also an early artist) would be doing a card signing in San Francisco at a game shop. I knew about then-new Magic but hadn’t played yet. But I knew it was growing quickly in popularity. Still being in the middle of coursework, I didn’t have anything like a portfolio, but I gathered up a number of paintings and took them there (possibly also slides and a loupe lens…it was 1994). After his signing, he stopped to look them over and chat and he offered me a gig on their next game, Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (then, “Jyhad”), having missed the schedule to start me on Magic’s “The Dark”.
At the age of 19, still in school, I had received my first professional commission!
The world of White Wolf’s Vampire (on which the game was based) was not my mother tongue of fantasy and sci-fi. So that first job was rough for me, but I learned a ton. The main mistake I made was in not understanding how to work on it while also working on final projects for my classes. I was working around-the-clock that last couple of months, but it was also on the high of working on the project and finishing up with school. Along with the illustrations that were printed, were 3 others that were canned along the way for various production reasons.
Finishing my final projects around the same time that the illustrations were due, I celebrated in part with my first trip to Yosemite. That summer, I did two paintings based on reference I shot there, including this Squirrel painting featured here. These were personal pieces, and the Squirrel went 23 years unpublished until I started producing my own tokens for use in Magic—lo and behold there was a Squirrel token, and this piece finally saw the light of day then.
While I worked part-time doing 3d modeling for an independent software developer, I was able to continue with my plan of taking the Summer “off” working on mostly landscape paintings, thinking that my time for painting stuff like that might be coming to an end soon, before dedicating my time to genre illustration starting in the fall. It was an exhilarating start to my career. The world was very different then and everything was still ahead of me, unknown. I could hardly guess how great it would be.
For a limited time, some of this period’s original art is available for purchase.