I do feel very lucky in that I was able to go into being a full time artist relatively soon after I graduated. So I think in that way, I have been very lucky; I was able to get group shows, and then from those group shows, they grew into something pretty quickly. When I was first starting out, I told myself that success would mean that the people whose work I admired, would also respect my work. It's not like everyone I admire artistically likes my work or anything, but I have had enough peers or people who I look up to see my work and give me positive feedback that I do feel like I've reached that definition of success for myself.
But I also feel like if you grow complacent, you never actually stay successful. So I feel like my definition of success always has to change.
It hasn't all been easy. When I was first about to graduate, they set up at our school an art director visit where all the different art directors from the New York Times, Reader's Digest, all the big names, came in to do a portfolio review. And all the art directors told me that my stuff would look better in galleries. I didn't get any job offers from that. I sent out over 100 emails to art directors when I graduated, trying to get hired for illustration jobs. I literally had one reply, and the person didn't hire me for a job; he just told me he liked my work. But you know, that's why you focus on other things, the areas where it is successful for you.
I'd say another challenge for me personally, besides the student loans and the sometimes crippling insecurity, has really been navigating the business and managerial aspects of my own career. The art is the easy fun part. It's the negotiating contracts, making sure you know certain things, managing your own career, doing emails, making products - all of that can be a lot to juggle. So that's where my learning curve has been.
[The advice I’d give young aspiring artists is to] focus on the work. If you focus on the work, the rest may or may not follow, but at the end of the day, what you create should ultimately be the most important thing. It's not success, because there have been artists who have had no success during their lifetimes, but they still make art that changes and impacts the world to this day. I think it's most important to do work that you feel is authentic, and that you tried your best on, and if the rest follows that's great. And if it doesn't, there can still be joy in creation.