I always say that I'm an illustrator trying his best every day to be an artist. I don't think you get to be an artist just because you can paint or draw well. It also takes years of seeing and shaping a fresh vision of the world that others can share too. It's more than just mechanical skill. And I never believed the stereotype that all artists are flakes. Some of the savviest, strongest people I know are pro artists. It takes guts to take chances, which is what the best ones do. And it takes time and experience to build a life like that.
Being a fulltime pro artist is my world. Back on April 26, 2001, I had a mortgage, car payment, credit card debt, and the needs of adult survival. The chances of living in a town like San Antonio, Texas while all of my clients were in New York City, and trying to build a client list, on the fly, while not losing my livelihood was...daunting. Understatement of a decade. Advice for those trying to emulate the same? Have a strong stomach, and if not, get one fast. :)
I'm not interested in reminiscing here about these past ten years. I'd prefer my last ten years of work to do the talking. Hopefully it's done some already. I could list the trusted friends and associates I've grown up with in this field, but they know who they are. And yup, I've been fortunate to win a few awards and recognitions along the way. Grateful for all, and actually THAT might be the understatement of the decade. :)
But here's a hard truth I can proudly say today that I couldn't until now -- at last count, over this last ten years, I've produced over 120 cover illustrations for major science fiction, fantasy and horror books. In other words, I've averaged one major published piece of cover art in sf/f/h for every single month of the last ten years. I don't know how many pro artists can match that book cover ratio in that span, but I suspect the number is....tiny. And by the way, that's not counting the piles of magazine covers and interior artworks and dozens of book interior illos that I did while producing those 120+ covers in ten years.
What that number means to me is I came to work every single day, blue-collar all the way, and never quit for even a day. Nothing more, nothing less. And yeah, that may be the thing I'm most proud of.
What happens in the next ten years? No idea. I didn't go into the previous ten with 120+ sf/f/h covers as a goal. I hope I can continue to make art, and continue to get better at it. I want to be a great artist. That's what I wanted more than anything in the world on April 26, 2001. That's what I want today.