I want to be a full-time artist but I don’t know if I’m ready. How did you know you were ready to take the leap?
It was pretty clear for me. I was selling photos out of high school, working at Alta’s Rustler Lodge as a dishwasher, being a total ski bum. I was like, All right, time to go to college now.
I went to college for a semester in Montana, the end of the semester came, it was snowing and I was like, I’m done. I’m quitting college and I’m going to go try to be a professional photographer.
So I moved back to Utah, had the talk with my mom, got the job with Rustler Lodge again and just totally went for it. It was motivating to go to college and realize, Well, I can always go back, I guess, if I wanted to. But I’m going to really try to do the ski photography thing.
In high school, I did summer commercial fishing in Alaska. . . . And then with the money I got from fishing, and my grandma gave me $10,000 to go to college I never used, I bought this house. Four bedrooms. I filled up three, sometimes four of the bedrooms with other people. So at that point, my mortgage was covered and I didn’t really need to work for other people anymore. I was making just enough money to get by. . . .
You could say I was making a living in the sense I didn’t have another job, but it wasn’t very much money. . . .
People tell me now they want to quit their job and become a photographer and maybe they have a family or bills to pay. I didn’t have anything to deal with. I could put all my eggs in one basket. It felt totally natural and fine. I could say yes to everything as long as the credit cards worked.
Just the idea of making that leap [to full-time artist] like my cousin, Trent Call, did 15 years ago and Josh Scheuerman has just done was nerve wracking. I loved teaching and felt like it could be my fail-safe and my constant income. . . and that’s what I planned on doing for the rest of my life. But I’m actually going to stop all that and finally make the leap to become a full-time artist. I feel like I can probably do it now.
There’s this major duality of being extremely scared, that kind of fear I’ve always had, but also being mature enough to understand fear better and how to work with it. And getting excited at the prospect of overcoming that fear. It’s exciting and still scary.[To deal with the fear] I think I just keep reminding myself I can’t let the grass grow under my feet. I don’t want to be that person in 20 years who looks back and wishes they would have done something risky and different. I do have to be responsible since I have kids, but I’m in a place now where there are lots of jobs that are coming to me without me being proactive.
I do remember the exact moment it happened. I remember talking to myself about it. I was like, All right, I can work at this restaurant and make $400 this week or I can spend three hours on a painting and make $400. That was the point that I realized whatever I painted, 90% of the time it was going to sell. If I painted three paintings for three hours each a week, that’s only nine hours of work doing what I really enjoy doing and I’d make that same amount of money, if not more, instead of going to the restaurant and working for someone else.
I didn’t know. . . . I’d moved to Las Vegas and got a divorce and I was just like, Reset on life. I probably could have gone full-time with art prior to that, but something just sort of clicked where I was like, Okay, here’s an opportunity to do something totally different.
So almost immediately after getting divorced I was like, I’m going to be an artist full-time. And the funny thing is, every time I’ve done something like that, whether it was going full-time or getting in the studio or buying the cool car I have, I didn’t know at the time how I was going to make it work, I just knew I was going to make it work. I had to make it work, right? So instead of being in this position where the decision was a luxury or I had the choice, I put myself in the position where I didn’t have the choice anymore.
That’s what happened with the art thing. I got a divorce and I made the conscious decision of like, I’m going to quit my job and I’m going to do art full-time. So I did.[He didn’t have a financial cushion.] The biggest thing too— I had a really good job. I had been doing web development and design for 15 years. I was probably making a six-figure salary. That was one of the most difficult things, being like, Okay, I’m giving up this guaranteed income for possible income. But it was one of the best decisions I ever made by far. I don’t miss it. I enjoy life more, I have more time with my son, I’ve met interesting people and have been in positions I never would have experienced. Even if I made less money, which I did for the first couple of years, it was definitely worth it. It offered life experiences and flexibility that I’d never had before.