Academy of Art Alumni Panel Summer Expo ’16

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I was recently asked to speak at an Alumni Panel at the Academy of Art University in June along with a few other alumnis. We talked about our first jobs and how we hustled to get to where we are now. When I moved to LA in 2013, all I did was freelance and go from one contract job to another for two and a half years. I was constantly calling and bugging recruiters and always following up with people on a lead that I was hopeful on. I even wrote something on Linkedin about “How to Find Work as a Freelance Illustrator/Designer” Check it out, I’ve outlined 7 Steps that I used to go about finding work as a freelancer, worth a five minute read I promise!

The artist path and journey is never a straight one – and I think that is the beauty of being an artist and creative. Its part of the fun. From my experience, hustling to land my next gig kept me creatively hungry and gave me an edge. And did I really live my life on the edge for a while! Versus having landed a job and being too comfortable in a job that I wasn’t as creatively fulfilled. In the past, I’ve gotten some really amazing jobs– one job back in 2007 was an illustrator/product designer for Hurley Accessories in San Diego that I worked really hard on a test project before they hired me.

Being comfortable in a full time gig always bored me and never kept my interest long enough for me to want to stay there. I needed challenge, I needed stimulation, I need so much more than just going to a regular 9-5 everyday without purpose. But on the flip side of that I’ve also managed to stay at other jobs that I’ve very much enjoyed and liked– jobs that challenged my thinking and creativity, I was able to stay on longer. I’ve gone on to working with some really good companies in LA some include Hasbro Studios, Skechers USA, William Morris Endeavor, Fuhu Inc. to name a few.

Job security is great don’t get me wrong– but I also love the freedom of being able to have some down time in between freelance jobs or projects to be able to explore my own art.

Creating art is a spontaneous act and trying to control the creative process too much is just unnatural. Sure I think its super important to have a list of goals for the day, week, or month– but you also have to give room for growth and evolution of who you are and what kind of art you want to create. Patience with oneself and one’s own process is the most important thing. Too many times I’ve seen younger artists not being patient enough with themselves and also judging themselves too hard. Every new insight gives us an opportunity to grow and develop our understanding of the world around us.

Creating art for me is so sacred, the creation that comes from deep within me always has a purpose and meaning. I create beautiful work to inspire other people and that creating daily is a process of communing with my own spirituality and feeling connected to something greater than me.

There may be naysayers in your life– especially our families or people close to us that give us bad advice or force us to think in terms of being part of the “rat race” mentality, influencing us to get a full time job when in fact it may not be the best thing for us. But I always say try everything and see how you feel working within a company or corporate structure in a 9-5 job. But each and every one of us is boundless. We have so much unlimited potential inside of us, the best way is to guide that and focus it onto something that would truly give us happiness– and of course figuring out a way to make money from the thing that which gives us true happiness and the freedom to be our true selves.

It was very enlightening to have younger students approach me afterwards and tell me that my story spoke to them. I didn’t find art until my early 20s, having my son at 21 made it a bit challenging but thank god I had my family to help me while I attended college. Even though I had a few obstacles in my way, I still did everything I wanted, I still had the drive to want to be a better and successful artist. I had a vision of the type of life I wanted to create and providing for my son was motivation enough for me to want to succeed.

My main advice to younger artists or people just starting out as an artist– embrace your own journey. Sometimes we have a slow start but that also forces us to look deep within and to know what we truly want. Don’t let fear, negative self-doubt, and what others have to say cloud your own vision of what you want for yourself. It’s your life, at the end of the day you have to ask yourself what will make you the happiest. Build up your confidence as an artist and seek support from other artists/friends who support your vision. Find a mentor that will help you. I had a wonderful mentor for a year before I went to grad school that encouraged me to become a better version of me. Also, have discipline–practice your craft, let your passions fuel your creations and let it lead you where it wants to lead you. And please have lots of patience with yourself and know that this is all a part of a process and a bigger plan for your life that you probably don’t know about just yet. Let if unfold the way its supposed to. So that when you do finally stand on your own, your foundation and structure will be so solid that nothing can ever break you apart or tear you down.

~Diane

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Living Freely

I recently just moved from LA back to San Francisco in February. I decided to move back to San Francisco after being gone for five years. In those five years I have lived in NYC for two years exactly and then LA a little over two years. I’ve lived in 3 different cities since 2009. 2009 was the year I began my journey.

I was feeling stuck in LA and the driving an hour a day in the morning and at night really didn’t alleviate any stresses I had.

I’m addicted to change.

If you subscribe to numerology and spiritual meanings in life – I’m a 5. Movement, change and travel has been the only thing that’s constant in my life.

I really thought I would be working full time in SF with a start up company that scouted me out on Linkedin and but it turned out to be even better when it didn’t happen. Instead I started to focus on working on my own art and creating products. I’ve been able to create artwork that I could probably not have explored if I had gotten a full time job. I have now been able to direct all my focus on creating work and also starting to see money flow through these online shops. It’s been such a life changer.

Getting older means also re-evaluating what you want in life, and what I want most in life is to have a better quality of living where I work only on passion projects and people I like to work with and spending more time with my loved ones. At the core of my being I just want to be and spend time doing things I enjoy.

The most important thing I’ve learned if I’ve learned anything is to trust your gut intuition and to let go of where you think you should be. Releasing judgement on myself and accepting who I am now instead of who I thought I should be is the biggest lesson I’ve ever had to learn.

When I fight the flow and try to plan and overthink things in my life is when everything gets screwed up. Control is something I had to learn to stop doing. Just letting go and moving towards my intentions & focusing daily on what I wanted to create has helped me to move things in my life along.

Inner strength builds inside when we have gone through the worst of things. In the last couple of months I wondered where my journey was going to take me. But in my quest for living freely did I really start to learn to live in the present moment and not to think too far ahead into the future. Because being present means you are co-creating your reality and shaping it into the future you want to have.

As an artist and creator, creating art is a spontaneous process and a very in the moment act. Of course there are things you want to plan to work on, but in the moment is where the magic happens– embracing that inherent act of creating work is a sacred space within ourselves. Patience and lots of inner reflection within ourselves is necessary to grow as an artist or a creator. Rome wasn’t built in a day, therefore we must have patience with ourselves. Our journey to self discovery takes time in order to live a free and artistic life.

To be happy means being true to yourself.

Gypsy Soul

As a writer and illustrator I’ve been very retrospective of the life I’ve led and the life that I am continually living. Before I studied art and animation I had always been a writer. I had always kept a journal of my day to day living for as long as I can remember. Writing was my solace and a time to gather my thoughts and to make sense of the world around me. Mainly I was interested in people, relationships, observing the details that made people who they were. My love of reading books also allowed me to escape and to get lost in these stories, my imagination would then fill in the blanks.

I was thinking about where I was a year ago today, still struggling to finish my thesis project for grad school and doing freelance jobs that I wasn’t too fond of. I worked different odd jobs here and there in LA like sales jobs, small design jobs, one children’s book project gig, some press junkets BS gig and I tutored one student part time at Otis College. I HUSTLED to get my bills paid.

Last July and August of 2014 through the first week of September that I dedicated finishing my thesis project for grad school and dedicated those two and a half months working on it day in and out on a small 10.5 screen tablet fujitsu that I found on craigslist that I drew on and I went and worked at a different cafe everyday. I was up early everyday, I was restless, I couldn’t sleep. I had an internal clock that wouldn’t leave me alone. I HAD to finish… there was no other way. Diligence paid off. And soon I was done and as soon as I declared being done… many companies I had applied to started calling me back. I started getting a ton of interviews with different companies.

By October I started freelancing again. Then I had a medical condition I had to take care of through surgery and I spent the next 9 weeks recuperating on my grandparents couch in San Diego through November. I was lucky enough that I found a start up gig in November that allowed me to work from home on my laptop while I got better. It was no cake walk, I had never felt so crappy with my health as I did then – during the 3rd week I had low blood pressure and almost passed out. I hid my crappy health from everyone except my family. I had never spent so much sleeping in those 2.5 months as I did. And I’m not the kind of person who sleeps early and neither sleeps in too late, I’m comfortable with 5 or 6 hours a night. But by November I had gotten a gig at WME in Beverly Hills for a few days to do some in house character illustration work that I completely enjoyed and it helped bring my spirits up when I needed it. It reminded me of what I love doing the most. Looking back at this last year, I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve had, and the people I met colored this landscape.

And I think about this year… I’m sort of in a similar but different boat. I’m still freelancing – but getting better gigs. I’ve learned that summer is the slowest time in LA to freelance – companies are on hiatus or out having some kind of summer vacation. I’m in a similar boat this year like last because I am working on what was once my thesis project and now an Animation project that I’m trying to pitch to different studios. I’m so glad I stuck with finishing it last year–that no matter what I persevered and I finished it. And I know I will somehow see this project through, I’ve already committed to seeing this through no matter what the outcome– at least I can say I tried. I’m not the type of person to ever give up especially when i am completely passionate about a project.

I am a gypsy– because I have no permanent home and I am constantly on the move, I’ve moved out of the house that I used to rent a room in since last year in West LA. And quite recently, I packed up all my stuff into storage– To once again be a gypsy. To save money I am living with my family in SD and traveling up to LA once a week to freelance with a company that I have freelanced with since December of 2014. Half the week I am working on my animation project “Northstar Warrior” in San Diego.

Excited because the project is moving… I  have a few friends and people I know that I went to school with at the Academy of Art University helping out for free and wanting to be a part of something. The collaboration has been the key thing to push this project further along. Any smart person knows that one person can’t do it alone– not without a team of amazing artists and creatives who are willing and able to provide support and encouragement. Having my core group of friends and colleagues to provide this support has been so beneficial and I am so grateful– and its a testament that this project has the potential to be something. Could be something amazing.

I think about all the things I’ve sacrificed the last two years working on this project. One: sacrificing raising my kid and allowing my ex-husband to take on the responsibility. Two: My time, energy, effort… spending lots of time alone to work on this… was never the life I wanted to have. Three: Not having much of a social and dating life, I haven’t kept in touch with a lot of friends through this process. Its been hard. But sacrificing myself for the love and passion for a  project is the most beautiful thing in the world.

At the end of the day you have to do what you’re passionate about even if it means sacrificing a piece of yourself for the bigger picture. Otherwise you can live a very unhappy life.

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Fight or Flight.

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Lately I’ve been going through a lot in my life, not finding the right job and going through a bit of temporary financial hardships. The one thing that I’ve learned through this process is to not give up. Transitioning into a different career takes some time and patience.

Temporary setbacks have a way of toughening us up mentally, emotionally, and spiritually but when the going gets tough — we don’t give up. Instead we FIGHT even harder to get to where we want to get. If you’ve gotten farther anywhere in your life or career, having faith and believing that things will soon to turn out great is a positive attitude to have. The easy way out would be to abandon ship, give up halfway and not follow through.

But I realized something crazy this week, a bit of an Epiphany if you will– that if I had a full time job to take up most of my time this year — I wouldn’t have been able to:

1) Make friends and meet people in the animation/artistic community. And meeting people in general that I wouldn’t have other wise had time to meet or make acquaintances of.

2) Reach out to old friends, former acquaintances in California and connect with.

3) Have time to work on and finish my MFA thesis Project. (By the way I finished this in August) Super proud of myself. Most of it was done last year but the story was off and I had to go back and really figure out what was going on.

4) Go to Drawing/Sketch night workshops and practicing my skills and taking extra workshops for character design.

5) Finish a Children’s book project with a writer to create something great.

5) Tutor and mentor an Otis College illustration student for a year.

6) Help independent business owners with designing their websites for their businesses.

Instead of looking at the negative things that I’ve experienced this year, I’d like to highlight the great and positive things in my life. We’ve got to embrace both the bad and the good, because these things make us who we are, they teach us the person we want to become and give us faith when we need it.

It can be hard when other people especially family and close friends that may not see the same vision you have for your life may be giving you advice that may not be right for you. I am grateful there are people that love and care about me and only want to see me succeed but, this is the path I’ve chosen – and I am prepared to accept all of the responsibilities that come with staying on this path. I’m owning up to all of the hardships and not so great experiences that I have had this year – accepting things how they are. Then finding the courage to step up and take charge of the life I want and directing my course.

Let’s face it, being an artist or creative is a path not many understand — I am a Dreamer through and through, And MAYBE I could have done things differently but the past is the past and I am ready to move forward with GUSTO.

Besides those things, an attitude of staying on track and following through with your goals and plans is a necessary ingredient. Well, how do you stay motivated to follow through?

I always think, that fighting for the life I want is enough motivation for continuing the path. Find the calm within yourself, live in the moment, and stop worrying about the future. Stay present. Because life is short, live the life you want and be happy.

An Ending to a New Beginning.

As 2013 comes to an end, I find myself recently reflecting on the last year and the last four years in particular all the while being grateful for how much I’ve grown as an artist. So… I finally graduated from graduate school last week! Yippeee! It was a long four years. The first two of which I was a full time student and the last two I lived and worked a full time job in NYC and did online studies every semester. Not to mention I was a full time single mom the whole while through it. This marks an important milestone in my life, in which I actually feel like I can start to take my place in life and start doing what I love.

I learned so much through my schooling, four years ago I didn’t even know how to draw for Animation, nor did I even really know what I was in for until I got there! Didn’t even know that my drawing style would change so much or could change. I had been drawing before I started my MFA program, but I had no focus or concentration on anything. It takes a lot to just give up what you have or the life that you used to think that you had.

When I moved to San Francisco from San Diego back in 2009, I gave up everything. I gave up my life in San Diego to experience something new and to live differently. I left so many things behind, including family and friends. My heart was so broken, I had lost my job earlier in 2009 and lost someone in my family that I was very close to in a car accident. My grandparents sold the house I grew up in and decided to retire and live simpler. And on top of that my ex-husband was trying to fight me through court with child custody for our son. My foundations crumbled. But when I moved to San Francisco, I felt a sense of renewal. My spirit and spark that I thought was lost started to come back. Change can be very good for the soul.

Here I am now in Los Angeles, dreamy-eyed, full of inspiration and ready to live the best life that I am working towards! Moving back to the west coast was the best decision I ever made. Granted I had to resign from my secure job in NYC, sell everything, and re-start my whole life again in Los Angeles but it was worth it. I’m now able to see my family more often than I was in the last four years. Yet I can keep my life separate enough to pursue my own dreams and visions for the future.

Looking back now, I’m so glad I trusted my intuition above everything else– above family and friends who didn’t fully support my decision to go back to school. What may seem right to you may not be so obvious to others. And people can say what they want, they are entitled to their opinion. But at the end of the day, your opinion and your great vision for your life is the only thing that really truly matters. Trust me, I had a ton of haters from people who should have been supportive. It takes a strong person to really stand up for what they believe in.

Here’s to the ending of what I thought would have been a long four years of studying, yet it passed by in a blink of an eye. A new beginning awaits me, full of magic and mystery. An exciting, new journey to really discovering and exploring the possibilities of where life may bring me. We have to be open to new opportunities, that’s the only way we can ever expand to our fullest potential and uncover our deeper selves.

We are the sum of what we’ve experienced, where we’ve been, all the lessons we’ve learned, and all of the knowledge that we have accumulated in our own lives. Finding each of our true passions is never an easy journey, but staying true to our selves will give us the happiness that we are truly searching for.

As 2013 ends and winds down, I ask you to re-imagine your life or the life you want for the new year. It sounds cliche, but “any thing is possible if you believe.” Its never too late to re-start projects, or get back on the wagon again to pursue the things we are passionate about. The only thing getting in the way is our self-doubt.

I wish you a great Year for 2014 and a thousand new great things to come into your life!

“Destiny’s true path is rarely ever straight.”

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My friend Mahsa (left) and I at the Masonic Concert Hall in San Francisco. December 13, 2013.

I am a Story Artist.

This is a video of a presentation that I recently made at the Beekman 33 Salon in New York City this last March. It was sort of a Salon to give individuals a chance to showcase themselves, their creativity, or their business. I’ve been meaning to post this but life got so busy! I wanted to post this to give people an idea of who I am and what I do, I now realize that this video really does give others an insight as to who I am. As a story artist as you’ll soon come to find out in the video, I create concept art for the purpose of telling a story. I am grateful that I have found this career path and lucky enough to realize it while I’m still young. The business of telling stories that evoke the imagination and touch the hearts of others is what I enjoy doing the most. I hope you enjoy this video and that it inspires you in your own life. Comments, questions, please tell me what you think!

Salute!

Traveling through.

Its been a week now since I’ve been back to reality in New York City from Italy. No matter how long you travel and where you go is always going to be a life changing experience. An experience that shapes your perspective and view about life and the world around you. Before I left for Italy, I was living a life that was set in routine. Not that anything was wrong with that but I really was busy during the past year, with working full time and going home to study for my two online classes every semester… and not to mention my ten year old son lived with me full time. I had so many responsibilities and juggling so many things at once, its a miracle I didn’t die from exhaustion! You live, you learn, you do what you need to– to survive.

Coming home was a bit stressful to say the least. I had an open ticket, a standby ticket through a companion pass that I purchased from a buddy of mine who works at an airlines. But it was still 70% cheaper than a normal ticket purchased from New York to Florence and so I was willing to gamble! I ended up visiting two other countries in Europe. First I flew from New York City to Dublin, Ireland– I had a very good friend of mine who now lives there and so I was offered a place to stay and was able to reconnect with my friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time. From there I flew from Dublin to Rome, then took a two hour train from Rome to Florence. So upon flying back home on my trip I ended up buying a train ticket from Florence to Frankfurt, Germany. My buddy had suggested this because I would have gotten stuck in Rome if I had tried to fly on Standby on one of the full flights. So on my last day in Florence I took a train at 10:00 am in the morning and switched through 3 different trains to Bologna to Munich and arriving at Frankfurt at 11:00 pm. Luckily I met a girl on the train who spoke English and German, who I sat next to and had the same exact tickets and destination as me! She was a real life angel that helped me navigate through the different trains, and I had made a good friend.

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This guy had the same idea as me sleeping at the airport.

You’re probably wondering, you could have saved yourself the trouble by making sure you had plans set. But I realized something, I just had to let go of control. Most of the time we all have a tendency to control the situation or the outcome that when things don’t go our way, we end up getting upset. Sometimes there is beauty in letting go. I have been planning everything the last few years of my life, planning six months before that to go on this trip of a lifetime and what was a little adventure anyway? Sometimes you have to gamble and take risks in life, and when I do– I open myself up to great and amazing things. I actually ended up making more friends at the airport than I realized, and there were two Starbucks employees that kept me company and talked my ear off the whole night! It impresses me how many languages they spoke, Dutch, English, French, and German. For a European, that is absolutely the norm to know at least 4 languages. Its pretty amazing. I also met and conversed with a Filipino lady that spoke German, Filipino, and English, she kept me up all night with her amazing stories of living in Germany. By the time we finished, it was 5am and I still had another hour to check into my flight at 8 am. I had stayed up all night at the airport and it was eye opening, an experience I always wanted to have. You can’t be afraid to do something you’ve never done before. You’d be surprised at how amazing the experience can be.

Being able to live in Florence, Italy for two months has been an unforgettable experience– I have changed mentally and emotionally from my busy go go go life in New York City to really enjoying each day living. I really started to appreciate the moment more and really having the time of my life! I’m not going to go into details– but I really enjoyed myself out there. The Italians especially have a much different outlook in lifestyle, they open and work their businesses in the morning and then advocate a siesta during the afternoons, then only to return in the evening when it cools down for dinner. Life in Italy is much more pleasurable as people really do bond over food and wine, they genuinely make an effort to connect with others in a more human way. It was also sort of a blessing that my internet connection both on my international mobile data plan and my wireless at my apartment didn’t work– because it forced me to really set plans with friends after class during the evenings and really call them on the phone instead of texting or emailing them online. I really bonded with my classmates in and out of class time. I think I was missing the connections I’ve had and made growing up and living in California. I hate to say it but New York doesn’t do this for me, as many friends as I have here and the great connections I’ve made– people are way too busy to meet up and hang out at times. I wish for a much more simpler lifestyle at times.

Living abroad really opened my mind up to so many new things. For one, not taking living in NYC for granted. Although I miss California dearly, there are also many great things that this city has to offer. So much history, culture, and the food is just amazing! One thing that I learned from living in NYC and will always take with me forever is the ambition and commitment to keeping a schedule! And learning to stay focused on goals and seeing projects through.

Life is full of self discovery, just when you think that you are done with learning all you can– it takes another turn and the universe shows you something brand new. There are so many different realities, so many ways of being and living life. We just have to see things outside of our own perspective– and when we do this we are offered a major opportunity for growth. We can live and experience many different places, in hopes of showing us that life is not about having a physical place to call home but learning that home is where your heart is. As cheesy as that sounds, it is a truth. No matter where we travel through in life, its never about the destination but the journey of discovering who we are on the inside.