How a broken TV led to my career as an illustrator

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    On a sunny day about 16 years ago my TV died. That seemingly small event turned out to be a life changing moment for me. A moment that would lead to me illustrating over 20 books, teaching college classes, and making a career out of illustration.

    I didn’t have enough money to buy a new TV, so I had to think about how to fill my spare time. I thought about doing a series of photographs, but there was always something “weird” about the shots I wanted to do. A hazy idea of a character in the scene. The photographs never achieved what I had in my head. I had an inner “voice” pushing me to make certain kinds of images (this would later become my “style” I guess.)

    So I thought I would do some paintings. I had never really drawn or painted anything before. I went to the local art store and bought the basic acrylic paints and cheap canvases like everyone starts with. And I painted. I did one, then two, and then a bunch. I did around 30 or so paintings within a month or two. Yes, they were ugly and raw as I had never taken a painting class before. But I enjoyed the process and people were responding to them.

    So I decided to send the paintings to the Art Center College of Design. To my surprise, they gave me a scholarship! We packed up and moved to Pasadena CA. And now I was a full time art student. I thought to myself on the first day “ how in the heck did I get here?.” I was sitting next to some of the best artists in the country. People would talk about what art they liked or didn’t like or their techniques. I had none of this. I said “I don’t know” a lot during that period.

    Four years later I graduated with honors in illustration and got my first book right out of school. When telling this story it might sound like it was easy, but I assure you it wasn’t. There were doubts and failures along the way. But overall it has been a really fun career and one that wouldn’t have been possible if that TV never broke.

    Here’s a link to a project I’m working on now which showcases many personal images I have done over the past 5 years. I would appreciate it if you would support and/or share it.

  • SVS OG

    @Lee-White Hope I helped a little more with sharing per your request:

    Also, hope you don't mind that I took your images and made an ad out of them... here it is (though I guess you will see at my posts):


  • I just smashed my tv after reading this. 😉

    But in all seriousness, this really resognates with me, because I am easily distracted, and I tend to put things on the back burner. I can't wait to contribute to your kickstarter. Looking forward to you reaching your goal.

  • SVS OG

    I love this personal story, Lee. Will check out your Kickstarter now.

  • Wow! What a way to find your calling!
    Almost as if someone wanted you to try something new and whack! Here you are teaching your own classes!
    Really really cool and inspirational story!

  • Thanks for sharing Lee, very inspiring!

  • Pro SVS OG

    Awesome! Shared!

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @QuietYell Thanks so much! I appreciate it!

    Thanks guys! I appreciate the support! : )

  • Great story! It makes me wonder, how much human potential goes untapped as people while away their lives in front of a television set?

  • @Lee-White inspiring story! You have been a wonderful addition to the SVS faculty. The words that stay uppermost in my mind when I think of SVS faculty, particularly applied to you, Will & Jake are "generous" and "honest". Thank you so much. I am looking forward to your productivity webinar. Fear of making bad art = NO art and this story is one more example of the concept that is so hard to implement--we must make bad art to learn how to make better art! I like Jake's "progress not perfection" too. Thanks to you all!

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