A Little About Me

Dear Readers,

I thought that this week, I’d take a break from the stories I’ve been writing and do this instead. A post that’s really just about me and how I ended up here.

A Little Introduction

Hi! I’m John. I typically sign my art JL instead of using a full name. I started doing this because I had a real hard time adding my full signature to oil paintings I was doing ten years ago. Could I add it today? Absolutely! But, JL is easier. It’s less distracting and less intrusive.

I wasn’t a child prodigy. I didn’t really draw when I was younger, not that I remember anyways. I read a lot of books and I wrote stories. But, computers were my calling back then. I loved building computers, playing on computers, running web sites, playing video games. Not too sound too hipster about it, but it was pretty cool back then before all these no-code solutions made it easy for everyone.

My Real Life

Before I dive into how I became an artist, I should tell you something about my real life. I wanted to write this blog entry for that purpose, mostly. I needed any potential reader to know that my life is just fine.

I had a good mom. I had a decent childhood. I have a good adult life. Great wife and partner. Lovely kids. I have a decent day job and, on most days, I like that job well enough.

I say all of this to tell you that most of what I write about in this blog are memories and feelings. The kinds of things you can read into if you wanted. The kinds of things that might make you think that my life was hard in some way. The kinds of things that might lead you to judge my parents or childhood.

That’s just not how I see it.

The way I see it, I had my share of issues and problems but all of those led to where I am today. None of them were that bad. Nothing compared to what some people suffer through. So, if you read the blogs leading up to this one or you come back in the future – just know that I generally live without regret. I’m not asking for those things to be changed nor am I wanting a do-over. I’m not suffering, I’m not tortured. I’m just me.

I may sometimes refer to things as my mid-life crises but I’m not buying a convertible and leather jacket anytime soon. My life has steadily progressed and I’ve changed a ton but none of it has been out of regret. None of this is about recapturing some lost youth. There’s no crisis.

I’m just writing about things that happened, things I remember, the things that led to where I am today. I’m writing because I need to do this so that I can say that I did. I need to do this because I don’t want to have lived my life, get to the end, and be forced to admit that I never really tried.

And whenever I run out of things to write about, well, maybe I’ll just make stuff up. Go the creative fiction route. Why not?

Anyway, back to the scheduled program.

My Art Life

I started my art later in life, about 15 years ago now when rounding up a bit. I hit a milestone in my life and it was the first time I thought, “Hey, I’m doing this life thing all wrong.”

When I say wrong, I mean, unfulfilling. Back then, I did nothing except play video games in my free time. (World of Warcraft, if you want to get specific.) But, I had dreams of things I wanted to do.

I wanted to be a published author.

I wanted to make music.

I wanted to be able to draw.

I’ve written about my journey in music before on another blog. (I’d link them, but I think I’m eventually going to merge it into this site.) It’s not too much different than my journey with art. I had always wanted to do a thing, never took any tangible action towards doing the thing, and then got spurred along someday by an external force.

Anyway, it became important to me to create a legacy that I could pass on to my children. They could grow up and say, “My dad was an artist and musician.” Instead of growing up saying, “My dad clicked buttons at his computer all day and night.” I wanted them to be able to hold something of mine, an accomplishment, an achievement.

I just wanted to leave something that would make them proud. Something that was fundamentally me and would, hopefully, remind them of all the great things in our life.

So I picked up a pencil…

…a gym membership, piano lessons, and some of those “how to draw” books. I changed my life. I changed my view on what was important to me.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot. It’s never enough but it’s better than before. I can honestly say that my art is 100% better today than it was 10 years ago.

My art is better now than it was even 2 years ago.

I expect the art I make in the future to be better than the art I have posted in my blog so far.

To give perspective, here’s a picture from 2011 that, back then, I felt was good enough to laminate. I have a lot of these pictures in a drawer and this is definitely one of the better ones but I feel like I’ve come a long way since this.

I’ve also changed a lot over the years. Physically and mentally, there isn’t a lot left of that younger man who decided to pick up that pencil 15 years ago. I think it’s a pretty typical journey in some ways – people mature as they age. People gain wisdom as they experience life. Our views shift and our lives change, we grow.

My art processes have changed too.

When I started, I tried a lot of things. I got into Photoshop and photography – taking pictures of nature and using photoshop to warp them into something else. That was cool but it wasn’t physical, not particularly satisfying. And I really wanted to draw.

In drawing, I focused almost entirely on drawing anime style characters. For the record, they were terrible. I wasn’t particularly interested in realism or understanding proportions. I just wanted to know the bare minimum – draw a circle for an eye, add another circle for a pupil, and done. That kind of minimum.

When I found an art store, wherever I was living at the time, I started buying supplies. Typically, anything that was on sale was on the menu but I landed on oil painting. I still have some of those old paintings in my house. You can see one in the previous picture that was probably done in 2012 or so. It’s mostly just an expression of color, and not much in the way of real art skills.

Funny enough, this is one area that hasn’t changed too much.

Granted, I believe my skill has refined in this area and I’ve changed mediums along the way. These days my physical paintings are acrylic but I still focus a lot on colors, experimentation, textures, and just having fun. In my painting, I don’t create realism because you can see that by going outside.

I focus on colors and feeling. A painting is done when it feels done. Until then? It’s still just an experiment.

I’ve learned from a lot of places…

In the beginning, I targeted specific art books. You know those art books by Christopher Hart? I’ve owned a good number of them. I think they are good books, but they weren’t really for me. It just wasn’t what I needed.

Or, more specifically, I needed two things: I needed to want to learn and I needed something that was really technical. I’m technically-minded anyways, working in the computer field. I’m at home reading a manual filled with specific instructions and explanations. I do pretty well in taking those instructions in and learning from it.

I tend to struggle with those art instructions where you jump from two circles to final product. Or specifically, I struggle in applying those instructions when they don’t explain the underlying relationships.

What I really needed, and eventually found, was Proko. I probably stumbled on his work via advertising in ImagineFX but it’s been a few years and few revisions of the Proko website since… so I don’t really remember.

I can’t speak highly enough of the educational content here. I won’t bore you with it, but I’ve learned a lot from Proko and from Marco Bucci via courses on this site so if you’re starting out and stumbled on this – I highly recommend it.

Mostly, though, I’ve learned by just doing and experimenting. This is how I typically learn new things… I throw myself at the problem until I figure it out.

And I practice, a lot. My night time routine is to wind down sketching with pen on paper and I do this almost every night. Some of my favorite characters came started in these quick nightly sketch sessions.

The Middle Ages

I’ve reached what I assume are my middle aged years, though I guess no one can know for sure, and I’ve stumbled on a new milestone.

2023 is the year I make an active effort to sell my art.

I’ve wanted to do this for a while. Putting my art out into the world and trying to make a living off of it. I just haven’t done, yet, it for a variety of reasons.

So why 2023?

It’s another example of an external force kicking me into gear. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned it here before, but at the end of 2022 I started a business with my wife and partner. We created the limited liability company Vulgar Scullery Maid Publishing.

Last year, my partner hit a similar feeling milestone: she wanted to get her books out into the world. It was a priority. It was a necessity.

But… it was also incredibly difficult.

I ended up getting involved for a couple of reasons that I don’t need to fully rehash here but it also led to our first joint project: I Pooped And It Was Amazing. The project had frustrations but I also knew right away: Yeah, this is for me.

I was learning new skills, trying to realize someone else’s vision in illustration, and really pushing my own boundaries. It’s a whole new industry, a whole new challenge. It was immensely frustrating and satisfying all at once.

Since then, I’ve created sticker and t-shirt designs. I’ve been working on another joint illustration project. I’ve had prints made of some of my work. But, above all else, I’ve been making an active effort in my own art.

I’ve been actively focusing on finishing what I start. I’m not saying I finish every sketch to a final drawing – most of those sketches aren’t good enough to finish – but when I have an idea that I like, I finish it. I upload it. Share it. Prepare it for print production.

What comes next?

You’ve been seeing it already. I’ve been focused on finishing my art and sharing it here, Instagram, DeviantArt, and Facebook.

I’ve been writing posts like this, to put stories to those pictures. I’ve found a provider to source high quality prints from so I can offer them to the world in my store.

I don’t think this is a ticket to replacing my day job, but that’s fine by me. One of the core principles I’m trying to keep is to make art affordable. I look at every piece, printed on paper, and I think – at this size, what would I pay for it? I ask my partner the same question.

I’ve seen a lot of great art in my life being sold by amazing artists but I don’t own any of it because I simply couldn’t afford it. Every time I go to a local restaurant and see a painting by a local artist that looks cool, I look at the price. I don’t own any of that.

This is not my way of saying that they shouldn’t charge those prices. It’s worth every penny and people need to pay their bills. I’ll have some of those expensive pieces available too. Mostly, I want to have affordable pieces. I want everyone to have my art hanging on their walls. Everyone gets to have little spots of color and weirdness.

And until everyone has my weirdness on their walls, I’ll keep creating. I’ll work commissions, create new designs for people, and just keep trying to post because the main thing I’ve learned since getting involved in this art business: this is where I want to be.

Thanks for reading and if you want to support my work, you can follow me on Instagram or buy anything from my shop.

Until next time,


P.S. I read something a couple months back about the new social rules and one of them said that straight people shouldn’t use the term “partner” to describe their spouses. You should know that my wife is my partner. In real life, I would introduce her as my wife, my lover, my better half, etc. In writing, I lean towards “partner” because I think it sounds better. It sounds less like ownership and more like equality.

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