Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My origin story


*Written in response to Steve, who was pleading for an opportunity on Linkedin*
    Hi Steve, I read your post and I feel like I should reply. Let Me be clear, I'm not trying to solve your problem, I simply want to share some experiences I have had in my life with you. In the hopes it may resonate and you may get something from it. 

    I started out in the games industry essentially working for free. I had a day job working at a used car lot, and doing telemarketing for discover card, (yeah man, super bleak).

Very pleasant pictures of places I didn't have a good time.

 I was 23 and newly married with a baby on the way. I had a dream to be a Character Artist, I had no idea where to start. I grew up playing video games and reading comics. 

Todd Mcfarlane,

Jim Lee,

 Joe Mad, 

and Dale Keown 

These guys were just a few of my many heroes and inspirations. 

    I had no idea what it would take to break into video games. So I took a sick day and went to the library to see what I could find on 3d art, ( I know, cliche right?). They had absolutely no info for me. There was one book entitled "Modeling A Character in 3DS MAX " by Paul Steed,

 but it was checked out. So I did the next best thing, I headed to Barnes and Noble, they had it, but I had no money to buy it. I had a camera on my phone, and I took pictures of the first chapter! But here's the thing, I didn't even have a PC! I couldn't even do the exercises needed, I needed a loan. I had horrible credit. I did one of those horrible payday loan things.

 I got a decent pc and the book. Oh wait I needed this program called 3ds Max!! 
I still had my student I.D from community college, I was able to get the student version of 3ds Max 4. But it was 400 bucks!! I had to save for that one, I sold plasma, and did some odd jobs to get the dough. Took me like 2 months. 

    Ok, a book on how to make characters, Check, a pc that can run the required software, check, the software, check. I had my tools. 

    I would come home from my horrible day jobs, and sit at the computer for at least 4 hours a night, going over these tutorials. Sometimes I would do them twice! It took me forever to understand u.v.w mapping in particular. I worked and worked into the wee hours, and promised my self I would break into the game industry by 2004. Through savings and some financial discipline I was able to pay off the loans, and with the money freed up I decided we could afford internet, now this is 2003 internet was slow, there was no such thing as broadband, at least to me. But man did it ever expand my horizons.
     I typed into the Yahoo search engine "Video Game Artists" it led me to a site called "Polycount", "Deviant Art" and one called "ConceptArt.org" and another called "CG Chat" I had no experience with message boards. I had no idea how to post an image, so I figured it out. I got a Photobucket account and began making threads all over the place. I found an artist around my area who worked at one of the local game studios. His art was amazing. I reached out and emailed him to ask him for some feedback on my "Portfolio". He Ripped Me To Shreds. I was reading his reply at 3 am, and felt horrible, as if on cue, My wife sensed something was wrong and asked me what was up I said "I don't know if I have what it takes to do this." "This guy completely ripped my portfolio to pieces." and the thing that hurt the most, was He was absolutely right. I did not have what it took to work in video games, my stuff was amateur and sloppy. It was a huge slam to my ego. I had always been told by my High school art teachers, my family and friends that I was awesome at art, and here was a working professional whom I admired hitting me with a dose of cold hard reality. 
    It was a cross roads. I thought to myself, "Well, I guess I could just work really hard and discover card, and be a manager someday"...or..."I need to start from scratch. Take this feedback to heart and carve a path for myself." 

one of my first models. #legit

    I worked on anatomy, color theory, I was making color wheels and value charts ON MY OWN TIME! hahahaha. It was crazy. I then applied what I learned about 2d art to my 3d characters. I would enter these monthly competitions at CGchat. and at Polycount. I never won, but a funny thing happened, I began to get noticed.

   When I finally had a portfolio I felt I could be proud of, I burned it onto 6 cd's. One for each of the local Game Studios in the area. I then took a sick day, and had delivered it to each one. (Totally a newb move on my part, but hey, I didn't know any better.) I actually got a few interviews, and actually got laughed at by a few people. I kept on it though. I even got told once I was a "Second class artist." and when I asked what I need to do to be a first class artist, they couldn't tell me.

    So I went on like this for about a year. Until I got a phone call from a little game studio called "Wahoo Studios. "Hey, we have an opening for a 3d artist, we really liked your stuff, are you still interested?" "I quit my job that day." This was the summer of 2004.

   I had my first gig in the industry!!! But Steve, I want you to know, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, Good things don't come easy. We really do make our own opportunity in this life. It's so easy to be a victim of our circumstances. Look at anybody you think has it made, and you will see a trail of sacrifice and tears behind them. Believe in yourself. There is always hope, there is always opportunity, you just have to be ready to seize it when it comes. Best wishes. Maybe one day I'll see you at Riot. Fight the good fight buddy.


  1. Awesome post, and great advie to all.

    But you should have told the truth. I mean... its an origin story. Where's the radiation that trickled into you mac and cheese that one night? Or was it an alien mosquito that stung you? Strange solar radition that only effected the virign river one day while skim boarding? I mean, nothing??? Really? I thought you were somehow supernatural.

  2. Amazing and very motivational story Josh, believe me , this is very useful not only for Steve...

  3. Great post, It's very inspirational to see that first demo reel and how hard work and dedication took you to where you are now. Thanks for sharing it! :)

  4. Awesome stuff. I didn't notice you were from the Salt Lake area till you mention Wahoo and worked at Sensory Sweep. I've been to Wahoo a few time and work with a ton of people from Sensory Sweep. Small world. Nice to see someone break out as big as you did from the area. Very inspiring.

  5. Really nice story, I ( and probably most of us ) feel indentified with your words! Thanks for sharing with us ;)

  6. Thanks for the post. I stumbled across your work and really enjoy it, as a artist trying to break into 3d myself, I would like to say thanks for sticking it out and sharing your work.


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  8. I appreciate your post Josh, I'm slowly trying to crack back into the industry after a break and it's proving tricky. Keeping in mind that everyone starts out as a novice and has to grind at their craft keeps me working hard.
    Keep up the inspiring work man!

  9. josh.. thanks, i was about giving up going to game industry but when I just searched about you.. and found out this blog.. it got me inspired.. and yes.. im a lol gamer, ahahah.. I main tf, and I've always wanted to be part in riot team.. hope I could see you there soon.. :)

  10. Hey Josh - great article. I'm glad I know this about you - thanks for sharing. Hope all is well with you and fam. Take care my friend.


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