and I kind of like hockey.
But only a lot.
My name is Joshua Swanagon and I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. It was my love for art that gave me a lifelong drive to find a way to be more than just a starving artist but to make my art lucrative while still being enjoyable. Over the years I have gone through everything from t-shirt and sign design all the way to Web Design and Development. Which is where I find myself now, I am an Interactive/Web Developer for Aimia a global marketing firm (formerly Carlson Marketing Worldwide). However, I cannot seem to make it through an entire day without thinking about illustration, cartooning and a love for all things art.
It is for this reason that I spend my nights drawing, I can’t help myself. My deep desire is to get into illustration for children’s books and the occasional graphic novel, and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings to see my comic strip ArDuffle become a success either.
That about sums it up, but if you feel like torturing yourself with the long version of my journey towards a professional career in art, click on the link below. Sure it’s a little long, but I promise to keep it fun, and informative.
Being the son of a “starving artist” I have always been in the hunt for ways that I could make money from my art. I am not under the delusion that I am going to get rich with it, but I sure would like to be able to do a little better than “starving.”
Some particulars about me (or peculiars as those who really know me would say):
I was born in Denver Colorado in 1972 when people thought that bell bottoms and corduroy were a good idea. Disco was in full swing and was still a while away from being spit from the proverbial mouth of society. In other words, I had to endure said corduroy bell bottoms, which, needless to say scared me every time I had to wear them. Sure I was just a kid, but I was already privy to the idea of friction fires. And to make matters worse, they were brown. I was marked at an early age.
I sold my first painting of the mountains for $10 when I was seven years old. Was it just someone’s way of inspiring the mind of a child? Probably. But who cared, I was seven and I was rich. Who knew I could sit around and do something I love and have some sucker come along and pay me for something I was going to do anyway? I caught the bug early on.
While growing up, I was always drawing something, even at parties. If I found a pencil and paper, I was drawing something. People used to think I was pretty weird, but do you know what I think? I think…yeah…ok…I’m pretty weird. But I’m ok with that.
How did I get where I am?
Fast forward. I retired at the ripe old age….wait….too far.
After working various labor jobs and still suffering from the unquenchable desire to create, I moved to Michigan at 21 and met my, now, wife. While working as a tree climber I sustained an injury that put me on workmans comp for a few months. Not being the type to just sit around, I immediately leveraged that time to find a job in the career field I had always wanted. I opened the phone book and called well over a hundred companies, if they had anything to do with art, I called them. “Hello my name is Joshua Swanagon and I am a local artist and I am looking for work in my field. I would love the opportunity to come by and show you my portfolio.” “Do you have computer experience?” “No I don’t, but I’m a quick study.” “Sorry, we need someone with computer experience.” Over and over again. Of course there were those that didn’t divulge that need over the phone, so I went on many, many interviews, only to find it out there. And it only took one interview to find out that when they asked if I had “freehand experience” they actually meant the computer software Macromedia Freehand, not the ability to draw freehand on paper. Who knew?
Call after call I got the same thing, but I trudged on. Finally, “Do you have computer experience?” Oh great I thought, not again “No” I answered. “Great. My partner wants someone he can train so we know it’s being done the way we need it.” Did I just hear that right? So I took my portfolio in and they loved it. I started working almost immediately. Fortunately, my workman’s comp had just run out and I was laid off because it was the slow season, so I didn’t even have to give notice at my tree climbing job. By the way, I got computer experience, and was a quick study, just like I promised all the other companies.
A creative career, and I never looked back
So, I worked in the t-shirt industry for about three years, then the sign industry for about a year when the internet really started taking root. I loved the flexibility that the designers had on the internet, stuff I could never get away with on a t-shirt or sign. So I went and interviewed at a Web Design firm. Then they started speaking in some weird language. HTML? GIF? Rollover? JPG? What are you people saying?! Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
So I went home after work at the sign shop every night, and taught myself this wonderful, strange new language. And within six months I was doing websites in the area and stealing work from that same company. I got a call. They wanted to hire me and asked me to come in, turns out the best way to get rid of the competition is to hire them. I went in for the interview, and when they found out that I was the same guy that knew nothing about this six months before, and was now stealing work from them after teaching myself how to do it, I was hired on the spot.
I worked for that company for about six months when I got a call from a head hunter with a large computer consultant company offering me almost three times what I was making and a full benefits package. I was in. Fortunately, it was because of that move that I was able to endure the dot com bubble burst, even as I saw some friends, colleagues and great designers go down. It was a hard time. Since then I have worked for some great companies before landing on Aimia (formerly Carlson Marketing Worldwide) the company I am currently with, where I have happily been for 6 years.
But what about being creative?
I am just a programmer with Aimia, leaving me with only one outlet for my creativity; being creative at home. On my own time I love to work on my webcomic ArDuffle, and I find great joy in that. But I also like to spend some of my free time working on illustration. I have recently been asked to be a part of an anthology of graphic novels in the steampunk genre, and have a book of my own I am working on, plus some other ideas in the hopper. Not to mention, I have also been working at breaking into the licensing arena and have made a great friend who can really help me out in that direction. I already have some pieces being considered for licensing. It’s a very exciting time, and my brain is firing on all things creative right now and I am loving it. I would love to get into children’s book illustration and am working at pursuing that as well.
If you’re reading this, thank you for your endurance
Granted, it was a long story, but if it makes you feel any better, it could have been a lot longer. There. Doesn’t it feel shorter already? Being serious though, I do appreciate you actually reading this far, it shows that you have an interest in who I am, what I do and how I got here. And for that I thank you. Either that or you’re just really bored and have nothing better to do, in which case I hope this filled the void you were so desperately seeking to fill.