Ep.146: Nic Gregory on why it’s never too late to start with art career

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: May 24, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Nic Gregory, a Background Painter and VisDev Artist. From Australia, Nic decided to move to LA to work in the animation in mid-30s. He worked with Disney, Cartoon Network, and Rough Draft Studios.

Get in touch with Nic

Key Takeaways

“You don’t have to believe in yourself, just do it anyway. Stuff will get in your way, but just jump over it and do it!”

Resources mentioned

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Special thanks to Nic for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Nic Gregory, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists and create various art related videos. My name is Iva, and my guest today is Nic Gregory. And in this episode, you will learn how he moved in his mid 30s, from Australia to LA to pursue his dream of working in animation and what helped him to do it.

Nic Gregory

So that the best tip I can give people is go for your goal. Things will get in the way, but they do it even when you’re doing nothing. You could be sitting on the couch, something weirds gonna happen one day, you might as well be going for a goal that things will still try to stop you. So yeah, you’ve just got to keep pushing through it.

Iva Mikles

Nick is a background painter and visual development artist. Born and raised in Australia having a career as a graphic designer, professional wrestler, with his own action figure and hip hop musician. After date, Nick decided to move to LA and work in the animation industry. He has worked with clients such as these new publishing Cartoon Network thing well, and his first full time role at rough draft studios. Nick is also teaching plein air classes in different galleries, and with the Walt Disney Family Museum. So please welcome Nic Gregory. Let’s get to the interview. Welcome, everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Nic here. Hi.

Nic Gregory

Hi, how are you? Oh, good. Good. And

Iva Mikles

we just talked a bit before the recording that yeah, jealous about the sun in LA now. So let’s talk about your background, then, like just jump through some of your background stories. Like how are you creative as a child? And maybe when you? How was it when you decided okay, I want to be professional in art.

Nic Gregory

Sure. I have very vivid memories when I was a child of loving animation because my dad used to watch it. He’s a big kid. And he still is. So I just remember growing up with, like Looney Tunes, the Nickelodeon cartoons. What else The Flintstones like the Hanna Barbera stuff as well. And it just seemed like there was just the this world of characters like a never ending supply of, of artwork and amazing stories. So I grew up with that. It was it was every Saturday and Sunday morning and every afternoon after school, you come home and that’s what you watch. And then I remember, maybe around between like the age of 10 and 12, my grandmother took me to an art gallery, which I was amazed by seeing all this artwork for the first time like frame pieces and paintings on the wall. And then what happened was I went home the next week, and I saw Fantasia the Disney film for the first time. And it hit me that the artwork that I saw on the wall at the gallery was now coming to life. And for me as a kid. I knew that was magic, like someone had done magic on a screen. And that was one of the first. Like, it’s probably the most vivid memory I have. Where artwork meant something and I felt something from it so heavily, not just like looked at it as a story or something to as like sidetrack me. So you’re seeing Fantasia that was he was

Iva Mikles

the more like the story of Fantasia or the colors of the painting you saw in the gallery? Or was it like a landscaper? What was the biggest emotional connection that you’re there?

Nic Gregory

I’m glad you asked that. Yes, I do. Because I think most people get attached to a story for me, it had nothing to do with story. Because my favorite part of that is the abstract piece where it’s just like the music’s being played. And like the pastel artwork is kind of moving. And you see like little bits of silhouettes of like the the violin and other instruments kind of flying through and just shapes and patterns. So for me it was it was a big thing, because I had an emotional attachment to the artwork I saw on the wall. And I didn’t need to know the story. So it had nothing to do with story. I just, it made me feel something. And I think that’s kind of unique, like even now I know story is king and everybody says that. But I like the fact that my first and biggest influence was just about the feeling I got from looking at colors and shapes in that. So yeah, it was it was it was a nice experience. And I think about it all the time that I got to enjoy that way instead of just looking at it as a story other that’s bad. But yeah, now I can look out the window or I can look at a piece of artwork on my wall and if it doesn’t tell the story I can still enjoy it.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, I’m still similar in this aspect, I think because I’m really like, inspired by colors, I think stronger than the story as well. So I totally understand.

Nic Gregory

Oh, good, good. Yeah.

Iva Mikles

And so how was it from that point, then maybe which are kind of the biggest turning points which got you where you are now. And if you have some stories in between, you can share how did you get there?

Nic Gregory

Sure. There’s a big chunk of my life from around 18 years old to about five years ago when I was like, early 30s 30 to 33, I think. So what happened was, I had to decide after high school, what do I do for a living and one of my teachers was very nice and said, Okay, if you want to do art or animation, that’s great. You have to be passionate for it. And you’ll have to travel a lot around Australia, because the jobs aren’t just like in one city. So as I can, it’s a bit nerve wracking. And then she said, But graphic design is a bit more dependable. And I think a lot of artists have heard that before. So I took that I thought, No, I want to pay my bills, I want to be able to get a house and all that stuff. So and she wasn’t like pushing me in any, any way. So I took graphic design, and I got offered both courses at college animation and graphic design. And sometimes I look back, and I think I already regret that a little. But it led me down a very different path. I don’t think a lot of artists have the stories that I have, which is cool. So the next step for me was graphic design for a few years. And as I got kind of a little border, little settled in that Korea, I sidestepped into something I’d love since childhood, which was professional wrestling. So I just woke up one morning, and I thought, I like comic books. I like wrestling. Why can’t I pretend to be a superhero in a wrestling thing? Yeah, it made it make sense. So yeah, I went to a school and I started training on the Gold Coast in Australia. And four months later, I was a professional and they put me in matches. And I had, I think five years, I competed on and off in the ring. And a few years after that I was like a manager character where I go out and I yell at the crowd and help another guy kind of get over and make him popular or hated. So that was my job. And yeah, so eight years in total, and I met my wife through that as well. She was a wrestler, too. So yeah, it’s a weird and different. Different story. I haven’t met anyone in animation that I do now, that has anything like that. But everyone’s got something different. But that’s very unique. And I’m glad I’ve got that that experience. And did

Iva Mikles

you have like a training? Like, I don’t know, two times a day three times a day when you were like, on the professional level? Or how much time did you spend on it? Did you have time to draw at the time as well?

Nic Gregory

Yeah, I did. I’d always been drawing even with other side steps, which I’ll tell you about. artwork was always there. Like I was always doing fine art for many years, probably about 10 years, I was entering competitions. And my favorite medium was charcoal. So it was just black and white for a long time for me. But yeah, work was always there. And I tried to make it a part of every career I had. So even with the wrestling, and I’ve told this story before to people, but when the scene in Spider Man, the first Spider Man movie they made in the like the late 90s, I think when he’s drawing his outfit, and he’s like planning what he’s going to look like, that exact scene happened to me. So I’m sitting in my bedroom, and I’m drawing what I’m going to look like, I’ve got like a mosque shape and everything. And so we’re always trying to find a way to put drawing an artwork into whatever I do. And I just know, I have to be creative. So yeah, it was always doing it. And I put it into my wrestling as much as I could. So then what happened upon me, then what happened after that was I always loved hip hop music. And I’d been doing that on and off too. And I’d been producing it for other people. And kind of doing my own music. But I never wanted to like emcee and rap in front of a crowd. Like I thought, I’m not going to be good at that. So one day, a festival came through my area. And I decided, I’m just going to give it a shot. I’m going to get on the stage and do my music because no one else is going to help me do it. And I’d never said a word like of my lyrics or saying or done anything wrapped in front of someone ever. And I put an application in I recorded a song in my bedroom. And next thing you know, I’ve gone from graphic design to wrestling and now I’m doing hip hop music. And yeah, I got on stage and I did like, like a 30 minute set. And over the course of that day, there was like 10,000 people. So I was nervous getting out there and I remember like choking on the water that I had just before I got on stage. And I thought I’m not gonna be able to do this. And I just did it. And that was one of my favorite memories. Because since then I’ve been kind of fearless and anything I want to do, like when you get that nervous about something, and then you just do it Anyway, in front of that many people, you realize things aren’t that scary. Like, it doesn’t matter even if they hated it.

Iva Mikles

But how did you overcome that fear before going on the stage, you know, because some people are like really shy or kind of afraid of crowds. And when you’re just there, it’s like, someone pushed you. And then you’re like, Okay, I’m going or it was just like, Okay, if I don’t do it now, but never.

Nic Gregory

I think, maybe a bit of that, like, if I don’t do it. Now, it might never happen. I don’t know how I’m driven like this. But I feel like when I get nervous about things is when I’m the bravest about things to like, usually, I feel like some people might say, I’m nervous. So I’m going to step back, or I’m not going to do something, and then they might regret it. I’m the complete opposite. Like, I get nervous. And there’s like another person behind me. Just going what, I’m gonna push you off a cliff, see what happens. So I just, I just walked on the stage. I’m like, I’m literally choking on the water. I drank. I couldn’t really talk. So I’m trying to like, yell out these words to get my voice ready to get on a microphone. And I just started doing it. And yeah, I was nervous the whole time. Like, right until I finish, I just felt butterflies. I feel like I’m gonna be sick. But I still did it. And I’ve tried to remember that moment forever. So it could push me through other things. Yeah.

Iva Mikles

And how did you get back to art or kind of going more to the animation industry route?

Nic Gregory

Yep. Well, I, after the hip hop music, and the wrestling had kind of slowed down, I decided, like, I’m sitting in a graphic design job still, like I’m still doing that on and off. And then I got let go when the GFC hit that global financial crisis, and a lot of people lost their jobs. And at that moment, I didn’t care. And I thought to myself, I don’t ever want to lose a job again, and not like have tears or be sad for a day or a week or something. And I just realized at that point, that the thing I’ve loved and thought was the hardest thing to do. Like I’ve done all these crazy, stupid things. And the hardest thing for me that I thought was like having superpowers was getting into animation, was following that art career. So yeah, when I got Lego from a job, I thought, stop procrastinating, stop thinking about doing it. You just Just have a go. And, yeah, early 30s, I’d be doing auto my life. But it was now when I took it seriously and thought I need to study, I need to find the right people to study with and just start gradually learning. So it’s now been four or five years since I kind of pushed to be better at Animation Art. And just tried to get to America and get a new career.

Iva Mikles

And how was the move for you, you know, and adjusting to the new town and maybe the culture? And how did you do networking when you moved?

Nic Gregory

Yeah, that that was a big learning curve for me. Because coming from Australia, all the jobs I’ve gotten and all the jobs and our friends have gone, you just apply online, or you play directly with a resume or folio. And they just pick the best person interview for the next stage. And then the best person for the job. Whereas coming here to the entertainment industry in LA, I had to learn real quickly that you had to network and you have to know the right people and go and make friends. Because everyone here is creative, and they’re fun. And they want to work with their friends. So I learned that quick. And within two or three months, my wife and I were going to all the events going all the gallery showings, which is a good thing. It’s a lot of fun. And we met all our friends that way. And it’s so true, those people are the ones that can help you get work and also just achieve a higher level in your art. So that was a big learning curve. And just getting here was huge for us too. Because for two years, I had been trying to get the visas to work for me, so to apply for jobs and get that going. And it just wasn’t happening. And then one of my friends who’s a professional wrestler, had won the Green Card Lottery, which not a lot of people know about where you just apply because America wants a certain amount of diversity here, like a certain percentage of each culture, which is incredible. I don’t think any other country does that. So we applied for it first year thinking we’re not going to win, but we might as well start applying and we want first year. Wow. Okay. So that that meant straightaway my wife and I on that one winning visa could come over here and we got a green card. And I thought in my head I thought that’s it. That’s a hard step. I just come here keep getting good at art. But the process took a lot of our time a lot of money. We lost a lot of money on our house selling that at the wrong time. And it was a big thing. It took about two years the process. So finally we get to LA and we set up a new life in our like mid 30s And it’s like being 18 Again, we had to get a driver’s license we had to find apartment We didn’t have credit history. So it was kind of like we didn’t exist when we were trying to buy things and get things done. So it was really tough. Like we went through all our savings, we were down to about $200, I think. And we’re a days away from going, that’s it, we gave it a shot, and we need to go back home. So we made it work. We just kept believing that we could do it and the Green Card helped it got to see it. But it was a big step. It was like, like I said, being 18. Again, we had to start all over.

Iva Mikles

And so when you were kind of in this, like, adjusting period, and like Okay, have you felt like the dive do like a good choice and like it’s not working yet, then, you know, like, when do I find the first job or this kind of thinking? Where something like this going on through your head? Oh, yeah.

Nic Gregory

I’d say the first three months in when we got down to like a little bit of money left. There’s those questions of like, well, we’ve got a safety net of our families, do we just call them and go home? Do we just cross our fingers that we’ll get work and keep applying for jobs. And so we got scared then. And then like a year in, things still weren’t happening for me. I was just getting freelance work. I’m still studying and trying to get better at my work every day. And there was another point where we’re like, okay, like, is this meant to be? Is it going to happen? And even two years in, it’s still was hard for me. And I’ve been here three years last month now. So two year mark, I’m still thinking, like, is it? Is it going to happen? But I’m, like I said before, I’m that type of person where I stick with it. Like when when it’s nerve racking, I still go ahead and try it. So I just kept believing that as long as I keep practicing my artwork, and meeting the right people, which is just as important. It did happen, and it finally did in the last year. But yeah, I just kept sticking with it. And we went through so many weird times. And I had some health problems. And my wife had a few things, you know, wrestling injuries we’ve had in the past two creeped up. So so many things tried to stop us from continuing this, but we just kept doing it. And I’m glad my wife stuck with it, too. She’s as strong as I am with those things. So

Iva Mikles

Oh, that’s perfect. So so the biggest takeaway would be like, just keep going and keep learning from this experience.

Nic Gregory
Yeah, absolutely. I feel like if someone asked me for like the biggest tip on wanting to make an art career, it’s just keep jumping the hurdles. Like if I wasn’t trying to be an artist right now, and I was back home, just doing graphic design. Even though I’m just paying the bills and trying to have a career just doing something that maybe I don’t like, there’s still going to be hurdles, like, I’m still going to have a health problem now. And then or something’s going to happen to a family member, like there’s going to be a problem that gets in the way, whether you’re going for a goal or not. So that the best tip I can give people is go for your goal, things will get in the way, but they do it even when you’re doing nothing. You could be sitting on the couch, something weirds gonna happen one day, you might as well be going for a goal that things will still try to stop you. So yeah, you’ve just got to keep pushing through it.

Iva Mikles

That’s true. That’s true. And so how did you approach the learning? You know, when you’re said like, Okay, I’m doing every day? Do you go to Sketch classes in LA? Or do you study also online or just drawing outside or which are kind of maybe your activities?

Nic Gregory

Yeah. When I first started the process, like when I was like, Okay, I got like, go from the job, you’ve got to get better. The first thing I thought was, I have to find the best artists that are working. So I didn’t think go back to college or anything, find people that are doing what you’re doing. So I think the internet like courses and studying was kind of still new then like five years ago. So I found the Oatley Academy, Christo at least course. And I was part of his first course. So that I think it was like the first six or 10 people something. And he just left Disney. So he had all this energy and all that knowledge and his own creativity. And I got to feed off that for like this 10 week course. So I woke up at 3am Once a week, and then I like worked every day for that. And things kind of started rolling in, I understood a bit more about the industry and how how things work, and I picked his brains. And because that went so well, I’d had this this thing where at least every year since then, I take at least one course so I save some money up at the end of the year. Once January hits, I find what I want to do next. And I take an online course because anyone can do it now. Like I can just do it on my phone like I did for Christmas like I sat there in the dark and in my pajamas and watch the phone and learn all this stuff. So every year I do that now. And then like the little things I do on top of that, I go outside my plein air paint quite a lot because they like color and backgrounds. And that’s that’s amazing. Like you don’t need a teacher for that. Just go outside things will start sinking in. So I do that regular slowly, but I’m not a, I’m not an everyday person. I’m not one of those people that goes, I have to sketch every day. Some people will tell you, you should. And maybe I should, but I like getting out. I want to see the environment before I paint it. I want to experience something before I think about a story. So that’s part of my artwork process as well. Like, just put all of the pens and pencils aside and, and go outside and see things and live your life a little. And so yeah,

Iva Mikles

and when you paint with easy squash or oils, or what do you use outside?

Nic Gregory

Yeah, I use squash mostly just because convenience of taking it out. It’s easier than having the setup oils. And then I like using soft pastel. Not many people do. I don’t meet many people that take it out and do it for like plein air. But I feel like that’s just a point of difference. That’s why I do it. And I love getting messy. Like I do it at home to my wife hates all the dust. Yeah, it’s terrible. And I did it once back home in Australia when we had a house there. And I had the air conditioning going all day, but it was using red. So it went through the air conditioning system. And we can see it everywhere. It was on the floor. We saw it on the bottom of our feet. So yeah, she hates that.

Iva Mikles

I’m perfect to your whole are the house is like artwork, basically.

Nic Gregory

Yeah, it was. And I had to clean the whole thing.

Iva Mikles

Do you have like a favorite brand of the garage or pastels.

Nic Gregory

For squash. I like the Windsor Newton for the darker columns. I’m not sure why that is. But I’ve just noticed that for like violet, which is my favorite color to use, particularly for LA. It’s just a it’s a bit of rain for the darker ones like the Blues as well. And then for the lighter colors. I really like the cheap stuff, like just find the cheap stuff that’s kind of a bit more watery, a bit more like a softer texture. And I like using that because then it like you can see your underpinning come through it easily. So yeah, the cheap stuff for the light colors. Windsor Newton is pretty good for the dark colors. Yeah, like I said, I’m not sure why but it works. I think

Iva Mikles

they have quite a nice variety in like the color tones in those darker colors. At least I think when I try that. Yeah, I’ve noticed that there is like, really big difference going from really dark to light when you use like water, I think but

Nic Gregory

yeah, yeah, yeah, no, I agree. Actually. Yeah, they’re good vibrant colors. You can get a lot, a lot of effect out of them. Yeah,

Iva Mikles

yeah. And so and you mentioned also the pastels Do you have also some favorite ones or not really.

Nic Gregory

Not really. But I do that on purpose, because like there’s some good I like the Rembrandt one. So like the softness of it, it just kind of crumbles apart. And it’s beautifully, like beautiful, powdery. But I’m one of those weird people that I like seeing moment my mistakes in my artwork. So if I get a really bad piece of pastel, and it cracks badly, or it doesn’t like spread properly on the page, I enjoy that I want to see all these accidental, like mistakes come through. So I’m one of those people that sees a sale and buys like a $3 box of pastels and they’re terrible. But I’ll enjoy like just smashing them up. And maybe I’ll mix water with them or mix paint with them and see what happens. So I like using the bad stuff too. Yeah.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. Because it’s like irregular and then he looks smaller, creative. Well, yeah. Before we continue, let’s take a little break. Because many of you have been asking me about recommendations for different tools and resources to help you out with many different things like studying finding inspiration, overcoming artistic blog, managing your time and freelance. So I decided from now on in the episodes, I will share with you some of my favorite things which helped me a lot and I’m sure they can help you out do so let’s go take a look. So the first one is all the role which is a largest audio bookstore out there with more than 100,000 audiobooks, and I love listening to stories and learning from books and even if you’re another book reader, this is a great way to get the knowledge and advice from books just by listening. It will be a shame to miss out on all the great tips if you just don’t like to read. I usually listen to audiobooks while I’m traveling doing housework or painting. It’s very relaxing and I learned a lot with this awesome you can get free 30 days trial, which is like getting free books. So try it out for yourself and go to artsideoflife.com/or They will. The next one is for all the freelancers and studio owners out there. It’s called FreshBooks and it’s an invoice and accounting software that is super easy to use and significantly cuts your time needed for invoicing, getting paid, tracking expense time tracking and making proposals. great part about this is that with few clicks you can export all important data for your tax declaration too. And you can get a free trial 30 days to test it out for yourself do so go to artsideoflife.com/freshbooks. The last one is trusted house sitters. And as you may already know, I love traveling to refresh my inspiration and avoid art books. But my budget doesn’t allow it so often. Fortunately, I discovered trusted house sitters website where you can do the petty thing and leave for free like a local, I love dogs and cats and all kinds of animals. So it’s great when in this way, it’s only about buying a flight ticket or travel there by car. Accommodation is for free. And you can have great fun with animals. And you can also throw them and practice your animal anatomy skills. It also works for those of you who have pets, and are looking for pet sitters to be able to travel. So check it out at artsideoflife.com/d H S, you will find more artistic resources, tips and tools used by me or mentioned in the interviews at artsideoflife.com/resources. So go check it out. And just to let you know, some of the links are affiliate links, which means I will get paid a small commission if you decide to purchase through them, but absolutely no added cost to you. And in this way, you get the chance to support Art Side of Life, which I really appreciate. And now let’s go back to the interview. And so when you mentioned that you go also out to paint and you do also different freelance jobs and stuff. So how does your normal day look like? Kind of like how many hours do you still draw and maybe do something daily, which contributes your sectors like meditation or sports or I don’t know, well, given the nature.

Nic Gregory

Sure. Okay, so my daily routine would be I’m mostly freelance, even though I’ve got a full time job now and I work most of the year full time, mostly freelance. So when I get up in the morning, I’ve got an opportunity to take it a little easier. And I take advantage of that if I can. So I just I go out on my balcony, I look at my view. And I try to just clean my head a bit. And I’m not one of those people that gets up early at like 4am and 5am. And like powers through a couple of hours of work. So my day would be, I get a rhythm going like I’m not a quick starter. But once I get that rhythm going after about an hour, I can just plow through anything. So that’s how I work. But I make sure that I get up a lot, I make sure I move I roll my neck all the time, because of all the injuries I have. And I tried to tell everybody that now that you get told to move, you get told to stretch and all that stuff. But it’s so important. Like so many artists are experiencing problems with their necks and the risks now from working like hunched over the Cintiq or, you know, being in their sketchbook all the time. And it’s not good. And I think we’re all gonna experience some troubles with our bodies if we don’t sort of sit up straighter occasionally and stretch. So I do yoga a lot as well, just to make sure I’m flexible. And yeah, that’s kind of my routine, just, I get in a rhythm in the morning, I work better at nights, I make sure I paint at least once a month, if I can, like some sometimes I can’t. And then I can paint every weekend or like two, three nights a week, then I do it. But I’m just gonna feel in the mood for it to like and just see if it hits me I make sure I paint like if I think I haven’t painted in a while. I literally just pick everything up. So it’s a random kind of day. But I definitely start slow when I finish really strong.

Iva Mikles

And when you work for a client or studio, they need digital work mostly or do you also work traditionally with them?

Nic Gregory

Yeah, it’s predominantly digital. I probably think maybe I’ve done like 2% of my work ever, as traditional. And that might be like putting us a scan of a sketch or like a, like a painting background or something into a digital piece. But it’s it’s pretty much digital, like the stuff I do for Disney. It looks traditional, but it’s also digital too. And I get it too. It’s easy for them to send the files around. And a lot of companies use freelancers now. So it’s just easy to send that work between people quickly. So it’s pretty much all digital.

Iva Mikles

And they have maybe also some tips about the social media or because you also mentioned that yeah, you are networking, like in real life. But did you do some promotion of yourself on social media or it was mostly the physical networking?

Nic Gregory

Yeah, I’m not. I’m not heavy into like, really pushing on social media. But I really do believe that there is you need a presence, and you need some regularity. So if you’re one of those people that can do every day, then go ahead and do it. I take that energy and put it into social media but For me, I try to do at least once a week, like Monday to Wednesday, when everybody’s like, I seen the art people are online, post something posts your work, show people what you’re doing. So that has been helpful. I got work last month because of that just for great showing something every week and letting people know that I am working, even if it’s on personal projects, that’s a huge thing. If you’re doing something, if you’re going to sketch a cafe, let people know. Because it shows that you’re, you’re working and you’re finishing things. And that’s really important. And when someone can sit on their couch or in their bed, and look at their favorite artists or see that, like you’re working on something, they don’t even don’t even have to like it or interact with you. But trust me, people are seeing that. So social media is really important. And whenever I go to like a networking event, or a gallery showing just meet friends, people always like, Oh, you’re Nick Gregory, we’re friends on Facebook or something. And like, people will follow you and they will remember you. So I think it’s really important to have a presence there. Even if it’s just a little bit. Yeah, it does help.

Iva Mikles

Definitely, yeah. And your go to platform is like Instagram or Facebook, or what do you prefer?

Nic Gregory

I put a lot of effort into Twitter a few years ago, and I did really well on that. But I feel like for me, I’ve got three, and it’s all for different reasons. Twitter seems to be good if I want to get be a part of something that’s happening. So if you want to like hashtag something, and like there’s an event or you’d like a fan art thing is happening. Twitter is great for that. If you’re building a network of people you’ve actually met, or you might know in your city or something, Facebook’s perfect, because I think it’s a little more personal. You can talk a little more openly because people can be private on that. And then if you’re an artist, you have to have an Instagram. So it just for seeing what people are doing, like actually just seeing what they’re producing. Instagram is perfect for that. So for different reasons, I have each one of those. And I try to put the same stuff on all of them. But occasionally if I just want to interact and tell friends and colleagues that you know I’m looking for work Facebook’s perfect. If I just want to show off what I’ve done, Instagram is great. If I want to be a part of something or an event, or like people doing their Christmas sketches and Twitter, so I’ve got all them for different reasons.

Iva Mikles

Oh, perfect. And what about the events you go through? We made the designer calendar, right. But you also went to CTN? And do you have like other recommendations for events people to check out? Or salary openings as well?

Nic Gregory

Yeah, okay. So I mean, if people are in LA, or if they’re not, go find your local gallery, because the likelihood is, if you wanted to get into animation, or comic books, or sci fi, fantasy, everybody is an artist. And they’re good artists. And they’re good just because they can create probably any type of art. So just go to your local galleries, you will meet people that are in other industries that might just be looking at fine art on the wall or abstract art or something. So yeah, I tell everyone go to the little events where there might be 20 or 30 people in a room, you’re gonna make friends, and you’re gonna meet someone that’ll teach you something you didn’t know. So I tried to get to like the CSG gallery here, gallery, nucleus, pop secret gallery, there’s a whole bunch of other ones that I don’t even know the names of that I just randomly go to with friends. And then for events. CTN is my big one for each year. Just because I know some people have might have trouble with organization of it. And that’s just every event. But all the animation people are there. So if you want to work in animation, and you want to be able to meet people and network properly, you have to be at that event. And that’s my favorite. And I do well there. And each year my goal is to come out of that with, I guess, stepping in another door. So maybe it gets me work, maybe just let me meet some new people. And then that leads to something else. And it was also the way I made all my friends. When I moved here, we moved to the month of CTN. And it’s just it’s a great thing for that there’s no other event like it where everyone’s kind of ready to be friendly and mingle this in that way. Other events, designer con was good. That was my first one this year I met you. Yeah. It’s great for people that want to make products or turn their artwork into something physical. And I think that’s if you do that, if you’re turning your characters into like sculpts or something, you have to go to designer con things amazing. But I’ve also done WonderCon as well. And I know people tell me it’s like a little bit of a less crowded San Diego Comic Con and that’s what it’s like. But that’s perfect. If you’ve got something that fits into that world of I guess like fan art or you mashing things up or you’re doing something that’s going to get someone’s attention in with characters and stuff. I found it was different in that way. It wasn’t just about showing, like animation arts for CTN designer console physical things If you needed a good character, you needed some sort of fan type attraction at your table at WonderCon. So I’m going to try to get next year and do a few like sort of mashups of things with like wrestling characters and animation style style characters and see what I can do there. But they’re all a little different. But they’re worth going to, if you can save your money up every year and go there, you meet 1000 People like and that’s what I feel like I’m paying for when I get a table, not to sell myself but to meet all those people like yourself. And

Iva Mikles

when you went there first time to see the end, did you have a table right away, or it was more just mingling and walking around to like different workshops and talking to people. And then the next year table or

Nic Gregory

the first year I went was just to see what it was like it was the first year when I started studying at the Academy. And I thought I heard more about it from some friends through that. So I was like, Okay, I gotta look into this. I read about a thought it’s worth going flew over here. And as soon as I experienced like the first day, I realized that it almost didn’t matter that it I don’t know if this makes sense. But it didn’t matter that the event was on. It just mattered that all the animation people happen to be in this one spot at the same time. And I knew that was special. So that first year, I knew on the first day that I’d come back the following year, and table. So I have ever since I think this year was my fourth or fifth year, fourth year. And yeah, it’s been invaluable. It’s such an important event for animation artists.

Iva Mikles

And so when someone is more shy, maybe and if they go to this kind of event, they have maybe some tips how to start talking with other people, because I was thinking like maybe in the queue when you are waiting for maybe portfolio review or something like that. Yeah, they have other experiences. Have you met people around you?

Nic Gregory

Yeah, I’ve got a couple of things that I’m not shy when it comes to talking to people, because I’ve done so many things with like the public watching me. So but I can tell other people are so I’m happy to get them into a conversation. And usually I just started by not talking about what they’re nervous for, like waiting for the portfolio review. Or when you see their favorite artist, like I might just look at a piece of artwork and just start a conversation with oh, look at that thing on the table. Or I love your T shirt. Like everyone’s got something weird on a t shirt. It’s just something personal. Like it might be the way a person looks like I like their shoes or something. So yeah, I just I just go talk to people like honestly. And then usually we pretty quickly it’ll roll into an art talk. Yeah, and like I said, I’m not afraid of that I used to do that with with fans of the wrestling all the time. So it’s easy for me, I feel sorry for people that really have to push to do that. It’s a hard thing to learn.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. And so if you think about like, the whole art career, like until now, is there something you wish you knew before you started?

Nic Gregory

Well, there’s a lot. I wish, I wish I knew a bit more about how the industry is, I guess how the job positions are built. And I know it’s a different for each each company. But it’s it almost felt like when I got here, it was like a secret. Like there was like this like group of people that were just keeping a secret from everyone. And you know that like character designers exist, you know, background artists exist. But each company is slightly different. And that information was hard to come by you had to meet people that worked in those jobs, to tell you how the job worked. I know the industry keeps changing too. So things are different slightly every year. But I wish I just knew that jobs, because then I could have focused more. And I wouldn’t have spent so long trying to figure out where I belong because I tried character design first. And you know, I got freelance work doing that. But it wasn’t my thing, because I didn’t understand exactly what happened with background in each company or environments are matte painting, stuff like that, which I feel I’m suited for. So I wish I just had a mini delved a little more or when I met the right people ask those questions. Because if you know where you can end up, then you know exactly what path to take. Or you can do it easier. Yeah, so yeah, that was a problem for me.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. So can you tell us a bit more about this? Like, what’s something you find out? You know, like, you didn’t know, like, of course, interesting or?

Nic Gregory

Yeah. So coming here that like in my head, I knew character design. I knew background painters exist background designers and visual development. And that’s kind of as far as my knowledge went. But I didn’t know that. For instance, say at DreamWorks, you could be a visual development artist, and they might put you like where your specialty lies. But then you can also try other things. Maybe when that show might wrap up or if the work is finished there. You can step into other things and help out in other ways because you’re a bizdev artist, doesn’t mean they don’t have people that are just spit like specially in character design, but in that role, you can do that whereas it might be different for I worked at rough draft studios like you Raul is very specific. So if you’re a color stylist, you, you just do the color stone. If your background painter, you just painting over the top of the designs. And then for instance, if you go to feature, if you’re, say Disney features, as far as I know, if you’re bizdev, you will have a specialty, but then there will be chances to push into other areas and help out when needed. So to have that knowledge when I moved here and know that if I liked the idea of bizdev and moving into other areas, maybe DreamWorks or Disney Feature might have been something I just focused on, like laser vision. If I wanted to freelance more and get a chance to be at home and work that way, and like have one specific goal, Cartoon Network might have been good just to be able to do that, because they hire a lot of freelancers. You get your one role, and that’s what you do as well. So to know what works in each company, that that was the hardest part. And now I kind of know, it makes it a bit easier. So I hope if anyone’s watching this, and they heard those things, ask those questions of people. And then you know where you can, you can aim for a lot easier.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, exactly. So you can define your goals better and like learn things you need.

Nic Gregory

Yeah, exactly. I mean, it doesn’t hurt to like have a roundabout way to get somewhere. Like that’s been my whole life. But it’s nice that when you go to focus, that you can pick your target, like you know where you want to end up. So

Iva Mikles

yeah, yeah, definitely. And let’s talk about maybe your current project, something you know, like you can share, which is maybe not confidential, or something which you are looking forward in the future.

Nic Gregory

Sure. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different types of art, not just like doing 2d things and painting and drawing. So and I think you remember from designer con, I did the this Evil Queen from Snow White, I did a light box display her like, thank you. So I’m trying to every time I do my like, new course for the year, I’m trying to see if I can push myself to do other things, tinker with electronics, I tried, like, pulling upon an animatronic bird that I found to figure out how it worked. And I want to try animatronics there. I want to try things with lighting. So my next projects are probably going to have things like sculpts and laser cutting and I my my dream gallery showing is to have a beautiful modern gallery, have a dark room, but everything has lights and has animatronics moving through it. Oh, it’s a huge project. And I’m only just starting now to think about that. But having done the the Evil Queen winner, I know it’s possible, and I can do it. Now. I’ve got a rough like idea of how much it would cost. So I feel like maybe a two year plan, I might be able to put something together and just have this experience where people come in. And kind of like the feeling I had when I watch Fantasia, they can walk into my artwork, like that’s something that’s really cool. So that’s my main project. And then I’m also thinking about putting together a pitch for an animated TV show, which is the first time I’ve ever thought about doing that. A lot of friends do it. And I’m like, if they’re doing it, I might as well give it a shot too. So yeah, I’ve got some ideas for that.

Iva Mikles

Oh, that’s perfect. Yeah. Because also, as you mentioned, the kind of the experience of the gallery and stuff. It’s really popular nowadays. Right? And also there is the Instagram kind of House Museum. I don’t know if you heard about it, I think it’s in LA, where you can just come there and then take pictures with a colorful background. So people just love experiencing colors and lines, as you said, so yeah, that sounds like something which would be super popular.

Nic Gregory

Yeah, I think it would, I think it would go outside of just the animation crowd that I would probably usually attract. Because I know people there. I think it would get regular people and they just want to see, you know, nice colors and something different. So yeah, I’m looking forward to getting that ball rolling and seeing what happens.

Iva Mikles

Oh, perfect, but I will be definitely there. So I’m looking at that. What about like a 10 year plan kind of thing? Do you have like a dream scenario which will happen in like five to 10 years? Would it be mainly this gallery dream life scenario? Or are there more things you want to

Nic Gregory

do? The gallery thing, like not to make it sound small. But that’s like a side project. I have pretty big goals. And I always tell my wife this too, I find this hilarious that I tell her what my goal might be like, for instance, getting to America. I said to her, it’s a 10 year plan. In the back of my head, I knew it’d be two to three. I didn’t know how. So that’s how I how I work. So whenever I get a 10 year plan, I figure out how I can do in two to three. So what I’m what I’m hoping to do is keep getting experience on the shows that I’m working on. So at once now I’m working for three different companies and I want to take all that experience I’m getting really quickly and keep doing different things keep not just doing background painting and stuff, but all the different areas I can. And I’d like to think maybe one day, I can do art direction or make a short film, I want to put it on like a competition scene and like, the awards and stuff. And that’s, that’s a big goal for me is getting my own work out there. And I can’t animate, but I’ll get some help. And I’ll figure out how to do it. So that’s, that’s a big goal for me is produced something. But ultimately, like, I think like most animation artists, at some point, you all probably thought, oh, I want to work for Disney Feature. And that’s still a goal for me. I think that’s always going to be in the back of my mind. Because it’s like the childhood thing. I love Fantasia and the artists were there. So I want to experience that myself and produce something with them. And I think that will I know that will happen. It’s just a matter of time. Like I have to just keep working at it. And so that that’s probably in my 10 year plan, if I have to look at look at it that way. So if I can produce something in 10 years and have like an animation out there, help producers show art direct, something like that. I think that’s my my major goal along the way, or the projects, that will just happen. I always do those.

Iva Mikles

Oh, perfect. Yeah, that sounds really good. And what about like super far, far future? And what would you like to be remembered for in like, 100 years or more?

Nic Gregory

That’s, that’s an easy one for me to answer. I’ve thought about that my whole life in like, two 300 years from now, because I look back at like artists that I remember from hundreds of years ago, I want to be one of those people. And I’m not talking like, like a name like Leonardo da Vinci or something like I don’t expect that. But I want to know that I produced enough work, traditional work, things that people can hold in their hands. And know that you know, when my time is up on this planet, whether people have it or not, I just want to know that it’s good enough that someone will at least appreciate it. And it’ll be around, like in two or 300 years. If that’s when I get famous, then so be it. I don’t care about that. But I just want to know that. Like, well, after I’m gone that that artwork is still precious to somebody. And it makes someone feel something that’s the same way I did when I saw for the first time when I was a kid. So that’s that’s always my goal. Like I have Korea goals. But in 200 years from now, someone’s looking at a traditional piece of my art and it’s in a gallery. That’s that’s probably the best thing that could happen to me. So yeah, some

Iva Mikles

like emotional connection with the art.

Nic Gregory

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I hope that happens. Yeah,

Iva Mikles

I’m sure we definitely because you are like really driven and like, Okay,

Nic Gregory

I will do this. Yeah, I’ll keep aiming for it.

Iva Mikles

Perfect. And before we say goodbye, maybe you can share last piece of advice, or key takeaway, and then we will slowly finish.

Nic Gregory

Sure. The key for getting being goal driven, and just having if you have a dream for something and you want to achieve it, it’s as simple as just saying you’re gonna do it. And I know it sounds weird to say this, but don’t, you don’t have to believe it at first either. Like, I didn’t believe that I could do any of the things I’ve done. And what I just told you now in the last hour is half of what I’ve done in my life like this weird stories. And every time I thought to myself, I can’t do it. But I’m still going to do it anyway. And I think that’s, that’s something I hope people take away from when they listen to me talk about what I’ve done. It’s just if you have a goal, just try to do it. And stuff will get in your way, like straightaway, things will get in your way, just jump over them because stuffs gonna get in the way of life. Even if you’re sitting on the couch, like I said, so you might as well be going through a dream or a goal. It doesn’t have to be big, just pick a goal and just say you’re gonna do it. And that’s it.

Iva Mikles

Perfect. I’m so inspired, I should go back to work and draw somewhere. So thank you so much, again for being here.

Nic Gregory

That’s okay. It was a pleasure. Thank you and keep up the good work. I love listening to the show.

Iva Mikles

Oh, thank you so much that this definitely makes me so happy that I can inspire others with all these thoughts. And finally, it’s super cool. And thanks, everyone who joined today as well, and I’ll see you in the next episode. Hey, guys, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a couple of free artists resources ready for you on the website as well. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher so I can reach and inspire more artists like you. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Continue to inspire each other and I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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