Let’s Get Ambitious – Ep. 1 (TJ Geisen – Riot Games Concept Artist)

Let’s Get Ambitious – Ep. 1 (TJ Geisen – Riot Games Concept Artist)


hello ambitious friends I’m Karolina risotto and today we’re starting a very special series called let’s get ambitious ever since I moved to Los Angeles I just become obsessed about the topic of ambition I talked about that in my previous video called why I move to Los Angeles so if you want to understand a little bit about that and get some more context before watching this I would recommend doing so this series is gonna be all about speaking with different people in different phases of success and understand a little bit their passions their Drive and what keeps them going so if you’re going through like a bit of self-discovery right now I think this is gonna be super useful for you before we move forward though remember to click the subscribe button below so you’re notified when new videos come in there’s also a cute little Bell button that actually sends you notifications on your phone technology right this episode’s guest is one of my best friends here in Los Angeles the talented TJ geison he is a concept artist originally from Arizona that currently works as an illustrator at Riot Games in case you don’t know that’s one of the biggest video game companies in the world and they’re highly known for their game called League of Legends so I’m really happy to welcome TJ hello I’m so happy to have you here yeah I can’t wait to interview cool so could you first explain the audience what a concept artists does the concept artist is there to encapsulate the words and vision of different parts of the creative team when going into something like a game or a movie and put it into imagery that the whole team can look at and get on board with a singular vision so I really want to understand where did your first inspiration come from like where did you start falling in love with art yeah I guess it started all the way back in elementary school I just drew like any kid everyone doodle back then but instead of going outside and playing sports I just stayed inside playing video games and drew stuff so just developing that yes and it’s still my element that’s just well meant to be so I kind of became known as the art kid at school so people would give me like quarters you know three bucks whatever their lunch money pretty much and I would just draw characters they wanted or I would do pictures of themselves which never turned out well so you were a hit since elementary school I wouldn’t give my lunch money away to anybody we’re gonna go from there did you keep just like doing art and did you go to art school or anything like that later on yes so I went into university straight into university from high yes from high school went into the art program that was offered there but it was kind of crap that’s something that you run into a lot with college level our education it can either be not so good or it can be hella expensive and then you’re paying the same a lawyer does for a degree at that point without the same sort of job security I guess coming out of it do you feel like there was some value in it at all going to art school do you think like you have to go to art school in order to become like an artist in any way or certainly there are good art schools out there and you can’t have a good experience doing it a lot of times what it comes down to is the connections you make in school with other like-minded driven artists but as far as art goes there’s a lot you can learn yourself especially with online resources nowadays I feel like it was kind of my bad experience at university that actually pushed me to find that direction so did you ever graduate how did that go I know I went for two years and started to accumulate debt this I dropped out I moved out of my parents house started paying my own bills and started making comics how do you make that change did you have a plan how is that no I I guess Yolo yeah it really was it was crazy thinking back about it but he was just I think that’s the the state I was in to where I didn’t know what I was gonna do I just need to get out of there right felt like the state I was out there I was actually kind of tearing me down versus making any progress I just knew that if I was going to be going into debt if I was going to be waking up in sacrificing sleep and energy and everything I at least wanted to be doing that via something I was actually passionate about I needed to find my own way which was very unusual because I was a very chill person complacent what was the plan did you do it was it was rough for many years going outside of college I mean there was just years that it took me just to kind of like get on my feet and start figuring out how to pay bills and manage my my own schedule manage my health cook yeah you know you gotta choose your priorities I know your strengths and I chose grilled cheese and pasta so my ambition back then was to harness the purity and the authenticity of Japanese style manga and bring it to America and kind of be a pioneer of making that bigger and more prevalent here in the United States so when did you start like actually making money out of your art because I imagine on the side just have like these side gigs and all to keep yourself surviving yeah man whoo all the restaurant jobs all the worst stuff what seems interesting from what you said is that basically you were living this life let’s say during your day job people say that you really didn’t like you were working on like restaurants and stuff right from what I know and then that gave you motivation to actually pursue your art even more because you were so passionate about and you had that goal of bringing that manga art to the United States right tough times for sure but I feel like that’s one of those building character situations and it definitely gives me an appreciation even where I’m at now it’s really easy to become jaded once you’re in the industry and just be like oh this person wants this these people aren’t appreciating my magnificence don’t these people know who I am it’s really easy to kind of fall into that even even being at some of the like top industry jobs but what keeps me kind of grounded and humble is I think about those times serving out tacos and being treated like Scott you know no no it’s not good for anyone and it’s you know there’s some people who are great at it and I just wasn’t at all I would never got good at serving never got good at like you know bringing bringing food out you make green margaritas well there’s there’s certain things that are worth working at has made a house he’s like the big star and there’s always more requests and there’s never enough tequila yeah I just end up behind the bar and then I just yeah bartender yeah me too I make repeating is which is Brazilian drink but you know we’re not gonna talk about what we do in our time off we’re gonna talk about let’s just completely go this direction yeah you know what I’m ambitious about serving the best convenience I do serve pretty good ones anyway getting out of topic when do you feel like you started making money out of art like how long did that take how did you get through the times of struggle cuz I’m pretty sure there were moments where you just felt you know not very motivated to keep going so how were those moments and how did you pull through part of the reason why I went into like service industry jobs and the low-paying stuff when I could have gone to maybe like a nice office and made a good you know earning especially in Arizona there’s a lot of kind of office stable career jobs that you can support a family buy a house stuff like that the reason why I put myself through the grinder like that is because I knew that I just need something to get by for the time and something that was flexible and something that I wasn’t terribly committed to so I could focus on what was really important I watched a lot of people around me and friends who you know got that kind of comfy job and everything kind of plateaued what drove me was having a lot of examples of what I didn’t want in life where do you think you found that drive in yourself is that just something that came naturally or was there some sort of external influence that got you going when it really kicked in was and like resources online there was an interview with an artist named Dan luvisi he’s a badass he’s like the art industry’s like super star yeah super star yeah we all love them but it was super inspirational something that point he brought up that I still keep with me nowadays is so what happens if you follow your ambition and you fail are you just gonna give up and are you gonna be okay living you know that other easy life may be the cushy office job are you really gonna be fulfilled when you’re on your deathbed you know laying there in your last moments and you’re like I’m glad I took the safe route or you know are you driven to keep pursuing that thing you really want to do what can you lose so I kind of kept that with me all this time I guess an ambition is also just like being you know knocked down several times and losing your path and then finding yourself again and just to keep going because I feel like if you don’t keep going and it doesn’t have that Drive then maybe it’s not really that much of an ambition or maybe you just need to strengthen some skills in yourself to reconnect with that ambition for example even like I did YouTube content for a while and then I came back to it only two years later because when I moved to LA like so much changed into my life and I thought I had a specific path then everything changed but then I kind of noticed that with time I just ended up in the same place I was before in some ways it’s like my ambition was you know with me this whole time but I hadn’t really found it until I went through that moment of struggle and me it made my self pull through if that makes sense no yeah absolutely I think it’s worth it for everyone to at least give that passion a try make sure you’re doing something that you really like on the side and that keeps you connected with your passion otherwise the other things that happen in life that can be really distracting and just take you away from the goal which happens a lot so it’s easy to lose your way especially because nobody’s really guiding her hand after a certain point was there a moment that you felt like things were starting to happen maybe explain a little bit what were the platform’s you were using in order for people to find your art sure and hire you it was it kind of happened during the development of a board game I worked on dread bound and so I did you know all the art and design for the most part for that game since it was my own like so things a couple friends I was able to publish it online I started putting it on my our station portfolio I definitely recommend art station that is kind of the most legit platform in which you have a lot of professionals putting up their their best work and the kind of work they want to do and that is where a lot of industry recruiters are looking for my understanding the important things that concept artists should be doing is creating personal projects if there’s no work putting yourself out there making sure you’re found by recruiters and trust in your art right yeah I mean one of the things you mentioned it’s essential to be putting out personal work one way is just doing wildly your own thing and the other way is essentially catering your portfolio for the type of studio you want to work for are you talking about style yes style and content for instance I see a lot of people who are in art school or coming out of art school and they have a portfolio that has a sketch of a naked lady a 3d rendering of a teddy bear a oil pastel painting of a building block and then like a 3d render of an axe what’s your target audience exactly yeah and you know worst case scenario is you get picked up to paint exclusively oil paintings of buildings and and you’re more of a character person so if you’re doing personal work then put stuff out there that you really want to be doing in order to not end up with the you know a job as an artist in a department you don’t really like you will either confuse recruiters or people looking to hire sorry or you will get hired for something that you’re you don’t really want to do in a industry that’s so passion driven you know that’s the whole reason you do art right and then they’re working for years to you know get themselves out of that lane of that discipline they don’t necessarily want to do but as long as you’re trying you know I feel like that’s what matter is people can tell when you’re trying and seeing evolution in your work that’s also important so that’s one thing I learned and one thing actually has stopped me from doing YouTube videos for a while is that I always wanted them to be perfect and I there’s actually several videos that I recorded and I never released because it was like this is not good enough and then eventually I was like you know what like I’m really critical like you are of yourself as well and it’s just at a certain point you just need to let go you know you’re not gonna go anywhere if you’re not sharing your stuff you know as you try and you make mistakes you’re just gonna find your voice eventually don’t be so hard on yourself is what I’m trying to say because you’re not gonna be a badass right away and if people are about as that young they had to make sacrifices I mean like maybe they did put in the work maybe they didn’t maybe they’re spiritually gifted maybe they were given all the resources they need when they were a kid maybe stormie I was looking it up online it’s kind of insane but we should probably talk about her and give her more attention that’s what she needs no I have to say that I saw some pretty funny kind of random here there’s this company that does small little fancy cars for children and I know that Kylie was posting something and it cost like a couple thousand dollars that’s crazy she already has her first car and I got my first car like seven months ago I mean in a weird way that’s still relevant to what we’re talking about which is that you know you could sit there and look at Instagram and be like that kid has a nicer car than me and I have to work right now and the kid doesn’t do anything what’s the point of that you say your life is better about other people’s give than that no just focus on you you do find your path we all start and end in different places like you don’t even know how to walk properly and you have a car that’s dope maybe she won’t learn how to walk see oh she’s that right yeah and then we’ll all have that on further yeah it’s it’s just the point being which we’re both trying to press here is just find your own way that’s all that’s all that that matters don’t light your own glitter it’s it’s worth you know having comrades and people you’re competing against yeah maybe to drive you but not to a malicious extent that’s why there are different phases of success right but one doesn’t necessarily Trump the other it just takes you to the next one yeah absolutely see now we’re getting the groove of it that’s what that’s why I slipped that tequila into your cup right you know that we understand a little bit like where you came from a couple steps you had to take in order to make money through art tell me why you decided to move to LA I mean things seem to be sort of working out in Arizona like you were getting some visibility and some connections why did you make the move and why did you decide to do it when you did it be in Arizona there wasn’t a whole lot of attachment to the entertainment industry it wasn’t necessarily necessary because there’s a lot of remote work you can do as an artist you’ve been working at riot now we outsource a lot of our AR and that’s from people who don’t work on in studio that’s some some people arm China Indonesia but it was important for me personally because I always felt out like a fish out of water in Arizona and a realistic idea of being able to work with other creative individuals it’s kind of awesome that doesn’t matter where you are in the world people can still find your art and you can be working for these big studios right that’s awesome but even so like you wanted to be surrounded by people who have the same drive and ambitions as you did yeah absolutely just getting to be with those people on a personal level I very much enjoyed and always wanted but also on a business side building your network within three months of moving to LA working like legit contract stuff so you started putting yourself a lot out there in conventions and meeting the right people so from there is that how like you got your freelance jobs and all that yeah yeah that’s exactly right you know I’m talking about presenting portfolios at conventions San Diego comic-con is actually where I got my first kind of landmark contract job so that’s one of the advantages in general of being like in the city that has your industry you’re just near the network and all the events of the industry are happening there so if you want to you know put yourself out there and meet the best people in the industry that are available and they’re not like taking the lead for most things that’s usually like the way to go just go to the city where they’re doing it all sure seems like what you did I mean given there there’s always a trade-off so where is the industry it seems like natural of course move to LA that’s where it’s all happening all right that’s so that’s what we’re all thinking well you know rent is maybe two or three times more expensive here than your ass’ll maybe it’s a little more wise right now to get the ball rolling where you’re at and then come there so what is next for you now that you you know you’re an illustrator and Riot Games I’ve been to the campus it’s amazing when you’re a new employee at riot and you’re there it taking you through training these give you these little hats from League of Legends and actually what the I thought we should have this and finish off I don’t actually know how or where you got these but I don’t feel like I can wear this yet like I have to you know earn my hat TJ can you please put it on your shoulder we’re working up to it okay you’re working yeah I I’m never gonna make it there so I’ll just do this I want to go with the group I’ve been wearing this at home you know just to have some fun it’s actually really comfortable so what is next for you know that you were at riot honestly this is this is kind of my dream come true as sappy as that is it just is I’ve done a lot of other along the way which have been great landmarks but this is the first time that I felt like I am being asked to do the things I just naturally want to do so I am taking a moment to just kind of relish this enjoy it I want to really lock in the way this feels right now because I don’t want to become jaded or lose appreciation for whatever you know where I’ve come from and what I’ve achieved in enjoy your success you know do what you really wanted to do this whole time and that you hustled for so it must be such an amazing feeling to be there and I’m extremely proud of you okay so to finish off I want to do a little game we both have to draw each other in like a minute I don’t know if that’ll be realistic I’m horrible at this I am terrible at drawing my drawing skills froze when I was 8 years old you know this is what’s next I came prepared with a folder sponsored by Vince bags thank you so much Vince all righty then take this crap seriously okay okay I’m gonna try to worry you you counted give me a minute and a half let’s be fair you’re not gonna like the way you look you should know that right away all righty then so we’re just drawing each other yes positive all right this this is the guy oh we got Phase II easy Oh God Oh oh nice stippling technician beautiful hone in on those happy accidents ooh so many more details Oh God I’m sorry I’m really sorry I mean you captured the essence I think should I change to repass instantly you make Picasso look bad don’t think about that okay I swear this is not how I see you what do you think who won the battle true fact TJ thank you so much for coming your participation has been lovely it’s great catching up with you on another level with three cameras pointing at me I hope that you guys enjoyed this video and you learned some great new things if you did remember to like it and to subscribe please follow TJ on Instagram to follow his work if you want you can actually buy his art book online I will put a link on the description below so you guys can see all the amazing work he does also since we’re just starting this ambition series if there’s a specific career path you would like for me to explore let me know in the comment section below and I’ll see the people I know here in LA I’ll bring them to the show and we can talk about their journeys and hopefully learn from them do you feel inspired today I really hope you do thank you so much for watching and I’ll see you next time on let’s get em Bish’s

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