We had the good fortune of connecting with Jon Luce and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jon, how do you think about risk?
Taking risks is what art is all about. I was always too timid to take the risk to venture into art and it held me back for far too many years. I went through fast food jobs, escrow work, construction and even management type positions for far too long. One day, I took a job as a tester at Activision and it changed my life. I had always loved video games, feature films and the art associated with them. Being a tester, I was on the inside of the business and could see the development process right before my eyes. I was so close to the dream job I had always had in video games, yet was no where near where I needed to be skill wise to acquire an artist career. That was the last job I ever took where I would doubt my capability to make my dreams come true. The only thing standing in my way was the fear of failure and risk. I was getting older by now, in my upper 30’s and married, There was much more on the line for me to start a whole new career as well as go back to school for the needed skills. This would take a serious amount of time, as well as face a whole new set of risks. Then a blessing in disguise happened. The company went through a merger and laid off an exceptional amount of employees in the process. When this happened, I was faced with two choices. Go back to escrow or management type positions to make a decent living, or face my fears and take the risk of pursuing my dream job as an artist. My wife and I had to move back home with my mother, cut back on budgets, as well as face the uncertainty of going to school full time at almost 40 years of. I was taking a huge risk, but I knew it would all pay off. I worked on art jobs whenever I could, mostly doing small commission work for family. The hours piled up with every new class I needed to attain the proper skills to work in the industry. With the help of my mother and patience of my loving wife, we persevered until the day I attained a Illustration Certificate. By this time the work was a bit steadier. I had even acquired positions as a painting teacher as well as selling art at local art walks. I then made a huge leap in my career at an art gallery in Huntington Beach. I shared the walls with very talented artists of all types at a show curated by none other than legendary photographer Pep Williams. I was ecstatic. I sold work, met new artists and gained more confidence in my choices. I was still a bit away from a dream job in film and gaming, but I knew I was on the right path at this point. The gallery hired me as Artist in Residence and I began teaching art classes right there in the gallery. I continued my education during these times, taking more risk by going after a second Certificate, this time in Entertainment Arts. I had spent years building a traditional background in art with oils, drawing in graphite, charcoal and colored pencil, but this was a whole new field in digital arts. To attain this certificate I would need to gain skills in Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Maya, Substance Painter, and many other industry standards. I buckled down and dug right in, not letting my age or fear of another couple years at school get me down. It was another huge risk to start so many modern tech classes, but if I was going to make it, I would have to make it past these fears and risks as well. After completing several classes, I am now on my way to finishing my Entertainment Arts Certificate, only one more semester to go as I write this. The best news is, since my dedication to overcome these fears and work through the risks, I have already accomplished so much. My first accomplishment was winning Best In Show at my school Fullerton College, Ca. at the Virtual Student Art Show 2020. This was for a digital art illustration for my version of “The Thing”, based on the novella “Who Goes There?”. I have also had my work published in Corbeaux Magazine recently as well as increased the amount of freelance work I am doing. I then began sending in applications to work in the entertainment industry, and have started to see numerous responses. My most triumphant response being from Netflix Animation, where I have been accepted into the running for internship to their art program. This is a huge accomplishment for me, as it would be for many if they were to get in. This is all due to me taking risks and facing the fears that keep us from taking risks. If I had simply gone back to work in the mundane jobs I had known all too well, I would never had made it this far. I would not be as accomplished of an artist, learning all the skills it took to conquer the hurdles set before me. It is possible for anyone to do, but there is no way you can do it sitting back in the comfort of conformity. One must break free of the security that binds them to the typical majority. Not everyone has such a loving spouse to encourage them or parents that get what it is they are trying to accomplish. Even then, those are risks that keep us up at night wondering “what if?” and “why not?”. The answer we get is fear and risk, and they are loud and intrusive to our dreams. We then settle back into what we know, settling for a stable answer that keeps us unhappy and unsatisfied in the world which we have created for ourselves. Break free from those bonds of uncertainty. Take the leap and go for it. Being an artist is more about determination and conviction than that of supernatural talent given to us at birth, and it all starts with taking a risk.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What I have learned as an artist is that you are your own worst enemy. Believe in yourself, the art you create and the place in the world you are destined to be in. It is not an easy path, nor is it the fastest route, but if you stay focused and do not let the words of others derail your artistic endeavors, it is achievable. Many will try to fill your head with the doubts you most likely are feeling already. The desire to dismiss your ability will come like an avalanche. You will be buried by your own crippling self deprecation. Do not do this, for this is more damaging than any hurdles life will throw your way. Everyone has had life come down hard and push us off the path to satisfaction. Artists have the added dissuasion of self doubt. If you can conquer your own feelings, you can reach heights you only dreamed of. This is the path I have taken for my art. Many have said that you must be a certain type of artist to make it, and each one of them was different from the next. I learned, very recently in fact, that this is not the case. The more success stories I listen to and read, the more I realize what made them successful was the belief in themselves. This is how I have gotten to where I am now. I did not take to heart the ridicule of some individuals who believed their way was the only way to make it. These naysayers would literally bring myself down and many artists around me, discouraging them to follow their passion. They might as well have asked me to put on a tie and sit at a desk all day. I got into art for my own reasons, not theirs. And while they may have a wealth of knowledge and experience, they are not the only voice out there. Find the mentor who gets you. Find those that will teach you the things you desire to lean most along your artistic journey. Do not let an opinion that differs from yours guide you into an secondary situation. Always aim for your own goals and strive to achieve your own dreams, no matter what anyone says, no matter how much you may look up to their skill level.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As an artist, I would probably take a tour of things a little out of the ordinary for some. One of my favorite places to spend the day would be at the Oddities and Curiosities Expo. I could literally spend days at this expo, as it houses some of the most creepy collectibles out there. You can find a plethora of specimens no matter what your weird tastes may be! Of course after that, I would need to grab a coffee at one of the numerous cafes around. Perhaps stopping at James Coffee Co., a newer addition to the local caffeine scene. They have some top notch pour over coffees to say the least. Next on my favorites list would be the Art District, especially during an art walk event. So many talented artists in one spot is never a bad experience. I would then make my way to the Whaley House Museum, because I love all things paranormal. If its haunted, I cannot get enough! There is also the Museum of Us, where we leave behind the paranormal to gawk at the human mind. There are such fun exhibits that range from the old to modern, fictional to every day. It will make you rethink what a museum can be. Another place I could spend full days at would be the San Diego Zoo, where I once took my wife to watch the cheetah run! We could feel the ground pounding as a full grown cheetah ran past just a few feet away. It was unbelievable to see such a majestic animal so close. Once I got hungry, I would have to stop at a local sushi joint, as the restaurants are so close to the ocean it is hard to find something that is not fresh. For a slightly different vibe, I would go to Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub. They are a little out of the ordinary, as I am sure you can tell by the name, but they will never disappoint. If my guests were feeling a bit more traditional, Azuki Sushi cannot be beat. Once my belly was full, I would want to take a walk to just enjoy the glorious nighttime air. One of my favorite spots is the Ocean Beach Pier. The view is amazing and it is a great spot to sit and relax anytime of the day or night, as it is open 24 hours. Grab a coffee and relax, listening to the ocean roar as you waste the night away.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost my biggest shoutout is to my wife Denise Luce. She is my rock and my world. I imagine it would be very hard to accomplish the things I have done without her support. It is because of her that I keep the spirits up and stay focused on my end goals. Being an artist of any type is always a struggle, but with someone in your corner to keep you motivated despite your daily doubts is priceless. I would also have to thank my mother, Anne Collins, for without her support I would have had to jump back into the mundane world of desk jockey, putting on a tie and cranking out the hours on a pointless journey to nowhere. Next, I would have to thank those who have inspired this journey of mine. From childhood memories of my father, Joe Luce, drawing simple flyers for a work BBQ, to the classmates who inspired me in high school. Jorge Valdez was just one of those artists. My first art mentor was Nate Marlowe, a tattoo artist who introduced me to a wider variety of art and artists. Then, there are the phenomenal painters, comic book artists and video game designers that filled my shelves. Frank Frazetta, H. R. Giger, Todd McFarlane, Norman Rockwell, Alex Ross and Simon Bisley are just a few of the artists that instilled my passion for art. Last, but definitely not least, was the amazing faculty at Fullerton College, Ca. There, I was giving the tools needed to hone my skills, push through the blocks and encourage me to higher levels of accomplishments. If not for Professors Deborah Davidson, Phil Dimitriadis, Marshall Vandruff, Jim Dowdall, Michael Matsumoto, Bernard Lee, Garrett Kaida, Mike Sheehan, and many many more, I would still be struggling to learn the basic skills needed to make it in the industry as an artist. Their dedication to a higher excellence is what makes FJC a college above many others. They strive to impart the skills and provide the tools needed to make the best outcome possible for students. They also have a phenomenal record of producing talented individuals that get hired in the industry, going from student to professional right before their eyes.