So here it is, my own web shop, on my own domain, sending things I made from my hands directly to you. But how did I get here? Well I'll tell you.
I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado and from a young age was passionate about making things. It didn't matter if it was music, art, writing, baking or hand crafts if I could create it I was doing it. Fortunately my parents were fully supportive of my passions and did everything they could to give me opportunities to explore different ways to cultivate my imagination whether it was enrolling me in church drama camps, driving me to cake decorating classes, or just letting me paint on my bedroom walls. (although I did learn the line was drawn at painting on my little sister)
I think this was my attempt at making a pinata around age 9
I've come a long way from making "potions" out of grass and mud to launching my own creative business but that same breadth of interest my family fostered as a child drove me in all my decisions, whether I realized it or not. In middle school I was introduced to manga and fell in love with the medium. It sparked a realization that I could marry my passion for writing with my love of drawing and I became fascinated with the idea of being a manga artist. With that goal in mind I focused most of my energy in high school on art classes, even taking manga drawing classes on the weekends. I decided after high school to go to a university where I could study not just art but also Japanese language.
One of the murals that I painted on my bedroom wall in high school
Again, not wanting to pick only one kind of artistic medium, I opted to look into Graphic Design, a major I knew would give me much more flexibility when it came to moving between illustration, painting, design and more. So with those goals in mind I opted to move to Portland, Oregon to attend Portland State University, double majoring in Graphic Design and Japanese.
Canon Beach, the week I moved to PSU
Enter my partner in crime, Mr. Anecito. We met and almost immediately began spending every single day together due to our common interests and shared social circle. He also had a dream of moving to Japan and we began a romantic relationship that culminated in our marriage upon graduation. This is relevant to the story because it's how I ended up where I am now, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Now my first post-graduation year was pretty rocky and depressing career wise. Despite the multitudes of friends, peers, teachers and other adults who all agreed that Graphic Design was the most practical and employable degree to pursue as an artist I found myself unable to land even interviews, much less a position, at any design firm or studio in the Portland Metro area. I spent six months working at Uwajimaya, a Japanese grocery store, part time while bidding for freelance gigs online through third party websites. Mercifully I had a few short-term gigs that if nothing else maintained my self-esteem from fully plummeting but they were few and far between and I felt I was floundering, not sure what I should even be trying to do to get a job. At that point I was just desperate to be working a "serious" job and start paying back my staggering student loan debt. I had been continuously encouraged to "follow my passions" by my professors but ultimately had a portfolio that was a complete hodgepodge of projects with an extremely niche aesthetic.
I mean who wouldn't look at this and think, ah yes I want this person designing car wraps for my exterminator business
My partner's job moved us to Phoenix about a year into our marriage and I had a bit of hope that the change of city might mean a less competitive design market to apply to. I had a handful of interviews but nothing was ultimately offered to me and about six months into trying to convince home insurance firms and country clubs that I was a competent designer worth hiring I felt my time was better spent doing something I actually was passionate about. I discussed it with my partner and committed to taking a year off from job searching to focus on creating my webcomic, Runekeepers, which I'd been planning and writing for about six years.
If all you get out of this is to read my comic, I am happy. Go read my comic.
While I was perhaps a bit naïve about how quickly my comic would be monetizable, I’m so glad I took the time to really focus on setting up the story and finding a process that works for me. The story is pseudo autobiographical, in the way that probably a lot of stories are, and the characters are based on myself and my high school friends. It’s what I’d describe as a coming of age sci-fi fantasy. It’s still ongoing and I’m in love with creating the work but over the years I’ve had to realize that monetary success isn’t something that happens overnight and my comic needed to be a part time project. It did, however, help me realize that my goal of making manga, didn't have to be limited to doing it the Japanese way, or even in Japan. I can make comics wherever I am and by self publishing I can make them the way I want.
After my year of comics was up and I needed to start looking for work that would actually pay, I applied to a job at a preschool on a whim, given my experience volunteering with kids and how much I enjoyed it and to my surprise was offered the position only ten minutes after my interview. That was in 2018 and I worked at the preschool as an assistant teacher until the pandemic paused our program in 2020. As much as I loved working with the kids, I had already begun to feel in December of 2019 that I was itching to get back to creating full time. So when we went on spring break in March 2020, I had already been concocting a plan based on my research and past experiences trying to diversify my income streams. When the school never went back after break that year I put my plan into motion.
The last two and half years have been a continued journey of trial and error, knocking on doors and learning how to let go of things that aren’t working while continuing to pursue what works. Even now I’m not where I want to be completely - able to live off my income from art - but I’m finding a balance of freelancing, teaching drawing lessons part time, making comics, and creating products for my online shop that makes me feel joy to work each day. I've come to understand that being a creative for a living is a process and it's most important to me that I can continue pursing all the avenues I'm passionate about as I make my own path. I'm not letting myself be limited and I'm continuing to move further up and further in.