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Choosing Art: A Veteran Reflects on his Experience at the Academy

November 11 is Veterans Day, so we caught up with one of the many hard-working Academy student-artists who happen to be veterans.

Before enrolling in the School of Illustration, Tim Andrews spent five years serving in the U.S. Army as a sergeant, stationed in Afghanistan. He joined the military when he was 21 years old.

Andrews is pursuing his BFA to get good foundation skills to help him meet his objectives, which include creating art for a living. Illustration is about storytelling, and because the Academy uses both modern and traditional methods of instruction, Tim is on track to pursue his career goals.

What is your work process?
I use references and my imagination to make art.

Do you enjoy any one phase of the work more than others?
Working on the idea is when I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. That part is fun until it gets tedious. I like the detail phase when I can work on rendering.

What has been your favorite phase when working on a project?
Right in the middle, because it is still the decision-making process and I can decide where to go. After working on the idea, the finished product is still open to discovery. I can decide which way it wants to go.

Do you enjoy collaborative projects?
It depends on whom I’m collaborating with. If it’s a like-minded person, yeah, I love it. If not, it’s really frustrating. Mostly I work by myself.

Do you have any advice for your fellow students?
Don’t take it too seriously. Enjoy it so you don’t get burnt out. How can you work on your personal pieces when school is over if you do? What I’ve learned is to use 80 percent of your potential to gear towards finals and steadily pace yourself. Be able to use what you’ve learned on your personal pieces. We are here to learn, and to be able to use the learning in the outside world. What good is it if you don’t apply your learning experiences once you’re out?

Do you have an objective upon graduation?
To make money from art as a hobby, not as a career. I don’t want to lose the whimsical side of art. Life is too short to take your career too seriously, to be so focused on the career that you lose track of the daily experience of what you’ve decided to do. I’d like to create a new breed of illustration when I graduate.

What made you decide to go to art school?
I was going for a degree in mechanical engineering. After all the math classes, I decided I didn’t want to do that every day for the rest of my career.

I had done art as a kid, but didn’t really do any after middle school. I started figuring out what would be fun, instead of just finding something to pay the bills, because I can do anything I want to accomplish. A bigger challenge is to do something you enjoy.

That was how I decided on an art school. Since I had no drawing experience, I wanted a place that was open to me, and the Academy of Art University has this policy.

Being in the military gives you a sense of what you can accomplish. Whatever you decide you want to do, there’s not really anything that can get in your way. It helps me realize a career is something you should enjoy doing and not just something that you go through the motions on. I did a lot of job searching including working construction or doing graphic design, and I tried different jobs out prior to joining the military.

How did the military influence your sense of purpose and help you see your goals?
I joined the military primarily to have a little adventure in life. I was bored with doing construction and other odd jobs. The military provided a sense of adventure—also a lot of discipline. Good direction on making choices. That discipline has helped me decide what I want to do. There was no doubting my choice to pursue art. The military helped instill that sense of purpose.

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