Today we’d like to introduce you to Gary Villarreal.
Gary, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Creativity has always been a part of my life. I had brothers that drew, a father that loved music, a mother that cooked up a storm and a sister that burned rugs with her dance moves. All of their passions subconsciously fueled my mind as a child. I grew up in a small town called Bryan, Texas and moved out to Los Angeles to become a Concept Artist almost three years ago. Choosing art as my career seemed like a joke at first, but life can have a funny way of panning out.
I’ve always had an interest for drawing and often found ways to express myself creatively where ever I was. Whether in the meat market cooler, creating designs with a pressure washer on the dirty floor or drawing characters on the back of coupons when I was a cashier. There was always something to create. It was my way of venting. At the time, I didn’t have many plans most of which were stirred by the traditional route of going to college.
I was finishing up classes at Texas A&M in their Visualization program with a focus in Animation. Yet I was secretly falling in love with Concept art in games, which I discovered late in my senior year. On top of that, I worked long hours at HEB, a grocery store in Texas. A place I ended up working ten years for. This place taught me a lot, and it kept me humble. However, being the only job I ever had, I grew an attachment and a fear to leave it. Yah, the money wasn’t great, but it was something I was used to. I was comfortable. This mindset is one that haunted me for years and still does today to a certain extent.
Once I graduated college, I kind of stayed idle. I was in limbo. Still working at the same spot and with hopes that my degree, like any other degree, would automatically get me a job. However, creative degrees work differently. It’s not about your GPA, but more about the quality of your work. So no lie, my portfolio sucked. Plus there were little hopes in finding a concept artist job in a small country town at the time. So I rebuilt my portfolio to suit a graphic design position.
A year later, I applied for a package designer position within HEB and got a 3-month trial position. A position they ended up extending me for another year. And with that, came the idea of success. I thought I made it. But whom was I kidding, deep down in my heart I hated the work I was creating, and it clearly showed. Plus, my work desk was filled with monster drawings. Fortunately, after more than two years, they replaced me, and although I didn’t see it at the time, this was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Being laid off shook my core and my mindset, but it made me realize the passion I was pushing aside all these years. 27 years old at the time, recently married and unemployed I took the plunge and dedicated myself to developing my skills during the next seven months. I even was fortunate enough to work on some small freelance job. Until one random day, a friend from college hit me up about a full-time Concept Artist position and… well… the rest was history.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My journey hasn’t been easy, nor has it been extremely difficult. I don’t come from old money either, so I had to work hard to get to where I am today. Not to mention, I’m one lucky son of a gun. Not in the slot machines though. All in all, there were many periods of confusion and points in my life that I… just… simply existed.
Going with the flow of life. Yet, fighting my fears and accepting to move to LA probably had to be the best thing that has ever happened to my wife and I. Moving here not only elevated my skills as an artist, it also tested me, changed my views and gave me the confidence that I needed to grow as a person.
Here’s the cherry on the cake, I’ve got to meet amazing artist. However, as a Country boy, being away from friends and family was tough, yet it gave me the ability to focus and within that focus came finding my artistic style. I guess there are always great opportunities through the thick gels of our doubts and fears.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’m currently a full-time Concept Artist at Method EXP a part of Method Studios, which is more known in the Visual Effects in commercials industry. I design environments, vehicles, weapons, and characters, etc. for commercial clients. Though, I’m more known for my character designs and my render style on Instagram.
Over the years, I’ve grown an interest in storytelling, which has given me the ability to further immerse my viewers in the fantasy worlds that my characters live in.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I believe that my drive, humbleness, ability to work well with people and my willingness to help others has undeniably got me here.