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Meet Los Feliz Concept Designer and 3D Artist: Xander Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Xander Smith.

Xander, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Maybe it was slight hyperactivity in my occipital cortex from an early age, maybe an influx of visual stimuli and positive reinforcement, either way- I’ve been fascinated with visual imagery my whole life. Definitely past the point of passion, perhaps on par with the point of addiction, I ruthlessly pursued and developed skills in the form of drawing, painting, and sculpting, year after year. I think I enjoyed it, though I’m just a bit biased. I moved to Hollywood at age 18 to attend/devour school, learning the art of digital art. 3 years composed of 14-hour days working to sharpen my visual analytic skills led me to graduate from two different trade schools with several portfolios. I went on to work at a variety of studios in Los Angeles, doing my part in developing the design of many movies, television shows, video games, and 3D printed art. In the past 2 years, I have worked as a concept artist (perhaps my favorite hat to wear), a digital sculptor, a storyboard artist, and a 3D modeler. This 5-year adventure staved off the addiction for a while, but I quickly realized I wanted more than just to entertain. In my relentless pursuit for beautiful, intriguing, bizarre and powerful imagery, I needed to work on projects that more than piqued my interest. So I left working for studios, and now work freelance, taking on projects I find compelling, challenging, and novel. I can’t help bu feel shaky trepidation as I type this sentence: I plan next year’s lineup of projects to include philosophy and science illustration, fashion design, science-fiction film, live drawing performances, and probably a dozen other topics I couldn’t even begin to predict. The future will be interesting, to be sure.

Has it been a smooth road?
A life without obstacles/challenges somehow strikes me as boring. I hope no one would have to endure a life devoid of experience- all types of experience… I’m sure a quote about the profoundness of adversity would sit well here. As for myself, I can’t think of any obstacles that strike me as peculiar enough to write about them; it seems to me to be a rather typical concoction of life’s challenges that makeup my personal experience of adversity: trauma, hard work, seeking the validation of others, the deaths of loved ones, chemical addictions, violence, mental challenges, dangerous and vacuous decisions, etc. The usual. What I will say, however, are that some of the greatest challenges (particularly the ones I see so often not only in myself but virtually everyone I know) are best-met head-on with an intent to conquer. Thinking critically and individualistically, putting long, uninterrupted, solitary hours into the work, vanquishing physical emaciation (especially if your work is best done at a desk), mental atrophy, and apathy- these seem to be some of the most rigorous daily challenges to defeat.

Do you feel luck has played a role in your life?
Finally some philosophy! The role of luck in my life and career: I suppose I am forced (and wouldn’t even have an alternative choice) to admit that its role is absolute, and can only be seen as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how I personify it. For example, the formation and expansion of the cosmic background radiation would have to be categorized as ‘luck’, or chance. Neither good or bad, unless I decide that it’s either. Then came the spreading of a nearly countless number of nebulas and galaxies and black holes, and the violent expansion and contraction of energy and matter, for somewhere around 14 billion years, until that matter created our solar system, and Earth. (Please excuse the unjust briefness of 14 billion years of history). From there, the right mixture of electricity and chemistry formed, by chance, the first origins of life, which, through environmental pressures and selfish genes, permeated modern-day life. It was a chance that my great ancestors’ lineage cultivated in the creation of my parents. The genes they had, were luck. The neurochemistry they embodied was a chance formation, and the decisions they made as their consciousness watched and rationalized from the backseat were all based on this chemistry and its history. I didn’t choose my parents, I didn’t choose my genes, I didn’t choose this obsession with art and imagery and ideas. But it led me to go to school in Hollywood at age 18, it led me to work 4 years of 14-hour days in solitude (you might have gathered that from the way I’m answering this question), it led me to be in the right place at the right time with the right skill-sets to start getting jobs, to work harder and longer, to become better at the craft until I was able to take only jobs that interested me. So perhaps the role of luck is the wrong question. I think a better question would be ‘How does one influence oneself (luck) to be better equipped to achieve what one thinks they want to achieve?’ That’s easy: read some books, do some boxing, work hard.

Is there a quality or characteristic that has played an outsized role in your success?
I’m obviously biased, but the characteristics I have found to be most useful in my successes are obsession, persistence, personal ruthlessness, eccentricity, critical thinking, and creativity. That is not to say that these are the most useful characteristics in general; in fact, I actually think that several of these are more typically detrimental to success, or in the least should be handled with care. For a more useful yet typical answer, I’d keep creativity and critical thinking, and add characteristics like passion, dedication, awareness (both personal and environmental), and sociability- these are king.

What do you love about our city and what do you dislike?
The answer for each is the same: the people.

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