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Meet Sean Z. Maker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sean Z. Maker. 

Hi Sean, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’ve been creating art and stories as soon as I hold a pencil in my hand according to my immediate family. Creating visuals and telling stories born from my imagination through my art has been a life-long passion of mine. Some of my earliest influences are cartoonists like Charlies Shultz (the Peanuts) and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), the early works of filmmakers like George Lucas’ Star Wars and Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal, still informs my creativity to this day. Eventually, I discovered anime and manga from Japan as well as reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi-themed literature throughout my life. 

My family thankfully nurtured and encouraged my artistic talents and creativity which ultimately lead me to attending the Art Institute of Chicago for college to further expose and expand my creative horizons. 

Though by that time, I had decidedly focused on graphic design as a focus because I was terribly afraid of falling into the “starving artist” pitfalls I thought I would if I actively pursued my love of cartooning and illustration alone. 

And I did pretty well for myself in Chicago at the time, but I wasn’t happy. While I was starting to make the kind I money I wanted to, I wasn’t fulfilled where it really mattered most for me creatively. 

It took me getting a nasty bout of bronchitis that almost turned into pneumonia from overworking myself from all the contract work I was juggling to finally get me to stop and take measure of myself and my life. 

I wasn’t doing what I loved and more importantly, I was sacrificing my health and wellness as a result. My mother had to drive up from Indiana to help nurse her then 24-year-old son back into good health. 

And one of the things she said to me about living a life with no regrets, trying for more–even if it’s just to try, because in her own words: “you might regret not trying at all.” Was one of the major pushes I needed to start moving in my life in a way that actually considered what I wanted to do, and not in how I thought my life should be perceived. 

Eight months later, I moved to Los Angeles and I’m proud to say it was the best decision I could ever make for myself and my life. 

In the twenty years since, I have experienced so much of so many things from working with the first national design center for Herman Miller, a myriad of creative opportunities within the entertainment industry, to running my own unique pop-culture convention with some measure of success depending on who you ask, to now once again pursuing, expressing and exploring my creative beginnings as an artist and visual storyteller. 

And I am doing so with a kind of joy and excitement I haven’t felt since my childhood. And I’m grateful to be here in this space again. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
No, my creative journey hasn’t been a smooth road at all. But it’s been a necessary road for me to glean myself as I need to be today. I resisted my passion a lot. That fear of becoming a “starving artist” never fully left my mind the way it needed to after I moved away from Chicago. 

So, the kinds of work I would pursue and partake in were governed from a desire to maximize a life and lifestyle that would be the antithesis of whatever I feared. And I would often create and operate from a space that would inform what others wanted around me, because while I enjoyed acting on the needs and wants of others professionally. 

I also mistakenly believed that way of being–that kind of service–would eventually give way and make room for what I too wanted and fully desired for myself creatively. 

But it never did. I was naive and not fully considerate of what I needed to take action on to be fulfilled creatively. Though I was thriving somewhat, but much like my former life in Chicago, there was no joy in me from what I was actually doing. 

I’m thankful to say that has changed for the better today. 

While it certainly has been a winding an unpredictable road, it is at least a road that I’m no longer afraid of walk on. 

The things I actively pursue creatively today are things that excite me and ultimately makes room for me to thrive and be happy along the way. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a digital artist and writer and while a lot of the contract work, I’ve done over the years has mostly been related to conceptual art, design, and storyboards in various facets of entertainment and gaming, I’ve been focusing on creating and publishing my own IPs lately. This pandemic had me reflect on what’s most important to me since everything’s changing with how we work–I knew I had to make changes in myself to continue to move forward. 

Since I have a great love of picture books, comics, and anime-ish influence, I’ve been paying special attention towards visual storytelling in long-form, from all ages to more mature content with the idea that my works will be published both digitally and print. 

My intention is to create and tell stories that center the BIPOC diaspora along with more fluid expressions within the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ experience. Occupying genres such as fantasy, science fantasy, and the supernatural. 

It’s important to me that I create things in spaces that I don’t get to see myself fully expressed or reflected in, especially, among themes and narratives that I enjoy. 

These are things that will and do set me apart from what’s already out there. I’m creating things I feel are missing; breaking away from visuals and narratives that have been limited or diminishing. 

Why wait for others to do what I can already create? 

So, it makes me proud to know that what I’m striving towards could inspire others to be the heroes of their own stories. 

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Image Credits
Sean Z. Maker

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