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Rising Stars: Meet Erik Ly

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erik Ly.

Erik, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’m a California native and have lived in the San Gabriel Valley my whole life. Growing up, I have always just wanted to create my own art. Even as a kid, I was inspired by everything around me- from the cartoons I watched on weekend mornings to all the video games I played. When I got to the age where I was supposed to figure out my path in life, I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than art, so I chose to attend the Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD). Although I had to leave after two years for financial reasons, I was told by many professionals and teachers that an art degree meant nothing when it came to hiring artists, and it was all about your skill and portfolio. This was both encouraging and daunting to hear, but I took that to heart and moved back home to bunker down and devote all my time and energy to improving my art.

Throughout this time, I pursued freelance opportunities here and there, all the while growing my career, professional network, and social media slowly over the next several years. Today, while I still primarily work as a freelance artist, I also attend conventions to sell my prints and products. I partner with an art agency as well to collaborate with companies for additional work opportunities.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The art industry is definitely a difficult path, especially when it comes to becoming a freelance artist. I would say that self-belief was one of the hardest things to attain for me. I didn’t come out the gate as a “talented” artist. I’ve seen natural talent- going to an art college right after high school made me realize how behind I was, skill for skill. So for me personally, I’d say that one of my biggest struggles was continuing to push myself to improve as an artist. Hard work definitely pays off in the long run, but sometimes you can spend days or even months on end feeling like you’re not making progress. It’s difficult to see how far you’ve come until you’re able to take a step back and think about how much you have grown. Perspective is really key, so you can’t lose sight of that.

Finding my niche in the art world, networking, and building connections for freelance opportunities have also been bumps along the road. These are still areas that I am continuously working on. The journey never ends!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I create my illustrations in the digital medium. I have worked with companies like Amazon, Serif Affinity, Digital Extremes, ImagineFX, and Fantasy Flight Games. My style has gradually evolved over the years, but at this point in time, I would say that my art carries a large emphasis on strong lines and lush colors with vibrant contrasts. My main inspirations have been: Tomer Hanuka, Katsuya Terada, James Jean, & Kekai Kotaki. I generally enjoy portraying fantasy subject matters with a little slice of surrealism on the side for my personal pieces.

Some of my most recognized artwork features medieval knights and underwater diver illustrations. Last year, I also launched my own brand, called Orbital Bloom. I hope to be able to combine my artwork and style to create unique apparel and other fun accessories that people will love to wear.

There is always a sense of pride when completing a full illustration, but I also never stop thinking, “What’s next?” It’s always on to the next one!

What matters most to you? Why?
Personal growth is really key. The idea of staying completely stagnant is not something that sits well with me; I want to always continuously improve myself, even if it is slowly over time. Finding new interests and developing new skills is definitely a way to keep life interesting, even if it’s not related to art. For example, I just learned and started riding a motorcycle this year! But specifically, when it comes to my art, it is also very important to me that I’m enjoying myself. Art is both my passion and career, and there is definitely a lot of chaos when it comes to schedules and deadlines as a freelance artist. My work doesn’t involve just drawing- for instance, I also have to juggle projects, market my social media, and handle order fulfillment for my online stores. I’m essentially running my own business. Personally, I need to be able to find joy in my process since I’m terrible at doing things that don’t interest me. Luckily, I’m still loving my career in art and I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of it.

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