Jeff Haynie is not one to fold his hands, recline in a well-padded easy chair, while saying to himself, “I’m satisfied with what I have accomplished. I’ve done pretty well for myself.”
Although he has done amazing things, in Haynie’s mind, there’s always more…more challenges, more things to learn, more goals to attain. One would think, after becoming a Senior Art Director at DreamWorks in just three short years that he had reached the pinnacle…that once-in-a-lifetime dream job.
In Part 2 of this intriguing interview, you’ll learn if that is true.
By the way, if you haven’t read Part 1 of Haynie’s story, I sure encourage you to do so. You can go there now HERE or link to it at the end of this post.
…And now, he-e-e-e-er’s Jeff.
Was DreamWorks your most exciting and challenging employment, or was there another? It was just one chapter in my artistic journey. I want to say that even though I was being exposed to new mediums and creative concepts, the main elements of what makes an art piece work was being echoed everywhere I turned. God was keeping me focused on learning. I’ll give you an example. As I was learning how to model in 3D software, I was learning perspective in a way that was beyond my classical learning. I could make an object or environment in 3D, then put in light sources and move them around as I was looking out the camera lens, which I could adjust to any angle or lens. So I could visualize quickly composition, camera angle, light structure. My next big chapter was when we moved from California to Washington. Electronic Arts (EA Games) which published DreamWorks Interactive games, had a studio in Seattle.
We moved up to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I began to learn concept painting and visual development. Concept painting is about quickly describing a character, action, environment or moment. The artist describes the design, lighting, color, setting, etc. This challenged my understanding of how to create a simple structure quickly. It’s like doing thumbnails or sketches but needs to have the appearance of finished art. These concept paintings were then given to a 3D modeling team to build. Again this chapter was helping me build my understanding of shapes, perspective, composition, color, value structure, etc. As I began to learn more of the overall development process then I began to move into the Art Director and Creative Director position. That was about building and leading a team. My teams were made up of amazing talent and specialists in their craft. A typical team consisted of the following: Animators, A Lead Animator, Technical Art Director, Environment Lead, Environment artists, Concept Artist, Texture Artist, 3D Character Modeler and VFX and UI (User Interface) Artist. As Art Director I would manage a team, guide the Art director of the project, and interface with the producers and game designers. I had to learn how to make fast creative decisions and see how they would affect the whole, as well as work with a lot of different creative personalities. My teaching skills grew as well, since I was teaching at my job everyday. As a concept artist I could sketch out what something could look like thereby inspiring the team to create that look.
The last company I was working for was Big Fish Games in Seattle as Senior Art Director. This was the greatest job to me because I was painting everyday and creating scenes for the games with a smaller team. I created some of my favorite concept art and artwork.
What are you doing now? I retired last year from games to focus all of my time on my personal work. It was hard to walk away, but my creative vision was calling. This is how Fin and Fur studio was born. My artistic journey under the leading of the Lord has brought me to this place in time. I’m so thankful not to have the stress of leading a big project or team. The things I learned from those chapters in my life have helped me to be the person I am today. As a full-time self-employed artist I am creating work that is completely from my imagination.
You seem to have one foot in the commercial illustration world and the other in fine art. How do you distinguish between the two and successfully manage each? How would you define the type of artist you are? These are wonderful questions! I don’t really distinguish between the two. The commercial side of my work is the part that resonates with my collector. In the commercial illustration world you have to service the client or product needs. Your personal vision has to take a back seat. I’ve been able to mix my style and vision with a clients needs but I found the artist inside was searching for more. There were more ideas building inside waiting to get out. There was a point where I needed to focus completely on these ideas. It’s kind of funny that when I started working with galleries, it was the same feeling and pressure to create work that would sell. A turning point for me was when I began doing concept painting for the entertainment industry. Concept painting is about capturing the moment, mood and feeling in a scene or with a character. I had to learn how to make fast creative decisions and break things down to the raw elements. Even though this was highly commercial, it helped me see how to find the most beautiful qualities of a subject and present them to the human eye in a way to evoke emotion and drama. In a deeper sense it taught me how to create images that tell a story in 5 seconds and resonate with the viewer. What happened inside me was that I got more sensitive to feeling what I was painting.
How would I define the type of artist I am? I’m a visual communicator that loves to tell stories that relate to the human experience. You could call me a “Whimsical Symbolist”
You have created Fin and Fur Studio. Tell us about that. When I was thinking of a name for my new studio, I came up with Fin and Fur. Fin for the fish artwork and Fur for the cats. So the fish and cat theme became part of the studio name. I am a big fly fisherman here in the Northwest. The rivers and mountains are stunning. During the summer I spend a lot of time alone with the Lord wading in clear water catching and releasing beautiful rainbow trout.
Why are you so interested in fish and cats? I’ve always loved fishing and the fish shape. Even at an early age I did drawings of fish mostly fantasy shapes. I initially was not a cat person. But after years of my wife asking if we could get a cat, I finally said yes, but it would be her cat and it would need to leave me alone. Needless to say, that cat took one look at me, we became inseparable, and I was a cat person for life after that. After we got more cats, I started drawing them in my sketchbooks. They’re very interesting little personalities. Then the stories came with the fish and cats together. One thing leads to another.
As a self-employed artist, how do you sell your paintings? There are a variety of ways I sell my work. I’m represented in two galleries in the Seattle area. I sell online in several places. Then there are the art festivals and shows, which tend to be more in the summer and fall here. This has been where I have met a small group of faithful collectors. One of the other growing markets for my work is licensing.
If there is a way to market reproductions of your work, I believe you have found it. Tell us what you’re doing and how you managed to have your art reproduced on so many products? Well it’s been a learning process. I do all of my print reproductions on a Giclee fine quality inkjet printer with many different color cartridges, (there are three blacks!) so the color is archival and accurate. I have two artist friends who have been mentoring me in business side of marketing my work. It’s my business philosophy that helps me design my work into products. That’s my commercial artist background coming through. The thought is to make my work accessible to anyone who likes it. When I am doing a show I have my work in multiple print formats so that anyone can afford to walk away with some of my work. So one of my images will have a wide range of price points starting at a $2000 original, $500 large limited edition re-marked Giclees, $275 large open edition prints, a $42 dollar small open edition, ending at a $5 card and $3 bookmark. The idea is that if someone likes my work, then there is always something that they can afford. The person who buys a small print at a show one year comes back to buy a large print or maybe an original the next year. What I found in the process of developing the business side is that I love to design products with my work. I realize some artists don’t like or believe in making reproductions, much less putting your work on a product. My philosophy is that I want anyone to enjoy my work. My desire is to inspire, teach and bless others.
You of all people should have some advice for those desiring to make a living as an artist, what do you recommend? It’s hard work. You have to love it. The best advice I can give is to keep your heart and mind on learning. Don’t give up, but learn. If you see someone doing what you want to do as a living, go talk to them. Ask other artists you respect for feedback on your work. Be open to what doors God is opening. An artist friend of mine that I took a workshop with said something that I thought was bold and profound. It was not meant to be judgmental, but it was his experience. He said that “apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, I person can not reach their full potential.” So whether you buy into that or not, the main thought you can take away is that we all need help and guidance. Each one of my chapters in my life and art career is full of testimonies of how God used others to teach me what I needed to learn, and opened doors to provide a way, as well as closed doors to protect me from falling. I can’t even imagine how I could be here today without the Lord’s help.
As an outspoken Christian, you have produced a number of images representing our faith, how have those been received? These images have been very well received. Wow! The stories I could tell about each image. One such piece, as an example, the “Sword of the Spirit,” has been one of my best-selling images of all time. A lot of my new work with the cats and fish also have a lot of Christian symbolism. The fish are usually symbols of faith and vision. The cats are usually symbols of a life of faith; they are our counterparts, making their way through the world best they can. The star shapes in their eyes are symbolic of having vision, that is, having guidance from the Holy Spirit to make decisions in your life.
What one thing in your career are you most excited about? All the ideas that are brewing! I’m excited about where this will take me. All of my past jobs and experiences have helped me to think differently about my art and developing products to showcase the art. The new work that I’m doing has a mixture of 2D and 3D elements. So the artistic journey continues.
What goals do you have for 2014…and for your art down the road? I love setting goals. This is a skill I have had to learn during all the years of leading teams. I have both personal goals and business goals. On the business side, my wife and I are adjusting our lifestyle to live more within our means after stepping away from a full-time salary and benefits. So, my main goal is to establish a consistent monthly base income from my art. I have a wall in the studio with 2014 goals and my business plan written out. The year is laid out into quarters with specific shows, workshops, events that will bring in income. At the beginning of each month I write out 3 to 8 specific goals to accomplish that month.
On the artistic side I am working on developing my painting technique both traditionally and digitally. You could say it is building a strong art routine. I draw and paint everyday. While doing a lot of art festivals, running an online store and supplying galleries with artwork, I find myself having to balance my days between production work and actually creating new paintings.
For the future, I want to get more into licensing and thus less production so I can spend more of my time creating new paintings and images. I am truly blessed to be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do. It has taken 30 years to get to this point. Like other fantasy artists, Steven Spielberg of DreamWorks being one of them, my heart’s desire is to always have the eyes and heart of a child who sees a sense of wonder in the things that others simply look past.
We should be inspired by the thought and preparation that Haynie applies to each piece of his art. In this age of impatience and “let’s get it done quickly”, it’s a pleasure to see such care and excellence given to each work. Thanks Jeff Haynie for your wonderful contribution to the art world and for taking the time to do this interview.
Part 1 of the Jeff Haynie interview HERE
Jeff Haynie website
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE