…Because he is such a nice guy that you can’t help it. Nick Steimling, aka HeavyPrints is right now a freelance illustrator/apparel designer, website coder, very talented writer, passionate snapshooter, better father, loved husband, very friendly person, huge guy you don’t want to upset, etc. Catch my drift? The man does it all with passion and he gets good at it very fast, all of this while keeping an honest/open attitude towards those around him. He recently started working as an intern for Fueled By Ramen, recently started collaborating with another talented designer, Jon Kruse, in making quality websites happen, and he has quite a lot of interesting things to say about his new life, so…have a nice reading.
1. You are probably one of the artists out there with the most spectacular/fastest evolution…what’s your secret?
Just practicing and surrounding myself with talented people. I ask for lots of feedback on most of what I do from the network of amazing artists I have met. Other than that, yeah, just practice. I spent lots of time last year just sitting in a chair drawing things I wasn’t good at drawing. I would draw hands the most, I still hate them. I’d fill up a paper with hands and then start a new paper. The best way to refine a skill is to use it.
2. You’ve decided to do freelance design full time after losing the job you had for years. Was it hard taking this decision? What gave you the guts to take it all in your own hands?
It started with the Emptees
Tee-Off really. I felt like I had come into my own as an artist, and that I wasn’t getting acknowledged the way some of my peers were. I decided I was going to join the competition and do everything in my power to kick the asses of some bigger designer/illustrators. I ended up in second place out of 70 people or so, so I guess it worked out to my advantage. It’s what gave me the confidence that I could do this for a living, and I missed a few days of work over it, which is part of the reason my old employer let me go. I would definitely say it was a catalyst for change.
When I lost my job, I told my wife I’d freelance until I couldn’t pay the bills freelancing anymore and then I’d get a regular job. So far I’ve paid the bills. I just knew that this was what I loved and I refused to live the rest of my life without giving myself the chance. I’m really happy with the decision so far.
My friends, some of which are really talented designers, along with my wife told me they had faith in me. That went a long way.
3. Doing the intern job at FBR, what do you think the main advantages of working in the industry are?
Working with FBR is like steroids for your portfolio. The disadvantage is that it’s mostly speculative work. The advantage is that you don’t have to be a big name designer to get your work to a well-known band. I have seen several people at emptees
start working with merch companies for fun, then quit their day job a year later to freelance full time. I’m way more confident approaching clients now that my portfolio includes some of the names it does.
I would say, though, that the people who go furthest in the Band Merch industry are the ones who really love the music. It makes up for when the paychecks aren’t amazing and puts you in touch with bands you love. You can go out there and make art for bands simply to collect a paycheck, but when you love what you’re doing it shows.
4. Recently you started your collaboration with Jon Kruse, as a web-design coder. Tell us a little about your background in the area and how do you expect things to take off with this other job?
As far as things are taking off… The response already has been pretty amazing. We’ve had a bunch of clients from the indie clothing community approach us and it feels really good to watch my stream of work get steadier. Jon is much better with the business aspect of things than I am and I’m thoroughly enjoying being able to focus more on the work. I’m an artist and I want to make art from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, and this is making it possible for me. We have some tricks up our sleeves and I think that you can expect to see big things from us this year.
5. Recently you’ve been quite taken with photography. Any way in which we can expect this to grow from just a passion into another freelancing job?
Not sure. I have a habit of becoming obsessed with my hobbies and turning them into day jobs. Ha-ha.
Actually, I’ve been giving out free textures that I’ve photographed. Once I get some more feedback on them and get some better lighting equipment I’m going to be selling really high quality texture packs along with vectors on my website. I also am going to be set up to handle portraits and other basic studio work. It might pan out, but I’m not really worried about it. I’m just enjoying exploring it as a form of expression.
6. I know that you are working hard long hours on your artwork, and I also know you have an insane work schedule. Can you describe us one of the full-of-work day?
It’s hard to explain. What my day is like depends on what my flow of work looks like. It’s kind of like a tide the goes in and out, when it’s in I’m spending all day working on specific projects and running around like a chicken with my head cut off. When the tide is out, I’m focused on promotional activities and personal projects. The object is just to stay busy every day and create something.
Some nights you sleep more than others, you know?
A full work day for me starts out answering emails and checking the design forums I frequent. Then juggling projects for the rest of the day, with a break to have dinner with my family. Often I’ll do a small part of an illustration project and send it off for review, then spend the rest of the day on a coding project, or another illustration project. Juggling is the best way I can think to describe it. Having enough work that I can stay busy all day requires me to contribute to several projects at any given time.
It really changes from day to day, though. We also have a big garden we take care of for most of the year and some farm animals on our property. There’s plenty of work to be done around the house every day too. Sometimes it’s hard to budget my time to fit everything in. I write lists pretty regularly to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
7. You have a wonderful family. Doing all this freelancing, how do you find the time to be a great father and husband?
It’s actually easier now. I used to work 60 hours a week at my day job and freelance in my spare time. Now I’m home with my daughter all day, she runs in and hugs me and talks to me about her toys randomly while I work. I’m here when my son gets home, and I’m home for dinner. Rather than freelancing on my weekends off, we go out as a family and they tag along while I take pictures of things. After the kids go to bed my wife and I stay up painting together some nights. My relationship with them is way better now. I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to working the way I did.
8. This interview is getting too long… so, tell us some things about you that you think are interesting/ worth a read/ most people don’t know.
I don’t know? I don’t think I’m very interesting… a few random facts about me that most people don’t know:
I hate business phone calls. Really unsettles me. I don’t know why…I just hate them. I wish people would email me more than call me.
I always take a few shots of whiskey before making a video tutorial. I feel like the world’s biggest jerk because I don’t think I know anything that special and it helps me to relax and act like I know what I’m doing. Ha-ha.
I spend hours on end talking to Godmachine
about life and death and religion and lolcats. Probably two of the best friends I’ve ever had, and every piece of art I make goes through them before I show it to anyone.
I have a half-pipe in my back yard.
I write. Poetry, lyrics, articles, whatever. I enjoy expression.
I have a clothing line coming out this year. I don’t think I’m doing any of the artwork for the shirts.
I am going to mail Joey Gordon a pumpkin one day.
I make faces in the mirror.
9. Sorry, not finished yet. Words of advice for designers taking the way of full time freelancing (me included)?
I’m still pretty new, so I don’t really have a wealth of information. I think the biggest thing I’ve taken away so far is that it’s as much about people as it is about the art. If you treat people well, they usually reciprocate. I have found loads of work because friends have shown it to me, or recommended me.
I got lots of help by emailing designers that I looked up to, or messaging them on myspace. Don’t be afraid to approach people respectfully, they usually don’t bite. Jimiyo, Collision Theory, Godmachine, Ray Frenden, Horsebites… I contacted all of those guys and they were all so helpful. I’m still blown away at how nice they are. There’s so many other people that have helped me too. I don’t have time to compile a list because so many folks have offered me advice or a lead on a job. As long as it’s obvious that you’re doing the leg work, and you’re not asking people for a free ride. They’re usually really keen to help. If you’re going to ask someone to feed you the process every step of the way they’ll realize you’re lazy and be less likely to help. No one wants to do all of the work for you.
So, yeah. Work hard and treat people well. That’s the big part of it.
Thank you so much Nick for this great interview and thank you for being such a good friend. Everybody loves Nick, just ask around…