The foundations of Jeremy Aaron Moore’s professional art career were laid way back when he was a child growing up in Cortez, Colorado. But his path from being a kid who loved to draw to becoming a full-time artist with a roster of clients wasn’t a straight one.
After participating in a competition for young artists in high school, Jeremy attended Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design to study illustration. But he became disillusioned when he realized that most of his peers weren’t finding work in their fields after graduation.
“I have nothing against art school as long as you have the money. I went and learned a lot in art school. But there’s a lot of really great alternatives available now,” Jeremy said. He would encourage young artists today to take workshops or even reach out directly to their favorite artists to learn right at the source.
Jeremy said that the best thing for a young artist to do is to “get a sketchbook and fill it up, get another sketchbook and fill it up until you have 50 of them.”
But at the time, Jeremy wasn’t sure what he really wanted to do. So he left school and became a cave guide.
“I’m really into outdoor stuff,” Jeremy said. “I grew up where it was pretty much required to go rock climbing, hiking and rafting. Being in Colorado is awesome for that.”
While Jeremy didn’t make any art during this time, he wasn’t done with creative pursuits. In 2005, he went back to school at Fort Lewis College to pursue a degree in art education with an eye to being a teacher. But Jeremy yearned to make his own art.
“I tried to get away from it, but I can’t. I tried to teach, but I just couldn’t do that. I can’t really do anything but this,” Jeremy said of becoming a professional artist.
In the past, Jeremy had mostly focused on painting, working in acrylics and oil. But it was around this time that digital art was really taking off and once Jeremy got hooked on it, he couldn’t get enough. One of the first digital artists that really inspired Jeremy was Jason Chan. That was also how Jeremy found INPRNT, where he now sells prints of his own work.
Eventually Jeremy switched to doing digital art full time. And while he sometimes misses the tactile nature of painting, he doesn’t miss cleaning brushes.
Over the years, Jeremy continued to build his portfolio and started freelancing for various clients. He learned the stuff they don’t teach you in art school, mostly about the business of art.
“When I started out, I didn’t know the difference between what was popular and what was being bought, what’s marketable and what will sell. I had to find a target market,” Jeremy said.
Now Jeremy works mostly with clients in the publishing industry and pursues his own art on the side when he has time. And when Jeremy needs a break from the studio, he heads outside to work on his vintage cars. A few years ago, he bought an old Volkswagen bus that broke down on him almost immediately. He learned to fix it himself, which turned out to be a sort of zen experience.
“The confidence that I got from learning how to take apart and put the engine back together was huge,” Jeremy said. “I thought, ‘Maybe if I can do that, I can figure out how to make this career work.’”
Jeremy is heavily involved in the local art scene in Denver, where he now lives after having resided in Portland, Oregon. He recently moved into an art studio in the RiNo district, an up-and-coming area with lots of galleries, breweries and other craft businesses.
“In Portland, the music and art scene is so cool. It’s saturated with artistic types,” Jeremy said. “With Denver, I’ve kind of been waiting on it. Out of nowhere this last summer there was this growth of murals and artwork. There’s a really cool scene happening here.”
And Jeremy has been a part of that growth. He runs a group called the Denver Illustration Salon, which began three years ago with a few illustrators and now has 2,000 members who are artists of all types. The group meets regularly to sketch together, often at some of the local galleries.
The community Jeremy has found in the Denver Illustration Salon has been invaluable. And so has the one he’s created at his new shared art studio. For years Jeremy worked alone out of his home, often in the basement. But having a space to go to has been a real game-changer.
“Having a studio is really nice. I have some studio mates that are really cool, friends in town who are also illustrators to bounce ideas off of and get feedback,” Jeremy said. “As an artist, working from home can be a struggle. All of those years, I always thought that would be the best part.”
It turns out what Jeremy really loves is being able to work for himself, especially the flexible hours and control over which projects he takes on. But being a freelancer has its challenges too.
“It’s a little different than I thought it would be. It’s more of a job,” Jeremy said. “It was always kind of a false summit. There’s always so much work to do to go higher.”
To stay on top of his game, Jeremy is always looking for inspiration. He finds it in all sorts of places, like the podcasts One Fantastic Week and Your Dreams My Nightmares by one of his favorite artists, Sam Weber. Jeremy also finds inspiration scrolling through digital portfolios of fellow artists or attending trade shows like Spectrum Fantastic Art Live or Comic Con.
And when the muse just isn’t coming? “I bang my head into the wall. I just keep working,” Jeremy said.
Photography by Ashley Heafy