Inside Pinnguaq: A Self-Taught Artist’s Journey
My name is Alyssa Amell and I am a Métis Digital Artist at Pinnguaq. As an artist here I dabble in 3D modeling, texturing, concept art, as well as whatever art projects I can take. Not only do I create art, I also develop curriculum for our delivery staff about using freeware programs on computers. I believe being close to art is very important, that art doesn’t have to be on paper or on your computer, rather something you experience all around you. When you love art, it becomes an extension of your heart and how you express your thoughts and ideas of the world. Recognizing who you are is important.
My journey with art was never something I thought I would even explore professionally, I thought I was going to work a boring cubical job or in the health services industry (not that, that is bad by any means). I just never thought I was going to become an artist, and mostly I only engaged my love of art in my spare time. I have always been taught that there was no money in becoming an artist, and I always felt like I had no place in the male-dominated video-game industry, because of these factors I decided from a young age that art wasn’t worth the risk and challenge.
I think a lot of young people suffer from the phenomenon that you aren’t good enough to do what you want, especially creatives. You believe your art/creations are never good enough so there is no point in trying to pursue it. That is so far from the truth. If you are passionate about something you should try to at least do something with it, even if you think your work in garbage. Trust me, even professionals feel that way sometimes.
How I Got Started
I was hired as an Administrative Assistant at Pinnguaq during May of 2018. When I first started I thought, “there is no workplace like this in Lindsay”, and I still think that. Pinnguaq is unique for our little town, and it’s an amazing company with a great mission. One of my first tasks was to help load freeware programs onto computers that our delivery team would be teaching to students later in the month. I noticed one program called “Inkscape” and decided to look it up. It’s a vector art program, and I thought I should try it out. I started out using a laptop from work at home and used the track pad to create art. Trust me people, you don’t need a fancy tablet to create art!
My work started out looking something like this:
A while after I thought I shouldn’t kill my fingers trying to use the trackpad on my laptop anymore, so I went out and treated myself to a small $80 drawing tablet from Wacom. I didn’t really know what I was doing, it was way harder than using a pencil and paper. After a lot of hours of practice, I got the hang of it and tried using a freeware painting program called “Krita“. I was painting in this program and my boss and director of Pinnguaq, Ryan Oliver, was looking at what I was drawing and asked if I wanted to try painting a portrait for our company. I was nervous and excited, and with help from the great 2D artist Ian MacLean, I created my first portrait and may I just say it was terrible… but it took hours of trying and failing from there on out to get better at art.
After painting and practicing 2D art, I thought that there has to be more I can learn. That’s when I discovered Blender, an amazing 3D modeling software that is FREE! I will say, it is very confusing and there is an ungodly amount of hotkeys and menus but after a few months of endless tutorials and failed projects, I got the hang of it. After that another great artist, Brandon Bunnie, took me under his wing and I got to work on a project called i-Sparx. That was a big deal to me. I just did some very simple texturing for the coats, but it was great to get that experience. Later I went on and helped out with a couple other art tasks that included 3D modeling and texturing, and worked on a game called Nanili. But all of this aside I had awesome mentors that helped me get to where I am today, thank you Ian and Brandon!
My Advice To You
If you create art and look at it after and think, “What on earth is this thing?!” then I relate to you more than anything. But just because you think it’s bad doesn’t mean you throw it away! It could be funny to look at in a couple years. Plus, it is something you can look back on and see the progress you made. Not only that but it’s important to keep trying and keep learning. Whenever an opportunity at work came up to learn a new skill or art software I decided to go for it, I saw that as an opportunity to learn something new. Now I get paid to work on art for more than 8 hours a day! Some days it feels like I get nowhere. Looking back on my art from when I first started has made me realize just how much I improved. Some days I feel like I’m the worst artist in the world, especially when I compare myself to my amazing artistic coworkers.
Art is intimidating, mostly because I am a young adult and just beginning my formal education in art. Before Pinnguaq I was working a bunch of different retail or office jobs, and was planning on starting a career in Health Administration. I have always been stuck on a “forever” job because of the world built around me. I have always thought my dreams were unachievable, but looking at where I am now I can say that they are within my reach.
All it takes is for someone to believe in you- if someone else isn’t cheering you on, then do it yourself. Never let anyone tell you, you can’t. I feel extremely lucky for where I am today, and I worked harder than I ever have to be where I am. Thank you for this amazing opportunity Pinnguaq.