We had the good fortune of connecting with James Rinere and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi James, how do you think about risk?
I believe that risk-taking is one of the most valuable skills a person can develop. Depending on your point of view, so many things can be viewed as risks. It can feel risky to be honest with yourself in a scenario when the truth will lead you down a more difficult path. It can feel risky to express yourself in the face of judgement or ridicule. It can feel like a massive risk to put yourself out there in a world that is crowded with people trying to make something of themselves. These have all been part of my experience.
As an artist and human being, my primary adversary is fear. Fear is the only force that has opposed me from taking the chances I’ve had to take to find success in what I love. It is always there for a split second when I start a new project and have a blank canvas in front of me. To take risks is to learn to deny fear every time and live from a place of uninhibited belief in the positive possibilities in life. The simplest example of this came early in my life on a trip to Disney World with my Mom. I was terrified of going on the Expedition Everest rollercoaster and it took me a whole day to decide to go on because I was so frustrated with myself. Once I worked up the courage and experienced the ride, I was obsessed with it. I spent the rest of that trip enjoying every rollercoaster I could find. The lesson I learned there has carried me through my career as a concept artist and illustrator.
I decided I wanted to be a concept artist when I was a sophomore in High School. I was raised on great films and video games, and I spent all my time dreaming of being part of creating them. This led me to pursue a degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design where I had the pleasure of kickstarting my career through numerous exciting collaborations and connections with other creatives.
Early on in my career, I took opportunities/risks to work on projects in roles that I had little to no experience in because I was passionate about them and wanted to learn. It has always been my operating procedure to dive in and learn as I go. Sure enough, each time I put myself in an unfamiliar situation I manage to figure it out and have a meaningful experience. Waiting for the safest time to put yourself out there will leave you waiting and waiting forever. Whenever I feel unsure of myself or wonder if I am getting in over my head I find comfort in remembering that nobody on this planet has a clue what they are doing. We are all just doing our best and figuring things out as we go. All of the most famous people throughout history known for their great achievements started out like us: A little scared, and a little confused. With these principles guiding me and with an intense commitment to my work ethic, I have taken on almost every opportunity that has come my way professionally. It is this kind of thinking that enabled me to have a reliable freelance business while I was still in school, and has gotten me to where I am now working at a major video game studio on the newest Star Wars game.
The skill of risk-taking is always a work in progress and I still struggle to conquer my fear at times, but it is important to have compassion for yourself and celebrate each little victory you have over its resistance.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work is continuously evolving but at the core of it, I always prioritize storytelling and creating images that can hopefully reach the viewer on a universal human level. I always try to get myself deeply invested in whatever I am illustrating or designing. If there is a character in the scene I am working on, I will think of someone I care about who they remind me of or imagine myself in their position to reach a degree of personal connection to the piece. I like to make artwork that can put an adult viewer in the mindset of an excited kid seeing their favorite movie for the first time, drawing them into an adventure or intense narrative moment. Engaging cinematic imagery is what excites me the most.
While I still feel that I am at the beginning of my professional journey, I have come quite a long way since I started. It has not been an easy path, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have dedicated myself to this craft for some time now and consistent study and effort have definitely contributed to much of my success so far. No matter what I am doing, I always seek to improve and create something better than whatever I made last. Most of the challenges I’ve faced had to do with learning about myself and prioritizing my mental wellbeing over the pressure I place on myself to succeed. I have found that becoming a better artist is really just about being a better person. I have taken on many projects, sometimes concurrently, and often had large groups of people depending on me to come through for them. In the past, I would let that pressure crater me and remove the joy from the experience of making art. I had to learn that setting myself up for success through healthy lifestyle choices and getting my mind to a place of calmness are essential ingredients to sustaining my career. The concept of burnout is often discussed in the commercial art world and I feel that I have finally figured out how to avoid it in my process. Nothing is worth being unkind to yourself, and there is a difference between being fully dedicated and working at an unsustainable level.
It is my central goal to use my artwork as a way to inspire and excite others. The impact that my favorite artists and role models had on me as a young kid is something I feel so lucky to have experienced. The great stories that shaped my outlook on the world and life have inspired me to give back and get more people excited about using their imaginations.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There have been so many wonderful people involved in getting me to where I am and I am beyond thankful for all of them.
First, my family has been an incredible support system for me throughout my life. My parents raised me to believe I could achieve anything if I worked for it and offered me their unconditional support in all of my creative pursuits. They, along with my sisters, have been there for me during every challenging time I have been through and encouraged me through my own self-doubt on many occasions.
I have also been very lucky to have amazing teachers, professors, and mentors. I would love to give a shoutout to Robert Louis DelRusso, Jeremiah Long, Arden von Haeger, Ron Spears, and Mike Wimmer. They each had a direct impact on me as an artist, showing me new ways to appreciate creativity, inspiring me through their example, and supporting me in my own pursuits.
My time at SCAD had a significant effect on both my artwork and me as a person. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to study there and meet so many other amazing artists. That place and all of the friends I made there absolutely deserve a shoutout.
I considered going on to name every great artist or work of art that has inspired me along the way, but that is one long list. Just know that I owe so much to so many other special people who have carved their own paths before me.