We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Essa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
It kind of came to me unintentionally. Back in 2010 after I graduated and my main focus was to join the animation industry, I was offered a gig to help design 20 illustrations for a children’s book. I remember taking the job on thinking “I have no idea what I’m doing I’ve never designed anything and got paid for it, much less a book.” As years went on I found it rather difficult to get my foot in the door at a studio, but also found myself taking on various roles as a freelancer. I thought instead of waiting around for work to come to me, I would keep myself putting my set of skills to the test and make money doing whatever I can, from caricature portraits to full on storyboarding shows.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
You know the phrase “Jack of all trades master of none” I guess I’m something like that, although I can’t say I didn’t master any of it as I’ve mastered all the techniques and applied them to previous projects. Whether it be drawing people in different caricature styles like The Simpsons or Bobs Burgers or Disney to working on animated shows as a Character Designer or Storyboard Artist. In addition to those, I’ve also illustrated over 5 books, one of which is a book I illustrated called The Girl and Her Puffy Red Jacket. None of it was easy. No trait learned ever comes easy. Scratching off a lotto ticket and hitting the jackpot is easy. However, it is a lot more rewarding when you realize you can do something many people can’t and that’s what makes it add value. If something hounds me to draw something for free and they are puzzled that I either say “I just can’t right now” or ” here’s how much it’ll cost”, they will question why I would charge them or can’t draw them if I draw every day for fun? I ask you: did you hone your skills on a daily basis like I did? Did you spend years crafting yourself as an artist in school? If this is too much for you, then you should probably save up some more dough before opening up your business if you can’t even afford the artist. Art always has value. Without it, the world would have no structure, no color, it would be flat, mundane and dull.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m from Los Angeles and typically when someone comes out here for their first time, I force myself to take them to the Hollywood sign which I absolutely hate going to (shhhh they don’t know that). Once we get the cliche touristy rubbish out of the way, I like to take them to the food court at The Grove, ride some scooters down at the beach and take them for a drink at a little place called Tony’s Darts Away in Burbank. Aside from that, typically I will hit up coffee shops in general as I looove me some coffee. If it’s fall/winter I love driving up the Angeles Crest Highway all the way from La Canada and ending it off in Wrightwood Village and stopping by there for a drink at the Wrightwood Inn or The Yodeler Craft Beer Bar & Grill for some pizza.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are literally dozens of people I can thank who helped me on my path to bettering myself and my business. My parents and brother who want nothing but the best for me, my friends who are practically like my other brothers and always throw ideas at me saying ” I can see you drawing something like that”, others who also helped inspire me and push me outside my comfort zone with their love and seeing something more in me than I ever did. Without them, I think I would have thrown in the towel and just work a boring 9-5 office job.