We had the good fortune of connecting with Nathan Rohlander and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nathan, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I embrace risk, it’s what helps me get to the next level. Everyone experiences doubt and fear but with a little courage we can all walk through that dark veil and hopefully we will prevail. Failure is the worst possible outcome and in reality most times it is not that bad as long as we learn from it. In my life embracing risk has reaped rewards. Not to say that I haven’t lost, but the wins have absolutely outweighed the losses. Regarding my career as an artist, illustrator and educator, every time I put my work out there the risk of rejection is possible. The role I take in my professional life is try and try again. The desire for success and to have impact drive me. I am rarely satisfied, this temperament pushes me and helps keep me in a growth mindset.
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 naturalist figurative paintings and drawings that capture everyday moments in time. You’ve seen it on TV shows, in galleries and magazines. Recently some of my paintings ended up in the Disney archives. I sold a couple to Twentieth Century Fox for a TV show called Modern Family back in 2011 and the show recently wrapped… One of the paintings was in my storage that year. I took a risk and showed it to the set designer when she visited my studio to see other work… she took the painting titled “Junk Food” to the set and that was it. I sold it to them for not as much as I would have liked to but I took the risk because I had a hunch it might payoff. Well, it did… It became the most sought after prop on the show… they even based episodes and dialogue around the painting. Because of this advertising my sales have skyrocketed ever since. I couldn’t pay for advertising like that and I had no idea one painting could do so much for ones career. The risk was well worth it. Last year I illustrated a Children’s book for the catholic church. It is printed in two languages. I have authored five art educational books and sell my work globally thanks to taking risks and embracing a growth mindset. I also have the honor of teaching at one of the best design schools in the world and get to pay it forward. Getting too where I am was no easy task. I have made a lot of sacrifices over the years to pursue my dreams. The constant has been my belief that good things will happen, hard work will pay off and a relentless desire to be better will deliver a satisfying life. My students and family are very important to me and their well-being, growth and success is paramount. I have come to know that having a positive impact on the world and the people around me is what brings me joy and helps foster personal and professional success. My work is about people.
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.
Well, first I would keep it very local… Day 1- Pasadena old town to stroll around and shop. Then have a meal at El Cholo Cafe, great margaritas, guacamole and an assortment of fantastic Mexican food. Yum! Day 2- To get a little outdoor time we would hike the Arroyo and check out the bridges from below. Day 3- Downtown LA to the Arts District and visit some local galleries, people watch and check out the street art. Then pop in to Hauser and Wirth and see what’s on display in the galleries… dine and have cocktails at the fantastic restaurant there, Manuela. Day 4- Back to Pasadena to contrast the art at the Norton Simon Museum with what is going on currently in Downtown LA. If we haven’t spent to much money dine and have drinks at Il Fornaio back in old town. Day 5- To wrap up the week grab some Sushi from Tokoro in South Pas on Fair Oaks and take it over to Garfield park to eat and chat underneath an old Oak tree.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to thank and give credit to ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. I graduated from there in ’96 with a BFA with honors in Illustration. When I arrived there as a student it was the first time in my life that I felt I truly fit. The level of excellence and professionalism was inspiring. Going through their program prepared me for life as a creative, teaching me to embrace risk and develop the work ethic needed to succeed. My first jobs in the entertainment industry came from my fellow classmates. Many of my teachers are now my colleague’s. This is where my professional life began. As a student at ArtCenter I always dreamt of being a teacher there. This came to fruition nine years ago when I became a faculty member in the Illustration Department. It is an honor to continue to grow with ArtCenter. For the past four years and currently, I serve on the faculty council as the rep for the Illustration Department. Giving back to an institution that has given me so much has been a life goal. Having impact on a diverse student body gives me purpose, thank you.