We had the good fortune of connecting with Tyler Downey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tyler, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks has played a massive role in both the development of my personal life and my career. When you put real collateral on the table it can be an effective way to create accountability with yourself. I have found with many projects, goals, hobbies and passing thoughts that if I don’t use some sort of leverage for accountability it simply will not happen. I think if you have big dreams you have to be willing to invest in yourself and if you let the fear keep you from going all in then you are letting the fear win. Sometimes my risks have crossed the line of irresponsible, but that’s what risk assessment is for. Do you have kids or family that depend on you? Are you risking something that affects others? If you fall short will it destroy you or will life just be a little less comfortable. What is the bottom line? I was surprised how little I needed to be happy and that continues to give me an edge when I am making a decision. One of my biggest risks was knowing as a kid that I wasn’t living the life I wanted and when I turned 19 I threw a few things in a hiking bag and left home to see the world with a whopping $17 in my pocket. It was a little crazy and it wasn’t as romantic as it might sound, but I spent a year thinking about it and then I found the courage to actually do it. The decision to leave was the hardest part.
Now I find myself taking risks in my own art. Finding the courage to explore where I haven’t been. Sometimes it misses the mark and the risk turns into a lesson. Other times it yields something truly beautiful and that makes the whole thing worth it.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My primary focus in both my personal and professional art is story. Whether I am creating illustrations, or animating, or writing the story myself I am always trying to polish my abilities to carry the story along. Because of a real love for sketching I find myself working most happily as a storyboard artist. It is the closest bridge between script and picture making and I have always loved conceptualizing and experimenting more so than rendering a finished piece.
I probably took the hard path to get where I am today, which has both benefits and blind spots. I didn’t climb a company ladder and I didn’t go to art school. I wasn’t from a wealthy family and I didn’t know anyone famous. On the upside I saved tens of thousands of dollars and I got to where I wanted in about a quarter of the time. That is enough to sell it for many people but the harsh reality I found was that I had many gaps in my education and I had little to no connections within my industry. I think it takes a certain type of person that is motivated enough to backtrack and learn anything relevant to your craft, while at the same time networking find some sort of a tribe or crew that has goals and dreams similar to what you would get from a classroom or peer group. In short, I found that no matter what the path is you have to do the work. for some people that means college and for others that means books, mentors, and online courses.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles definitely has something for everyone. For nature and exercise I would go to Runyon Canyon, Silverlake Reservoir, and L.A. Boulder is my second home. As for Food you really can’t go too wrong but here’s a list of my favorites restaurants and cafes: Leela Thai, Guisados, Donut friend, Gogobop, Midori Matcha, Alchemist Coffee Project, Café Dulce, and pretty much any of the sidewalk tacos in South Central. For hangouts and what to do, most of my people are musicians so would likely take someone to see the treasure trove of incredible Indy shows between LA and Long Beach. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
By no means would my influences and support be limited to this list but I will try to highlight the big ones for my career as an artist. In Chronological order:
My whole family for raising me and putting up with my crazy life choices. Mrs. Moberg for seeing my potential and encouraging me to get as far away from my hometown as possible. Bailey and Blake Fry-Schnormeier for being my teachers, family, friends, and providing so many outlets for me to create. My wife Elly for always challenging me and being one of the most honest voices I can go to. Antony Elworthy, whom I had the absolute pleasure to meet a few years back. It was because of him that I actually pursued Animation, moved to Los Angeles, and decided not to return to college. Last and far from least my recent Mentor Sally Tennent-Brown who has helped me to achieve more growth in my art in the past year than I have in the past 10.