Following your dreams successfully is an extremely difficult thing for any person to do. Whether it be working in Hollywood, working on cars, or owning your own business; carrying out the vision you have for yourself requires a vast amount of discipline, hard work, and sacrifice.
Eventually most people come to the realization that the plans that they had for themselves are a pipe dream. They move on. They settle; leaving themselves to wonder what could have been.
Jim Ferguson is not most people. He almost was a part of that group, but the artist in him reemerged after several years of dormancy. This is thanks to his son, who Ferguson admits could outdraw him before his reawakening.
Eventually, the NASA employee’s art started to catch on slowly. Jim would work the art show circuit. Eventually he would become a popular fixture at conventions. He would even go on to help popular actors such as Sean Astin finance their kickstarter projects by supplying him with “Goonies” artwork.
Jim Ferguson left his job at NASA to pursue a career in art. It is safe to say that it has worked out for him.
In 2014 with his time stretched thin, Jim was forced to make a choice between his career at NASA, and his dream to become a renowned artist.
Instead of doing what the vast majority of the human population would do, and returning humbly to his job where he would always wonder what could have been; Jim threw the “What If?” mantra out the window, and pursued his dreams.
I recently had the pleasure of corresponding with Jim Ferguson and discussing his journey with him. Here is what he had to say.
First off, I would like to thank you for joining me and taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk. Art tends to be a different journey depending on the artist. How did you get involved with art? Was it school, a passion project, or something that happened organically?
Well. A little bit of all three. I did go to school for art, I had been drawing since I was a little kid, took art in high school, majored in art and art education. But school didn’t last long only went for like a year. Ended up getting a job in mass communication and figured what was the point in getting a degree when I already had a job?
I Ended up not drawing for years. One day my son wanted to draw Pokémon he was about 5 or 6 years old. I was like “bet you didn’t know your dad could draw”. Well my drawing sucked.
And I thought to myself man I used to be pretty good at this. So I felt like I threw a talent away. The next day I started drawing again. At the time I was working shift work and for two months at a time I worked nights. So when nothing was going on I would draw.
Jim’s specialty is the realistic painting of iconic scenes, such as this classic “Spaceballs” moment.
With social media being still relatively new. Posting my drawings got some attention and things just kind of snowballed really quick and I ended up quitting my job two years later to do art full time.
What was the reason for you giving up drawing for so long? It seems like it was always a big part of your life.
Just life. Job, wife and kids. Growing up I always heard I should work for Disney or something. Or you can’t make money with art so I’d be a starving artist. Basically after getting a different career, Doing art was just a hobby.
Art is a tough nut to crack. You seem to have landed on your feet when you gave up art the first time around though. Your biography on your website tells us that you worked at NASA. That’s no small accomplishment. What did you do there?
Yeah basically when I quit college I went to work for a local NBC News station. I did get to do some graphics work there. I ended up with enough experience there to land the job at NASA as a video engineer.
I worked in Mission Video at the Johnson Space Center. All manned space flight video went through my department. We did everything from mission support for the ISS expeditions and shuttle missions. Restoring NASA films. Editing videos, archiving footage, shooting video, etc…
The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is where Jim earned a living working for NASA before becoming a fixture at conventions.
I was even a crew member for the Reduced Gravity flights. Like the “Vomit Comet” however that plane was retired by the time I was there but that’s what everyone thinks of. I got a little bit of the OCD. I get super obsessive about things. So when I was there my main focus was being the best and trying to get to the top.
In about two to three years I was an area lead. But with funding cut backs, I ended up going back to working shiftwork and just being a team lead again. But thanks to that happening, It made it possible to be able to draw when I worked nightshift.
It sounds like a fun and interesting job. Although I can see that being very stressful at times. Was it a scary or difficult decision to make such a leap of faith and get back into the art game?
It was a super cool job, but after the shuttle missions ended and there wasn’t going to be a new space craft up and working for awhile, and spaceflight shifting to the private sector; You never knew when they would lay more of us off.
It was starting to just become a job. I had about a two year overlap of working at NASA and being an artist. I was selling a little online, taking commissions, doing some gallery shows in LA. And doing Texas conventions. I figured out I need to do about X many conventions a year to make the same amount I was making at NASA.
So I had to find shows outside of the state. I talked with my wife and decided if I did one in Chicago and it was good I wanted to quit my job and do more out of state. I couldn’t keep working at NASA and do conventions at the same time. I did very well in Chicago that year. So I put in my notice.
Jim in his element, manning his booth at one of the many conventions that you can see him at.
I was ready to move on. The first year was terrifying. I basically got the cheapest crappiest health insurance I could find. And then a month after I quit my job found out we were having another kid. We manage to make it through all of that even having to pay most of the medical bills out of pocket so everything else has been a breeze since.
That’s a nice reward for the risk taken. I see everything on your website from Horror, to drama, to gangster movie. Is there a favorite Genre that you like to draw?
Ferguson’s favorite decade to draw is The Eighties. Like this iconic scene from “Stand By Me”
Basically I never left the 80s. Even in high school in the 90s I was still listening to The Cars, Talking Heads, Blondie and a good bit of disco. So I wouldn’t really says a favorite genre but favorite decade 80s stuff.
The Eighties definitely hold a special place in the hearts of a lot of people. You’ve talked about getting celebrities to sign your work. Who’s signature are you the most proud of?
Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I have so many I don’t even know whose I have anymore. James Hong is one. He’s actually the first autograph I have ever gotten.
When I first started drawing these before I ever even thought of doing conventions… honestly didn’t even know they were a thing. Someone bought my Lo Pan drawing from Big Trouble in Little China. And had James Hong sign it. He liked it a lot and got my contact information. He wanted to do a signing deal with me so I could have some and he could have some also. And he wanted me to draw more of him.
After that I was like man who else should I draw? Then there are other autographs I have of people that are no longer with us. Some I became friends with. Peter Mayhew and his family were awesome, got to visit them at their house a few times. I went into their Chewie museum and my art was there next to his bow caster.
The Late Nichelle Nichols signed this picture, which was given to Jim as a going away present when he left NASA. It is one of his most treasured autographs.
We just lost Nichelle Nichols today. I only got to meet her a few times. Got to hangout with her on Miami Beach for the 4th of July at a convention one year. She even signed my going away picture I got when I left NASA. She was an absolute legend. There are really so many. The most autographs I probably have gotten were from Sean Astin. One year he needed some art for a Kickstarter he was doing. And then the next year I was doing a Kickstarter for one of my books. So he helped me out with that and signed a ton of stuff for me and did a video.
Wow, those are all tough to choose from! You meet a lot of people doing this. Last Question…You have a night out at the bar with unlimited funds. You can bring three people dead, alive, fictional, or real. Who are you painting the town red with?
Ok… hmmm. well. I would bring my buddies Chris Oz Fulton and Danny Allain. The 3rd… doesn’t really matter. And honestly we would probably be up in the hotel room watching Fail Army, Forensic Files, Cops or some crafting videos on YouTube.
I mean I’m old. Hmm. Then again those two guys would be there already. So I’d have Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson and Terry Gilliam there.
I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Or Prince David Bowie and Freddy Mercury. I actually did get to hangout out with Bernie (Wrightson) at a bar once. We ate hot dogs. Unfortunately at the time I didn’t fully understand who he was. Bernie Wrightson was a super god level artist. Imagine hanging out with James Earl Jones and not realizing he was Darth Vader.
I would like to thank Jim Ferguson. Not only for the great conversation, but for being an inspiration for every person out there who dares to forge their own path.
Its people like Jim who give hope to all of the other dreamers.
Please take the time to visit Jim’s website to see his full catalogue. He’s got something for everybody, so make some room on your wall for his beautiful artwork.
What do you think, GNN faithful? We’d love to hear from you! sound off in the comments section.
Thank you for reading. When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my two year old daughter Frankie, my hound Marbles, and my ferret: Ms. Farrah Pawcett. For more fresh takes and insightful discussion, please check out our Youtube channel. Stay Geeky Everybody!