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Graesen Arnoff

I was always an artist, from the moment I could grasp a crayon. During my childhood, I would draw every chance I could. When I got in trouble for drawing on the walls, I took to the back of my dresser which sat under a bunk bed with the lower bed positioned sideways so that only half lied under the top bunk. As I found more talent, I practiced sketching my favorite cartoon characters, then video game characters, and when I felt ambitious I drew from my own imagination.

Midway through high school, I put the pencils down for another creative outlet. I studied architectural drafting my junior and senior years of high school. I was a natural, often finishing my work first and assisting the rest of the class. I finished my work so quickly, I often spent the rest of class time learning AutoCAD and teaching myself the 3D modeling and animation software that was available. My personal ambitions to learn 3D modeling and animation gave me special privileges during my senior year. The teacher allowed me to study independently as long as I showed that I was working on relevant materials. I spent the whole school year teaching myself 3D Studio Viz. Upon graduating, the school had awarded myself and a fellow classmate an award and scholarship for being the Most Outstanding Drafting Students.

College was about exploring my creative outlets, but I kept my career in mind with my explorations. I studied Multimedia Production at The International Academy of Design & Technology. In 2007, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. I entered the school interested in 3D modeling and animation. I was even ahead of the first few classes after teaching myself in high school. However, as I continued this path, I came to realize it wasn’t for me. When I took web design, graphic design, and video production classes, I felt a new passion and found these skills also came naturally.

Finding work was not easy after graduating, but I eventually found myself as an Audio/Visual Specialist for a convention company near O’hare airport. I wasn’t fond of the job and it didn’t do much to help furnish the skills I learned in college, but it did help me learn more about audio equipment. With regards to video production, audio is just as important as the image. This stepping stone later led to me working for a media company where I recorded and edited video content for any of the seven radio stations they owned in the area. Between the video production, I also helped to produce content for some of the websites.

It was here I fell in love with the camera, only to realize how difficult it is to produce your own video content as a hobby. I’m not fond of being in front of the camera, so that limited my options. I saved up my money and eventually bought myself a Canon T2i (550D) DSLR and started to teach myself photography. This wasn’t too difficult considering there are many similarities between video and still photography.

After a couple of years with abusive management, being overworked, and underpaid, I sought a better career path and found myself working for a university. I was initially hired to bring a video content management system to the university which would integrate with the learning management system. I was also intended to produce video content for educational purposes and manage the university’s video content that related to education. This role quickly grew, especially as my skills became discovered by my team and as I grew professionally. By the end of my five and a half years at the university, I was also training faculty and staff, assisting the learning management system administrator, implementing new technologies to enhance the classroom and online learning, building and managing a website, running some departmental marketing, acting as tech support, and acting as a technology consultant.

While working for the university, I spent my evenings studying. As an employee, I was eligible for tuition benefits. I never stop learning and always seek new skills. I figured I had already mastered the creative, digital arts and wanted to find another subject to supplement those skills. I contemplated a computer science/IT degree, but that wouldn’t allow for my creative side to flourish. I eventually decided on Social Media Marketing. Since I had the skills to create content in most digital formats, I thought it beneficial to learn how to leverage that content to draw people’s attention.

New leadership at the university resulted in my position being eliminated and I soon found myself working for a global manufacturing company doing instructional design work. The job started as contract employment. After two years of contract renewals, I finally received permanent employment.

Photography isn’t my career and as much as I love it, I’m not sure I’d love it as a career. I want to capture photos that strike my eye and create images from my imagination. I want to be an artist. As a hobby photographer, I can be that artist when I need to be and I can put it away when I lack the creative spark. It doesn’t burn me out and the passion for the camera remains. Being a hobbyist photographer or an artist also doesn’t mean I don’t take jobs, though. I’ve had my share of happy clients for all sorts of photography. I’m not afraid to take a challenge, but I also won’t oversell my abilities. If you have an interest in anything I am skilled with, whether it be commissioned work or teaching my skills to you, you’re welcome to contact me. I make my best effort to respond to everyone, even if you only have one simple question.