If I remember correctly, you did several fanart pieces of Brandon's novels, specifically Mistborn, before he ever commissioned you to do anything for him, right? What was your first introduction into all things Sanderson? And what's the story of him commissioning you to illustrate for him?
The first time I heard the name Brandon Sanderson was around 2007. I was listening to Mennege and Stackpole's old Dragonpage Cover to Cover podcast (283A), where they used to talk craft and industry of genre novels and interview authors.
Brandon was there to talk about The Well of Ascension. I heard his elevator pitch (fantasy heist novel, superpowers, dark lord ruling for 1000 years, etc), and then he talked a bit about his thoughts on creativity and writing and I heard a kindred spirit. He and I have very similar views on creative production and craftsmanship, and I liked what I heard so much I went out and bought the first Mistborn novel, then the next, then the third in hardback when it came out.
I was especially hooked by his visually arresting concepts; men with steel spikes through their eyes, flat heads catching the light like Gendo specs, gleaming points emerging from the back of their skulls like horns? Giant raging blue hulks with their too-tight skin tearing off their muscles, carrying Big Damn Swords of pitted, jagged iron? Cloaked figures soaring over misty spired rooftops on invisible threads of force, flinging coins like bullets and slamming each other around with super-strength?
Yeah, I can work with that. :)
I figured what the heck, it'd be fun to draw new fan-art even if nothing came of it. I sketched up some Vin and Inquisitor and Koloss pieces, really basic stuff, and began posting to his fan-forums on the old Time-Waster's Guide (now long gone).
Unbeknownst to me, at that same time Brandon was looking into the market for a concept artist. Suddenly here I was on his doorstep, reasonably competent and already showing what I could do with his descriptions. He got in touch and let me know that he wanted someone to help him with a new project, a pitch for a series of epic novels that would require a strong visual component. And he was going to pay me.
Didn't even try to lowball.
So there's my "lucky break" story. Right place, right time, right work, right guy, right on.