When I was in 9th grade, I discovered the artwork of Salvador Dalí and Tino Sidin. I was compelled by the mystery of Dalí's shapes and the hallucinatory mood he summoned. I was awestruck by his work and dumbfounded as to how he brought these otherworldly tableaus to life.
Tino Sidin was a part of the TV diet I grew up on. Every weekend, he would pop up on the tube and draw cartoons. His illustrations were bold, vivid and playful. He was highlighting the artwork of children and young people in a way that made the process seem fun and accessible.
I said to my young self, “this is the world I want to be a part of.”
My artistic identity is comprised of equal parts darkness and light. Dalí represented the dark side of my id, while Sidin represented all that was bright and fun and uplifting. Subconsciously, this was the ember that forged the fire of my creative character. As humans, we balance the darkness with the light; tapping into the negative to expose the positive.
One of my first mediums of choice was acrylic painting. My work during this period was brooding, intense. If I look back on it, I did feel like an outsider then. I experienced racism and name-calling as a kid. I came to understand that a bully lacks compassion as well as imagination. The kids in my neighborhood never had much to do – they just hung around all day, and if they saw someone different, they would pick on them. It created an ugly and divided environment that I yearned to escape.
I found myself wondering how I should respond to this behavior. I don’t consider myself explicitly political as an artist, but it all ends up in the work somehow. What can I say? It’s a process. Creating something volatile is cool for the sake of pure artistic expression. The same could be said for creating something with real-world application. Such is the ongoing war between the artist’s side and the designer’s side of my brain.
I heard about ArtCenter after I got my degree at the Art Institute of Seattle. I knew I wanted to study design and art in tandem, but I wasn’t sure where I would end up.
One of the definitive things I remember about ArtCenter was the tremendous sense of freedom that I encountered there. One’s inner child was always allowed to exist, but the inner child had to be kept in check. After all, there were deadlines to meet.
ArtCenter also taught me to value things that are authentic to my own experience. In other words, the College taught me to be my authentic self. Even today, I’m still finding my voice through my work. Am I a designer? An artist? The truth is, I’m both. Every day, human beings are in the continual process of evolving and re-defining themselves. My advice to younger creatives: be aware of yourself, and be aware of the act of being “creative.” You’ll be a happier person, and it will show in your work.
At the end of the day, I want my art to bring people joy and fill them with the thrill of being alive. In doing this, I try to keep my inner child alive. And yet, the methodical demands of adulthood continue to rear their head. Again, the light and the darkness. This see-sawing act isn’t an entirely bad thing. After all, ArtCenter did give me one hell of a work ethic. It’s about balancing the freedom of youth with the rigors and discipline that come with adulthood.
I often think about why I paint. In a philosophical sense, the act of painting is about inquiry and self-examination. It’s about the distinction of the darkness and the light, the juxtaposition of negativity and positivity in one’s own experience. In that way, creativity is a way to speak to people. It’s all about contrast.
BFA 97 Graphics/Packaging
ArtCenter also taught me to value things that are authentic to my own experience. In other words, the College taught me to be my authentic self. Even today, I’m still finding my voice through my work.