Another quarter of the year has passed, blog-less. I'm really going to try and change that habit, and do more creative things that feel good. Writing about my life and current projects is one of those things.
I want to write about my Day Job today. My J.O.B. My 9-5. If you follow me here and not in real-life, you may just know me as a muralist/art teacher type. But I am also a Graphic Designer. This is the story of how I became one.
Looking back at my life, as soon as I discovered that you could create art in digital spaces as well as traditional analog ones, I was IN TO IT. When I was a kid, I would get on our little box-y black and white mac computer so that I could play Kid Pix, and drag around those digital brushes that would paint different patterns onto a blank canvas. It was so fascinating to me. I was a teenager in high school when I began (wildly... WILDLY) experimenting with Photoshop. I made a fake magazine about the pop-metal and alternative rock bands I was into at the time - complete with multi-page articles and music reviews (written by yours truly) and ads for fake products. All in Photoshop, with roughly 1 MILLION layers (cringe). As an angsty 16 year old, it was my digital masterpiece. In college, I took a few introductory graphic design and pre-press courses where I learned layout softwares like Quark Express and InDesign. I took a digital illustration class which opened my eyes to the complex world of Adobe Illustrator (and the pen tool I dreaded so much) and Corel Painter. It was incredible to me to be able to zoom in 200% and correct such tiny details in a piece of art. It was magic.
Despite all of that early interest, Graphic design was something I came to fairly recently in my life. A few years ago, after growing tired of the less-than-lucrative hustle of freelance and short teaching contracts, I came to Graphic Design in pursuit of a "safety net" during a move to the Big City. I viewed Design as a creative, yet reliable means to support my life and side business as a muralist. It was a practical and deliberate decision, satisfying my Taurus need for some desperately-needed stability.
Being a Taurus also means I am stubborn, strong-willed and independent. Those traits have been both strengths and weaknesses in my life. Looking back, I think they kept me from pursuing this career as a younger adult. See, my Dad was a Graphic Designer. In college, I didn't even see that path as an option. I wanted to explore a path that was fiercely, uniquely, MINE. I chose my college major quickly, and stuck to it: Illustration with an Emphasis in Animation. I liked the idea of working at a Pixar-type studio, and making character designs and backgrounds (everything BESIDES actually animating, which I soon discovered I did not have the patience or passion for.) After graduating college, I put those plans on hold and joined the Peace Corps.
Peace Corps consumed my life for a good 3+ years. I was only actually living in Madagascar as a Peace Corps Volunteer for a total of 27 months, but a forced evacuation paused my service for 9 months of chilling on my parent's couch. I then went back to complete year 2 of my service. After coming home finally, I found myself reeling mentally and emotionally with the struggle of re-entry to life in the U.S. But I needed cash. Immediately. I went back into food service (sigh). I then worked my way into a sort-of-kind-of-regular job contracting at different K-12 schools, teaching kids art and making murals with them as an Artist-in-Residence, with commissioned mural jobs on the side. I took stock of my career goals and did some deep soul-searching. I reached out to a former professor for advice, and learned I needed to narrow my focus. Trying to keep ALL of the doors open, was preventing me from walking through any of them. I made a pro/con list, and a priority matrix (a tool I learned in Peace Corps. Need to decide something? See p. 43 of this document.) I entered so many interests and options into the matrix: Illustrator, Muralist, Tattoo artist, etc. Graphic Designer? Still not one of them. I decided that being a Muralist was what I really wanted to focus on. That hustle was HARD for me, and I soon realized I could not support myself that way full time, in that size town. So, a move! And then to facilitate that move, a job! What kind of creative job could be so "normal" that I would have it by the time I arrived in the city? Graphic Design finally appeared in a real way.
I spent a few months refreshing and re-learning design skills and software I hadn't used since college. I watched hours of online tutorials and made myself a little web portfolio. That finally landed me an entry-level design job at a non-profit in Portland. From there I moved into the private sector, and now I've landed in the public sector. Working as an in-house designer has lead me to learn in-depth about industries I never would have otherwise: religious private school, fitness facilities, "green" and "eco" conference and event planning, aviation data sales, and now, criminal justice and community supervision and treatment. I have learned to code a bit, and so many new tools and programs. Graphic Design has lead me places I never would have imagined for myself. And I still have my other love on the side - murals. It's so satisfying to be able to pick up a brush, after days of clicking a mouse. It's the same creative drive - the same language, but a different dialect.
Now that I'm in my 30's and doing this work, I realize that Design was always something I loved. Like that Taylor Swift song about her unrequited love story. Graphic Design was always there waiting for me, she just needed me to grow up and into myself a little more. Thanks Dad, for the genes.
|My Dad's book of Pantone swatches from the 1970's. |
I have it on my desk at work as a reminder of where I came from.