Feature Friday

October 2, 2020

In today's Feature Friday, we talk to Circus Maximus Art Designer and Creative Director Lizzy Ferrao.

Jayda B. - Tell us who you are and what you do? 

Lizzy Ferrao - I am Lizzy Ferrao and I go between being a designer, an Art Director or Creative Director, depending on the project. I'm comfortable with all of those roles individually. 

J - What do you prefer between Art Directing and Creative Directing? 

L - I enjoy both but I prefer art direction. I love still being in the work and doing more of the research and being a part of the decision making process. Whereas sometime with creative directing, you’re sort of managing the work flows that are feeding into that AD process. 

J - Did you go to school for design?

L - I fell into it as an “artsy” kid. I was always drawing and painting and I was lucky to have good art teachers and art classes even through high school and I was good at it. I’ve never had the drive to pursue fine art but I knew I wanted to do something more “applied”. I went to school for graphic design and my background is foundationally based in traditional graphic design and photography. 

J - Have you always had the support to become an artist or has the thought of being a “starving artist” directed your path?

L - I was always thinking in terms of “applied” design. My parents were really supportive of me going after art specifically as a career. My aunt was also a graphic designer so there was some familiarity with this profession. 

J - What's your favorite type of project to work on? 

L - Branding but the visual side of branding. How the brand expresses itself visually, the types of images that speak to what the brand is about and what they want people to know about them. That's where my talents really come together with knowing certain color and photography styles and image execution for example. I really enjoy that. 

J - What's been the most important thing or process that you’ve learned throughout your career? 

L - Staying focused on being inventive. It can be easy to get caught up in trends and visual styles that are current that we digest from everything we see constantly like from social media for example. It can be easy to be influenced by things without noticing how it affects you. It's important to try and make work that could exist in the future and be connected to what the project means and produce something that has its own place in a visual landscape. 

J - How does that work in reference to making work live in the future? 

L - It would be great to develop things that become iconic that could last 10 years. I think when we’re working on projects, we can be influenced by something that's very on trend at the momember but your project may not be coming out for another year or two. It's important to make sure you’re not just pairing a visual style to your client because you think they should adopt what's going on more than critically think about how the client can find a place that no one else is really occupying. 

J - Has quarantine changed the way you worked? 

L - It hasn't changed too much, I’ve gone though a good amount of periods in the past where I've freelanced remotely a lot. With quarantine in an interesting way, there's more of “all eyes” being in the digital space than before since people aren't going out so much. You can't rely on OOO (Out of home) right now. It's nice to see that people have continued to reinvent executions through commercials for example from what we now see a lot of on social media, like TikTok for example. Social media has really become the place to interact, explore and find new inspirations more than ever before. 

J - How are you staying creative currently? 

L - I've been trying to have some awareness with myself and I’ve realized that social media isn't enough to ingest. You need to spend more time looking at and reading blogs, maybe checking out industry sites that are reporting since you may not be seeing that yourself so much anymore. Watching films or TV that's acclaimed for their cinematography or storytelling.  I think that since we’re just at home, it's worth really realigning what you have access to and what you can consume within books, magazines and film to provide that cultural context of what you may not be getting from being out in the big city. 

J - What's your mantra? 

L - It's not always about working outside or inside the box, it's more about thinking on the box. When working with brands, it's always about what you can do to make an impact while being aware of what else is going on. I think as creators we don't have to think about how to reinvent the wheel, more than how to make the best new type of wheel, considering what's already out there. Finding those points of difference is something to really keep in mind as you’re working. 

Feature Friday

September 18, 2020

Suki White 
@sukiontheinternet
Artist / Teacher 
Etsy Shop

Brooklyn based artist and teacher Suki White talks this week about covid restrictions as a kindergarten teacher and embracing her artistry. 

Jayda B. - Tell us who you are and what you do? 

Suki White - I’m Suki White and I'm an artist based in Brooklyn. I’m also a Kindergarten Teacher. 

J - Can you talk about teaching, especially in Covid and how that's been? 

S - This is actually my first year as a full time teacher and it's been really hard. Thankfully the school I work at has a lot of outdoor space for us to work in and hold activities. It's tough. 

J - What are the odds that your first time teaching would be under the limitations of Covid.

S - Especially working with kids and younger kids, who are physical and love playing and playing with each other and their teachers, enforcing that (Covid restrictions) has been heartbreaking. 

J - Are you teaching art? 

S - General kindergarten, but our curriculum is very art-centric. I get a lot of my personal inspiration from the kids and what they make throughout the day. 

J - You say you draw a lot of inspiration from students? 

S - Their imaginations are so crazy and wild and I really think everyone could benefit from spending time with little kids and their imaginations. I love humor and I love playing off other existing ideas like the “Goodnight Moon” piece, which is such an iconic children's book and I think a lot about old children's books or old advertisements that a lot of people would remember, and try to twist that. I try to implement humor into my art, that's important to me. 

J - What made you want to become an artist? 

S - I always knew I was an artist but it took me a long time to figure out what medium fit me best. Growing up my creative outlet was theatre and it wasn’t until college that I became more serious about visual art. I find there are a lot of similarities between acting and visual art, but acting is so collaborative and I have found I work much better on my own terms, making my art all about my vision and wants. 

J - What types of materials do you like to use when you’re creating a new piece? 

S - I started with crayola markers actually, and sometimes still use them. I use some paints too but,  during the beginning of quarantine, I purchased an ipad for the first time. Since using that, seeing my art go from manually focused to digital has been interesting. I still draw on it with “Procreate” but it's definitely different from how I started. 

J - Has Covid changed your process? 

S - Quarantine has been really great in the sense that now I have more time for art and more time to think about art. Before, I was working a lot and forcing art in the little slivers of time that I had whereas now, within the last six months, yes everything fucking sucks but, I’ve been able to make time for art and its made me realize that I can really financially have this venue to make my life work - Which is crazy but I feel more validated in a way that I can do this. Through Corona, I’ve been able to put those pieces together. 

J - Has your work become darker (or lighter) since Covid? 

S - I think it's actually lighter strangely. I’ve been feeling darker but I try to make work that feels contradictory to me or what's happening to try and balance things out. In college, I made a lot of sad art and I haven't made “sad art” in a while. (laughs) 

J - Did you go to college for art or design? 

S - No, I majored in Humanities and minored in art during college. I did not like school at all but art, and taking a bunch of art classes was definitely an avenue for me to get through. 

J - Do you feel artists or designers that have gone to art school have an advantage over you? 

S - When I'm feeling insecure, I definitely feel that way. Generally, in this “Instagram Era” I see other people who are like me, who are so obviously artists and it makes me feel confident that no matter what your educational background is, it doesn't matter.  It matters if people like what you’re doing or not.

J - Do you think moving to NYC has had an affect on your work?

S - It sounds cliche but I do think there's so much inspiration everywhere in New York. With the people I see outside and now that I'm going to Kindergarten everyday I feel so energized to be around people and even just walking. That’s made me feel more inspired whereas home (Massachusetts) feels a bit bland. 

J - What made you want to start your Etsy shop? 

S - It was so easy to start it which sounds kind of dumb but I had my own website for a while and it was expensive to maintain. I just loved the Etsy community and the volume of things you can find there and maintaining the shop is more convenient. 

J - How is teaching important to you within the art community?

S - I love teaching and I think it's so important. So many of the teachers at the school I work at are also artists on different mediums and I don't think that's a coincidence. People that teach are often artists and value having a malleable mind and being a malleable mind. 

J - What's your favorite thing to do within teaching? 

S - I still feel so new, but I love any sort of prompt that could be for example, “what makes you happy” and view how students will draw that differently. I really like open ended prompts and discussing with students about what they make within that. 

J - What's your mantra / something you try to live by everyday? 

S - It's pretty simple but I find myself, telling myself often “it's okay”. If I feel irrational or if something bad happens I have to keep reminding myself that it's okay and every night I get to sleep in my bed and that idea usually calms me. 

Feature Friday

September 4, 2020

Lily Wang joins us this week to talk about life post college as an international student during a pandemic.

Jayda B. - Tell us who you are and what you do? 

Lily Wang - My name is Lily, and I was born and raised in Taiwan. I lived there until I was 18 and then I moved to the US to study design. Now, I'm a UX designer building my own startup. My classmates and I started a live streaming platform since we all also have a mutual interest in music. We wanted to connect artists with fans online especially during this time. 

J - Along with design, you’re also into music as well? 

L - Yeah, I learned piano and studied classical music when I was little. I’m not a pianist at all but I do like to listen to music and have that live experience. 

J - I miss that a lot right now. 

Does the music scene in Taipei have an influence on your work? 

L - I really like Taipei’s older pop music, specifically from the 20s and in the 90s - but after I moved to the US, I didn't really stay connected to the music coming out of Taiwan. 

J- With moving to the US, what made you choose art school? 

L - I have always been interested in illustration and photography, beginning when I was in high school. I was rebellious back then and always had a lot to say about the system, the rules. I  wanted to find a space that I could freely express myself. My parents never intended on sending me to art school or sending me abroad but, when the time came to apply to college, I was secretly preparing everything I needed to apply overseas. I wrote a long letter to my dad, telling him this is what I wanted to do and one day when he dropped me off at school, I left the letter in the car with him. When I got home from school, he was very quiet and then finally he told me that if this is what I wanted to do, he would support me. 

J - How would you describe graphic design versus illustration? 

L - Design is more structured and logical. You have to think about the message and the brand behind whatever you create. It’s about communicating and solving problems. While I think illustration is focused more on expressing personal aesthetic and skill. 

J - How are you navigating during the Pandemic? 

L - Meditation and yoga have helped me a lot. I just graduated but building a startup and job hunting really isn't easy. It's been important to just stop and check-in with myself every day. Remind myself to always be mindful and find actionable ways to shift my perspective, and find peace where I can.

J - Are you currently able to go back home? 

L -  I don't want to risk traveling since my visa is so unstable. So I’m stuck in the US for now. My parents were supposed to come to my graduation this past May but couldn't. I haven't seen them for about a year now so I miss them  and I was pretty sad when it was decided that they couldn't come because of the pandemic. It's a bit stressful but thankfully things are slowly opening up in New York. 

J - Do you have to have a specific type of visa to stay in the US, even during a pandemic? 

L - We have something called “OPT” or post school training basically, that allows international students to work freely for a year as long as it's connected to your major. After OPT is finished, I have STEM and I do have three years of that which is basically my visa. After even that, I will have to get a working visa, which is really hard to get now. 

J - So you’ve probably have had to adjust your plans since this all started. 

L - Definitely. I used to think that I wanted to stay here and get a green card, work and settle down in the US. I love New York but now I’m thinking about living in places that I’ve never thought about before. Maybe it would be nice to try somewhere more open, try something new and experience a new culture. Right now, visas in the US are so hard to get under Trump’s policies and I don't know what’s going to happen but I couldn't have planned this. I’m going with the flow everyday right now and I can't get stressed about things I can't control. 

J - Is the situation back home better than how we’ve handled it in the US? 

L - Taiwan has it really good right now. There's not a lot of cases. A friend of mine just got back from Taiwan yesterday and was so surprised at how things are here. In Taiwan, everything is normal. People don't need to wear masks, only in a few public places and nothing is shut down and there's not even any quarantine. He didn't realize how lucky he had it in Taiwan and it shifted my perspective that I really do need to cherish what I have, what we have right now because you never know when it can be taken away. Maybe things will get worse next year. This has really made me do a lot of inner work and look at my reality. 

J - Has being in New York and going to both SVA and Parsons changed your work? 

L - Being at both SVA and Parsons, which are very different art schools, helped me develop my skills but really allowed me to think logically about what I’m doing. SVA taught me great technical skills and gave me a solid graphic design foundation. Parsons taught me how to develop my own concepts and critical thinking.I needed to come up with my own brief and then create my own work. Being an international student, my English hasn't always been perfect and there's a lot of things that I struggled reading and understanding. Without going to Parson’s specifically, I don't think I could have gained skill from that point of view because English is my second language.  

J - What's your mantra? 

L - I try to be mindful about everything that I see, read or anything that catches my eye. It really helps my inspiration. Be grateful for the little things and notice beauty in everyday life. 

Feature Friday

August 21, 2020

Annie Smith is a graphic designer based in Brooklyn, New York and the subject of today's Feature Friday. A recent graduate from SVA (School of Visual Arts), Annie’s personal work focuses on vulnerability while her professional work currently focuses on branding and packaging.

Jayda B. - For those who don't know, tell us who you are and what you do.

Annie Smith - My name is Annie Smith and I am an Art Director at Circus Maximus. I live in Brooklyn, New York and I’m originally from Colorado. 

J - What draws you to art?

A - I've always been a creative person and as a kid I always wanted to paint and draw and fulfill a role of being an artist. My aunt introduced me to art pretty early on, I think she saw my curiosity for it. She's the reason why I decided to move to New York, because she lived here. She was the Interior Design department chair at the School of Visual Arts. She really led my path to art school and me eventually becoming a creative. 

J - Upon graduating, what were you looking for on your journey to becoming a working and creative professional? 

A - I was honestly following the money. If I could have it my way, I would be a starving artist and explore different mediums but now that's not really possible living in an expensive city. I chose the route of graphic design because the curriculum felt more experimental and we could play with different mediums like video, risograph and screenprinting, but it didn’t really set me up for the real world. I learned pretty quickly that advertising could be the most substantial for me. 

J - Do you feel what you learned in art school is relevant today, especially with the current climate?

A - We dabbled in political projects and I think being in a liberal school, that dialogue was opened more often than most but it didn't really set me up for what was to come outside. In terms of the BLM movement, it hasn’t felt right for me to showcase my work because if it’s about the movement it feels performative and if it’s not, that feels insensitive. I want to spend my time, learning and listening, as a white woman. I do see how graphic design plays a huge role in the movement and i think it's great for people who are doing these graphics but I’m spending that time now researching and learning what I can. 

J - How do you think you can be an ally? 

A - It's a tough question for sure for a lot of white people and those in creative fields. For now, I think it's great to offer up services to POC’s and just do what I can to open up the conversation more. 

J - Do you feel, in your experience, that agencies in general make room for this? 

A - I do wish clients would push these messages more but that's really within their own business to figure out. But maybe agencies also do play a role within that as being who they hire. 

J - How do you foresee the future of working as a creative in the time of Corona? 

A - I don’t - I have no idea what's to come. I think 2020 has proven that you cannot control the future, you don't know what's going to happen and that's why you should always do your best. It's been a transformative year for a lot of people. I don't know what direction or what's going to happen with design or my career. I see that advertising is still an important thing that businesses need during times like these. But, we don't know yet - we might have to change the way we live forever. Working from home and having zoom calls - it's strange and feels like we’ve entered a new world, but this might be permanent. 

J - Has working from home hindered your creative process? 

A - I would say it has - Going places day to day makes me feel more “human” because I'm having more human interactions throughout the day. In my normal routine I would go to see my barista for example and now I don't do that. I make coffee at home, I cook at home, I do everything at home. Before, especially in New York, you never know what you’re going to see and living in New York, there's always something that inspires your creativity. Now it's scrolling on social media constantly. Everything is on the screen. 

J - What do you feel your mission or role is in design? 

A - Being completely honest and vulnerable through my personal work is really important to me. Those are the executions that I remember the most even from other creatives. I think vulnerability reaches a lot of people and helps people that you wouldn't expect. 

J - What's something you wish you could have told yourself two years ago? 

A - Say what's on your mind and not to care about people judging you. Be transparent and good projects can blossom from small ideas - Have fun and try to find the joy in everything. 

Feature Friday

August 7, 2020

Today, we feature Amy Schultz in our Feature Friday series. She is a graphic designer and art director currently working at Circus Maximus in NYC. She specializes in visually bringing new and established brands to life.

Jayda B. - Can you tell us who you are and what do you do?

Amy Schultz - My name is Amy, and I'm a designer at Circus Maximus. 

J - Outside of Circus Maximus, do you have a specific style or process that you implement in your own work? 

A - My personal work focuses a lot on parodies and mental health. I'm also interested in merch designs and making mental health feel wearable, approachable and relatable. Random musings and thoughts that I have thought the day that feel like word vomit, I’ll make into graphic slogans or into t-shirts for example. 

J - Why is your mental health initiative important to you? 

A - I find that a lot of designers who focus on mental health topics, use that to communicate how they are really feeling and may not be able to express that otherwise. With instagram now, it's such a flood of information but it is nice to have something relatable on your feed. I think some of my work can be considered kind of dark. For example, I made a graphic that said “Overwhelmed, but here”’. It was how I was feeling at the time and it was a way to emote how I was feeling, that didn't feel performative, but authentic to me and that moment. 

I have a dark sense of humor in general and I think bringing some sort of lightness to statements that can seem super daunting, but I like to use my platforms to bring light to that. 

J - How did you navigate through design school to now being a professional working at an agency? 

A - I went to Parsons, which is a super high stress and competitive environment. We were taught to just produce, produce, produce all the time in school, without feeling and a lot of the time, you’ll put yourself on autopilot just to get through the day. Sometimes design work can feel montoimous and it's good to take time to pause and focus on the things that you like and the things that you are attracted to. I love corkier typefaces, and not necessarily “clean and modern”. When I was in design school, there was such an emphasis on using “clean” design and “modern” design. You don't really see a lot of those corkier illustrations or designs in brand work and I like to inject a little bit of what I don't usually get to use into my personal work. 

J - How do you combat working in stressful environments as a creative person? What's the best way to navigate that for your own mental health? 

A - I think there's a misconception, where we as designers think design can save the world. Within the community of designers and what I've found my role to be in the world of design is to use my work to start conversations. Around mental health, around social justice, and realistically we know just putting a pretty typeface on a colored background isn't going to change the world but what will is someone seeing that graphic, internalizing that and taking action. It may even spark someone to start having conversations with other people about heavier topics that they wouldn't necessarily have before. The state of the world right now, the reality of what Black creatives go though and how they are treated for example. In my work, humor is an entry point for starting those conversations. When I make something darker and if you see it and immediately think “oh I would never say that out loud” its that internalized thought process that can be used later to start these conversations. 

J - You feel we should normalize expressing how we truly feel rather than internalizing these thoughts, thinking “is this safe to say?” 

A - I think its an entryway to talking about heavier stuff and although we’re not always “in the mood” to talk about that, I think it's the repeated exposure that can make us more comfortable. I think most people are visual creatures and when they see something, they save it and they share it and they mood board it for example. 

J - Are you a part of other networks specifically in alignment with mental health initiatives? 

A - Yes, there is a group called Ladies who Design and Ladies Get Paid that I pay attention to, that's a broader network of women who talk about mental health, pay disparities, etc. 

J - Whats something that you wish you could tell yourself even just two years ago that you know now?

A - In general, my gut is right. It's safe to trust that. Something that I've learned is that I do have an eye and I need to trust my eye and my gut in work. 

J - Whats something that you live by everyday? 

A - “It do be like that sometimes.” We’re in constant influx as people right now. The way that I am and feel today might not be the same or nearly the same tomorrow but that's also helped me in my work. Something that I didn't notice today, I may be able to pick up on tomorrow. Everyday is a new day and I know that sounds corney and like it should be on an embroidered pillow but it really is true. Who you are as a person is always changing. You don't have to be perfect to be a force for meaningful change. I strive for perfection in execution, composition and curation for example but you don't have to be perfect to get someone to understand the meaning of your work. 

Feature Friday

July 24, 2020

This week, for our Feature Friday series we feature Atlanta based Art Director, Brand Designer and illustrator, Ashley Rhoden. Ashley shares her thoughts on collaboration and empowering your team.

Jayda B. - Who are you and what do you do? 

Ashley Rhoden - My name is Ashley Rhoden. I’m an Art Director / Creative Director. 

Professionally I’m an Art Director but for my personal work I'm a CD. 

J - What is the difference between an Art Director and a Creative Director?  

A - Art Directing is more of understanding the vibe and the business look, feel, energy and you execute based on that. Creative Directing is coming up with the vibe and the business identity, to then be communicated to the Art Director, Junior Designers and so on. 

J - How did you get started with Graphic Design?

A - I always knew I was going to do something creative. I grew up in an environment where that was fostered. For example, when I was about 2 or 3,  my mom found me drawing on her curtains and instead of being pissed off, she said “oh that's kinda nice - don't do that but here’s some paper!”. My dad was a little apprehensive about me pursuing art and thought I’d be painting in the subway. As I got older, I knew there would be a way I could not be a starving artist. I really immersed myself to learn design practices, so that I could be an actual working creative. 

J - What does “Functional Design” mean? 

A - Executing client requests and trying to not just check off the boxes, but really think about how the design will be used. I try and put myself in the shoes of the user a lot. For example, when I’m designing a web page, I think, “If my mom were to come to this website right now, would she be able to do what the client wants her to do?”. Could she go to this site and effortlessly understand what's being asked?” Designing through that lens helps. 

J - When you give feedback as an Art Director, what's most important for you to communicate with a Junior designer for them to understand what needs to happen to move forward? 

A - Two things: Most importantly, context and explaining “the why” something needs to be done. 

Here’s a rookie mistake: Someone asks “what are your thoughts on this logo?” and for me to begin rattling off feedback is a big nono. I need that context: What are you trying to do? What's the goal? Once that's understood, I can ask, “Is this successful? Is it doing what it's intended to do?”.  It’s not really smart to go into feedback without understanding how the designer got there or the data that drove that design. It doesn't matter what your title is, it's fine to not know everything. If you’re pretending to, people will know you’re full of shit and you’re just doing everyone a disservice. The more you can empower your team, the stronger everyone is. 

J - How would you say it is working with others who may not understand that? 

A - This happens all the time, leadership or someone above me will say “change this, make this bigger!” with again, no context and mostly what they’re saying is counterintuitive. I’ll usually just tell them that. A title is a title and at the end of the day, we’re all supposed to accomplish a goal for the company or the client. It's not about me or that person. If it’s a hard conversation, I’ll ask myself “how would I want to hear what I’m about to say?” and go from there. Everyone wants to be an art director but nobody wants to study to be an art director. 

J - What makes a good collaborator?

A - People who understand what they bring to the table. I always use the analogy at kick off meetings that we’re like a pit crew. The person who’s putting air in the tires, they’re doing that because they’re amazing at it. They aren't looking at the person who's fixing the lugnuts like “oh no no you should be doing it this way”. Everyone comes in with their expertise and that's what makes the car able to shoot off the lot. Establishing a good collaboration is defining everyone’s role, what they’re going to bring to the table and letting them know what they are bringing is valuable and that we’re relying on that. 

J - What's something that you always keep in mind when you’re working? 

A - Tim Gunn’s voice saying “Make it work” is always in the back of my mind. I’m not a heart surgeon, the stakes are actually never that high. I will do my absolute best and I’ll make it work. 

J - Any last words? 

A - Do your best, you don't have to know everything. If you want to get into design, study the foundation, study balance and proximity. That is the major key when you see something that intrigues you but you don't know why or how it works, you just know it's perfect. When I was a very junior designer, I would read books about Swiss and Japanese design and some things felt so simple. I would try to do just that and for some reason, it wasn't right. I later realized that it was because I wasn't paying attention to the foundation and I wasn't understanding that if it were just a circle on a page why it worked so well. It was because I didn't understand the rules, but once you do, then you know how to break them. 

Feature Friday

July 9, 2020

In this week's Feature Friday, Jayda B. chatted with New Zealand based Illustrator and Animator, Odessa Coleman. We spoke quickly about her process and what currently inspires her.

Jayda B. - What's your Process?

Odessa Coleman - I like jotting my ideas down on a pad before I get settled on the keyboard. I find that I do my brainstorming better that way. I’ll just scribble my ideas and then refine them on the computer. I really try to get into the heart of what I’m trying to convey with the imagery, like what kind of emotions do I want to show and I focus on that in terms of how I interpret the imagery.

J - Where do you draw inspo from when creating your own work?

O - Everyday life mostly. I like to go on long nature walks or sometimes I’ll pull from conversations with friends. Everyday observations, everyday life inspires me in general. Dancing and listening to music helps me pull inspiration as well.

J - Why art?

O - My grandmother inspired me to become an artist. She did a lot of animation and art but gave it up to become a mother. She always used to show me what she used to do and that inspired me to follow in her footsteps with illustration and animation.

J - Favorite type of project?

O - Meaningful projects focused on issues that I care about. I like showing illustrations that have emotion or focus on human connection.

J - What's your mantra?

O - “Don’t ask, don’t get”

I never used to put my hand up in class and I always regretted that. I try to push myself now to not feel bad about asking lots of questions and approaching others.

J - Any advice to the next generation?

O - Live your truth and always trust your gut.

J - Do you recommend any other artists?

O - @jacq_lai & @_janetmac

Feature Friday

June 26, 2020

In this week's Feature Friday, our own Jayda B. talks with Brooklyn based photographer and photo producer, Nicholas Drew, about his journey to becoming a photographer in New York and Pride month.

Jayda B. - Can you tell us your name, who you are and what you do? 

Nicholas Drew - My name is Nicholas Drew, I am 25 and I am a photo producer and photographer. 

J - How did you get into photography? 

N - I grew up in California and I knew leaving high school that I wanted to do something in the arts and I thought it was going to be graphic design or film, so I would drive about 20 miles a day to another town to go to a Performing Arts school. That's how I was introduced to photography and design, which led me to want to pursue a career once I got to college. 

J - Had you always been a creative person growing up?

N - Yeah. I did musical theatre, tap dance, which was funny because then I wasn't fully comfortable with myself but I was putting myself within groups of people that I looked up to because they were openly gay. Specifically with photography, my inspiration behind that was my grandmother. She was always taking pictures, and documenting day to day events with us. 

J - What was your first memory of creating something that you were really proud of?

N - I think it would have to be when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I was in a ceramics class and it was the first time that I made something that the teacher at the time gave me a lot of praise and told me I should pursue something artistic. 

J - It must have been a teacher you really looked up to? 

N - I don't think it had anything to do with the teacher themselves, I think it was more about an older, parental figure telling me to pursue something that I didn't think was pursuable. 

J - What fuels you to create? 

N - Originally with photography, I always pulled from fashion, fashion photographers but as I got older and started thinking more about my own identity, I started drawing inspiration from where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. 

J - Has that changed over the years? 

N - I think it changes. It's not what drives me every single day but it's always in the back of my mind because it's where I grew up and where you grow up shapes so much of your ideas of the world. 

J - It definitely provides that foundation for us, whether we like it or not. 

Since pride has become more and more popular within media and pop culture,  do you feel it has helped raise awareness of LGBTQI+ representation within media? Or that it's trendy to talk about these themes once a year. 

N - Both. It would be really nice to see a major company, or any company representing a rainbow flag in October, January, February, all year round. It would be nice to see any sort of huge brand be representative throughout the year rather than in June because I’m sure they don't want to piss off their other demographic of customers. It's always going to be a positive thing for any company to celebrate Pride, but at the same time, I wish their support was there 365 days of the year versus 30 days. 

It's frustrating and the sad thing is, whether their intentions are good during the month of June, I know a lot of Queer people who will just roll their eyes because it almost feels like a performance initiative to “post something in June” otherwise they would be considered homophobic. However, if a little 10 year old boy or girl sees this and doesnt know what Transgender means or doesnt know what being Queer means, if they’re sitting somewhere and it just so happens to be the month of June and they see this on TV, thats going to change someones life, rather than them not seeing it at all. 

J - Do you feel there's any way to combat that? 

N - I think it's just accountability. Also, maybe when companies are casting fashion shows or campaigns, they take a step back and they look at what they’re doing and say “Okay are we being inclusive of every single person? Every race? Every sexuality? Every body type? And if we’re not doing that, how can we? 

J - Do you feel that being openly gay has helped or hurt your or your work? 

N - It's interesting because I was outed in High School at a time when I didn't really want to be. At first it was a shock to the system, and something scary but being openly gay now has completely molded my art and really manifested into everything that I do today whether that being in New York City, working in photography, working with gay men, etc. Being openly gay has allowed me to explore avenues of my work that I do not feel I would have had the courage to explore if I were in the closet, or did not have a circle of queer friends to learn and collaborate with. 

J - What's your Mantra? 

N - I try to find a little bit of paradise in everything. 

It's hard to do especially now in this current situation, but I’ve come to a place in my life where I need one thing for myself and my own mental health. Sometimes I’ll go for walks to calm my mind for example. That's something that I’ve found that's been really important for me.

Feature Friday

June 17, 2020

In this week's Feature Friday, our own Jayda B. talks with Kenya based artist Gucora Andu about her journey to illustrating, her influences, and the current state of the world and how it affects her art.

Jayda B. - For those who don’t know, can you tell us your name, who you are and what you do?

Gucora Andu - The name I specifically use for my illustrations is “Gucora Andu” which basically means to draw people, in a Kenyan Language. That's basically my focus, to “draw people” to focus on people and if I’m not drawing people then I’m watching the news and listening to what's going on, especially the Black Lives Matter movement currently.  

J - With that in mind, has the current state of the world influenced your work?

G -  Definitely. I’m seeing more followers for sure. I’m currently only on instagram and I’ve seen more followers. I’ve seen people kind of supporting black businesses, but I also try my best to use my platform to tell people what's going on in general.  

J - Do you feel what's happening now is in good intent or do you feel it's becoming trendy with people wanting to support Black artists, Black businesses, etc?

G - I do. I have seen some people who are genuine about it and creators who are genuine and I’ve seen people who are just kind of doing it as a trend. I’m also wondering if all of these new white people who have followed me, if they will unfollow me after all of these activist posts blow over. I have definitely thought about it and I don’t think it's completely in good intention, more than to show other people that you’re a part of the conversation so they don't feel left behind. I really feel about 50 - 60% is not completely well intentioned.

J - That big of a percentage? I don’t think you’re wrong. As a Black person and a creator I understand as I try not to be too strategic about things because this is my truth, this is our truth to how we’ve experienced life. Has that affected your creative process at all?

G - I will say that ever since this kind of started and came into Kenya, It created a pressure for me to create content that was related to that. But I know I have to keep in mind who I’m doing this for, and drawing makes me feel at peace. I don't ever want to get out of that mindset that creating makes me feel good, and not be pressured just because something is going on that I have to draw it. I’m trying to do my own thing either way, despite all of this happening.  

J - What's your normal creative process and how do you typically go about making new work?

G -  Ever since I was in high school I’ve always liked drawing but I didn't really start until this year really because of the Coronavirus and I’m home, so  I have more time. I’m inspired by a very minimalistic vibe. For me, I personally like pinks, browns, and warm colors. When I really started off, I kind of just drew for the sake of drawing but then I realized that I wanted to hold a theme and go with that. When it comes to drawing what I like, I get inspiration from images that I just think are interesting to draw. For example, mental health during this time and the fear of possibly contracting the virus, your family and friends getting the virus and I’ve experienced that so I’ve also drawn that in my own way and talked about that in my work.

J - I saw that you did a report on mental health awareness during the Coronavirus, what made you want to release that?

G - What I was going through especially in the beginning when all of this was so heavy and it was on the news everywhere, reports always would show how many people have the virus, and it's still growing, especially here in Kenya. It really impacted me so I decided to look into how other people were feeling at this time and answer some of those questions in the report.

J - What’s something you try to live by everyday?

G - “One day at a time” because some days can be so productive and work out so great and other days are just not the best. If it's not the greatest day or time I know it will pass over, and it will get better so I keep that in mind. That's what I believe.

Interview by Jayda B.

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33 IRVING PL 3RD FLOOR
NEW YORK, NY 10003

INFO@CIRCUSMAXIMUS.COM


P: (212) 256-1624