I’m probably 99.9% sure being a creative is what I am supposed to do with my life. Drawing, painting, fashion, crafting, dancing, film, music, you name it and I was into it. There’s this story my family tells of me at 7 years old when my younger brother attempted to take my crayons to use. I was so upset I snatched them from him and put them in my highest drawer so he couldn’t reach them. Typical brother and sister beef except that I was obsessive compulsive about the order of which my crayons were placed in my box-organized by height and color, naturally.
Trying it all.
I was the kid who tried just about every after-school activity there was. Growing up in Hawaii meant taking hula dancing lessons over gymnastics. Hula dancing led to jazz and tap and ballet. Growing up in North Carolina meant taking clogging lessons. And growing up Puerto Rican meant excelling in salsa, bachata, and merengue classes. In after-school care I sat at the craft table and learned how to use a glue gun before I could tell time. I was writing and giving speeches by 10 years old. I was on stage acting in school plays and making the props behind the stage. I was filming at-home mini movies and sound editing in the background. I was a member of the foreign language club, the art club, the thespian society, volleyball team, latin dance team…you get the point. I was THAT kid. I don’t know how my mother did it, but thanks Mami.
I thought I was really good. I was wrong.
Once I had made the decision to pack up and go to Georgia to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design I just knew I was about to kill it at college. I had 3 scholarships under my belt before arriving and you couldn’t tell me nothing. I was one of the few people in my high school graduating class leaving out of state which made me feel extra special. Art and being creative is what I knew and I was so good at it, how could I NOT do well?
I got to SCAD and reality had hit. All the after-school activities in the world couldn’t have prepared me for the ridiculously large pool of talent I had just dropped myself into. Everyone else seemed to be great at everything. They drew better than me, painted better than me, had access to computer programs I never even knew had existed. I saw my first ever Mac computer there and just knew I was way in over my head. It was a humbling ass experience as a creative and I wish I had felt less sorry for myself and instead took advantage of the opportunities that were there. By the time I had graduated as a super super senior (2 yrs late) I really doubted if a career in the arts was even for me.
Visual Merchandising and Fashion.
With a degree in Painting and Museum Studies I naively thought I could find work immediately in a gallery or museum. I was wrong…again. Life then took me through some really tough times and on the other side was an ad for a part-time Visual Merchandising position at Macy’s. I had never even heard of this kind of job but I needed to work. I got to dress mannequins, create vignettes, and decorate so surely I’d be at least good at this.
Eureka! I had found my place in the workforce and had a super cool 8 year career in merchandising for Macy’s, Belk, and Nordstrom. Thankfully all of these companies and multiple stores allowed me to still be creative while having to adhere to directives. At Macy’s I built out my own vignettes and outposts using products in every department. At Belk I got to paint murals, paint customized furniture, I even had original paintings hanging in dressing rooms, and I merchandised over 8 departments. My customized work became popular within the company which led to all kinds of commissioned work outside of the stores. But I was so busy at wanting to excel in my career that painting outside of it was always a second thought.
Then I thought making it to Nordstrom was the crème de la crème of the visual merchandising world. I was being flown out to Atlanta one weekend and Miami the next, assisting at fashion shows, eating expensive dinners at the company’s expense, and merchandising the hottest fashion trends in the market. I learned so much about fashion. But it sounds way more fabulous than it was. The fashion industry is brutal, ugly, and full of fake. It wasn’t long before I was burnt out and completely and utterly disenchanted with the career as a whole. In less than a year I had left the company with no plan in sight.
Interior decorating and advertising.
I was two months out of work and all I wanted to do was be creative again. Within a couple of days of leaving my 8 year career I was painting again and painting nonstop. I was taking commissions again. I felt like myself again. And because I was back on track another creative opportunity arose. I took a job as an interior decorator for furniture showrooms and let me tell you, as long as you know color theory and principles of design there is a job waiting for you damn near anywhere. Decorating a room full of furniture was the exact same job as dressing a mannequin as it was merchandising a department. They are all one in the same and I felt right at home. I was able to be creative once again and sure enough, after 3 years, was offered the role to decorate for photoshoots and video shoots. I learned how advertising worked, and I learned how that related to business. With all of the knowledge I had gathered over the span of my career I just knew I had to implement it to my own art practice.
Let your passions drive you.
Being a creative is all I’ve ever wanted to be. No matter the field, I’ve always tried to find a way to use my knowledge in design, color, patterns, harmony, culture, shape, texture, sound, form, etc. Once I was found my voice in my personal art there was no turning back for me. And while the consistency hasn’t always been easy, I’ve never abandoned my passion for being creative. Now more than ever I want to learn various art disciplines, play with crossing those disciplines, and art every single day. I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m certain this is my purpose. Art is where my heart lies, is where I’m most at peace, and am my happiest. I could wallow in the should’ve, would’ve, could’ve moments in my life but timing is everything. This happened the way it was supposed to. Only a couple of years ago it occurred to me that I’m an artist and I will live out my passions as one for the rest of my life.
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