Career Inspiration: Jonathan, Visual Artist

I hope you’re all having a good start to the week. Today I’m here to share a new Career Inspiration interview. For those of you who’re new to Career Inspiration, the aim of these interviews is to help people looking for career ideas, a career change or simply an insight into what others do.

It’s very hard to know what you want to do in life and I’ve always loved finding out about what others do and the journey they took to get there. So, I hope you enjoy today’s inspirational interview with my good friend Jonathan, a Visual Artist based in New York.

Firstly, how would you describe yourself as an artist?

I am a visual artist. My work is made up of photography, video, and incorporated text. I’ve integrated performance into some of it too, but ultimately everything comes back to presenting the visual image as a solid piece of artwork.

When did you discover you were creative?

I’ve always enjoyed making things. As a child, I went to my Granny’s house every Sunday and spent the day drawing pictures and writing stories while we watched soap operas. I think the first self-portrait I ever took was when I was a teenager and I put my head on a flatbed scanner. It wasn’t exactly a flattering image, but I remember being surprised at just how easy it was to record my face.


What did you study at university and how has it benefited your career?

I did an undergraduate degree in photography and film at Edinburgh Napier University. It was quite a broad course, and I was able to go back and forth between the mediums, so it was a great foundation for me. The documentary film I made in my final year was the work that got me into my Master’s program at Parsons in New York. I feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to choose degree’s that weren’t so rigid in practice because the last thing you want as an art student is to feel creatively limited.

Have your friends and family been supportive of your decision?

Absolutely. I never had the money to study in New York, but I worked hard and I had a lot of determination. I went into my final semester not knowing if I could complete my degree, but luckily I was able to raise the money I needed through online crowdfunding. I raised thirteen thousand dollars within two weeks, and almost every contribution was from a friend or family member. It was an amazing show of support, and it taught me a lot about friendship.

How do you find projects to work on?

I take inspiration from situations that I’ve gone through. I find the whole artistic process quite cathartic, so the majority of what I do has been a way for me to work through stuff. My most recent works have more to do with what it’s like to live in New York City.

Have you ever done freelance work?

I’ve done the odd thing here and there – mostly event photography, and some independent album covers. I love collaborating with other people for projects, but right now I am concentrating on showing my work in galleries.

Can you give us an idea of what a typical workday is like for you?

If I am working on a new project I usually begin with a list of words. I collect them from all sorts of places – billboard advertisements, particular sentences in books, song lyrics, TV shows, text messages; basically anything that has allowed me to imagine a whole new piece of work. Next I’ll decide what medium I should use. Should I make a photograph? Would it work better as a video? Should I be in it? Can I use another person? Then I’ll decide what location fits best, and it carries on from there.


What’s the best part about being an artist?

Knowing that you’ve put your heart and soul into a piece of work, and having another person tell you that it means something to them, too.

What has been the biggest challenge during your career so far?

Probably right now – I am fresh out of grad school, I’m looking for paid work, and I am trying to establish a name for myself. I think the trick is to never give up.

What keeps you motivated?

Every year I make a list of goals for the next twelve months and I really try to stick to them. Small comforts keep me going, too, like my first cup of coffee in the morning, or even the new Taylor Swift album. That girl can write a tune.

What direction do you hope to take your career over the next year?

I want to exhibit my work at home in Northern Ireland because I have yet to do that. I’d also like to finish a play I am working on, and have my artwork featured in more group shows in New York.

Finally, do you have any tips for others wanting to pursue a career as an artist?

Always make work that you believe in, and show support for your fellow artists. We’re all in it together.

Thank you so much to Jonathan for taking part in this interview. He’s really is one of the most hard-working and dedicated people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the last few years. You can find Jonathan over on his website, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter page.

If you would like to take part in my Career Inspiration series then drop me a message on Twitter.