What the World Needs

My first job was as a dishwasher, a job title I’ve had at three separate times in my life. During high school I worked at a local restaurant where I washed dishes and did some light cooking. When I quit to attend college, the head cook lashed out with his wisdom, “Art?! As soon as there’s a war or recession, art will be the first thing to go. And when that happens, you’ll be right back here washing dishes. People will always need cooks.” The restaurant folded while I was away at college.

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I drew constantly in my youth and quickly became one of those kids that was “good at art”. It was firmly planted in my head that I would go on to be a famous illustrator, probably drawing some of the most badass comic books around.

My family was nothing but supportive, regardless if they understood just what kind of things I wanted to create, they always conjured up interminable pride. I focused on doodling and pushed off the idea of how I’d actually make a living. I just kept telling myself that if I achieved a high enough level of skill, people would beat a path to my door.

The notion of being an illustrator stayed with me through most of my schooling, only to fade and finally die out in college. Sometimes I pinpoint that moment as the time I was sitting in life drawing class next to Kevin (who I didn’t know at the time). I had just finished what I thought to be a decent likeness of the reclining model in front of me when I glanced over at Kevin’s work. My jaw hit the floor, followed closely by the tiny jaw of the figure in my drawing. His perfectly shaded rendering mocked me from the easel with vivid photographic precision. It was good, like crazy fucking good.

Kevin’s drawing was a wake up call, but it wasn’t the only reason for my dread. The real fact was my grades were in the toilet because my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Around then I discovered I had a strong connection with graphic design and a dormant love for typography—probably a leftover from years of filling my brain with meticulously hand-rendered comic book sound effects. I continued to take a full roster of illustration courses, but threw myself into my design classes with newfound resolve. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a huge mile marker in my life. It didn’t matter what I thought I wanted to be, the real point was finding someplace to direct all of my creative energy.

It’s often interesting to see what paths life will drag you down. Before college, I had only a few brief encounters with a computer, and the majority of those were to play video games. Now I spend much of my day in front of a computer. I may not pick up a pencil or brush as often anymore, but I’m still creating things and trying to be good at art.


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On the Subject of Me

Jason Santa Maria is a graphic designer living and working in sunny Brooklyn, NY. More »

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