Artistic and creative careers are among the most rewarding, but they also come with unique challenges. We asked some of the city’s best creatives to tell us why they choose to pursue a creative career.

Karen Hochman Brown | Digital and Mixed Media Artist

There is an old family story that when I was a baby, my brother could only color when I was napping because I would eat the crayons. From the very start, I wanted to ingest the colors. It was my grandmother who saw my talent as a visual artist. She nurtured that talent by providing me with museum visits and art classes. She taught me to sew and knit. Starting in sixth grade, I discovered a love of mathematics, which reached a peak with high school geometry. And while I didn’t end up pursuing numbers, that love of a patterned and orderly world has been a part of my artistic endeavors as an adult. My work in graduate school (Art Education) took shape as a curriculum I called “Geom-Art-Ry”, geared toward junior high school students constructing the five Plutonic solids using only a compass and ruler. We then used assorted art materials to embellish the flat designs before cutting and gluing into 3D form. Read more>>

Matthew Grabelsky | Artist

My parents and grandmother were all in the arts and so I was surrounding by it growing up. I made art since I was a kid and always loved it. I became very interested in astrophysics towards the end of high school and majored in it in college. At that time I intended to pursue a career as a scientist and decided to take a year off first to study classical painting in Italy before continuing with grad school in astrophysics. After a few months living in Florence, being surrounded by the art of the Renaissance, and working all day in the studio, I realized that I wanted to to be an artist. Read more>>

Tiffany Bell | Freelance Photographer

I first picked up a camera 7 years ago because I wanted to find a creative hobby that was completely different from the industry and work-life I had back then. Little did I know then it was the spark that ignited my passion to pursue this crazy yet amazing career as a photographer. Just like all jobs, being a freelance photographer comes with many challenges and frustrations in front and behind the scenes. It takes relentless ambition, thick skin and constant strategizing creating innovative ways to distinguish yourself from all the other photographers. It is an incredible feeling and experience take great pride that my clients have the trust in my abilities and my perspective to capture and shoot something that is important to them. Whether it be their products, a new restaurant, updated headshots or cherished moments, whatever it may be.. I get to create a visual story from the way I see it – and that is awesome. Read more>>

JP Buga | Generally Clever

Well I knew someone had to do it, so I thought why not me as well! I never quite found any further interest in my school subjects career-wise. Instead I found bliss from drawing in my notes while the teacher would lecture. I got sent to the principals office once for doing so, and they said “Are you being disrespectful? You’re not taking life seriously with doodles like these!” and I said, “No ma’am, you’re wrong. I’m an artist!” This dialogue didn’t happen, but the event unfortunately did. I was indeed sent to the principal’s office for doodling instead of taking notes, even though I was taking notes. So that’s just a big mess. Anyways, yeah! I enjoyed drawing, and being creative. Like anybody creative probably would. I never thought the thing that would get in me trouble, would become my career and passion. Read more>>

Malish Koala | Film maker, Book writer and Illustrator.

It all started as a small project, just for myself. I was making a mini film, just for fun. Only when I posted it online and received dozens of requests for the continuation of the story, I realized that I’m not the only one who finds it interesting, and I’m making something special. After releasing the second movie it was clear, there is no going back! And oh boy, what a great adventure it became. What started as a hobby became a career that brings me so much joy. Every day I receive heartwarming messages from people from all around the world, This is really what keeps me going. And this is what inspired me to branch out into writing and illustrating books. The fact that you can put a smile on someone’s face is priceless. No matter what my project is, I’m looking for a universal language to be able to reach everyone. Read more>>

Mary Bohn | Scenic Painting Artist

I pursued this career avenue, because it is my true passion and makes me who I am. It energizes me, feels right and so I follow my heart. This is what I love to do and it makes people happy! Since I was little, my mother recognized my talents, always told me I was going to be an artist and encouraged me. I always loved to color and got into paints and painted things I shouldn’t have been painting at the time! I first became the “artist’ of my grade and then evolved into “the Artiste’” of my high school. From Art Club president to being in charge of decorating committees for homecomings and proms, there was responsibility and challenge, but I always had a vision and believed of how everything was going to turn out. Color, design and planning excited me! As an entrepreneur, I have continued with that mind set and is something that stays. Read more>>

Ibarionex Perello | Photographer/Writer/Podcaster

I enjoyed the feeling associated with being creative. There’s been nothing else that has provided me the sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes from making photographs and writing. Early in my life I just knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life and I’ve been blessed that my life has reflected that. It’s not because of any grand plan, but that I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities to do so when they were presented to me. Read more>>

Glenn Deneve | Hairstylist | Abstract Painter

I grew up in a creative environment where my mom was a hairstylist and my dad an art dealer, so it translated exactly in what I am doing with my life now. I became a well respected hairstylist who was painting as a hobby for over 20 years and now turned into a celebrated artist as well. Read more>>

Alisha Sofia | Illustrator & Fine Artist

It was the one thing that came to me naturally from a very young age. I never thought twice about the career path I would take. I have no regrets about it. Read more>>

Ben Camacho | Photojournalist, Visual Storyteller, Curator

I always had to figure things out for myself. One thing I figured out early on in life was that I didn’t want anyone else to decide what I had to do. As a kid, I ran around the house with my parents’ family camera; something about being the one who decides when the shutter button gets pushed gave me a sense of autonomy. As a teenager, I learned that I had a knack for hustling when my homie and I started slanging on the low. We didn’t make a lot, but it showed me that if I put in, I could get something back. In college, I got my first job at a Flame Broiler owned by a Vietnamese family and managed by a young Black man who also worked full time at an Olive Garden to make ends meet for his kid. Read more>>

Jody Zellen | Artist

Making and looking at art was something I grew up doing so it was never really a choice as early on I gravitated to art, studied art in high school and college and have always held art realted positions. I have worked for galleries and museums, do graphic design for artists and also write art reviews. I chose a creative career as I love looking at art, writing about art, making art and helping others get their works out there. Read more>>

Gunner Johnson | Artist and Builder

I’m a hands on and visual type. I became an artist because I am highly motivated to produce permanent pieces both with a statement and purpose. I find excitement in creating with different mediums including steel. I have always had a hard time focusing on things that were overly technical. I can spend hours working on something that has multiple meanings and is tangible. Its the one thing I can really focus on. When I was younger I was very destructive and angry. As I got older I discovered art and sculpture and found a calm in it and the more I worked the more I found a calm in myself. I see the beauty inherent in destruction, and from that vision I create more life in my pieces. Its nice to take ordinary things and turn them into something new and unusual. I am driven to produce not just in sculpture but also in jewelry and other things. Read more>>

Steve Swatkins | Musician

I turned my back on a career as a lawyer and kept pursuing gigs playing original music after passing my Bar exam in 2009. I had been playing music my whole time in law school and both my classmates and bandmates were as confused as I was about what I was really trying to do. But I think the answer is that I was trying to help people. And as much as lawyers can truly help people, no one is really happy when they need to interact with a lawyer. Playing original music helps both myself and others access joy in a way that is not readily available in most professional pursuits. Having to monetize the thing I love presents its own challenges. I’m careful to set boundaries for myself to ensure that I’m making decisions based around well-being, not just what brings the most (still modest) financial returns. Read more>>

Bryce Lamar | Music Producer, Vocalist

I believe it’s because I haven’t been thinking as much in terms of a career. So there was never a conscious choice. I have just always been really passionate about music since I was a little kid, and kept going with it because I was in love with it. I am still in love with it. So the career has come about somewhat naturally. Read more>>

Magenta Harley | Singer & Songwriter

I pursued music because I’m not sure I had a choice. It’s the gift and the curse of the music bug. Since I was a young child certain music moved me, made me feel alive, made me feel understood, heard, loved, reckless or hopeful. Whatever it was, whatever I needed, music provided. The feeling of head to toe goosebumps when a musician expresses the perfect tone at the perfect moment…. there’s nothing like it. Then I began to sing and write music myself and found that I was not only moved by listening to music but the act itself took things to a whole other level. Melody is exciting, you can go anywhere with it and you find something new everyday. I was interested in the sciences and pursuing a career in veterinary care but music just pulled at me in a stronger way. Read more>>

Daniel Grimsland | Multi-Instrumentalist, Songwriter/Composer, Producer

It is what I’ve always been drawn to. Making music and being creative is what I love to do. The day I figured out that you could be creative for a living, that was it for me. That was what I was going to do. Finding a creative job that pays… that’s a whole other story! It’s a tough road, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Making music, and being creative, is life for me, and I’ll do it until I can’t anymore. Read more>>

Sophia Allison | Artist, Teacher and Creator of Parlor, a Unique Domestic Art Project

I knew when I was very young that I wanted to make art for the rest of my life. It just made sense to me; it was a natural extension of who I was. Of course I had no idea what that would look like when I got older, but as a young adult, I recognized that it was important for me to do something that related or connected to my studio art making – whether that was teaching in various capacities, working in museums and art-related non-profits or creating my own projects that would provide exhibition opportunities to other artists. I understood early on that, while art-making can be a very solitary practice at times, it was important to be around, work with and support other creative people and organizations, and to be part of and participate in like-minded communities – not just for networking, but for lifting each other up and providing a foundation of support. Read more>>

Braeden Ayub | Screenwriter

This goes way back to doing math in school. I was never a fan of having to do things one specific way in order to get the right answer — I prefer to do whatever it takes to get the desired outcome, and an artistic/creative career allows for artistic/creative problem solving. Read more>>

Abe Bram | Singer/Songwriter

I was always a very introverted person, but at the same time, I just knew that I wanted to express myself in some way. There were some factors that made me realize that I needed to follow and feed my creative side. The first time I’ve watched Imogen Heap performing “Just for Now” I was mesmerized. I thought: It’s not that I want to do this, but I NEED to do this. I also remember going to the theater to watch Les Miserables, and that experience blew my mind. I remember sitting there during intermission and thinking – I will be part of a musical on that stage one day – and after that I started taking acting, singing and dance classes. So, my career shifted from acting, to musical theater, to singer songwriter. Read more>>

Carly Lind | Singer-Songwriter & Professional Dancer

Honestly, I grew up in a home of addiction, watched my parents argue and fight in ways no child should ever have to deal with. I had no real stability, all I knew was I loved creating, it’s where I felt the safest and because I didn’t have somewhere that was safe and stable, I think I seek it out daily in my art, and that was more important than making a lot of money. So I chose the only thing I felt I had left, my art and a creative career. Read more>>

Stephanie McBain | Director & Writer

There was no other option. I lived my whole life in my imagination. It was entertainment that would last all day, sparked by a simple moment. It’s crazy how a moment can have such an impact on someones life, alter their mood or inspire a story. I am a story teller by nature but pursuing a creative CAREER isn’t easy. The industry isn’t all that pleasant sometimes. It was about a year ago when I had to ask myself what my vision of happiness was. See we all have our own vision of happiness and it’s not what society says we should have or a level we need to reach to prove to the world that we can do it, etc. It’s about finding clarity of what makes us truly happy. I realized then that I made the right decision to pursue the arts. My heart is in it. I’m a writer, I’m a director, I’m a story teller and I’ll do it for the rest of my life regardless of it stays a passion or becomes the career I aspire it to be. Read more>>

Lacei | Singer-Songwriter

When I was really young, maybe 6 months old, I used to take music CDs out of a wooden storage box & look at them. Some I would put some in a pile & others I’d toss over my shoulder. My mom always said I was different haha. I was always fascinated by music growing up, crawling towards my dad’s guitar as an infant, and playing the piano. After a day of elementary school, I would come home, sit at the piano, and write music because it helped me process my feelings. Over the years, my music began to change. My first album, “15 Minutes Ago,” was a compilation of songs I had written up until I was 13. As I grew older, I had experiences that began to morph the content of my music. On my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with an extremely rare chronic illness. Its origins are unknown, which made me search for answers. This in turn completely changed the trajectory of my music. It inspired me to use the research skills I learned at Loyola Marymount University to investigate the cultivation of food, environmental pollutants, pharmaceuticals, and more. Read more>>

Della Downey | Singer Songwriter & Photographer

I decided that I wanted to pursue an artistic career because art has been a part of my life from the beginning. If I wasn’t singing, I was trying to take someone’s photo or drawing. To be able to express me and my many emotions through art is a beautiful thing to have. Read more>>

Cristian Coldea | Producer / Director

I am one of those cases where the artistic or creative career found me — and not the other way around. I can say for sure that despite all the life choices presented to me, I listened to my intuition and followed my talent. I believe it was the best decision of my life. Read more>>

Jay Holben | Independent Motion Picture Director and Producer.

I guess you could say that I found my “calling” at a very early age – 5-years old. It was a hot summer July in Arizona in 1977 and my parents had taken me to see a movie – only the second film I had ever seen in a theater. There was an incredibly long line wrapping around the whole building and these crazy characters walking around like a big dog and a man dressed in black armor. It was Star Wars at the Cine Capri theater in Phoenix and I walked out of the theater and told my parents that I was going to direct movies. They took that proclamation as any parent would of their precocious 5-year old, but I have spent the following 43 years of my life pursuing that same goal. I realized that I have a need to move an audience, to share an emotion, a feeling, a lasting impression with a large group of people. Read more>>