We had the good fortune of connecting with Aljournal Franklin II and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aljournal, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk-taking is an integral part of the creative process. No matter what creative field you work in, there is a certain level of experimentation and trial and error that goes into finding your voice. In the mix of this trial and error are a lot of “happy accidents”. Accidents that hold lessons and lead to creative breakthroughs. Playing it safe may work in an academic setting where you are learning, honing, and defining the fundamental skills you’ll need to progress in your career. However, once you begin trying to make a name for yourself, you must be willing to take risks. You must be willing to work in a way that pushes your predefined creative boundaries. It’s only in working in this exploratory way that we can reach beyond our boundaries and make discoveries. As the saying goes “no risk no reward”. Working in a box is holding yourself back, Following too many rigid guidelines is like wading in the safe, shallow end of a vast swimming pool in fear of climbing the ladder to jump off of the diving board. All the while craving the great thrilling rush of exhilaration that comes with the dive. As artists we must face that fear, we must grapple with the “what-ifs” of creating. It’s in this grappling that we discover new techniques, and ways of viewing our world and what we do, that help us define our unique voices.
For me, it wasn’t until after receiving my degree, and leaving the “academic” art world, that I first explored this line of thinking. As a student in a well-known art school, I was constantly confronted with the fear of wandering too far outside of what was being taught and expected from me and receiving a failing mark. Which is a complicated place to exist as a young creative. Having something as subjective as art setup against a rigid grading system created an environment of focusing on creating works that professors would approve of, in the hopes of achieving passing grades. With less and less importance being placed on full creative expression.
Within that environment I often found myself wanting desperately to explore different ways of expressing my voice, but being too afraid to try because I couldn’t afford to fail. It wasn’t until post-graduation that I began to experiment and work freely to explore these ideas. This lead to many breakthroughs as an artist and the creation of some of my favorite works. Which lead to my first solo shows, and a change in the way I viewed art and the process of creating art. Though it may not be the same journey for everyone, I do believe the rewards you seek lay just beyond your fear, and you will have to take some form of risk to reach them.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I work in multiple disciplines between a handful of creative fields. I am an illustrator, painter, graphic designer, video artist, and musician. I’ve worked in film and television, designed for movies, and have had my work featured on television. I began focusing a lot of my energy on my music in recent years, of course, because it’s something I love and feel expressive in, but it also allows me to pull together a lot of my skills towards one goal. The feeling of being able to draw from my training as a visual artist while also creating these sprawling experimental sound compositions so they can be packaged as albums is pretty special and unique. Not only am I spending the time creating the music, but I’m also designing album covers, merchandise, zines, visuals, music videos, and more. This is as much work as it sounds like, but is also really fulfilling and allows me complete creative control over the final project. Unfortunately, this can also create a few challenges career-wise since I’m following a less than laser-focused path. It’s often complicated explaining what exactly it is I do, especially when most people are expecting a short and concise answer to that question. My current go-to is: “musician and visual artist”, and I explain further if there is interest or time.
At the end of the day, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. It’s easy to get lost in the space of not feeling that I’ve done enough, or being extremely conscious of not having made it to where I want to be in life. However, I’ve found when I have those moments if I look back at where I was a few years ago, and think about where I wanted to be or what I wanted to be creating at that time, it helps me to put things back into perspective. No matter how much further there is to go, I have also come a long way from where I once was, and there is so much for me to be proud of, which is beyond encouraging. I’ve created some beautiful visual art, Had my paintings displayed publicly and used in films, my music can be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music, I’ve designed and sold multiple self-published zines, and one of my shirt designs was featured on the show Atlanta. These are all really special accomplishments and great reminders to myself to keep going.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Los Angeles is full of almost too many places for me to narrow it down, but I have a few that come to mind. At some point I take just about everyone that comes to visit me to get a Cofax burrito for breakfast, their impossible chorizo breakfast burrito is amazing! I love the China Town Plaza, the shops there are fun to explore, and the buildings have a lot of character so it’s another great place to take any guests. In that same plaza before COVID times, I used to go to General Lee’s for Made to move La’s monthly dance party, always great DJ sets and a fun atmosphere. I’ve always loved seeing art in person, so that’s another thing I love about LA. The city is full of so many galleries and art museums that I wouldn’t dare try and narrow it down to a favorite. However, I will say the Getty is a very special place for art, it’s a little out of the way so I don’t get out there often, but when I do I like to sort of make a day of it. Especially since it is such a pilgrimage to get there, and once you’re there it feels like you’ve stepped into a sort of “artistic holy ground”. So it only feels right to take your time and give reverence.
Silverlake and Echopark are some of my favorite parts of town to knock around on the regular, lots of really interesting people and fun places to pop in around there. That entire area has a great energy about it that’s a bit hard to nail down, but it’s something I appreciate. I usually meet cool people whenever I’m out that way, or discover a new restaurant, cafe, book, or record store to spend time in. Which I love, because hunting through shelves of books or rows of records for treasures to add to my collection are some of my favorite past times. Aside, of course, from actually reading a new book or listening to new records. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate this to my family and friends who continue to believe in me and cheer me on, even when I feel I have stumbled or fallen short of the mark. To those who stick around through the madness of life, and pick up the phone in the middle of the night when I needed to talk through the chaos. I love you all.
Instagram: @elovetmusic @2jaye
Ayaka Furukawa – @poyapoyahakase_is_alive @xvx_nick