We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Blain and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
Learning how to listen to my gut when facing high-risk situations has been the most important skill I’ve developed. Leaving my corporate job to start my own agency may have been the biggest risk I’ve faced, but it’s just one of many risky decisions that led to where I am now. I transferred colleges halfway through getting my bachelors degree because I was not being challenged to grow as much as I wanted. A year after I transferred, I changed my major from Advertising & Graphic Design to Fine Art. This risk felt huge because I told myself (and my family) that a career in graphic design was a much safer route financially than trying to make it as a fine artist.
The truth is – those risks helped me develop a flexibility and range of skills that I credit for my success as a creative. Early on in my career, there were opportunities that I avoided because they were risky, and they stick with me today. I’d rather fail and grow than avoid challenges and stagnate.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about.
I think that one thing that sets me apart from other artists/creatives is my willingness to take chances and being OK with failing sometimes. I got real comfy for a while, and I started to notice my competitive edge had started to get a bit dull. I wasn’t creating for self-fulfillment, but rather just for the paycheck. That’s when I decided (very abruptly) to jump ship and start my own design agency. My lack of savings made it very stressful, but that stress ignited my competitive drive. I wasn’t able to have days where I, “just wasn’t feeling creative”. I reevaluated what drove me to make my best work and developed a new workflow and lifestyle centered around those factors.
I’ve learned that taking bigger risks can lead to bigger opportunities and more freedom. I’m now able to pour all of my energy into the projects we decide to attack. It feels amazing to be able to commit all of my creative energy into unique and effective work for our clients.
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?
First off, we’d have to schedule the trip around a home game for the Columbus Crew. Post-game dogs at Dirty Franks are a must. We’d definitely have to catch a show at Ace of Cups, my favorite Columbus music venue. Nice weather means patio hangs at Cleaver, tacos from Junior’s taco truck, and walks around our killer metro parks. No stay in Columbus is complete without a trip to Blockfort – a building full of incredible artists, multiple galleries and some of my good friends! I’ve watched this city grow into something really special, and I find something new every time I venture out.
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 owe everything to a network of supportive and creative individuals that I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by since birth. My parents encouraged and supported my dream of supporting myself through creative fields since I first picked up art supplies and instruments.
My first mentor as I broke into the Columbus art community was Adam Brouillette. I worked as a volunteer on the stage designs for Independents’ Day Festival back in 2015 under Adam’s lead. After spending a short time with the group of artists Adam assembled, I quit my job and focused all my time and energy on building the visuals for the festival. My gut told me this was the right situation to position myself for the career I had always dreamed of. Adam introduced me to various individuals who became friends, co-workers, and clients. He helped me understand and develop the qualities that people looked for when hiring creatives.
As I started to gain more traction as an artist, I was reluctant to work an in-house corporate job. Once I met Brian Hipsher and was hired to work on his team at a regional BBQ chain, I realized those jobs didn’t have to be boring. Brian pushed me and threw me into uncomfortable situations that led me to grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without the real-world experience. He allowed me to fail, and he taught me how to reconcile the failures and create methods that would ensure success on future attempts. We still work together in a different capacity, and his patience and trust have been incredibly valuable throughout my career.