We had the good fortune of connecting with Too Zen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Too, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I decided to start taking my art seriously in November of 2018. I was experiencing a lot of post-grad depression, since graduating college that June. I went abroad for 3 weeks after graduating, and came back with no money. So I had to take any jobs I could find since I’ve been supporting myself since I turned 18. I would cry while pouring sauces at a burger joint because I felt like my undergraduate success was all for nothing. The only thing that kept me from falling into further depression was art. I kept picking up small part time jobs here and there until I could find something full time. While I was working these part time jobs I felt like there had to be more life, and like I could do more. I decided I was going to start my own business, after seeing @xenoughsaidx aka Brianna Hernandez make it as a successful Artist on twitter. Seeing another queer ,Black Biracial artist, make it in this field showed me I could do it to. I first launched as “Enlightened Shawty Art” and made one or two sales here and there. In April of 2019, I rebranded and launched my site as “Too Zen Galleries”. In the process I did a lot of research and studied YouTube videos and podcasts that discussed how to make money off of art, how to become a full time artist, and social media marketing.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What sets me apart from others is my style. My original art work has a lot of psychedelic surrealist influences where I aim to show Black and Brown representation. However, I am most popular and hired for my anime style customs, so that is a lot of what is shown on my pages. I am very excited to create more original work this upcoming year to highlight my originality. I got where I am today professionally, by putting in work. I not only taught myself painting, drawing and graphic design techniques with the use of YouTube and the internet, but I also learned how to market effectively on social media through the use of YouTube and podcasts. I also participated in many local art shows in Los Angles and Santa Barbara to network and get my name out there. I have many sleepless nights of putting in work for my business, whether that is working on commissions and paintings, creating content, or doing administrative and accounting tasks. I also am actively on social media during the day promoting my website. It is not an easy path, but it is so worth the sense of fulfillment I get. Starting a business from the ground up has been a learning experience every step of the way and still is. I still find myself having the occasional tech issue or delay in product shipments. I have learned that you get what you put in, and that anything is possible. You just have to have the vision and work towards it everyday. It is also important to rest occasionally so that you don’t burn out. Self care is essential, which is something I am still trying to learn. I just want artists and creatives to know that being an Artist in this day and age is possible regardless of the background or economic class you come from. You do not have to settle for a career you do not enjoy.
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?
I don’t typically plan things, I usually just go with the flow. So I would probably find a random gallery or art show on Eventbrite. Hang there for a bit and explore the surrounding area. Once were done with that, I would try to find something plant based, Latin, or Asian to eat. I like My Thai in Koreatown, Moonbowls, and Veggie Grill, but if there’s a random Taco Stand that’s probably what I’m going to opt for. After eating, I’d look for a random bar around or club we can go to. I like Exchange LA and Avalon when it comes to House DJs, but underground events are always dope. If that’s not an option, id probably go to a smaller place like Toe Bang, or Cabo Cantina, where we can get drinks and food. In all honesty, I would prefer to do something chill at home, where I just play music, watch anime, and chat or have a creative session over a box of seltzers and herbs.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give recognition to my friend and sorority sister Stephanie, for giving me the nickname Too Zen, because it is now my whole entire brand identity. Further, many of my close friends bought and supported my art when I first started which kept me going. These friends are not limited to, but include Damian (@CxldPizza on twitter – hit him up for beats), Esmeralda, Brandi (@notbrandy on ig and twitter). Elisha Crader, provided me with housing and gave me a ride to my first art show ever, which took place in Oakland. So I want to give her a special thanks as well. I sold my first piece at that show and learned the in’s and outs of how to set up for shows. I also want to give a huge shout out to Raeannvenus (@raeannvenus on ig and twitter). I met her at my 2nd art show ever, and she invited me to other shows where I’ve made a large amount of sales and networked with other artists. She has also provided me with some exposure opportunities, such as painting a mural in Little Tokyo. Melanie Medina (@melaniecholyM) and Jave (sessh0m6ru) have contributed to a lot of my success as well, since they have larger twitter accounts who share my work from time to time. This has allowed me to gain more commissions and sales. I also want to thank Terra Cobain (@terramabilia_ on ig) for providing me with art show and networking opportunities. Lastly, I of course have to thank my Mom and Dad, for encouraging my creativity as a child. That childlike creativity is something that I have never lost. They also would drive me to most of my art shows when I had to come down to LA from my college town.
Youtube: toozengalleries (content coming soon in 2021)
Other: patreon.com/toozengalleries (for exclusive looks at content and monthly rewards)