We had the good fortune of connecting with Van Jazmin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Van, how do you think about risk?
For an artist, risk is paramount. It’s the difference between fading into the background or putting a spotlight on oneself. I personally take risks on a regular basis, because I am a freelance designer. It’s risky because I can’t guarantee an income every month. However, the payoff is always great in terms of freedom and self-reliance. Outside of my commercial work, I am taking risks as well. Every personal project involves risk because I’m investing in something that may or may not turn out the way I planned. For example, I’ve thrown money into visions where I was the producer, photographer, stylist, and casting director. Even with all that creative control, It’s a hit or miss. Another type of risk I take is the risk of working in new mediums – trying things I’ve never done before. Recently, I published a book. I took a risk by self publishing. I produced 100 copies, not knowing if people would actually buy it. The edition ended up selling out and I had to restock. It’s important to take chances on dreams or strong artistic urges. A lot of the time, it’ll be a loss financially, but that can’t be a reason to stop trying. All the stories of successful artists involve this thread to some extent – throwing oneself into murky waters, taking calculated risks, and experimenting with outcomes.
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 is that my art spans various visual mediums – mainly illustration, photography, video and publishing. The common thread in my art is a dedication to archiving the times in which I live. I am excited about my directorial debut, Hollywood Home Video, a short doc shot entirely on a hand-held camera. Recently I received an award for best short doc from the Berlin Underground Film Festival. Today I am fortunate to make a living as a creative freelancer. It hasn’t been easy. I had to accept that I wasn’t going to have a comfy stable job at one agency, and instead would end up working with many companies. My education at Ringling College didn’t prepare me for the reality of being a contractor, so I had to figure it out on my own. Luckily I have an interest in business and was able to develop a professional process and repertoire with my clients. I’ve had to rigorously study branding and learn technical skills in order to stay relevant in a quickly changing digital landscape. Along the way, I’ve learned how to build relationships as the basis of doing good creative business. I’ve also learned to take calculated risks and how to sell art objects, not just artistic services. One great lesson I’ve learned is to develop expertise in multiple levels – for example, if I am offering a printed product, I need to be an expert in printing as well as design. It pays to understand how it’s made. This past year, I helped produce a 6-minute animated music video. Although my job was more business than creative, I took it upon myself to learn the the basics of animation from perspective of an animator. My story is one of adaptation and the spirit of the Renaissance Man. I do not feel limited like I must be known for one thing. That said, I would like to embrace all areas of knowledge and develop my capacities as fully as possible.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Prior to this year, Los Angeles offered a smorgasbord of things to do for a week long trip. Before the pandemic, I would takes guests to some of my favorite underground parties and club shows: Space Yacht, Midnight Society, Queer as Punk, and Ostbahnhof. I enjoyed treating out-of-towners to Wednesday jazz at the Dresden, Exposure drag shows at the Offbeat, and goth nights at the Lash. Taking a tour with Cool LA Tours, then going to to Koreatown and drinking at Shatto 39 Lanes then eating at BCD Tofu House at 3 AM.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It’s better to unite than to compete with other artists. I would like to shout out my best friend Dani McDonough for their encouragement and material support over the last decade. Dani is an illustrator and tattoo artist @RubyRedTattoo (IG) who I think is seriously underrated given their craftsmanship and luscious style. It’s been significant to my growth long-term to have someone who is a fellow artist and peer as an intimate friend. We trade and gift original artwork, share critiques, and pick each other up in hard times. Love you, Dani!
Other: https://archive.org/details/hhvfinalcut (Hollywood Home Video)
(C) Van Jazmin