We asked some of the city’s leading artists and creatives to tell us about how they decided to pursue an artistic or creative career.  We’ve shared some highlights below.

Tommie Earl Jenkins | Actor, Singer & Creative

I pursued an artistic career because I wanted to feel the freedom of expression and to be able to share my gift with people. I felt that if I could make people feel something special based on something that I had done, then it was a job worth doing. I also did it for me because it was a way to take a step back from reality for a moment and escape to an imaginary world full of possibilities where you could be anything you wanted. Read more>>

Samuel W. Reed | Independent Filmmaker, Author

Pursuing an artistic career wasn’t so much of a choice as a necessity. My entire life I have been passionate about the arts. Since I was a little boy, I loved drawing, creating, and making things. As I got older, I got into music, began to play guitar in bands, write music, etc. That passion expanded into fiction writing as I entered college, and a few specific courses guided me toward screenwriting, first, and then filmmaking, where I ultimately landed. At each step along the way, I became keenly aware that my path was differing from my peers. As they pursued careers in finance, law, health, and more “traditional” paths, I found myself repulsed by the idea of a “9 to 5,” or having to do anything that would squelch these creative ambitions of mine. I have always felt an innate need to be creative and to explore concepts and feelings through my art, and to express my own personal worldview for others to see/share/experience. Read more>>

Joseph Moreno | Photographer

A few years ago I was asked by my first photo instructor, “What is the purpose of photography?” My immediate thought was “to tell a story”. I had no idea how deeply that response would be rooted in my work. By the terms’ end I began to ask myself if photos cancommunicate stories, what stories can I tell? What stories are mine to tell? Exploring this has been nothing short of magic. Read more>>

Natalie Duque | Singer Songwriter & Session Singer

I like to think that I didn’t pursue an artistic career, but it pursued me. For years, I tried to work “normal” jobs; the kinds that looked good on paper but weighed on my heart. I never realized how heavily connected a person’s mental state is to their physical being until I started to get sick. After countless doctor’s appointments, and a couple of emergency room visits, I decided that taking care of my mental health was the only way forward, and a huge part of that was choosing to listen to this internal pull towards a creative career that only got stronger the farther away from it I moved. Read more>>

John Roseboro | Multidisciplinary Artist

My entire formal education and professional career was devoted to Mortuary Sciences (i.e Pathology, Grief Counseling, and Religious Rites). I wanted to use my skills, gifts, and aptitudes to affect the most good in my community and the world– I still do, but I think I’ve found a more excellent way in music and art and I want to do this for the rest of my life. Read more>>

Tyler Simmons | Singer and Songwriter

This is a really interesting question, because it really happened organically for me. I never really thought about doing a career in music until I was already well into the music scene in Toronto, Ontario (my home town) When I was younger, I was really terrified of performing, so I only started playing music when I was 13. My mom kept encouraging me to perform in front of people, until I finally got the courage and just did it. It was an amazing experience to get to express myself on stage in front of people, and it really only took that one performance to kick off my love for music and performing. After that performance, I decided to write a song and start auditioning for gigs. And later that year, I got to open for Andy Grammar for a charity event. It was an incredible experience, and really jump started my career as a musician. From then on, I was gigging and writing extremely frequently! I loved it so much, and eventually decided that it was going to be my career path. Read more>>

Christopher Holland Brandt | Fashion Designer

I was exposed to art, music, and film at a young that made me curious and excited about the world and t also exposed me to the idea of being an artist as a career. The curiosity and excitement for designing and making has been a constant in my life as long as I can remember. Growth with that curiosity has kept me going as well because I learned to love the processes of making things by hand and planning and following through with a full project. I am at the beginning of what is hopefully a long career and I am grateful to be able turn the opportunities and hard work I’ve done into a creative life. Read more>>

None illa |Future Music Mogul, A Well-rounded Creator/Artist

I fell in love with self expression. I love the personality that comes with being yourself. Music is one of the most intimate ways to connect with others while expressing yourself. Once I got in front of a mic, the rest was history. Read more>>

Savanna Gibson/Sdollasign | Singer/Songwriter/Actress /Fashion Model & Brand CEO

I really didn’t know I wanted to….it took a special friend of mine to actually encourage me to notice the voice I had and how far I could go with it. I then knew the lives I could impact, and it made me excited. Read more>>

TaRhea Ray | Singer, Actress, Writer

I’ve been an entertainment junky since I was a kid. To be honest, it was hard not to be tempted since my father was a performer. However, he stopped pursuing his passion, completely gave up on it. Lived his life regretting certain decisions that took away his chances from succeeding in the music industry. When he would talk about it, I could feel the regret. I don’t want to live my life like that, always wondering, what if I would’ve just took a chance. My dad gave up on his dream to become a family man and I’m extremely grateful for his sacrifice. I grew up with an amazing father who was very present in my life, but I was also sad for him because I knew he wanted his life to be different. That inspired me to just go for what I want, to follow my passion. It’s a sacrifice some people aren’t willing to take, but I am. My father passed his gifts on to me and I’m going to see it through. I refuse to let my talent got to waste. Read more>>

Gloria Centurion | Tattoo Artist & Painter

since i was very young i was drawn to the Arts, and like many an artist before me, i never quite believed it could be a career. i buried my head in art books and art technique and focused on murals, painting and design. and began to gradually develope an income based on my artisctic services  of course, there was always a skepticism from myself that the arts could make a viable or even respectable career. however, after meeting many different artists with different backrounds and goals, i was inspired to pursue my dream. i realized that the main goal i had placed for myself was to pursue a career in something i was not passionate about in exchange for a sense of security. so i decided to make the most definitive change of my young life. i took a leap of faith in a creative direction. Read more>>

Fabi Rivera | Licensed Cosmetologist and Barber

Freedom. Plain and simple. I need freedom in all aspects of my life. Considering I knew my career would take a big space in my life, I needed to do something where I could have freedom. Read more>>

Frankie Park | Singer, Songwriter, Social Producer

I think those of us who’re created are just born a little different. I always liked to color, draw, doodle more than other kids growing up. Looking back things like that are a real signal (but easily ignored). Once I realized I was a natural at writing and singing, the main struggle has been budget! So make sure to follow FRANKIE PARK on socials to help a girl out. Read more>>

Haylee Nichele | Immersive Theatre Creator, Consultant, and Performer

I started dancing at the age of 4 and have never stopped. For many years I pigeon holed myself as a “dancer” and then I discovered Immersive Theatre and a new world, a new language, and a new way of connecting to people opened up. I did not choose an artistic or creative career it chose me. Read more>>

Meghan Gochin | Graphic Designer/NFT Artist/Creative Mind

At the risk of sounding cliche, I never sat down and made a decision like “You know what?! I’m going to be a creative.” I didn’t choose my career as an artist or designer, It was just what I have always been good at and enjoyed doing. I got my first job as a designer when I was still in high school. Which isn’t impressive in the age of the Youtube and knowledge we’re currently in but 14 years ago teaching yourself to use Adobe Photoshop at 10 was impressive. So yeah to answer the question in short; I pursued this career because I enjoy it and am good at it. Read more>>

Alisa Ras | Concept Designer

It’s hard to track down how and when creativity comes into our lives, but for most artists I think we all have a specific moment where we say to ourselves, “Okay, this is what I really want, and I’m going to pursue it no matter what, no backup plan.”I immigrated from Russia to the US with my mom as a child and it was pretty hard to integrate into American culture when I was little. That period was mostly just awkward kid years and moving around trying to find where we would settle in the states, but there were a couple key influential moments that I realize took me down the creative path later in life. The first was a family friend who first introduced me to Japanese art and culture in general, as well as video games. Obviously as a kid I gravitated and feel in love with anime, which we all know was a lot less popular back then. I would spend hours after school at the library or book store and find a nook to read manga. I loved it. I got into drawing a bit during that time but never considered it to be viable as a career. Read more>>

Josh Breckenridge | Music Composer, Crypto Artist, Podcaster & Dad

Making music, drawing, and writing short stories always came naturally to me even when I was very young. I definitely wasn’t a normal boy by any means. I was always in my head daydreaming, creating worlds and characters or humming little melodies. There were other things I tried pursuing besides creative endeavors as an adult, but I always ended up on the artists path. The universe, god, fate or whatever you want to call it has always nudged me in that direction. Read more>>

Kristen Hirlinger | Composer, Sound Editor, Mixer

Music and sound are like a second language to me, and what’s better, it’s a universal one. A set of sounds or notes can elicit the same emotion from many different listeners, no matter where they’re from. When I was young I loved listening to film soundtracks, and sometimes I would sit at the piano and just play what was on my mind, where I found I could express myself easier through notes rather than words. I started writing these ideas down, eventually moving on to write a concert piece that I premiered with my high school band. I studied music in college and wrote for more ensembles and films, moving from the Midwest to Los Angeles, and ultimately creating music and sound became my career. I feel most myself when I am creating, and I count myself lucky to be able to make a living from it. Read more>>

Blest Jones | Artist

Fully pursuing any art of any kind is difficult and risky, for anyone who wants to, but for me personally I really wanted to escape all the time. I only found that in my art. I am still constantly looking for ways to diversify and do more within art but music has been that base my entire life. I needed a way to express and share with the world and I am grateful that I could turn my expression of feelings into a self sustaining business. Read more>>

BELLSAINT | Recording Artist / Songwriter / Producer

Since I was a kid, music just felt like it was part of my soul and the most meaningful act of expression. I dealt with a lot of trauma as a kid and didn’t know how else to process. Music was cathartic therapy and it still feels like my own personal language. Having a career as an artist was my dream, so I’m grateful I get to do it for a living. Read more>>

Erin J Saldana | Professional Photographer & Creative Director

Honestly my whole life, my thought process was just to get paid to do something I enjoy and love. To do something that sustained me and provided for me, but that also brought me joy. To me that equaled happiness. Being creative makes me happy and feel alive. No matter the medium, it’s just always exciting to me to use my mind and hands creatively. I come from a family of talented artists far superior than me and I always felt like it was a shame they didn’t get to pursue and use those skills as a career. I wanted to break that mold and prove that following my heart was the right choice for me. I wanted to believe that my creative abilities could result in a thriving career. Growing up, there was this understanding that artists don’t make money and that it wasn’t a sustainable avenue to support myself financially. It wasn’t easy at first and I definitely had some moments of needing to convince my parents that I had. a plan, but eventually they were so supportive and proud. Read more>>

Devon Marineau | Film Editor

My creative career path was never much of a choice between multiple options but rather the only option I allowed myself to pursue. Have you ever been to the midwest? It is ingrained with generations of hard workers who were told their sole purpose was to work to make money, spend their weekends with their families and save their wants as hobbies. Most of their career choices were limited to availability, convenience and job security. I grew up around that environment and I decided I never wanted to live like that. I’ve never been one to take the beaten path and I am thankful for that trait because it really solidified the choices that got me here. In high school I made a list of what I enjoyed doing and what I wanted to pursue. That list led me to consider film making so I researched, I worked tirelessly, I saved my money, I scarified a lot and eventually I packed up and moved across the country with my twin sister and co-editor to pursue that career path. It’s been thirteen years since I made that list and I am doing exactly what I wrote down. Read more>>

Enrico Moses: Creative Entrepreneur, Visual Artist, DJ/Producer/Performing Artist

In the middle of the pandemic, even though I found myself in quarantine with my family in Venice, it was like the perfect time for me to finally be able to create this idea that I had in my head for the past six years. So I ended up buying a canvas and started painting. And at that time I was using my iPad and was creating some digital work as well. So I created these two pieces, a Biggie piece and a Jay Z piece. And, you know, it took me a while but I got the courage to share it with my community… but once I got past my own BS, I got a really positive response. I ended up selling those first pieces right away and I started making some more. The whole concept and idea were to mix that feeling of having, you know, People in Hip Hop love wearing different chains and jewelry, and to be able to illustrate that, through my art on my canvases by using Swarovski crystals as the jewelry and the bling. So that idea kind of manifested through the first two pieces I created and things started moving. From that point, some of my collectors were really interested in buying a bunch of my pieces and I wanted to protect their investments. Read more>>

Blake Baldwin & Stewart Chriton | Songwriters/Musicians

The reason that we chose to live creative lives is honestly pretty simple but still an evolving thing for us. Growing up, the education system never really catered to us as individuals, and we both took refuge in music. More than that though, thats just sort of who we are as people. We both know that the music industry is tough and cutthroat, and all that, and maybe we’ll end up working regular 9-5 jobs, but in the end music is such a guiding and positive force in our lives that we aren’t about to stop following that instinct. Especially now, with all the chaos that comes along with being in a pandemic, being able to make music that we’re excited about gives us a lot of hope and and definitely feels like the right path. Life is just too short to not do what you love. Blake: Both of us grew up together here in Los Angeles and our parents were best friends and avid music lovers; I still have memories of our Dads playing guitar and making up ridiculous songs for us when we were young. I think even when we were kids we had a pretty serious passion for music so as crazy as it is, its really no surprised to me that we’re at this point now where we’re going to be releasing a record together. Read more>>

 Gabriela Cardenas | CEO & Celebrity Makeup Artist

I pursued my career in the beauty industry because I love to be free, express my creative side through make up, hair and all things beauty. To me there are no limits when it comes to being an artistic creative. I love to be able to have the freedom of doing something different every day, whether that is running my business at my salon “Heavens Beauty Lounge” , being on set or getting a bride ready for her special day. Read more>>

Cécilia Tsan | Cellist, Artistic Director & Actress.

I was born in Versailles, France from Chinese parents. I became a musician because my parents were already musicians. They met at the Shanghai Conservatory, then studied in Rome and Paris. Even if I tragically lost my father when I was not even two month old, thanks to my mother, violinist and composer, I was immersed into music. Plus Yo-Yo Ma’s family was friends with her. I was playing a bit of piano and violin but after I heard him play the cello, it was so gorgeous that I begged my mother to get me a cello. A dear friend of the family, the priest who took care of my Dad’s funeral bought that cello for me. Then Yo-Yo’s Dad took me to his cello teacher. So for years, I had the same teacher as him until he left for America. After I graduated from high school at 16, I was so interested in academics that I initially did a double major in Philosophy and Chinese at the University of Paris. After I auditioned for one of the greatest professors of cello in the world, he asked me to take his master-classes in Siena, Italy. Read more>>

Brandon Villalovos | Director and Editor

I think if you are a creative person in any regard and you enjoy expressing yourself at a young age, a creative career ends up choosing you. I found myself conflicted growing up and entering adulthood, going to college, and associating with non creative people in my life wondering if I was sort of an outcast for believing that I could pick up a camera and know that at some point it would be a mainstay in my life and a way to live on top of that. Of course, that did not happen overnight, but being persistent and having role models and seeing other creative people succeed in any form was, and still is, a real indicator that it can become a reality. I realized in my younger years that doctors and lawyers listen to music, watch movies, buy art, and more, so that means those artists have a place in the world and are just as valid as any other career path. Read more>>

Ashlee Langas | Movement & Wellness Coach

I started dancing when I was 2 and I remember knowing very early on that THIS was the thing I loved. I loved my friends from dance class, I loved the hard work and discipline of being in class, and I loved performing. Before I would go on stage, my dad would coach me through a visualization exercise to help me get into “the zone” and it was satisfying to push through the nerves to deliver a great routine. Dance was everything. If you went back and asked 10 year old Ashlee what she wanted to be when she grew up, it would have been a professional dancer on Broadway. Years later I would end up in Los Angeles as a professional dancer. I was hired to work some really cool jobs that I feel very proud of, however at one point I looked up and realized that I was miserable. I no longer felt confident about my skills because my bills getting paid was the pressure in the audition rooms. I felt so disconnected from my body, my spirit and my craft. That’s when I found yoga. Read more>>

Dana Ziyasheva | Filmmaker

Creating something makes me feel alive. I could have stayed with the United Nations my entire life. Don’t get me wrong: advising governments, helping marginalized communities and implementing development agenda on a global scale was an honor and a calling. However, after giving it my all for twenty years and enjoying a stable career growth, I started seeing the end of the line — a quiet retirement in a country of my choice. Without ever realizing my creative ambitions. You see, I wrote and published stories since I was 13. I was a TV journalist in my home country Kazakhstan. During my tenure at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, I had collaborations with the French Centre National du Cinéma, Disney and China Film Group. In Costa Rica, I was training women of the indigenous Ngabe tribe on how to use TV cameras and radio recorders, when we came up with the idea of making a movie about their life. Read more>>

Eric Hanson | Virtual Reality Developer

I think being creative is an innate impulse versus a chosen path. I think finding one’s path is a divining process, one uses intuition in conjunction with rational evaluation to ascertain if there’s livelihood and gratification potential. If you are truly a creative, I think you’ll find a path that works to support that impulse. Read more>>

Shaina Lavine | Aspiring Artist

I first started painting just for fun as a hobby to distract myself from what was happening with COVID. After a few pieces I did on canvas I was getting a lot of positive feed back. From there it evolved into me not only selling my work but Displaying my work in homes, restaurants, and stores around California. Read more>>

Sam L Williams | Musician/Songwriter/Podcast Host.

It’s mainly because I feel like my biggest strengths as a person are within the arts/music. they say you should always pursue what your good at doing, and I honestly feel that i’m REALLY good at writing and recording and performing music, and that’s the primary reason as to why I chose that for a career. I honestly don’t see myself doing anything else for a career so that’s why I chose music. I am also fully aware of the immense amount of competition I have with other people who are just as good if not better then me, but I also realize I have certain characteristics about me that make me stand out from my competition, such as my strong passion for Oldies/60’s Music at my tender young age of 25 (which is quite an unusual thing to be honest with you). Read more>>

Kim Nguyen | Sculptor & Senior Art Director

I love being able to use creativity as a way to inspire, to educate, and to solve problems. No day is ever the same and you are constantly challenging yourself to learn something new. Read more>>

Zane Hudson | Actor

Acting for me all began with a perfect mixture of dreams, affirmation from others, and vanity. By the time I completed my high school education I was a cocky young boy who was the big fish in the pond (a story that is quite commonplace now). I believed that a higher education in acting would lead me to the next steps of my success and that I would ‘show the world what I was made of’. Since beginning my higher education in 2015, I was given a crash course on the underbelly of Los Angeles. I quickly saw that this entire town is made up of ‘big fish’. That everyone would rather focus on themselves and their up-and-coming careers on vacant social media platforms. To put it frankly, I saw how unoriginal and unloving most people who claim to be artists were, and I saw through my own selfish desires and vanity. I knew that I was not meant for that and so I turned my back on it. Read more>>

 

Jack DeMeo | Songwriter, Producer, Instrumentalist, Educator

Because in a way I didn’t have a choice. Making stuff, for me, is a natural reflex. If I don’t write for a while, or make music, I start feeling weird. Like some people have to work out or do yoga or meditate and start feeling out of balance when they don’t. That’s what it’s like for me. Read more>>

Ryan Clark | Fashion Illustrator & Designer

“I was born into a pretty creative yet very hard working family. We all excelled in sports, music, art, yet school & studies were always number 1. Once I gained confidence in art and grasps onto the fact that it could be a career; I began learning that my passions & my purpose were aligning on this world. I pursued art because at a young age it was my therapy. Being creative is just my DNA; whatever job I take on I hope to add an artistic touch to it!. Read more>>

Kevin Toledo | Experimental Hip-hop Artist, Photographer & Songwriter

Life lead me to becoming an artist. Music was always an outlet for me. I started out by writing poetry as a way to vent in a creative way. Eventually it became me recording, writing songs and producing my own records as well. With photography and mixed media I developed a niche for myself the same way. Using a camera to capture things I felt were beautiful through my eyes became an outlet and a creative way to be outside and be productive. Then being able to mix the visual aspect to what I do musically came together very naturally because it was always personal for me. What made me actually pursue these outlets as a career was the fact that I wish I could’ve started earlier, but due to life and limited perspective growing up I didn’t believe that was an option or possible. I spent a lot of time locked in school, working jobs and finding professional careers instead of an artistic career because that was the realistic route for me, but eventually the artist came out of me and I found ways to balance and create a way for me to combine my educational career with the artistic one as well. Read more>>

Mustapha Kay | Recording Artist, Club Promoter, Actor

I chose and artistic and creative career because it allows me to create solutions. Finding problems is an easy task that most people do natural. As a creative you allow yourself the opportunity to expand your mind whenever you feel as though things are not working in your favor. The journey of a creative is also filled with ups and downs and gives you many learning opportunities to become the best version of yourself. Read more>

Kiandré | Singer-Songwriter-Actor

It’s the only thing that really moves me. I was never the best at sports, I’m book smart but nothing super out of this world. I feel music is the only thing I have been able to connect with on new levels at different stages in my development, its that “thing” for me. I can put it down when I’m overwhelmed and it will always be there when I come back. Read more>>

Jordan Arteaga | Filmmaker & photographer

When I was a kid after watching tv shows, and movies, I started creating stories in my mind, stories that are grounded in reality, I would write down story ideas, and afterwards start writing out the stories, ranging from drama, to horror. My dreams I’ve had in the past were inspiration for the stories I write, even when I get lost in thought, an idea begins to take form, from my stories I want the audience to feel hopeful, inspired, humble, scared of course, happy, grateful, I want to move the audience in my films, and stories. Read more>>