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.

Lakyn Carlton | Fashion Designer

As cliche as it sounds, I truly couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Of course, the five or six “regular” jobs I got fired from before deciding to really pursue my craft definitely helped solidify the decision. I’d always been creative growing up, but, I think once it seemed unlikely for me to be able to become a fashion designer in any conventional sort of way, I did get discouraged, and then, obviously, my focus became just making money however I could. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I finally dropped the “aspiring” and just became a designer, and threw a lot of–stuff–at the walls to see what would stick to make the dream I’ve had in the back of my head since I was a kid a reality. It’s still a struggle at times, but, it’s the best kind of struggle. Read more>>

Tucker Hampson | Film and Television Editor

Becoming a creative professional always felt more like an irrevocable gravitational pull rather than a choice to me. As a child, I came off as a complete space cadet, often unresponsive when my name was called and distracted during class, but come recess I was the ringleader of the next imaginative game. My parents could never get me to do more than a few math problems before I was off in my room for several hours creating an elaborate stop motion lego film. I was a storyteller from day one, no matter how hard I fought it. After high school I convinced myself that I was going to get a “real job”, something in biology or electronics, but one miserable semester of college trying to determine the chlorophyl levels in pine trees and titrating microorganisms onto onion cells had me totally disenfranchised with that plan. I remember my freshman advisor, a man named Steve Hayward who saw me for who I was, sitting me down and saying “Tucker, man, why are you trying so hard to be a scientist when you’re clearly a storyteller?” Something clicked. After that it was the matter of figuring out what stories I wanted to tell, and how to tell them. Read more>>

Kuan-Ju Wu | New Media Artist & Creative Technologist

The process of creating art makes me alive. Just like a plant requires light, air and water to grow, I need to turn all the knowledge I observe, the skill I practice, and the experience I had, into art through me creative outlet. And I hope the outcome of my creation can bring a little bit more love to our world, especially to our mother nature. Read more>>

Keith Calkins | Photographer

Being creative is my whole life and has been for as long as I can remember. I have learning disabilities and really struggled through all of my school years. I didn’t fit into the “one size fits all” style of learning. It wasn’t until I started acting and writing music where I found my own joy in life. From there I really leaned into the fact that I was different and that was a gift. Once I started to take photography seriously, a whole new expressive outlet became available to me. I chose to pursue a creative career long ago but the medium shifted. I had teachers and mentors tell me that if I could see myself doing any other kind of work then I should. I don’t see myself living a happy and fulfilled life doing anything else. I’m grateful every day that I’m living my dream and making a living from my art. Read more>>

Jessie Chaney | Fine Art Photographer

I pursued an artistic/creative career because I felt like I had no other choice, it was my heart’s true calling.. There was nothing else I was more drawn to do, and found myself not being able to stop. All I wanted to do was take photographs, learn, expand, and absorb as much information about photography as I could, so I knew this was the path for me. Once I made that decision, doors continued to open and more opportunities evolved, proving to me that this was what I wanted to do. Read more>>

Alberto “Mojo” Pena | Screenwriter, Director, Actor

I flew the coop from Kissimmee, FL to Los Angeles in September 2020. I’m a filmmaker and currently enrolled in UCLA’s Professional Program for Screenwriting and TV Writing, with plans to hop onto the directing and acting program next. I’d like to quickly address that my birth name is Alberto Peña. But to family, friends, and colleagues, I’m better known by my childhood nickname – MOJO. I became Mojo in 2005 when I moved from New York to Kissimmee (south of Orlando) because I kept reciting lines from my favorite movie: Austin Powers in Goldmember, making all my classmates laugh. For Austin Powers, mojo is a sort of swagger. For me, it’s a reminder and a link to my desire of film. This nickname was the start of my entertainment career. Not literally in show business, but I realized that I loved getting a reaction from people on something I did or said. This led me to be more creative on how to “entertain” my classmates and family. Back then, it was in the form of jokes and drawings. My love to tell stories and entertain soon evolved into filmmaking and screenwriting. I pursued an artistic career because it’s all I could see myself truly doing. Read more>>

Sheila Landry | Artist and Designer

I often tell people that I was “born to create”. I believe that we are each put here on this Earth for a reason, and I feel in my heart that my reason for being here is to make things and teach others and share the joy of creating and doing something positive. I find a great deal of joy in sharing my creativity with others. This includes both teaching skills as well as providing tools and finished products to people. Read more>>

Pauline Shypula | Copy Editor, Photographer, Writer, and Entertainer

My family had wanted me to pursue something practical; preferably investment banking. I had no intention of doing so, and continued to study history and writing, while pursuing photography on the side. It was only after I went to graduate school for creative writing that it finally sunk in for everyone that I was going to go into a creative career. The “why” is a little muddled. My partner, whose entire family is full of creatives, helped me to see it is possible to pursue a creative career. However, retrospectively, I realize that there was an unconscious drive to do what I wanted to do. To borrow a platitude, it was only until I got here that I realized I had been marching to the beat of my own drum all along, but needed some positive support, and a lot of therapy, to appreciate that. Read more>>

Phideaux Xavier | Musician and TV Director

I first remember hearing – really hearing – music when I was about 5 or 6. My Sister was playing a record and I was in another room playing. I heard the song and was so transfixed that I had to find out what it was. It turned out to be a song by Jefferson Airplane called Lather. It was sad and mysterious and very beautiful. I think at that time I discovered the majesty of music and realized that I would always need music around me in my life. Naturally, as I got a little older I wanted to try my hand at making my own music. Originally, my goal was to collect all the best music in the world, but then I branched out to producing my own. However, when I was growing up the only music education was geared to classical music and orchestra or composition. I was musically illiterate and somewhat intimidated by excellent musicians. My desire was to create the whole piece, not play any single part within it. It wasn’t until the explosion of the internet when I realized that I could make and disseminate my music without being “signed” to a label. It’s a long story, but ultimately I realized that I didn’t need to be famous or make a lot of money, I just needed to make the work. Read more>>

Kristen Bobst | Freelance Writer

For me, it’s always been writing. Well, I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. However, these days, I tend to write about animals (pet care, nature conservation, fictional fauna), so, it all kinda came together. Whether it’s writing stuff that makes people laugh, provides some sense of escapism, or is educational, writing is my best hope of making some semblance of difference. That’s why I starting scribbling and why am still type-type-typing away now. Read more>>

Andrew Frankel | Voice Actor, Dialect Coach, and Musician

It’s really not in my nature to do anything else. It wouldn’t matter if I was in school or working some other job, I’m always making things regardless of whether or not people pay me. At a certain point I had to sit down with myself and come to terms with the fact that my brain has never been well-suited to repetition, lists, numbers, or following instructions to a tee. If I can get the way my mind wanders naturally to make a living, I’m happy because I’m not trying to be something I’m not. Read more>>

May | Designer, Letterer, Illustrator

The initial reason I chased my creative career & all my other artistic pursuits is because of the joy I derive(d) from them, but the reason I continue passionately chasing them stems from my stubborn ambition to be excellent at them. I chased my graphic design career since I was 15 and it took many humbling experiences for my dream career to finally bloom. While continuing to hone my design skills, I chased after lettering/calligraphy and found my voice after about 2 years of making many mistakes. And now since the lockdown first came to pass, I began chasing after illustration and have been fervently learning how to draw throughout my self-isolation period. I’m learning creative writing, working on learning 3D very soon, and plan to learn wheel thrown stoneware in the near future. I do not directly commodify all of my creative pursuits, but the auxiliary skills I accumulate help diversify my graphic design career palette and capabilities. It’s a happy symbiotic relationship and I’ll continue to chase all of these artistic endeavors as long as I’m happy and learning from them. Read more>>

Mariana Flores | Actor

I remember when I was a teenager, my parents tried to persuade me into choosing another career far from acting, they would call it something that would secure my future with money, I said to them that I couldn’t because pursuing an acting career would make me feel complete, I guess what I meant to said back then was, I need to see if acting was meant to be for me, to give it a try, luckily what I said was enough for them to support me and help me pursuing this career. I won’t lie and said everything its great and perfect, because the reality is that is hasn’t, don’t get me wrong like in every career you have your ups and downs, but I choose this career because I believed that I could be good at it and because movies move people and even save them, there is nothing like film, to me this kind of art is just magical, acting is not only about being sad or happy, there are so many emotions within and the idea of an actor being able to combined them and then having the audience identified themselves with it and understand the situation of what’s happening it is priceless. Read more>>

Jordan Calhoun | Musician & DJ

I pursue an artistic career because it’s all I really know. As soon as I was old enough to start making my own decisions on what to do with my free time apart from my parents, it was always music or something artistic. I started exploring creating music in 5th grade as well as making skateboard videos with my friends. We had limited equipment but we would find the craziest ways to dub music into our crappy skate videos of us bailing. They were awful and no one would ever pay to watch them but it fed our desire to be creative and paved the way for my future as an artist. Since those days, I’ve gone through some rough patches with regards to my self worth as an artist. When I was younger I created this idea in my head that I had to have a huge level of fame to be considered successful. Be rich enough to buy my mom a house and cars and all of that. While I still consider myself quite ambitious, I have a completely different approach now. I do want to continue to grow as an artist and be at a point where I am never having to work any other job that doesn’t connect to my art, but I am no longer tying my worth to whether or not I am having to have a side job. I think it is silly to get caught up in that and I wish that I could go back and stress the importance of this message to my younger self. Read more>>

Belinda Kou | Lettering Artist & Illustrator

It took quite a while for me to end up in a creative career, as my journey has been quite non-linear! Looking back, it seems that my path towards where I am today always started with getting obsessed with a creative hobby. The deeper I got into the hobby, the more the passion behind it would push me into fighting fears and taking risks. I’ve always been interested in drawing since I was a kid. You could often find me huddled over a sketchbook or doodling away in the margins of my notebook in class. But, as a second-generation Taiwanese-American, I grew up thinking that I should focus on pursuing a career in the sciences (something more “stable” and “safe”) and just keep art as a hobby. In college, I got involved in student organizations and took on the role of communications chair in many of them, which was how I accidentally stumbled into graphic design. However, I was on a path to a degree in biopsychology, still convinced that pursuing a career in the arts was too risky for me. It wasn’t until after I spent a couple of years after I graduated in Teach for America teaching middle school science that I took the first leap. Read more>>

EJ Gregory | Makeup Artist, Creative Director

I tried the office/cubical life and I wanted to scream LOL. I’ve always enjoyed creating; there is something so euphoric about traveling to a place in you mind where the possibilities are endless. Being able to conceptualize and in some instances pioneer moments that become history just takes my breath away. I honestly never set out to have a creative career, it was just destined! Witnessing the women in my family be strong and unapologetic, I feel shaped the direction my artistic voice is showcased. I do remember the moment I realized a creative career was conceivable, when I got hired at MAC! LET ME TELL YOU!!!! My first day was a Level A, right before a lunch rush, during a visit (if you know you know lol). I assisted a client that wanted an anniversary glam. While doing her makeup, I could visually see her inner strength more present than when we initially began. After we wrapped she flipped her hair and blew me a kiss (I loved it)!! That next week both her and the husband came in to say thank you!!! I was completely caught off guard, that was the birth of my journey as a professional creative. Read more>>

Elizabeth Brice-Heames | Artist

It never felt like a question of ‘why’ I pursued an creative career. For as long as I can remember I’ve been drawn to the artistic experience and I knew that whatever path I chose, creativity and I would be hand in hand. As my life progressed I continued to explore that artistic world, acquiring new skills and reveling in different experiences. All the while creating my own art, knowing that ‘Artist’ would always be one of my (many) job titles. Read more>>

Yuri Boyko | Artist

It was a natural process of growing into something that wasn’t obvious from the start. It took several ‘lives’ and more than a quarter-century to realize the internal need to find a way to express myself in an art medium. Read more>>

Afonso Salcedo | Photographer and Filmmaker

This is actually an interesting question for me. Growing up, I always saw myself as an artist. I carried a camera with me at all times, and was constantly photographing and filming everything. I would even tell my parents I wanted to be a painter at times. Figuring out how to create these images, video or photos, and present them in a way that would tell a story was always a natural aspect of who I was as a child. It was my escape. It was just natural to me, in a time where not much of the world around me made sense. But I always carried this internal stigma within me, where I never really believed that I could be a professional artist and live a fully creative life. I ended up studying Computer Science since I always loved technology too, doing both an undergrad and a masters degree studying computer engineering and science. It was only once I finished my masters that I had an awakening while waiting for an important consultancy job interview in London. I was sitting in this empty desolate room, and I knew deep down that if I stayed in that same path I wouldn’t be fulfilling a life of personal truth. Read more>>

Catherine Clinch | Writer/Producer

Somewhere around the age of 10, I decided I was going to be a freelance commercial artist. I had grown up in New York City, spending weekends at the theatre, concerts and museums so I had a somewhat sophisticated perspective for a child. But it turned out that this was an accurate estimation of where destiny needed to take me. In many ways, television saved my life, so it’s not surprising that it was the platform I chose for my primary creative expression. Mind you, I have a very strong left brain and highly developed executive skills, so I had other professional options. Fortunately, I was able to develop a strong enough skills set to make a living from writing scripts for TV shows – most of which have been playing continuously around the world for decades. I get joy from all creative pursuits but I enjoy the process of storytelling most of all because it allows me to present the vision of a world where the good triumph and justice prevails. Now, more than ever, we need to believe in the hope of a happy ending. Read more>>

Marissa Y Clifford | Writer + Artist

I think it was Brian Eno who said something to the effect of, artists are often motivated as much by a need not to do something or live life in a prescribed way, as they are by their creative instincts. And in the process of not settling, of being stubborn (and probably privileged) enough to shape your own world, you find creative, unconventional ways to make a living as well. In my case, it wasn’t so much a question of pursuing a creative career, but of dreading what life would be without one. Read more>>

Chad Johnson | Musician / Producer

I wanted to put on big shows with catchy music and really capture the magic of finding a new favorite song or experience. Once I realized I could put these together with videos for instagram it really made me want to push the limits of simple video concepts with no professional help. All of my videos are recorded and edited in my room by myself and i’m always looking for new ways to improve visuals. Read more>>

Keegan DeWitt | Film/TV Composer

In many ways, I’m the head of an entire department. Studios are trusting that I can deliver a mixed, orchestrated, recorded score that is uniquely artistic/moving, works with the edit to solve problems in performance or narrative and also do this on time, on budget, and in constant collaboration with not only the director, but a long line of producers who have plenty of notes. When you toss in the factor that the entertainment industry tends to be home to a bunch of sometimes difficult and untraditional personalities, this can be a true balancing act. So, like any job, even an artistic career is only as successful as your ability to manage all this. It’s a very wild balancing act, to be in constant conversation with your artistic side, which is inherently impulsive, emotional and often a bit irrational when it’s really clicking… and then still have to be extremely practical and able to handle difficult people and demands. Read more>>

Alexandra Molnár | Graphic Designer and Tattoo Artist

The reason why I create is to be able to bring relief. To help people, myself and any other strange creatures in the world and beyond that. When I was a child I heard tales, then I started to tell and write them. Later these stories came to life on paper and long after on human skin. Read more>>

Jackon Gong | Photographer & Cinematographer

Office jobs seemed boring to me, and I’ve always been a person who likes to challange the norm. So it made sense for me to choose a very expressive industry to work in. Read more>>

Sam Creighton | Songwriter & Musical Artist

My goal in life is to help people, to make them happier, or to at least put a momentary smile on their faces. That is the main reason I decided to go into the science/research field in college. However, toward the end of my time at Northeastern University, I was feeling very conflicted about what to do in regards to my future. I was about to graduate with an impressive degree, but my heart and soul were pulling me in a different direction. At this time, my life was extremely busy. I was juggling a full course load and a full time job at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, all while being filmed for a Pop! TV Network show that followed my collegiate a cappella group. This was the same time that I experienced something extremely traumatic. A close friend of mine, also a member of the a cappella group, took his own life. We dedicated the rest of our year to making music that would honor him. It was extremely emotional, but very cathartic. Read more>>

Kiara Artry | Social Media & Content Creator

The reason why I chose to pursue a creative career is because I simply enjoy being creative. I have worked in jobs where I could not express my creativity and it made me become extremely negative and discouraged in life. I love being in a position where I can do what I love. It makes for a better life and makes for a better me. Read more>>

Jason Renaud | Photographer + Videographer

Growing up my family always went to films! That’s how it started – it was a main pastime of my family and how we all connected when we were all together. Overtime I grew to love and appreciate the visual arts by simply being around it so often. It’s always bore a special significance to me personally and eventually once I started creating visual art and experimenting with video and photo work I couldn’t stop. Read more>>


Because teaching yoga became a part of my life’s purpose, not just my career. I am a student of life. And as I deepen my yoga practice, one of the most important things I have learned is “unity(=yoga)”. We are all independently “alone” but sharing life together in the moment. It became natural for me, at this point of my life, to share what I have been learning. Read more>>

Dani Keaton | Acting Teacher & Journalist

As cliché as it sounds, God gave me a very empathic, compassionate, heart and a need to want to help others feel less alone. Being an artist is the only way for me to live. I need to be creative for my soul to be happy. Seeing a change in others, watching them grow as artists and individuals makes me so joyful and gives my life purpose. Read more>>

Brigitte Caille | Makeup Artist

This is a great question because initially, I didn’t. I actually chose to study nutrition in college, which meant a curriculum packed with science courses. All the while, I was spending my free time delving into the LA goth scene, attending concerts and night clubs, perusing thrift shops, and most notably, creating looks. This included my outfits, hairstyles, and of course, my makeup, all of which were my way of expressing myself creatively. Interestingly, I had the opportunity to take a college class called Stage Makeup, which had no relevance to my major but I took it very seriously and appreciated every bit of it. I remember using the professional makeup that was provided to us in class to get that super pale goth look! Nevertheless, I went on to pursue nutrition, and worked as a dietitian for seven years in various hospitals. Fast forward to 2013, after having two kids, I returned to school to earn my esthetics license, which quickly reignited my creative spark. In the seven years that I’ve been doing makeup, not a single day has it felt like work. Read more>>

Michael Salcido | Photographer

I have always had a creative side since I was a child. Starting first with my imagination. I would sit in my room, close my eyes and put myself in any situation, any location, be with anyone or anything. When I reached my teens, I began writing poetry and short stories. Nothing ever left my private notebook though, I was too embarrassed to let any one read my material. In my late teens I began composing scenery with my naked eye. I had the old school Kodak one-time shoot cameras that I carried around for months at a time taking shots when ever I felt the moment was right. It wasn’t until 2012 when I really felt I could be good at it and I began slowly upgrading my gear and and getting into landscape photography. It wasn’t until early 2019 when I finally began taking pictures of other people like action shots, sports and street photography and still portraits. I am pursuing this career because I love showing people how they look through my lens. They are often scared or unsure when I take their portrait and It is a gift to see their smiles and sometimes tears of joy when they view the finished product; a moment in time that will now last forever. Read more>>

Pio Okada | Fashion Designer & Partner in a Manufacturing Startup

To express myself without needing to use words. Struggling with social anxiety and being a foreigner in a new country has led me to multiple situations where communication through words was just impossible. Despite struggling with socializing and having a language barrier, the choice on how I dressed myself was there for me everyday. After realizing how much my interest in fashion had helped me grow strong mentally despite the many obstacles, I decided to pursue a creative career in fashion design with hopes of creating clothes that bring strength and happiness to others. Read more>>

Sigrid Matthews | Yoga and Meditation Teacher

Working in creative fields never felt like a choice, but a calling. I would assume most people feel the same way. I have always been driven to be creative and stimulated by learning any modalities that allowed me a clearer expression of either what I was imparting through the words of a play or script and character or a deeper understanding of spiritual material coming from traditions of yoga, meditation, and philosophy. To me, the “art” of acting or writing, or directing, or dance is not different then the flow of creativity that comes from practicing yoga or Tai Chi or meditation, All of those processes are a way for me to live in my highest joy state. At some point in my earlier life I started to notice my love for the process of discovery and fine tuning delivery in acting was not much different then teaching. I felt a lot of the excitement and exhilaration of performing as I was searching how to best impart information to people. It seemed that students were resonating to my work and I felt called to move in that direction. Read more>>

Katrina Medalle | Stylist, Creative Director & Entrepreneur

When I first started my creative career as a stylist and coordinator, my experiences in fashion photography and runway revealed a common misfortune that many models faced. They were not being heard nor did their feelings ever get considered; and if they were to speak up, they were labelled “difficult to work with”. In leadership roles, I found that my enthusiastic and positive demeanour made me approachable. So when models opened up to me about their own insecurities and lack of confidence, I couldn’t turn my back. The reality behind the scenes and the expectations from models were of the “highest” standard, and that meant “professionalism” was to remain silent and do as they’re told — without any issues or backtalk. However, I am a firm believer that if one doesn’t feel confident within themselves, then it will for sure be projected on stage. If these women were to perform their best, then they must feel their best. It’s the root of how I I built my business. Not only am I coaching clients on their own personal style, but I’ve infused these concepts with how to confidently embody what it means to radically love oneself. Read more>>

Isaac Ziman | Project Manager & Creative Strategist

I was on the more traditional career path for about my first 5 years out of college – working in healthcare, making my way up the corporate ladder etc. I was doing “well” by societal standards, but started realizing I had this pretty empty feeling that was beginning to make its way into my day-to-day. I saw exactly how I needed to present myself in order to succeed in those environments, and as my mindset continued to evolve & my self-awareness grew, I realized I was stifling some fundamental parts of my character for the majority of my days. In parallel, I started to observe superiors of mine in the workplace who were 10, 20 years older – and realized the jobs and lifestyles they were leading just didn’t seem to align with what I felt was right for me. I trace all of my creative pursuits to music, it’s my compass. I’ve always been super passionate about music – whether it was going to shows, discovering new artists, sharing playlists with friends, DJing, etc. As my awareness continued to evolve. Read more>>

Tatiana Erse | Songwriter, Singer, Guitar Player, Musician.

I believe that we all are born with a special talent. Throughout the years you either develop that talent or pursue a different path. In my case, music was such a crucial expression of my personal feelings and how i dealt with life in general that, making it a career never felt like much of a choice. Singing is part of my earliest memories and with that, a sense of identity is found. Being able to be professionally connected to my biggest passion in life is not something a lot of people get to do and i am forever grateful for the opportunity. Read more>>

Bam Berry | Artist & Content Creator

Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to create. My father was a Musician and Illustrator and always encouraged me to tap into my artistic side. Being in the creative career allows me to express not only what I want to portray to the world, but to help others as well. I wanted to show that art is an impact on peoples lives more than we imagine. From our physical surroundings and infrastructure to the things we wear and buy, everything around us is embedded with design. Read more>>

Aubrey Ramos-Haraldsson | Photographer

I didn’t really pursue it, it sort of found me. After high school, I got a camera and was dabbling in photography. Always had the camera with me, just I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I was always afraid to ask my father if I could take his photo, or ask him to take a photo with me, even though I knew he’d be totally fine with it. So when he passed I felt all those missed opportunities and it hit me extra hard to not have photographs. I just thought about how quickly time goes by, and memories pass us by and I thought maybe there were other families out there who perhaps didn’t realize and I could help capture those memories and those moments. Even if you don’t think you’ll want to frame it and look at it right away, it’s better to just go ahead and get the photo. Because it might make you smile later. Read more>>

Angela Bess-Neely | Fine Artist and Designer

I always knew what I wanted to be. I never had the desire to follow any other path. Being an artist has always just been part of who I am. It’s the part of me that I identify with the most, so it was pretty natural in that regard. That’s not to say that it’s always been easy, but then what career is? I discovered early on that I derived a ton of pleasure from watching the response that someone has to one of my pieces. It makes me feel thrilled, intrigued, and curious…like I am getting a glimpse into a little bit of that person as well! I want to see if they take from my artwork the same thing I take. And make no mistake, I TAKE just as much as I give from one of my pieces….it’s such an intimate thing. What a rush! I want MORE! Artwork has always been something that runs through me in a million different ways. At times I feel a bit like Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, firing in all directions at once creatively and at others it’s something entirely zen. Either way, I’m always surprised when I finish a piece and step back. I always think “WOW, I just did that. Read more>>