Season 4 – epiBLOG 22:

Welcome to another featured artist post in The UnCloseted Professor Blog! Each month I take the opportunity to explore and learn about a new artist who is thriving in the real world.

I love that all of you — my loyal subscribers and readers — are constantly hungry for information that can help move your careers to a whole new level. I desire to empower artists just like you to live a life they love and to live it powerfully. That is my mission.

I want all of you to know that it IS possible to make a living doing what you love to do! I’m doing it as a writer… several other artists are doing it in their respective fields… and so can you. I want that for you.

I’m so proud and honored to have one of my former college students be this month’s featured artist! The information that he has shared with me will empower all of you in some way, shape, or form. Graphic Designer Jose Duran is gracing us all with his knowledge and expertise as a full-time artist who is making a difference in the world.

"Hope" art piece by Jose Duran
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“Hope” art piece by Jose Duran

Jose Duran works at OH Partners as a junior graphic designer, and has designed for amazing companies! For example, he’s worked with accounts such as the Arizona Lottery, Gila River Casinos, the restaurant chain Eegees, and many others. He’s illustrated for the ever-popular moving company U-Haul, and has even had one of his fine art pieces in a First Friday gallery. Even with his full-time position, he still manages to make time to freelance for up-and-coming businesses and to be a loving and supportive father to his son.

Here is a part of his story…

Nitara O:  I remember you being a really great student in my Effective Speaking (Speech) class. You always got your work done and made things happen. Has your strong work ethic as a student in the classroom spilled over to your artistic career? If it has, how so?

Jose D: Having a strong work ethic has been something I have always carried with me within all aspects of my life, especially with my career, school, and artwork. Having a strong work ethic has opened many opportunities for me. I always do more than expected and go above and beyond in any of my work. This is what makes the difference in the quality of what I do.

Nitara O: That’s wonderful. What kind of opportunities opened up for you?

Jose D: Thank you. Well… my strong work ethic has built a great reputation for me, which led to more freelance projects from word of mouth and nailed me the job at OH Partners.

Nitara O: In other words, you’ve earned your success because of the amazing person that you are and because of what you’ve been willing to do. What inspired you to want to be a graphic designer?

Jose D: That’s a good question. I originally started drawing after my dad passed away when I was five. He drew me a picture of an eagle with my name written in old English right before he passed. I would look at this drawing and try to recreate it, and that led to me making my own set of alphabets based off the letters when I was seven. This carried on for the rest of my life. My love for art only amplified in high school, and I think I rode the line between “passionate” and “obsessed.”

Nitara O: First of all, I’m so sorry that you lost your father at such a young age. There’s no good time to lose a parent, but especially not when you’re a little kid.

Jose D: Thank you. It was hard. But my dad left a lasting impression on me.

Nitara O: I see that. That’s touching. So, how did you ride the line between being “passionate” and being “obsessed?”

Jose D: Well, I always knew that I loved drawing and that’s where the passionate side comes in. However, I feel like you have to be at least a little obsessed with what you do to dedicate the rest of your life to it. I am definitely obsessed with what I do. I eat, dream, sleep, and live design and illustration.

Nitara O: I can definitely relate as a writer when you put it in that context. I suppose I’m the same way. How important was your education at The Art Institute of Phoenix to your current success as a graphic designer?

Graphic design by Jose Duran
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Graphic design by Jose Duran

Jose D: The education I received at the Art Institute of Phoenix was very important, and it prepared me for real life situations I face each day in my career. At AI you hit the ground running, and it is a very fast-paced program with loads of work. This taught me how to manage time and how to be quicker as a designer. The only difference between school and my career is that I now get paid to do what I love.

Nitara O: And that’s always a great thing, right?

Jose D: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Nitara O: Have you always been a full-time graphic designer since you graduated? And what do you like better? Freelance or full-time work? And why?

Jose D: After I graduated in 2015, I immediately got a position in my field, but ever since attending college, I have

Illustration by Jose Duran
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Illustration by Jose Duran

always done freelance work. I still work a full-time job and do freelance work on the side. This can get hectic at times, but I love them both because I get to do more projects and learn more about my industry. I do, however, enjoy having a full-time position with a guaranteed salary, but I wouldn’t stop doing freelance work because there’s something about doing it all by myself that I find very satisfying.

Nitara O: I love that. Good for you! How do you balance your work life and personal life?

Jose D: To be completely honest, I blur the line between my work life and my personal life. I’m constantly working or… I’m drawing, doodling, or coming up with my next project or illustration. I enjoy staying busy, and that’s where I am the happiest. I find it hard to step away from my work at times. However, taking my son to have fun is where I relax and let ideas incubate.

Nitara O: If you can change one thing about your career or life right now, what would you change and why? Or… if everything is perfect as is, what makes it that way for you?

Jose D: Although my life is nowhere near perfect, I get to do what I love day in and day out, and that, to me at least, is as close to perfect as my life will ever get. Being able to create is what makes my world go round.

Nitara O: What do you do in your spare time to remain sharp and focused as a graphic designer?

Jose D: If I’m not doodling, I am looking at what other people are creating. This inspires me, as well as the work that I create on a day-to-day basis. Keeping up with design trends is very important, and I would encourage everyone to research what they love because it only makes them better.

Nitara O: What advice would you give up-and-coming entrepreneurial artists who want to make a living doing their art?

Jose D: The only advice I can give is to practice and pursue your passion relentlessly and never stop.

Nitara O: Well said. Thank you for sharing a bit of your point-of-view, Jose.

Jose D: I’m happy to. Thanks for having me.

Today’s LESSON is to keep an opened mind to where your career can take you.

FUN ASSIGNMENT: Not many artists realize that they can have a “job” in their field, as well as pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors on the side as a freelancer like Jose. I hope this interview has opened your mind to consider all of the possibilities that may be available to you within your own specific industry. Please take the time to do research to find out what types of jobs already exist that support the talent and skills that you already have as an artist. List them. Consider the ones that you would be interested in pursuing. This will allow you to discover a possibility that may work for you, and allow you to begin making a living as an artist even faster than what you imagined. If you definitely want to remain an entrepreneurial artist, research existing problems within your industry and see if your talent/skills can be solutions to those problems. Consistently research, discover, list, and pursue.


*Jose Duran is a junior graphic designer at OH Partners and resides in Phoenix, Arizona.

**Part three of the three-part series (Accountability, Mentoring, and Mastermind Group) will be concluded in next week’s blog post.





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