Justin Teodoro is a Queens-based artist, illustrator & designer. Originally from Vancouver, BC, Justin moved to New York 11 years ago to attend Parsons School of Design to study fashion design. “I’ve always been the artistic kid in school, and my dream was always to come to New York and live that life. It took me a while to figure out what that dream was, and fashion was something I was always interested in and was aware of but I never knew how to get into the industry,” he explains. Following an undergrad in Toronto, Justin excelled at Parsons and has been working in the fashion industry ever since graduating, working most recently at Kenneth Cole.
It was only around three years ago, however, that Justin realized that fashion wasn’t his true calling. So, he left his corporate position and started working for himself. “Like any designer, I thought about starting my own line, but I slowly realized that wasn’t exactly what I wanted,” he elaborates. He states that he was “separating the art side from the fashion side for a while; it was a day and night type of thing.” Eventually, Justin started taking on more and more graphic design and illustration projects outside of work and he quickly realized that’s the route he’s meant to take. He breaks it down, explaining, “I do better when I’m doing a bunch of different things at once. When I was a designer, it was like ‘this is what you do’ and it’s very systematic.”
“I’m getting better at being my own boss, managing my time and my expectations, and just figuring out exactly what I can get done,” Justin admits. He begins any project by asking himself “is this something I see myself doing?” He’s aware that he can’t be overly picky, but he does make an effort to only take on jobs that make sense for him and his style. He elaborates, stating, “When I take on a project, I definitely try to see what I can do that’s different from what I’ve done in the past and different for whoever I’m working with. Also, what are they looking for from me? How can I add my stamp to it?”
Justin’s ’stamp’ is what landed him an opportunity with another one of our interview subjects, Adam Hurly. Adam, the writer and editor of The Perspectives, loved Justin’s style and hired him to do all the illustrations for the popular serial. Together, they’ve created a superb product with a loyal fan-base.
He learnt from his career as a designer the importance of showing your ideas to your client (or boss or collaborator) before getting started. He stresses the importance of “brainstorming on my own and then showing the client my ideas before I start. I always treat these projects as collaborative as can be, and it builds a trust factor. Once I get the green light, I can just go with it.”
Like any self-employed freelancer, there are obvious ups and downs. For Justin, its important “I try and step out of it once in a while, especially when I get moments of mental block or frustration.” His most likely escape is just getting out, whether it’s to see friends or sisters, who happen to live in the city as well. He likes to take yoga classes when he can, or go to museums or shows; anything to stimulate the mind and keep him engaged. Even things as simple as watching a movie or reading a book help Justin separate his work life from his personal life.I 'try and step out of it once in a while' Click To Tweet
One important thing that he’s learning is the ability to not stress and to treat his career like a job. The pressure of getting things done immediately can be torturous, so Justin is learning “to treat it like a job and work the hours that anyone else would.” This way, it stays fun. He elaborates on that, pointing out that, “There has to be an element of fun to it. Always remember to have fun. I would never want to see it as work instead of something I enjoy doing.”'I would never want to see it as work instead of something I enjoy doing' Click To Tweet
Like any good artist, Justin treats his talent like a muscle that needs to constantly be exercised. So, whether he’s working on a paid gig or just making something for himself, he tries to create something every single day. Finding the balance between paid gigs and a personal gig is one thing. Finding the balance between creating and time for himself is an entirely separate subject. Such is the life of a freelance artist; it’s all about balance.
Justin’s Questions for the KYŌ App:
- What can I do that’s different from what I’ve done in the past?
- Is this something I see myself doing?
- How can I add my stamp to it?