On Knowing Ourselves, Growth and Long Term Goals with Chidy Wayne
This episode features Chidy Wayne, an illustrator and an artist. We cover topics such as the importance of knowing ourselves, Chidy’s work routines, managing finances as a freelancer, the importance and challenges of personal growth in the face of modern distractions, advice for young creatives, his views on the craft of illustration, including style and trends, and much more.
Chidy Wayne is a Spanish Guinean illustrator and artist based in Barcelona. He works in various media, including painting, design, animation and music. His expression is influenced by the most prominent fashion illustrators of the 20th century, often characterized by his poetic and precise use of pen, ink and watercolors, and more than any medium, it’s distinguished by a sense of groundedness and timelessness.
"Stay true to yourself."
Chidy has worked for clients such as Harvard University, Kinfolk, Nike, Vogue, Mango, Esquire, Kind Surf and New York Magazine, to name a few. He has also published several books describing different technical and conceptual techniques to address and solve some of the challenges specific to fashion illustration.
- Introduction [00:00:00]
- The Mindful Creative Year [00:01:02]
- Episode Introduction [00:05:57]
- Career Advice for Young Creative Professionals [00:07:28]
- Chidy’s Work Routines [00:22:19]
- Short Episode Break – Support the Podcast [00:32:02]
- How to Making a Living as a Freelance Illustrator [00:32:50]
- Personal Growth in the Face of Modern Distractions [00:40:23]
- Challenges on Chidy’s Professional Journey [00:53:12]
- How To Develop and Find Your Voice as an Illustrator [00:55:53]
- How to Be a Better Creative Professional [01:04:48]
- Episode Outro [01:06:58]
Chidy: I love long term goals, because I love the unreachable. In that way, you always keep going.
This is the Creative Voyage podcast, a long form interview show, with the mission to help creative professionals level up. I’m your host, Mario Depicolzuane. I’m a creative professional myself, active in the fields of art direction, graphic design and consulting.
This podcast features insightful conversations with some of the world’s most inspiring creatives; reveals the stories that shaped their lives and careers, and offers actionable strategies to help you take your mindset and skills to the next level. I invite you to join me on this journey.
Mario: We’ll be back in a second to talk about illustration, freelancing and managing our growth in these times of distraction. First, a quick message about our upcoming online workshop. The Mindful Creative Year just opened for enrollment. The deadline to join this January session is December 31st midnight, so you have these last days and hours of 2021 to join us and start your new year with a dedicated space for reflection, intent and strategic planning.
Before the workshop, I used to get very stressed with projects. Then I understood that in order for me to enjoy doing the work that I do, I need to be – we’re getting to work on those things as well. Little by little, I think that I built a routine and a lifestyle that keeps me a little bit away of those things that I think that keep me back, like comparing myself, or thinking that I’m not ambitious enough, or that sort of things that we often find on social media.
I started to work as an independent designer. I had lots of things in my mind. I didn’t know how to start. The workshop really helped me to have clear objectives of what I wanted to achieve. It made me realize many things I wanted, not only for the business, but in many aspects of my life. It made me see what I really wanted in each area and make it clear.
I’m excited to share that the Mindful Creative Year Workshop is back. This online course and community will provide insights into a sustainable and personalized planning system, designed to align your inner compass and actions, map out your aspirations, and achieve a fulfilling professional and personal year.
Even though you have a lot of things that you want to do, you can do only certain things in one day, or one week. Definitely, trying to prioritize what needs to be done and how I can help others at the same time. Me being a recent graduate and more of a newcomer into the design industry, it’s been hard for me trying to learn and then also do some of my own practice at the same time. Having that schedule and a set of goals did help a lot. Sort of that consistency was what we needed.
Everybody who was there, or at least I speak for myself, but I feel that everybody else was there, because we already wanted to change something about the way we work. It was just like a guide to start that journey of what steps to take first, to start changing the way we work. I started organizing my personal life and my work life.
Also, I think, that I’ve become a little bit more intentional with what I do. I used to take just projects that came to me. Right now, I’m trying to focus more on just doing whatever I want to do just to grow and to see where it takes me, to at least have a healthy mindset to keep growing.
As ambitious creative professionals, we know that work and life can often seem overwhelming. Dealing with clients, crazy deadlines, tight budgets, managing our team, ourselves, and having a fulfilling and healthy personal life on top of that is a constant struggle. We can easily find ourselves with another year behind us. We still haven’t worked on that big dream, new business, a side, or a passion project, or that persistent personal challenge. We all dream of living our best creative lives, but it’s unlikely that will happen by pure chance. It will take a vision, work, dedication, strategy and appropriate tactics. In this coming workshop, I’ll share the core principles that I’ve learned over the years. I’ll show you my yearly planning system and the mindset behind it.
It can be a seemingly straightforward process, but the challenge is to do it. This workshop provides that setup and accountability. Most importantly, we’ll all share our experiences.
Besides my own personal analysis of things, I think that it was really, really inspiring and motivating to listen to everyone in the workshop. That really gave me the chance to be a little bit more flexible, even with myself. In the beginning, it sounds very ambitious to have this different set of goals. With time, they start to develop and you start to understand them and really take them with you.
There’s work ahead, it’s worthwhile, and it should be directed well. Would you let another year pass without intentionally approaching your ambitions in work and life? I hope you’ll consider joining us. Visit creative.voyage/newyear to find out more.
In this episode, I talk to an illustrator and an artist.
Chidy: I am Chidy Wayne. I live in Barcelona. I am an artist and illustrator. That’s basically who I am.
Chidy Wayne is a Spanish-Guinean illustrator, an artist based in Barcelona. He works in various media, including painting, design, animation, and music. His expression is influenced by the most prominent fashion illustrators of the 20th century, often characterized by his poetic and precise use of pen, ink and watercolors. More than any medium, is distinguished by a sense of groundedness and timelessness. Chidy has worked for clients such as Harvard University, Kinfolk, Nike, Vogue, Mango, Esquire, Kind Surf, and New York Magazine, to name a few. He has also published several books describing different technical and conceptual techniques to address and solve some of the challenges specific to fashion illustration.
In this episode, we’re going to listen to the highlights of the conversation I had with Chidy in July 2021. We cover topics such as the importance of knowing ourselves, Chidy’s work routines, managing finances as a freelancer, the importance and challenges of personal growth in the face of modern distractions, advice for young creatives, his views on the craft of illustration, including style and trends, and much more.
For Chidy, it took him a while to realize that a creative path was a legitimate path for him to embark on. Growing up in a small town, Chidy was not surrounded by creative professionals. There was no creative industry. That was not a part of his environment. In his late teenage years, he was introduced to cool hunting through a documentary on a Spanish national TV, covering some of the future professions. It was something entirely new for him. Even though he wasn’t interested in cool hunting, that piqued his curiosity. It opened the door to other possibilities, that there was another world outside of his home.
Not long after, he started ordering international fashion and style publications at a local magazine shop, and getting inspired by those creative worlds. However, when Chidy went to college, he started studying economics, mostly just following a trend, because he still didn’t know who he was. He did know that the world of numbers was not for him. With the awareness of those other possibilities blooming inside of him, he started his transition to a creative journey.
I began my conversation with Chidy, asking him for the advice he would give his younger self during these early days, and suggestions for creatives who are starting their professional journeys today.
Chidy: In my beginnings, when I went to college, I was studying economics. That’s because I didn’t know who I was at that time. I was just following, I don’t know, just following the trend. Just, okay, everybody’s doing this. I’m going to do this. I knew that wasn’t me. I never knew what to do, other than following that trend. I think, it’s very important in life to do things you don’t like before doing what you really like. Maybe you are lucky enough to always do what you please. I think, it’s a very important lesson to do things you don’t want to do. That’s what happened to me when I was studying economics.
I was also working part time in the business related to numbers and economics and Excel. I know, I was not going to be happy during that. I think, because one of those magazines, passion was always something that was into my mind. I was attracted to fashion. I remember not having enough money, but wanting to wear certain T-shirts, for example. I started to design my own T-shirts, to do prints.
I was doing this. At the same time, I was studying in college. In a certain time, I do a project, like a professional project about those T-shirts and about selling them. Little by little, I was aiming to a different point, I was using that knowledge in marketing, or economics. I was using that platform, but I was saving it to a different position, which was passion. I spoke with my parents, and I told them, “Listen, guys. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I really need to leave and develop something that I really find interesting.”
Not also that that something that I think I can make something in. Not only because I like it, because I think I have this little background designing my T-shirts. It’s not just that I like buying stuff. Because I like to buy clothes, I’m going to be a designer. It wasn’t like that. They trust me. That’s when I came to Barcelona to study fashion design. That’s the first step into creativity for me.
I was very happy doing fashion. At the same time, I was extremely happy drawing. Doing fashion was my way to discover drawing. I used to draw when I was a kid, maybe in high school as well. Then I stopped. Drawing my mannequins, during my sketches, I discovered something else there as well. I finished my studies in fashion, I was selling my collections here in Madrid. I guess, I was also – I tasted the poison already. That poison, that good poison and somehow was art, was drawing.
Economics brought me to fashion. Fashion brought me to drawing and arts in general. That’s where I am now. Even though I started as a fashion designer in my creativity process, I started working and living as a fashion designer. I also realized, I was way happier working by my own, not in a team. I guess, I understood who I am. Now I am a loner. I like to work by myself. I like to establish my schedules. I just like to do things alone, I guess.
Also, I could see I was good doing it. I could also see, because as I said before, it’s not only what you want to do, or what do you like to do. Because sometimes, you also have to ask yourself, I am good at it. Because I might like other things and recognize you’re not that good. Maybe you cannot contribute to the world doing that. I could say, I was good at drawing.
Mario: I mean, now you’ve been working independently for almost 15 years, right? You started in 2007?
Chidy: Yeah. Yeah, 2007. At that time, I was also working as a bartender, I was DJ’ing as well. I would say, working only as an illustrator. Starting point would be 2011. Yeah. This year, in fact, it will be my 10th anniversary as a professional in this field.
Mario: In hindsight, if you could teleport yourself back 10 years ago, and give a piece of advice to younger Chidy, what would it be?
Chidy: Somehow, I think I followed the right path. That’s what I’m doing now. I mean, not doing this from the very beginning is not a failure at all. Not doing this since I was 18 is not bad. That was my path. Not the younger Chidy, but the younger ones, I would say, listen, I had this revelation having a professor during summer, because I failed mathematics and physics during that course, and never studied. Not a single day. I obviously failed those; mathematics and physics.
My parents said, “Okay, so now during the summertime, you have to study.” They found this teacher. He was such an interesting guy. He was living with his partner, who was another scientist. Both scientist, brilliant scientist, both of them. I remember seeing them when I was going through to their place, they were both drinking their whiskey, smoking while doing their exercises and tests and thesis and their works for the university.
I could really see happiness in there. They were working. At the same time, I was seeing people working and being extremely comfortable, extremely happy, fulfilled. He told me, “Nobody wants to work. At the same time, you have work. You have to find a way, where your work and your life is the same thing.” When you’re working, you’re just making your work your life. If you cannot really separate both worlds, you’re never going to feel, or have to go to work. You’re just going to feel, okay, there are things you have to solve, like in real life. Okay, so there are things I have to solve. Let’s do it.
When you wake up, okay, after you make breakfast, I know I have to solve this. Let’s do it. Let’s mix X with whatever. Try to make your work your life. That was the big, big revelation. This is something I would definitely tell any kid, or my own kids as I’m a father. That’s something, I think, is very, very important.
Also, the kids of today who are starting in a creative path, I would say to them that they have the urge to show everything they’re doing on social media. Because when you’re young, not even when you’re young. As humans, but maybe when you’re young, you’re more weak against the fact that you need the approval of the others. I see, there is a race of showing things, and wanting approval. You start doing things that you know by your experience, that you know that they’re are going to get more approval, more applause, more likes and comments.
Maybe that gets you trapped into things that gets lots of applauses, but that’s not really what you want to do. I would tell them to really explore before start showing what they do. On the other side, you have to show people what you’re doing. Not because you want their approval, but you also want critics. It is not art, if it stays in the closet. You have to show it, of course, that yeah, not looking for those likes.
Also, I want to remark what I’ve said before about not only to the young me. Don’t do only what you please. Don’t do what makes you comfortable. Because that’s something that’s been said a lot in the last decade. I know, you really have to do what makes you feel happy. You got to be honest with yourself and ask if you’re good enough to do to what makes you happy. Because at the same time, you want to make a living off of that. If you only have those family and friends telling you you’re good, but you’re not really that good, the other people, they don’t know you as a person. They’re going to judge what you do by that, not only by your person.
I think, young people should develop their own taste, not staying on the surface, but going to the roots, going to the origins of whatever makes them feel vibrant. At the end, culture is everything in the creative world. You have to develop your culture, your taste. Maybe this is obvious, but yeah, you have to travel, and you have to meet people to see other realities. Even if you want to stay in your hometown, I think it is very positive, too.
Yeah, just don’t be in a hurry to finish high school, and start college. Just take your time, because when you start college, you’re 18-years-old. When you are 18-years-old, you’re a kid. You really don’t know who you are. It takes time. It is such a big test to decide what’s going to be your future, studying this, or that.
Although, I don’t think university is the only way to success, especially in the creative field. It might be one of the ways. If that’s the way you want to do, definitely don’t be in a rush. That’s what I’d tell them. Also, to the other people, I would also say that if you’re curious enough, you’re not going to need college at the same time. If you’re curious enough. Also, you have to be disciplined. Come on. Everything is in your hand right now. You can just how to, I don’t know, drawing pencil for beginners. That’s it. You can’t go to museums online.
I mean, there is no secrets in colleges for creatives. Of course, in colleges, you can find there’s the networking, right?
Mario: Yeah. The community. Yeah.
Chidy: Can you find these specific, yeah, the specific picture that opens this world for you. Of course, in fact, that’s what happened to me. When I was studying fashion, I had this teacher. His name is Berto Martinez, who was a prominent illustrator here. Then, he opened my eyes. I mean, I wanted to be him, basically. I wanted to do what he does, the way he does, always looking at this work. I wanted to evoke what he’s doing. I learned a lot copying him. Ran out, you can say he’s my friend. I’m so happy, he was in my path, because he really changed everything for me.
Now, yeah, he opened the door for me. He was taking my hand, and also, traveling with me. In a certain time, I was ready to go by myself, and to develop my own style. Thanks to him, I reached that stuff. I find him, thanks to college. I have to give my credit to that as well.
Mario: What do you think was the most important thing you’ve learned from him?
Chidy: Maybe I saw something similar in him to that other teacher; I had that mathematics teacher. I saw his house full of books, and comics and old magazines and references. I saw him drawing late at night. Maybe I romanticized a little bit, the way he was doing it, but I loved it. I felt, he was really connected with art. I wanted that life. Yeah, I just want to be him so bad.
The work routines of an artist in a studio can sometimes be overly romanticized. However, the realities today as independent professionals, freelancers, we often have an opportunity to customize and curate our workspaces and habits, which is one of the benefits of threading that path. Here, I talk to Chidy about his work routines.
Chidy: I think, in a workflow, I’m the artist le chef. I’m not very organized, in a way that I do this from time to time, and then I’ll go blah, blah, blah. Definitely, being a dad made me more organized. It’s like, now I can feel those 24 hours. I can feel there’s a limit. I know when I can stay working, and when I cannot stay working, that that wasn’t happening before. I could work until late at night. Now, I find working until late in the morning at 7:00, 7:30 or 8:00, it is going to get done anyways. I better respect those hours during the night.
My workflow is given by my studio. A few years ago, to this studio, I made a few – I reformed it by myself. As soon as I come to my studio, I’m ready to work. Because I don’t have a fridge here. I don’t have food. Because I’ve been working from home several years. Maybe you know where it is. I’m feeling hangry. Or, I think I can do this, or I can do – As soon as I built my studio, I knew that couldn’t happen. Now, I only have things to create here.
I would say, there are three worlds in this studio. One is the one directed to commissions, illustration. If I have to develop a commission, well, then it’s about researching. I have my books. I have my artistic references. They are very solid. I like to go again and again to the sandbox, to see where I can find to inspire me.
Obviously, I also use Internet a lot. You can see the results and say, “Oh, I really like what you’re doing.” My sketches are so weak. My researches are done in a folio, in a DNA portfolio. I do these small squares, and I put a few geometrical shapes to represent what I want, to represent the composition. This is how I start, because I don’t really – it’s not that I’m practicing drawing. I like thinking before, I think a lot of what I want to draw, even if it’s a commission, and there’s a specific theme. I would say, that’s the most important part in the way I create as an illustrator, is to think about how I want to draw.
Most of the times, when I make my brush wet, it’s because I’m doing the final work. I don’t do sketches. I try to go to the final piece. It’s not that I need the pressure of you have to make it now. If I have two months to make a work, probably, I’m going to make it two days before the deadline. That’s how I work. It’s not because during those months, I haven’t think about that particular commission. I have that commission in mind. Yes, I draw with my mind. I draw with my mind.
What I told you about these, my little sketches, that’s the step before I’m really drawing, those geometrical forms, putting some structure into the illustration, to the composition, and then doing it. Then, there’s also the artistic part. When I have to create something by myself, then that’s when I sketch. That’s when I loosely let my hand flow in a paper. In this case, I don’t use DNA 4. In this case, I’m using DNA 3, the format. I have more space to express, because I really need my hand to flow.
When I’m creating art, I don’t need to be that specific into details. Because my style, it is like that. Yeah, I’m doing the sketches. I like to pay attention to what I like, and what I don’t like. With those extremely loose sketches, I’m always trying to control my mistakes. Sometimes, I also let the mistakes to express. At the end, it always happens that those mistakes lead to one way of doing that painting. I say, yeah, you’re right. It’s like, I say to that mistake, “Yeah. I think you’re right.” I tried to make an approach to the whole piece, guided by that mistake. I was talking about two worlds in my studio; illustration, the artistic side of it. I also have a little home studio, because I love producing music.
I mean, when I’m producing music, I’m very into it. Lately, I’ve been drawing a lot and painting a lot, listening to music. Something that really helps me to feel like I’m really home. When I say at home, I stay calm as me. I’m really in me. It’s when I’m drawing, listen to music. Then, I find something interesting in a particular song. I go to the studio, to this piano I have here. I start messing around these chords, trying to emulate that song, going to continue some part of the song. I’m a few minutes there. Then, I go back to my painting, or my illustration. That’s why the music studio, it also takes an important part in my day by day, my routines. When I’m in the studio, I don’t go out for a walk or something. That’s my state inside my studio. That’s why it is so important in my day by day.
Mario: I really like the flow that you’ve described. Oh, that sounds also, romantic. I’m curious, when and how do you do those, I guess, less romantic things, like administration, or invoicing, or potentially, on a business development, or all these other parts of being a professional creative?
Chidy: Yeah. Well, when I have to do this, I just say, I think I can do both on the same day. When it’s an ugly day coding, I just do it. I just do that. Okay, today, I’m going to do all this paperwork. Because I don’t want to ruin that romantic part you said before, you mentioned.
Mario: Basically, you try to batch it in a specific day, or a part of the day, and just get it over with and then get back to it.
Mario: How much time, in a ratio-wise does that take? Let’s say, the creative part versus the admin part.
Chidy: I don’t know. Mentally, I try not to keep it as part of my routine. When I have to do it, I just do it. Yeah, I tried to do it, manage the hours I need to do it, and that’s it. Yeah. Definitely, this is not the exciting part of what I do.
Mario: Yeah. I mean, it is an important part. I think, it’s a crucial part in some way, or for many, especially freelancers, but also, just other creatives. Do you have an agent?
Chidy: Well, I just have a consultant, like an advisor, in administration, in legal, so I don’t go to jail, and I pay my taxes. Because if I had to do that, we would be doing this through a jail call. Because I pay somebody to do it for me, I have my taxes and everything on time. You’re asking about an agent. Never had an agent. I tried to. I don’t know. I guess, I’m not that profile. I’ve been able to find international customers, international clients, all without agents. When I’ve been knocking doors to agents, I’ve never got positive responses. I said, “Okay, maybe that’s the way I have to do it, by myself, once again.”
The Mindful Creativity Workshop is back and open for enrollment. This online course and community will provide insights into a sustainable, a personalized planning system designed to align your inner compass and actions, meet outer aspirations, and achieve a fulfilling professional and personal year. Most people overestimate what they can do in a day or a week, and underestimate what they can achieve in a year. Will you let another year pass without intentionally approaching your aspirations in work and life? You can join our January session by December 31st at midnight, local time. Find out more at creative.voyage.
Everyone is not meant to be a freelancer. It’s not an easy path. It’s not for those who need a certain level of predictability, both in their work, and often, even more challenging in their income. One of the main difficulties for independent creative professionals is making a living out of their craft. I’ve asked Chidy to share how he’s managing that.
Chidy: Right now, I would say it’s half and half. I work between half of my earnings to our commissions, a half of my earnings come from my own art. It can vary from month to month, but more or less, right now, it would be that way. When I started, it took me a while to establish myself financially.
I remember the beginning, I was struggling a lot with those invoices paid 90 days, for example, like three months. When there’s agencies involved, and so I thought, okay, I get my piece of art, my illustration, my composition, whatever, and I get paid. I learned that you have to wait. At the beginning, I struggle a lot with that. At the end, I saw it as something positive. Not the fact that I have to wait. When I get to the point that I had a few of those unpaid invoices, unpaid during a certain time, of course. That was like savings in a way. I saw it as a positive thing. Also again, when I started having, I don’t know, 5, 10 invoices unpaid. Until I get to that point, the beginning it was tough. It was tough, because you have to find that circle of my name means nothing. Nobody knows me. Because nobody knows me, nobody wants to give me an opportunity. It is hard to break that circle.
Once you do it, and if you trust in yourself and you keep going, and you don’t say, “Okay, I’m going to leave it. I’m going to do a different thing.” It is a matter of time. If you’re doing a good job, it is a matter of time until somebody holds your hand and say, “Okay, let’s see what you got there.” Yeah. I would say, that art was very important to learn that you cannot count on that money immediately.
You got to fight to achieve that moment when you get paid in a month, but not for what you have done in that month, but because of what you did three months before. Then you have accumulated invoices. In one month, you get X number of invoices paid, and you still have invoices to get paid in the following month. The problem is, obviously, when you have no invoice to receive.
Yeah, it is hard. It’s not that it is hard. It’s not for everybody. Financially, being freelance is not for everybody, because there is people who really need to know, “Okay, this month, I have to get in my bank a 100. I really need to know these 100, because I organized my mind in that way that 20 goes to my apartment, 10 goes to my car. It is not for everybody. Financially as a creative, as a freelance, not a creative, because there are creatives having a particular amount every month. As a freelance, there are happier month, and there are not so happy months.
Yeah, you have to find the balance and then never give up. Because this is a long journey. It’s not about what you did last month. You still have to keep going. Yeah, it is about consistency here. It’s about consistency.
Mario: You said, at the moment, the ratio between your commissions and your art is really 50/50 when it comes to your income. How did that happen? Was it from the start that you had this balance and a combination? Or did you introduce one or the other, at some later point? How did that happen?
Chidy: At the beginning, I was not doing my own art. At the beginning, I was only aiming at illustration, because it took some time to develop what I wanted to transmit as an artist. I needed some time to create my path, to establish my references, and my language as an artist. During the time, I was only doing illustration. In the beginning, I remember, one day I said, “This is hard. I have to go back and work in a restaurant or something, something that I already did while I was studying.”
I remember this day when I said, “No, I cannot really go back there.” Not because I don’t want to work in a restaurant. Because I don’t want to give up. I trust in this. I knew that if anybody could see my work, I knew they were going to be somebody liking it. Like, hey, I’m not doing crazy stuff here. It’s not that I wanted to be likeable to everybody. I just knew, there were going to be some people liking it.
I decided to stay tight in money, but to continue this path of illustrator. Yeah, patience is very important. In this field, in the beginning. I had patience. At the end, I was lucky enough to be able to continue this job and to keep evolving and not having that struggle anymore.
Mario: Yeah. Are you satisfied with where you are at the moment, when it comes to, I guess, that workload and cash flow?
Chidy: I would say, no. I would say, obviously, you can always do better, but it’s not like, you can do better financially. I think, I still need to be seen by more people. I think, there are way more people that they love my work, but they don’t know yet. In that way, I think I can do it better. Not financially, but in a way that, yeah, I can approach to more people. That will be given by time. I have no doubt that if I remain true to myself, I will obtain that goal. I love long-term goals, because I love the unreachable. In that way, you always keep going.
I don’t want to get satisfied about, okay, now I’m getting this amount of money, and that’s it. Because I’m not really doing it for the money. Obviously, I need the money, because we live in a society that needs money. I don’t really do it for the money. I do it, because I think I’m good at it. I enjoy doing it.
As Tristan Harris observed, in his opinion piece for New York Times titled, Our Brains Are No Match for Our Technology, the real problem of humanity is the following; we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. For our personal satisfaction and professional development, we need to carve out a dedicated space for our growth. Not just move from one to do to the other, while checking our social media in between, or probably even during those tasks.
However, making those intentions a reality has always been a problematic human predicament. All of it is becoming even harder, under the influence of the godlike technology Tristan is worried about. Here, I want to discover how Chidy is navigating the topic of professional growth in his life.
Chidy: I try to stay connected to what’s going on, and to what was going on as well. I try to stay connected to the art. I keep Florian, I don’t know, Picasso. I mean from it is always new for me, Picasso. I love it. I love that feeling. He has done so many things. You always find new stuff about him.
I also need to be connected with what younger people are doing. Not because I want to do that, but because I don’t want that generational gap. I don’t want that to affect me that much. I don’t want to be disconnected to what’s going on. I really pay attention to them. I’m not into those sentences, like, “Oh, those young people, they don’t know what to do.” I really think, I admire them, and I envy them in some way. Saying, wow, you recognize the rituals you have, the digital tools. You embrace them. You act as they are natural for you, because you were born with them.
Yeah, I just pay attention to young people. At the same time, I pay attention to what has been done. Because I don’t think new things are good, because they’re new per se. I try to pay attention to what has been good, and the reason. Also, what keeps me connected to my work, my art is this fact that I love, and I tend to ask questions to myself a lot.
As I told you before, somehow, at least when I’m working, I’m a loner. I’m alone in my studio. As a classical artist – not a classical artist. Generally speaking, an artist has to be alone. That’s how I see it. Because that’s the only way you can really ask yourself hard questions. That’s when you can be honest about yourself. That really kept me also connected with my inner self. To make those questions and to be able not always to ask them, but at least, during those questions, make me evolve. Because I know, there was times where I wasn’t able to make those questions, even to myself. In my experience, when you start asking those questions, at the same time, you’re giving the answers. The important thing are the questions. You aim at yourself.
Mario: Yeah. Can you give an example of some of those questions that you pose to yourself?
Chidy: Those are historically eternal question. I’m not asking anything new, but those philosophical questions that we all ask ourselves, try to apply those questions to my art, like who I am, but not who I am as an individual, as my experience, as I want to show what my experience has been. Somehow, I want to go deeper and not limiting my existence to what has happened to me. Because if it wasn’t that way, if it was that way, then I would be speaking about me all the time. I’m not speaking about me when I’m working. I’m speaking about the questions I have. I know those questions. I know, I share them with you, and with almost everybody.
I want people to make the journey with me when they see my art. I think, if I’m only speaking about my own experiences, my own character, yeah, they’re going to see a portrait of me in a certain moment. I want them to experience me and also, themselves at the same time together. It’s way more complex. Somehow, maybe there are the ritual questions here, as you asked me before. The only thing is that, maybe I cannot put my thoughts in any specific way of thinking. As I told you, it is general questions. Yeah. Who I am? Who I’m fighting against? That’s it. Yeah.
Mario: You have been looking at the movement collection. I was really intrigued by the concept. I think, it probably leads to what you’re describing now, that inner struggle. I think, I really like the notion where you said that there’s this something within ourselves that pushes us and pulls us both forward and backwards as we’re trying to go towards our goal.
Chidy: Yeah. Yeah, because there are lots of negative things related to the fact that I’m working alone, obviously. I have to fight against procrastination, for example. Every day, we live in a moment where it is so easy to be by yourself. It is so easy, comfortable, to stay with you, and your screen. Not with you. You and your screen, you and your device, you and your phone. It is so easy. It’s like, the world is working.
I mean, the most creative and brilliant minds, they are working their best to keep your attention. They are working in the most amazing apps and stuff to keep your attention. How can you fight that being a normal human? How can you find that? At the same time, work is I don’t have a boss here telling me what can’t, or can I do. I could say with my phone all day, if I want to. I have to fight against that. I have to fight against the nostalgia of looking at pictures that I have in my phone, since maybe 2011, or 2006. I don’t know how old is my oldest picture. I have to fight against.
It’s not that I have to. We all have to. Being alone, those forces, they are pushing you to one way, you want to go to other way, and that’s constant. You really have to be into something, or to be fully elevated to stay away from those. I don’t know how to say. Not incomes, but from those external forces that are trying to attract your interest.
Mario: Yeah. I think, we’re all in it. It’s a very universal, modern condition for many people. It is in the end, does become you, yourself against those forces in the end. I mean, somebody can maybe assist you in certain environments and help, but it does come to this almost individual level, which is shared by many of us. In this struggle or fight, do you have any your own, like little personal insights or tactics in this fight that helps you get a bit of advantage, or at least not lose?
Chidy: Yeah. I think, one tactic is to come to my studio, and to have something already at least have done. I mean, if I come to my studio, which is something that I do every day, and I have to start from scratch. That’s the hard part. That’s the blank canvas fear. You say, “What I’m going to do right now? I mean, this is empty. How am I going to fill it?” That’s the struggle. That’s when you have to be focused.
At the end, by doing, that’s when you do. I mean by at least saying, “Okay, I’m going to take my pencil. I’m going to start moving it. I’m going to try to keep at least closer to what I have to do.” Definitely, that’s the highest barrier you have. If you can do it, if you can put you in that work mode, then it’s so easy. I don’t like to finish one thing one day, but to keep it half finished. The following day, I go with extra energy, because I’ve been thinking, I don’t know, maybe at night, I’ve been thinking about that project, or that painting.
The following day, I go firmly focused on what I have to do, because having it half-finished, or half in the beginning has draw a path for me already. The work draws the path for itself. I find that circle very interesting. At the end, work brings you work and more energy to do more work. Yeah, man. I think, as you said, that struggle, it’s going to be there. It’s going to be there. It’s going to be way worse, I think. We better get prepared for that.
Mario: Yeah, exactly. I think, it is a quite a new, in some way, condition. Because there was always something. This time, it’s very different, because it’s powered by almost exponential technology, and a lot of resources and money behind it. I think, the first step definitely is to become aware of it, and just try to step back. Then, I have a hope that over time, we’re going to manage that and find ways. I think, we’re struggling culturally, at the moment with that. There’s also a new challenge. I hope that we’re going to become better at it. In some way, fight back.
Chidy: I admire your positivity. I think the opposite. I think the opposite, because the tools we’re using, because even though I do my paintings and my illustrations using watercolor, ink, crayons, acrylics. But then, I had to make my photography. I have to to scan my work. Sometimes I do compositions with my scanned work, then I use Photoshop. What I’m saying is that I use a computer as a part of my process. I’m using the thing that is taking me away from my inspiration, from my work. That’s why I think, it’s going to be so difficult.
I also use my telephone, because for Instagram, for example, I find so many interesting artworks, or pieces that really inspire me. Again, I’m using – it’s like, I’m using the devil to obtain things, but the devil is there. I’m not going to see what I’m looking for. At the same time, I’m seeing other things, and those things are trying to keep me away from my focus.
We’re not going to get away from those devices. Unless, I don’t know, now we have a pandemic. Maybe in the future, we have a technological pandemic, somehow. That’s the only thing that could keep us away from our computers, that we’re going to stay more and more connected, and those problems are going to be way harder. As you said, at least we have to be aware of those problems, and so we can say, hey, put your effort in this other thing. If not, you are totally lost.
At this point in our conversation, I was curious to hear about Chidy’s challenges on his professional journey. Here’s what he shared with me.
Chidy: Because of the fact that I like to work alone, I always thought that working with others would dismanage my work. I realized that every time I’ve work with creative directors, they have taken the best of me. Because they have said, some of them, they have said no to the first option. That made me make some honest questions, like have you given your best? Because maybe you know you can do it, and you have done it the easy way.
I love being challenged by different views and different ideas. In that, yeah, when you add that view to your own view. Yes, in illustration, some of my best works, some of them, not all of them, but some of them come from my collaboration with creative directors. That was the challenge in the beginning. Now I embrace it as something very positive.
Mario: Yeah. Do you think it was almost an ego thing at the beginning?
Chidy: Yeah. Sometimes being secure about yourself, about your work, it might lead you to compliance. You need other people saying, “Okay, why not add in this or that?” It’s not about ego, because I can easily reject my ego and accept other views, if I think those views are adding more value to my drawing. Otherwise, I’m going to be also very critic about your view, and I’m going to defend my view.
If I trust in what I’m doing, at least I’m going to try to defend it. If I’m doing that, is because I see it so clearly that I’m going to fight. I’m really going to fight to defend it. In general, I like the surprise to say, “Listen, I was thinking about this.” At the end, we have this other result, because we work together. Not because we work together. Yeah, that’s a fact, we work together, but because I finally could translate what you have in mind into my drawings. Because at the end, that’s me who’s doing the physical work, the draw and the painting. At the end, that’s me. When I finally realize what the other people is looking for, that’s when everything matches.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow remarked, “In character, in matter, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” That is just one of the characteristics I enjoy into this approach. Here, we talk about the craft of illustration, Chidy’s influences, trends, style, and start by discussing the essential qualities and first steps for those who wish to develop as illustrators.”
Chidy: Observation, it is what I’m doing. That helped me a lot in my first years. Deep observation, means you have to look through the layers in what you are looking at. You have to look at the details. You have to see not only the layers, but post behind that piece. Who were the references for that artist? It is a chain that never ends. You need to go as far as you can to achieve what the person you’re looking at is doing. If you’re only doing what the person you admire is doing, you’re going to be just copying the artist, copying him or her. You want to go further, so you can develop your own style.
The beginning is very important to emulate and copy. At the same time, you copy, as I said, you have to be able to see more than the image, and to be able to see who were the references of that. In this case, that illustrator you admire. That’s why, as I said before, that’s why it is so important to develop not only you taste, but your culture. Only knowledge, only cultural knowledge is going to make you understand who’s behind that piece of illustration. Because you can say, “Oh, okay, this is familiar. Maybe this is related to this or that.” To be able to do this exercise, you cannot only see illustration, or something happening today, and looking at the heart. It’s today, you really need to have a little bit of knowledge about what happened in the past.
You really need to know the history of art, or the history of illustration in the 19th and 20th century. You don’t need to know all the names and dates, but definitely, has to be something familiar to you. At least, to be able to recognize a few periods, or names. Then with that, then I don’t know, the Internet can give you the rest of the gang. If you’re looking for this artist, the Internet will give you the rest of their peers.
Mario: Yeah. I think, the style, or the look and feel in illustration. I mean, in many things, but for example, in illustration, it is one of those first things and very crucial things for an illustrator. I mean, that’s as an art director, or as a client, that’s almost why you pick an illustrator to work with, because you want that vibe, that look and feel. How intentional were you with developing your style? I’m sure, it’s some personal, probably unconscious preferences. At the same time, I’m sure there’s more considerations, which come into play. How did you go about that as you were been developing?
Chidy: Definitely, my first reference, as I told you before, my first reference was Berto Martinez here in Spain, also in Barcelona. At the beginning, I just wanted to do what he was doing. The same time, I realized I couldn’t be him, I needed to be myself. He opened those doors to different artists. Then, I started to look at French illustrators, to people like, René Gruau, who, by the way, he was Italian, but he developed his career, mostly for French brands, like Dior, for example.
I think, René Gruau, he’s the artist that changed the way I was looking, not also an illustration, but art in general. In my way, his name is not a big, it could be. The way he was using the – his strokes thoroughly blew my mind, because when you see his words, it is like, you can see it for less. You can see who’s doing it so easy. He was really controlling the media he was using. That confidence in art and illustration, I first was aware of what confidence is, looking at his work.
From him, then I understood other illustrators, other artists. Beginning with Berto Martinez, and then the René Gruau. I think then, I understood everything. I never wanted to keep myself in a style per se, even though obviously, if you see my works, you can see something similar. I also realized, I wanted to explore different techniques, and different medias and different final endings. That’s why I don’t have a particular, or at least I cannot see a particular signature.
Maybe you think the opposite, but I like to approach every commission, every illustration as something different. I don’t want to make out reference to my own work, at least not that much. I like to explore watercolor in many ways. I’d also love to explore ink in a more raw way. Yeah. Definitely, René Gruau is the man for me. Yeah. He’s the great master in illustration, in my eyes.
Mario: How do you think about trends? Or what’s trendy illustration? How do you relate to that? Or how would you see that evolve?
Chidy: I don’t like trends in general. Because as I said, I like long-term ideas. When you follow a trend, there is the risk that that trend is not a trend anymore. That’s why I’m into what I think are more solid ways of representing images. In fact, I think, it’s good to stay aware of trends and know and recognize trends, and maybe to stay close to trends, because you don’t want to be out of date. You want to stay in your times. At the same time, I never wanted to be into the trends. Because I want to do this for the rest of my life. I want to paint and do illustrations for the rest of my life.
I think, if you are almost in a trend, if you are close to that trend, I think your work life can last longer. I never want to be the hot guy. Because tomorrow is going to be a different hut guy in illustration. Because I have books of illustrators from 10 years ago, and I don’t see them anymore. They were doing everything. It is great to keep that. At the same time, it is a risk. If you don’t evolve from what made you a star in illustration, it is a risk that obviously, brands and people say, okay, I’ve seen this enough.
It’s all about balance. Obviously, you want to have success. At the same time, unaware of your style, somehow has to evolve. I really want to see my work in 20 years and be able to identify different periods, even because I mustered one technique, and you can see through time. Or because, I explore different mediums. I kept evolving and not doing the same again and again. I would say, that’s against being creative, do the same thing again and again. If you only make references about your own work, I’m not sure that’s going to make your journey an interesting one.
We’ve come to the last topic I’ve discussed with Chidy. As with previous guests, I’ve asked him to leave us with the final pieces of advice based on what he learned so far on his professional journey.
Chidy: The ones that really helped me were one thing true to myself. That relates to the topic we were discussing before. Not really following trends. Not following what everybody is doing. Yeah, trends, but not only visual trends, but actually what other people is doing in their lives, in their behavior, in their goals. You really have to stay true to yourself. To do that, you have to know yourself. To know yourself, in my opinion is very important.
The second recommendation would be, spend time alone. You’re going to know who you are, if you spend time by yourself, if you occasionally even travel alone, and put yourself in situations where you are the one deciding what’s going on.
The third one, which I talked about it already, it will be to stay close, but not really into trends. If you stay true to yourself by spending time alone, sometimes, I don’t want you to be anti-social, because I’m not. If you respect the time you spend with yourself, and then you can be aware of the trends, but you’re not really into them. That would mean you’re staying true to yourself, unless, stay true to yourself it is a trend. Well, maybe then you are lucky. Now, if you’re into one specific thing and that specific thing is a super trend, well, then you’re lucky. Yeah. Those will be the ones I recommend, being the first one, the most important one, stay true to yourself.
Hey, everyone. That’s it for this episode. I hope you find it useful. If you like this podcast, tell a friend. I want to thank Chidy for coming to the show. I love his work, his approach, and I’m grateful for all the insights he shared. Links to Chidy’s projects, and some other things mentioned during the conversation can be found in the show notes at creative.voyage/podcast.
I’m excited to share the third issue of our publication, the Creative Voyage Paper is available for pre-order. Alongside the one lesson learned and podcast edits, this winter edition features two new formats, How To Guide with one of Mexico City’s leading chefs, Lucho Martinez and Object Lesson, where we talk to composer Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, about his most prized personal possessions.
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