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Straight from the entrepreneur's mouth
About a month ago IAC program manager Anna Tragesser called together the some of Indiana's best creative entrepreneurs to help fine-tune the On-Ramp program. Their insights were invaluable.
- Who do you create for?
- Where do you turn for feedback?
- How do you know when it's time to walk away from an opportunity/job/project?
And the obligatory, "What do you wish you knew?"
We hope their responses and stories inspire you to pursue your passions.
John Armstrong is a native of Indiana and is an ’02 and ’07 alumni of Indiana Unviersity. Having started in vocal performance at the Jacob’s School of Music, John later found his passion for musical theare and classical acting. In 2014, he became chief operating officer of Pigasus Pictures, LLC, and producer of its first feature film The Good Catholic. John has worked as a performer, instructor, teaching artist, and professor of acting, musical theatre, and voice in professional theatres and training institutions across the US and continues to coach business professionals on voice, speech, executive presence, and accent modification.
Jingo de la Rosa is a commercial illustrator, teaching artist, and reluctant cat lover. He was born and raised in the beautiful islands of the Philippines and now calls the lovely city of Indianapolis, IN his home. Like many of his peers, he's been drawing since he was knee-high and hasn't stopped since. He's been illustrating professionally since 2011, having been an in-house artist for a major publishing company for over 2 years. In 2013, he decided to go the freelance route. He also hosts DRAWN, a bimonthly sketch night & live performance event on the near east side of Indianapolis.
Heidi Peterson, Strategic Copy Writer and Copy Editor on behalf of Marion Design Co. helped us out with On-Ramp. Marion Design Co. is a Community-based Creative Studio run by volunteer and professional designers. With a belief rooted in the power of design, our main purpose is to create solutions that propel and empower the people of Marion. We are a team prepared to take on urban renewal and revitalization, community branding, and identity development. We are collaborators, citizens, and neighbors who desire authentic relationships with the community of Marion and by working together, reveal the true identity of our amazing city.
Diana May started working with clay when in high school in Lafayette, IN. She then moved to Michigan and pursued her work with clay at Oakland Community College near Detroit. A minor in business and accounting eventually became her profession. She knew that eventually she would find clay again. Twenty years later, with the help and support of her husband and children, she launched Muddog Pottery, creating functional and non-functional ceramics.
Who do you create for?
John: At Pigasus, we create films for ourselves, for the talented filmmakers in Indiana, for Indiana communities, and for the movie going audience at large.
Jingo: I create for everyone, whether it's for commercial clients, for my students, or the everyday art appreciator. I don't believe in creating art for myself, because at some point, I need to share it for others to see. I happen to think that creating work that only the artist can appreciate is a disservice to the world. Art is meant to be shared with others; to be appreciated, and yes, even criticized. Art that is not shared is not done.
Heidi: Marion Design Co. creates for Marion, Indiana in order to inspire economic growth and revitalization in the community.
Diana: I create for myself. I have gone through phases of trying to create what I think people will buy and it never is right. I would not be happy and it would show in my work.
Where do you turn for feedback?
John: Internally, we hold each other accountable and talk about our feelings and desires on a regular basis. For our production teams, we conduct post-production surveys and get feedback on their experience working with us. For the films, critical reviews and the almighty dollar are good indicators on how you're doing. For me, one good measure of feedback is whether or not doors continue to open and if open doors stay that way. Meaning, are you getting more noes than yeses on average over time. Is it getting harder or easier? Also, if someone opened the door to working together, did the door stay open? Was it a good experience and would they do it again. Getting someone to work with you once is easy, getting them to return is a good measure of how you're doing.
Jingo: I'm currently a part of three critique groups, and each of them are different in their own way. Apart from that, I also have artists in my inner circle that give me honest feedback about my work. As scary as it is to ask for feedback, it is absolutely necessary for our growth as artists.
Heidi: We turn to the people of Marion for feedback and to provide inspiration for the projects we take on.
Diana: I turn for feedback to my artist colleagues, and to the general art buying public, but most of the time I just look at my work. If I am honest with myself, I know what is successful.
How do you know when it’s time to walk away from an opportunity/job/project?
John: If you're contemplating walking away from something, chances are you didn't vet it properly in the first place. But every experience has an expiration date. The job is to figure out why you're involved in an experience, how much can be gained from being involved, and when it has run its course. Sometimes the project has a natural sunset, sometimes it needs to be felt out. As the producer, you don't actually walk away from a project. If I was working for someone else, I'd only walk away if the person in charge was being abusive to other people. I have a hard time watching other people being mistreated.
Jingo: If it means walking away in the middle of a project, I don't. Commitment is important, regardless of how difficult or soul-sucking it can be. Saying yes to a project means sticking with it to the very end. However, walking away from a project as it is being offered is sometimes very beneficial for everyone involved. Admittedly, I struggle with this. I tend to take on projects even when it's not realistic for me. Nowadays, I try to be more self-aware by examining my own skills, time, and capacity as an artist (and as a human being) before taking on a job.
Heidi: If the objective of the project is not in line with our mission and vision statements, then it becomes clear fairly quickly that our resources will be best used elsewhere.
Diana: I wish there was an easy answer to this question. If I had known the answer to this years ago, I would have saved countless agonizing hours hoping an opportunity would propel me to the next level, countless hours working in dead-end jobs and countless hours pounding away on projects that would never see the light of day. Those experiences, though have served to guide me to make better choices and be more selective with my time and energy. This applies to volunteering for organizations, donating time or work for charity causes, and also about making sure a creative project has been thought out as much as possible before diving in.
What do you wish you knew before you started pursuing art as a career?
John: Nothing. Art saved my life. I found purpose, scholarship, intelligence, work ethic, and countless opportunities because of my art. There were no artists in my family and no one in my family had a college degree. So I was lucky to be naive and to have few expectations or barriers to my path.
Jingo: I wish I knew how valuable community was when I first started. In my first year of freelancing, I isolated myself a lot, because I wanted to "work on my art." Isolation is also a default for many artists, because that's the very nature of the profession. But art is also about going against the grain, which means we have to fight our natural tendencies of solitude. Community is crucial in the life of a professional artist. Whether it's establishing long-term professional relationships, or even pursuing friendships with other artists, creating community is the foundation of a rewarding career in the arts.
Heidi: Marion Design Co. focuses on using our creative strengths through design initiatives to make sustainable impacts in our community. It would be helpful to know more about non-profit accounting practices and generating diversified revenue streams.
Diana: I wish I had known of jobs that were art-related that I could have pursued. I knew in college that teaching was not my path. I did not, at the time, feel there were any other opportunities for jobs within the art community that would pay the bills while I created my studio art.