RAW turns 8 on March 12th! It’s been an incredible 8 years of discovering the most beautiful and brilliant art all around the world and giving those artists a platform to share their art with their community and beyond.
We are celebrating 8 years of RAW by sharing 8 success stories from our artists. Each day leading up to our 8th anniversary we are sharing a new story on our social media and in a blog post! Each story is so unique and epic, so we hope you enjoy reading each of them and are inspired by their creativity, hard work and persistence.
Today we get to hear from a Los Angeles favorite. Jadyn Chen is an artist who came to us with 6 paintings in her first RAW show and she has expanded her art forms and the size of her paintings ever since. Read on to get the full story.
1. What’s your story? Where did you begin and where are you now?
I started thinking about art my senior year of high school. I had an extra elective and decided to take ceramics (my very first art class!) and was lucky to have an extremely inspiring and influential teacher. He was just patient enough to help me with all of my technical concerns and also ambiguous enough to keep me thinking on my toes. I realized after that class that art wasn’t just about making things pretty like I had previously thought - it was creation through a combination of logic and innovation. I was pretty hooked.
After that, I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design for college and met so many wonderful, creative, and inspiring people in my four years there. Though my primary focus now is on design and illustration, back then I studied animation and concept art. This background helped me develop my sense of story instead of just focusing on a still moment.
While at school, I worked for several years at a local print shop. Funnily enough, my experience here was what shifted my focus from animation to graphic design. I got to interact with a lot of young designers and see their range of work. Late night shifts during finals week were filled with helping people make last minute design decisions, choosing paper, and making sure colors came out right.
I moved to Santa Barbara after graduating, back in 2012. I came out here rather foolishly with no plan and had to work three jobs to pay the bills while hustling for small creative gigs on the side. My resume was designed with knowledge I gained from my print shop experience and having graphic designer roommates. Not gonna lie, it was pretty rough. I seriously debated going back to school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted - I knew I wasn’t interested in animation anymore, but didn’t feel like I had the skill set for anything else. One day, I stumbled across DNA Imagery and talked with one of the owners, Ana Cardenas. Ana and her husband Derren were my creative angels. Somehow I found myself with a part-time design job working for them, and they helped me build a solid foundation for design.
Things moved pretty smoothly after that. I later got a job at another local company, Ideawork Studios, and worked there for two years. It was a pretty cutthroat environment - definitely a strict agency - though I did learn a lot there at a pace I don’t think I could have elsewhere. I decided to leave that job after the two years, and freelanced for a little while before landing my current position as an in-house designer at ONTRAPORT.
2. When/how did you get involved with the RAW community? What was your first RAW show and how many shows have you done?
Back near the end of 2012, I had my first and only show with RAW in Los Angeles. I brought around six pieces of a series I was working on primarily of illustrations in graphite on wood. It was pretty incredible - I had applied a couple months earlier while still hunting for an official job and landed everything at once! Going from no work to having people actually interested about your illustrations was mind blowing.
3. What was the hardest part of your journey and how did you overcome it?
The hardest part about my journey was definitely trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and sticking with it. There were so many times I thought about starting over, or at least moving away to a more affordable city. I do my best to stay positive though, even after a series of negative days. Let yourself feel down when you need it, then pick yourself back up and try again. Surround yourself with inspiring people and friends. Make your way into outlets that you are interested in.
For me, I think the main reason why I overcame my struggle after college was by actively going out and meeting other creatives, and then asking them to take a chance with me. I also had amazing support through my boyfriend at the time, who on a daily reminded me to keep trying. It’s not easy getting out of your comfort zone, but definitely worth it.
4. How do you define success?
Success is all about perspective, I think. It has nothing to do with money or fame. If you create a goal for yourself and hit it, you’ve succeeded. My goal that I set for myself around a year ago and still maintain is to create every day, and learn every day. Sometime I succeed, but most of the time I don’t. Not going to give up any time soon though.
5. Have you met anyone or got opportunities through RAW that have added to your story? How has your story changed due to these connections?
Oh man, most definitely. At the start of last year, Heidi messaged me out of the blue and asked me if I’d be interested in painting a giant mural for a hotel in Redondo Beach. I stared at her email for around 30 minutes, not sure if it was real or a joke. Saying “Yes” was surprisingly difficult - I actually think I tried to turn her down, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. This was one of the coolest and most difficult things I’d done in my artistic career so far. My close friend Loren Cook came down to help, as did my mother (thanks Mom!) and we figured out how to operate projectors and lifts in rain and wind for 11 days. It came out wonderfully, and if you are ever close to the Redondo Beach Hotel, you should definitely go check out their pool.
Because of that one job, I’m now currently doing a series of murals for my work. Painting has never been my strong suit, or at least so I thought. I’m so grateful to now have this new creative outlet.
6. What are some of the highlights of your pursuit?
The Redondo Beach Hotel mural was definitely a huge highlight. I’ve also enjoyed the people I’ve met over the last four years since school. A third highlight was landing my current job - not only do I get to do what I love, I also get to work at a company that provides incredible benefits and allows me to take time off for other creative jobs.
7. What is one thing you have learned that you wish you knew 5 years ago or something that you think everyone pursuing a successful art career should hear?
It’s okay to not know what you want to do. That was a large personal struggle for me. Not having a plan was terrifying. But I don’t think things would have ended up this way if I had had one. Take everything a day at a time, and slowly work on your skills. Be a jack of all trades! I just started weaving this year, and also bought myself a real camera. Expand your hobbies. Art is all about learning and adapting, anyway.
Amazing! You said it perfectly. We totally agree that that is something every artist pursuing a successful career should hear! You have such an incredible story that is totally unique yet relates to us all so well. We’re so happy that through RAW you got art opportunities, but even more importantly, got to expand your community of artists, because we all need each other. Artists need to be able to turn to each other for encouragement, critique, a shoulder to cry on, and even a couch to sleep on sometimes. You took a leap, felt lost, but in that time found yourself and your art. And we’re so happy to hear that you’re still expanding your forms of creativity. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Hope you all enjoyed this relatable and triumphant story of success from Jaydn.