Multimedia artist Johnny Tarajosu discusses his diverse heritage and how he’s using Instagram to grow his freelance business. You can follow more of his work on Instagram at @tarajosu.
Maker Spotlight: TARAJOSU
How does your heritage influence your art?
My art is a multicultural reflection of my upbringing. Some people may look at my hair and my skin and just say, “Oh, he’s black.” But my heritage is more complex than that. My mother’s from Jamaica, my father’s from Guyana, and they’re both mixed. I’m part Indian, part African, and there’s even some Irish in there.
So, being a mixed person, why not represent everyone through my art? Or as many people as possible. You can often see tribal styles from all over the world in my work. Everywhere in America, even the small little town in New Mexico where I live now — there’s great diversity. I want to represent a reflection of where I live.
What role did your parents play in your art?
My mother was the creative one — she was a photographer and a painter. My stepfather was an entrepreneur. He did music, video production, and interviews within the hip hop community. So from all of those influences, I’m very multidisciplinary. I wouldn’t say I’m purely a visual artist, and I don’t just stick to digital media.
How do you manage your time as a freelance artist?
I use an old school kitchen timer, and I set it for one hour for each time-consuming task. When the hour is done, I move onto the next task. I get most of my emails and administrative tasks done right away in the morning.
Using a timer keeps things fun for me because doing one time-consuming task all day can get monotonous. I’ve recently been working on wood burning designs into a set of bowls. A gallery asked for a bunch of them, so I want to spread out the time devoted to that woodwork. The work can get long, but it can also be meditative if I manage my time well.
My studio is in a basement, so being able to work on my iPad upstairs in the rocking chair or outside is incredible. I love the freedom of Astropad — it makes the time-consuming tasks more enjoyable.
What advice do you have for artists trying to grow their freelance business?
1. Get over your fear
I recommend watching Gary Vaynerchuk’s content. You might not like his personality or his style, but he’ll force you to get to know yourself and your strengths so that you can be fearless. Fear used to cripple me and stop me from putting out content.
2. Share content
Once you’ve gotten over your fear, start creating content and just put it out there. Share good content consistently, because it’s as they say, out of sight, out of mind. And people want authenticity. So if you’re goofy, show your goofiness. If you’re cynical, show your cynicism.
3. Connect with people
Start reaching out to people that you want to work with. Offer your services as a trial. Now that I’m living in a small town, my strongest medium to connect with people is through social media. I often connect with people through Instagram direct messages — I’ll message people and basically do a trial project with them that usually leads to more jobs.
I can spend hours in my studio wood burning or drawing in Photoshop and working hard all day. But if I can’t connect with people through my art then what’s the point? If I’m relying on my art for a sustainable living, then I need to connect with people.
See more of TARAJOSU’s work on his social media:
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