We had the good fortune of connecting with Aries Tjhin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aries, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
When I was in 4th grade, I remembered being in class, and we had art time, and I was noticing that I was able to follow instructions and copied what my teacher did when she demonstrated how to draw a house or a still life of a flower. It was that time that I realized I was different from all the kids in class. Also my 4th grade teacher, was an artist too. She let me go through her archive of past art projects for class, and for me to copied and do art after school. Also I had a mom that encouraged me to pursue my art degree.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
So my “day job” so to speak is that I am a Supervisor at Starbucks. I’ve been with the company for 15 years, and today I can fortunately say it has supported my art career. I think the myth of the “Starving Artist” is BS because you can’t be creative when you are worried about your financial need. Every artists I have spoken too has some day job that gave them roof over their head, and money to buy supplies that in turn will make their art. I got hired at Starbucks when I was in grad school in Madison, WI and the job has supported me financially, and I stayed with the company, using it to move to a different store and city (Milwaukee) after school, and not having that pressure of finding a job or a financial timeline where my savings might be depleted if I don’t find anything by a certain X amount of time. Also because I had a job I was freed to do my art. When I moved to Milwaukee after school, I started networking. Trying to find galleries, artist collective, art organization etc. Figuring out how to be a working artist. The one thing that grad school did not taught us art students is a roadmap on what to do after your schooling is done. I had to carve the map on my own. Fortunately Milwaukee is a small city with a vibrant art scene. I joined an artist collective called the White Whale Collective, where we had a gallery space to exhibit our work. Fast forward a year of me being in Milwaukee, and I joined a new nonprofit org called Redline Milwaukee where I had an actual art studio to do my work, and I was also involved in another nonprofit organization called Artist Working in Education where we traveled to low income neighborhood and provide free art lesson to neighboring children. Fast forward again to around 2012 where I decide to moved back to California, specifically San Diego since I never live there. So I uprooted myself, transfer to a Starbucks store in SD, and started all over as an artist. Started to network again with the local art scene and found a gallery where I exhibit my work. Another thing I did was I start to volunteer in one of the art museum in Balboa Park where I learned new skills like cataloging and data entry. The challenge for me is always keeping the momentum, the creative energy alive, because once you are out of the creative environment of an art school, there is no one to give you the pep talk or the encouragement to keep going and make the art; especially in this Pandemic time that we are leaving. You have to be your own cheerleader and also surrounding yourself with good friends that will encourage you even in time when you don’t feel creative. Another lesson I learned is how to “pivot” my creative energy when I am not in the mood to do art. That is where Urban Outfitters came in. I always like the company and secretly want to work there. When I got the job, I was ecstatic. I got two jobs now; Starbucks and Urban. Regardless that is is a minimum wage job, I learned a lot as a sales associate at Urban. One of the thing is how to be a visual merchandiser. I realized that my creative energy can be used in merchandising and organizing products to enticed customers to buy. I found out that I was really good at it. My perspective on my self change, from when I finished school to now. I learned to developed other skills so I can better my self as a person. Starbucks taught me to be a good leader and Urban gave me the outlet to express my creative skills.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First I would take them to Balboa Park. It is said to be the second biggest park after Central Park in New York. It’s beautiful and its also where the majority of the museums are located. Then I would take them to Urban Mo’s in Hillcrest neighborhood. One of the best place for food and drinks; they are well known for their famous blackout lemonade. Then throughout the week I can take them to different beaches like Coronado, Mission Beach, and La Jolla to see the seals and go kayaking there. Then I’ll take them to Convoy Street, SD Asian restaurants row, where I’ll take them to Jasmine for good dim sum, Tofu House for good Korean food and Tajima for Ramen.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
One off the biggest support was my mom. I was very lucky to have her support in pursuing my career as an artist. It’s really surprising, considering that we were immigrants. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesian and she brought me, my sister and herself to the states in 1990. She was a single mother who uprooted her entire family to another country so her children can get the opportunities that America afforded to its citizen ( we applied for our citizenship in 1994 and became US citizens later on). She was a tough parent when I was growing up, making sure I had a 3.8-4.0 G.P.A, and push me to go to pursue a four year college education. What I was grateful was she support me being a Studio Art major, and not pressure me to double major to have a back up degree just in case the art career didn’t take of. So Kudos to my mom. Another people that deserves a shoutout is two of my Art Professors from grad school: The late Frances Myers and Jack Damer. Frances was my etching and woodcut professor ( in grad school I was pursuing an MFA in Printmaking) and she taught me about patience and spending the time to produce good quality prints. Jack, who was my Lithography Professor, taught me to have a thick skin in the Art World, and not take things like criticism personally, but seeing it through a subjective lense, and how it relates to your work.
All art work by Aries Tjhin