We had the good fortune of connecting with Sean Michael Robinson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sean Michael, why did you pursue a creative career?
If you ask someone about their personal satisfaction with their career, it’s a fairly common sentiment that the most satisfied are the ones currently being paid to do something that they’d gladly be engaged in even without pay. That is, that they’ve successfully turned their passion into something that supports them. And there are definitely people in creative fields for whom making art in that particular field is their true, deeper calling. But I firmly believe there are just as many of us out there who are simply driven to make. Whether that’s make something tangible, like a painting, a chair, or a loaf of bread; or something as intangible as an idea, or a solution to a long-standing problem. Ever since I was little I was driven to create, and for me, the medium, whether it be watercolor portraits or children’s books or novels, was almost immaterial, compared to the generative urge itself, that need to make something that didn’t exist before hand touched paper, or before thought touched ability. When I was a high school art teacher in Washington State, that was one of the most inspiring aspects of my job, helping students discover all of the different ways they could create something new. In some ways it must be the driving human urge, and people in even the most constrictive environments you could imagine still manage to leave their own original mark on the world around them, their own little stamp, no matter how hidden or furtive that gesture might be.
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.
I’m a multi-disciplinary artist who’s worked in a good half-dozen creative fields, all only tangentially related. In some ways being a polymath has been a liability, in that someone who pursues work only in a single field or discipline is more likely to build social networks and like clients over time, but it’s also been a strength, in that when I work with a client long-term, there’s such a long roster of different services I can provide them, depending on need. I’m currently working mostly as an illustrator and designer, with prepress and graphics preparation work taking up the second largest chunk of my work week. I illustrate a sometimes bewildering amount of different types of projects, all down to which individual clients have which needs at the time. Everything from children’s books to event posters to website branding and logos. My many years of prepress work were interesting preparation for this, as through all the line art restoration and prepress I had the opportunity to see some of the greats of illustration past up close and personal, giving me an intimate acquaintance with a dizzying array of techniques. Like many creative people, most of my challenges have been related to balancing the need to create with the need to pursue more work. As such, I’ve spent almost no time marketing myself in the past ten years as a freelance illustrator, instead relying on word of mouth to reach new clients. And while this approach has made my schedule sometimes erratic, it’s also ensured that people who contact me already have a good idea of what I may be able to do for them and their company or project.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Having moved to San Diego a little over seven years ago, my knowledge of the area is still not very robust, but guests at our house always love a bike ride around Lake Murray, a stroll down the Prado at Balboa Park, or renting a boat or hiking at Lake Jennings. Not to mention Torrey Pines State Reserve just north of La Jolla, for as much hiking and bike riding as you can stand. Recently my family has enjoyed finding other smaller parks outside of the cities, such as the wonderful Flinn Springs County Park, just ten minutes east of La Mesa. We have such a wealth of natural beauty in our area, I feel like I’m discovering new little corners all the time! As far as affordable local eating goes, it’s hard to beat the stunning El Indio, where I would highly recommend you pick up a few dozen tortillas and get yourself a potato-filled breakfast burrito. They’ve been making locals happy since 1940, and it’s hard to argue with their consistently great food and affordable pricing.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
James Brendlinger, the genius theater director behind Penguin Point Productions in Central Florida, has driven me to pursue every possible use of my various abilities. He is a teacher in every sense of the word, a true creative visionary whose chief creativity is manifesting that creativity in others. He has a quite rare ability to bring out the best in others, in a simultaneously encouraging and challenging environment.
Sean Michael Robinson