We had the good fortune of connecting with T. Jay Santa Ana and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi T. Jay, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Given the pandemic and quarantine last year, the balance of making art, promoting that art, freelancing in graphic design, and spending time with my family and friends has definitely shifted. Having almost all of the art events of last year cancelled, I found myself home and in the studio almost everyday. Early in the quarantine, amidst the fear and uncertainty, I had a vision for myself as an artist that I would lock myself away everyday and “work on my art,” in solitude. But I soon discovered that even with something I love to do, breaks and time away are necessary. I think about that balance in terms of acts of self-care that allow me to recharge back to 100% (sometimes even more), so that I can spill a little of myself into each of those things again. A few acts of self-care in my routine include: walks at the beach (usually during golden hour, usually at Imperial Beach), printing stickers, recharging baths with essential oils and rose petals, yoga, and meditation. 

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m attracted to various mediums but seduced the most by ink, paint, and pixel. When I paint I focus on energy, emotion, story, and when I use a fountain pen on paper or an Apple Pencil in Procreate my work is guided by my subconscious and becomes more illustrative. I’m blessed enough to have a space to practice thanks to The Urban Art Shop in City Heights, who I met through a curator that I did my first show with (Hanalei Artworks) and where I am currently one of the artists in residence. In the fall of 2020 I painted my first utility box in San Ysidro with Yvette Roman of Art Box SD. I’m still reeling off the high of having painted that piece – I hold it up there as one of my proud, artist moments, promoting peace through art. Yvette Roman, a friend, curator, and amazing artist is someone I met through various events in San Diego. We’ve co-curated together and have participated in so many shows where we both met and befriended amazing artists. Showing up if you want to be seen is important for whatever scene you’re in (and this still applies virtually). Being a bit of an introvert (INFJ) this was difficult, but it taught me to be patient with myself and to do the best of my ability without having to force anything. I also love sharing my thoughts and ideas about my work and could talk endlessly about them, and sometimes I met people who were interested in listening. 

In these interactions one thing always stood out – being genuine, authentic, honest, and sometimes even vulnerable if you’re not used to it, helped form some amazing relationships. I also learned (and am still learning about) the importance of holding intention for whatever it is you’re envisioning for yourself. My internal loop used to sound like “I don’t see myself as someone who ….” These days I’m more affirmative and work hard to meditate upon thoughts like, “I am an amazing artist, I am kind, I am patient,” etc. My work reflects the experience of a gay, Filipino Scorpio interpreting consciousness in the only way he can –through art. The work I create is always the culmination of who I was, who I am, and where I’ve been, time and space overlapping above the trajectory of my life, entwined with the lives of my family and our movements from one place to another. I also think of my work as a catalyst for viewers to remember their own story, to be inspired and informed by their own history while learning about someone else’s. When all of my work is collected at the end of my life I want it to tell a story of the forward motion of lines that began long before any brushes ever touched a canvas.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Being from Imperial Beach I’d start there. I’d take them to the art sculpture, walk along the shore to the pier and then all the way down to the Tin Fish for lunch, then back to the main street to grab a cupcake and coffee from Babycakes. To have the full southbay experience I’d take them to Victoria’s Mexican Food and grab a California burrito for dinner. I would make sure to take them to my favorite coffee spots throughout the week as well – Cafe Moto and Cafe Virtuoso, both in Barrio Logan, Lofty Coffee in Little Italy, and Lestat’s, both the one on Park and on University avenue. If they’re anything like me they’d want to go walking or hiking out in nature. For a nice, meditative walk around a lake (filled with geese btw) Chollas Lake is perfect, located in Oak Park (off the 94 east). I also love going to Torrey Pines at golden hour. It’s a steep walk up but so worth the trails and views once you get to the top of the plateau. There’s even a trail that will take you all the way down to Black’s Beach. In a pre-Covid world I would also be able to fill almost every day of the week with some sort of art event. A few that I’m missing and looking forward to attending again when it’s safe: Barrio Art Crawl in Barrio Logan, Art Night at Basic Bar & Pizza in Gaslamp, Sketch Party at the Whistle Stop, or the Banker’s Hill Art & Craft Beer Festival.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family and boyfriend deserve the biggest shoutout for being supportive and patient throughout my art career. Between showing up in person, providing advice, and purchasing pieces, they have witnessed firsthand the journey (which they’re a part of) and process for my practice. The Urban Art Shop is also a major component for a lot of my successes and evolutions as an artist. My first art studio as a practicing artist is located here. Being part of an art collective where I get to interact, learn, and build friendships with other makers is so important (and necessary during a time when interaction is so limited).

Website: www.tjaysantaana.com
Instagram: @tjaysantaana
Linkedin: t. jay santa ana
Twitter: @tjaysantaana

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