We had the good fortune of connecting with Jay Cronin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jay, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
When I first started freelance designing it was as a full time venture. I spent the first year promoting myself online and on social media and began tediously building a client base that could become more consistent. However the end of the that first year slowed down at a time when I was really depending on that source of income. This caused me to seek out and eventually take advantage of a full time graphic design position at a label design and printing company in Houston and freelance part time instead. I continued to work with my customer base over the next few years as more of a “side-hustle,” which worked great in the beginning as I was enjoying the amount of work and types of projects I was able to book for myself. However, as the years continued to pass, my life began to change quite a bit. I proposed to my long time girlfriend and got married after a year engagement, then had my first daughter soon after. As my responsibilities and obligations shifted to a more family focus I needed to reorganize my freelance schedule. I eventually shifted to freelancing mostly on weekends only, especially by the time my 2nd daughter was born a few years later. Now I have a 5 year old daughter and a 2 year old daughter and most of my free time is spent raising my girls with my wife. My family is my main priority but I have found new balance by keeping freelance design work as a creative outlet. I may not take on as many small design projects at this point in my life but instead I choose the projects that I have a passion for creating. I am currently focusing on more time consuming illustration projects, designing graphics for skateboard companies, album artwork and clothing lines but will always take on a good hand lettering project if any come my way.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
When I started freelancing I would often compare my work to other artists who seemed to have a clearly developed and recognizable design style. I would often be able to automatically identify their work by little distinct characteristics at the first glance or because the overall look or aesthetic is instantly noticeable. I would occasionally compare my own art and design work to their art. At the time, my design work was so driven by customer requests and revisions that there wasn’t much room to develop any sense of a unique “style” that could be considered identifiable. Over time and over the course of many designs, I’ve learned to help my customers by guiding their ideas for revisions to make sure the final design is still high quality and well designed. Of course my design work could be recognizable to some degree or to someone with a well trained eye for design but the identifiable details would be much more subtle, depending on the requirements of the design and what it is being designed to accomplish. I’ve discovered that I have more room to show a recognizable style when illustrating or hand-lettering. Focusing on my illustration work, I started to notice that the more work I would produce the more noticeable my developing “style” would be. I am constantly improving my process and evolving as an artist but I usually attempt to compose my illustrations to capture a sense of movement or to have an up close point of view. I do this to provide the space for specific stylistic details that help give my illustrations a more recognizable look. Today I’m proud to say, if I look back at the last few years worth of my illustration projects, there are certainly specific features that unify the body of artwork. There’s an edgy quality that comes from the way I use hard lines, varying line weights, sharp edges, fine details, high contrast and color play. All those elements combined with the overall aesthetic and composition of my finished illustrations gives my work a recognizable style that I’ve always looked forward to developing. At this point, I’m happy that I’ve actually managed to naturally develop, or maybe even accidentally stumble into what I consider to be a recognizable style of illustration that hopefully sets me apart from the many other artists and illustrators of the world.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would plan a brewery tour where we would visit as many breweries as we could in Houston and its surrounding areas over the course of a few days. I love trying new food and drinks so we would also visit some of the great restaurants here in Houston, trying a meal from as many cultures cuisine as possible. Then, we could burn off all the extra beer and food calories by hiking some of the trails in the nearby state and city parks to get some nature time. Then to end the trip we might zip over to Galveston or one of the lakes, creeks or other bodies of water for some camping and relaxation. I think we could crank up some Creedence Clearwater Revival for some tunes to set the mood but maybe we would avoid playing in those Houston bayous… “Born on the Bayou”
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My design journey actually started before I even realized it. Looking back at my early exposure to art and creative interests, I now realize that I’ve always had an eye for design. It would always bother me when my early drawings and sketches wouldn’t look quite right and I would start trying to fix the spots that my eye would focus on as problem areas. I attribute these realizations to a developing design eye. I will, of course, always be greatful to my Mom and Dad for supporting my interests and art ventures through the years, which allowed me to explore my creative side and even notice that I was developing an eye for design. Fast forward to my early teen years and I would “design” logos and flyers and T-shirt graphics for my first few bands without knowing any of the design rules that help those kinds of graphics to be successful or well made. Around that time I met a local printer who helped me book my first few screen print T-shirt orders at her company. I’ve met many people in my life who have inspired me in different ways, but she is one special person that comes to mind who really had a hand in helping me discover my passion at a pivital point in my life. I would credit my friend and previous boss, Cris Black, as an early mentor and definitely as someone who gave me the opportunity to learn about the screen printing process and probably helped steer me down a path to start learning about graphic design. A few years later after graduating from high-school, Cris helped me land an job at her company as a young screen printing press operator. This opportunity served as a crash course into the art of screen printing and into learning how to work quickly to meet production deadlines. I was able to jump right in and literally get my hands dirty… very dirty, as I began learning how to screen print. After a few years mastering the screen printing process, I slowly started to move from the printing department into the art department. Initially I was only helping with small art needs in my downtime at work. Eventually, after a few more years of her guidance and constructive critiques, along with some higher education in design from Sam Houston State University, mixed with a healthy dose of junior design experience, I started managing the workflow of all new design needs through the art department. I think she saw something in me when I first came into her print shop to order some band T-shirts with my own early and unrefined artwork. She saw a kid with possible creative potential and ultimately gave me the exposure to screen printing and graphic design that helped turn my initial interests in art into a very real passion for design that still drives my creative ventures today. I’m very thankful to have met her at such a crucial moment in my life and I’m greatful for all the people I’ve met along the way who have inspired and incouraged me. I guess you never really know how your actions may impact another person. Might as well strive to make a positive impact when we can. As I continue to move froward in my life and into the future, I hope to also inspire others through my art and creative interactions. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a putting a little more positivity into the world, right?
Linkedin: Jay Cronin