Professional Practice

Balancing Creativity and Responsibility (Ep. 165)

In today’s episode, Nic welcomes on James Jacobsen and Candido Crespo from the One Love Art Sessions podcast to discuss artmaking and art teaching. Listen as they talk about finding time to make art, balancing creativity with responsibility, and the importance of studio work even when you are teaching. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: On my drive to work every single day and on the way back, I always have a podcast going on my phone and listening to that as I’m heading on my commute. And I have recently discovered a new podcast that I’m a huge fan of. It’s called One Love Art Sessions and it’s hosted by James Jacobsen and Candido Crespo. I reached out and they agreed to meet with me for this podcast to just kind of go over what their mission is in their podcasts and how they’re making it happen in amongst their very busy, busy lives. This is Everyday Art Room, and I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

Hey guys, I am super excited to have you guys on the podcast tonight. And I think what we’ll do is just get started. I’m going to have you guys just introduce yourself to begin with.

Candido: All right. Well, my name is Candido Crespo. I’m a husband, father, and artist, and an educator as well. I’ve been teaching for 14 years now. I’ve had the opportunity to teach from everything. I will teach everything from kindergarten and to 12th grade. I’m currently teaching first through sixth grade. And in my personal work, I work in watercolor and ink and digital. James.

Nic: Great. James?

James: Hi, everyone. I am James as stated. I’m a design professional, I guess you would call me with about 15 years, I guess over 15 years now, experience in the field. I primarily work in digital product design. So, I oversee UI/UX for a global digital shipping product. As a designer, in my free time, I still mostly stick with digital, some mixed media, halftone work. I make stickers. I basically jump in and out of anything that’s super creative. Just like Dido, I am a husband and a new father. And I’m based in the New York City area. Yeah.

Nic: You guys both have some young children, is that correct?

Candido: Yeah. My son is two years old.

James: And my son is three months.

Nic: Oh, I love it. This is a busy, busy time in your life. No sleep either. Not at all.

James: No, no. Tonight is actually night. One of sleep training.

Nic: Oh, good luck with that. Yeah.

James: Yes, yeah. I’m actually hoping to get more sleep with it. So we’ll see. We’ll see. We’ll roll the dice.

Nic: Yep. Very good. You know, product design was actually, that’s my second passion. I absolutely love product design. So that’s fun to hear that you’re working in that. Okay. So, we know a little bit about both of you guys, but how I actually have come across you is Candido’s Instagram. As I often do, I found you via your art education aspects. And then I realized, I started kind of digging in a little bit farther, really interested in what you were posting, I noticed that you had a podcast called One Love Art Session, and it is something that you and James run together. Let’s talk about the drive of that and the focus of One Love Art Session.

James: Dido, I feel like you tell the story the best of how that all came about?

Candido: Okay.

James: Our love story.

Candido: Yeah. Our love story.

Nic: Oh, that’s nice.

Candido: James and I, we’re actually fraternity brothers. We’ve known each other going on 18 years and we have always been creative and artistic, but we’ve never had a chance to collaborate. In 2019, we made a pact that we were going to do some type of pop-up exhibition in 2020. 2020 had other plans, as we all know, and we didn’t want to stop the train and momentum. Instead, we saw all the things that were happening live, and so I pitched the idea to him, of us hosting evenings where we have two artists come onto a live session. They produce artwork while we try to engage with the audience and have an intimate conversation. It’s slowly evolved to the point where it’s no longer a live session. We record a podcast where we have these intimate conversations with artists. We want to basically break the wall down between artists, art, and the community that support them and just be transparent and go into conversations that maybe they wouldn’t be asked normally. And that’s how we got there. That’s what One Love Art Session are now.

Nic: Where’d you-

James: Yeah, and we tend to Yeah pick a topic and then relate that topic obviously to the art world. So, it could be us digging into something that may be current events or learning about some new part of the industry, all under the guise of speaking to artists. And really just a lot of it is awesome, too, because we get to learn as we’re talking to these individuals.

Nic: Yeah. Oh, yes. And that’s how I feel about this podcast, too. I have absolutely loved this part of my endeavors, we’ll just say it, in life because I feel like I get to know and meet people from all walks of life. And I know that that’s what I’m hearing from listening to your podcasts as well. I also know that you guys are really reaching out to a wide variety of artists. Can you talk about that? And I know we didn’t really talk about that ahead of time, but can you talk about who you’re seeking out and who’s on your podcast?

Candido: So James, if you don’t mind, I’ll start and you can build.

James: Yeah, go ahead.

Candido: The podcast or the One Love Art Session has evolved since the very beginning, but where we’re at now is James and I will sit down and we’ll come up with a list of topics that we’re interested in. Things that we believe would make for a great conversation. And then we’ll pair the artist with the conversation or the topic and say, okay, this artist seems to be someone who can give the most to this particular conversation. James?

James: Yeah, I agree. I think sometimes it definitely works like that, where we have a topic and then we try to match the artist with it. Other times we may come across an artist and they may have a certain genre they work in or something that’s unique to them, and then we start to formulate an episode around that. Right? Who else can we bring in that matches that? And like Dido had explained, this whole, the podcast itself has grown and evolved. Where in the beginning our main focus was getting artists to come on live and to create and to talk. And what we learned very early on is, some artists aren’t really great at that. One, some artists aren’t really great at one, talking, and a lot of other artists aren’t great at creating and engaging at the same time.

Nic: For sure.

James: So, that’s when we really had to take a seat and really start to talk about what we wanted these sessions and these podcasts to be. And that’s why what we do now is we’ll pick artists based on them falling into that category. And what we do is we do these pre-shows where we talk to them and we engage with them and we just make sure that they’re the type of artists that can really, not to sound blunt, but bring something to the table.

Nic: For sure.

James: You definitely don’t want to go onto a session and be like, what’s your favorite part of art? And they’re like, well, creating, and then that’s it.

Nic: Done.

James: Dead silence. Dead silence, and me and Dido are like, cool. All right. Okay. Just, 45 more minutes to burn here.

Nic: Yeah, no problem. Yeah, no.

Candido: I think two other things I just want to add is, as an art teacher, I forgot that not everybody is in the same predicament as us, where we are answering 15 questions at the same time and still doing a demonstration. And so while I can possibly engage in a full conversation while producing, not everybody is capable of doing that. And the other thing is that when we’re pairing our artists to the topic, we’re also pairing the artists to each other. So we may have a street artist and a tattoo artist. We might have a photographer and a jeweler. And that’s not as significant, so what their medium is may help in the conversation, but it’s not in any way a block or a reason to not pair the two.

Nic: Sure. Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. Your conversation is more broad than the specific medium per se. And I’ve also heard, you mentioned that you’re kind of seeking out some… Not everybody’s going to be a visual artist, is that correct? You’re seeking out other arts.

Candido: Correct. We recently had an episode with two poets and for that episode, we discussed vulnerability and we thought that they were probably the best, that was the best form of creativity that would engage in that practice of digging deep for descriptions or experiences in vulnerability.

Nic: Yeah.

James: Yeah, definitely. And I think our shift away from these live episodes and more of something that someone listens to allows us to go across the different types of artists, because at the end of the day, it’s not them creating per se live or doing anything live. It’s them sharing their experience as an artist. So where you can speak to someone that’s a painter and you can speak to someone else who may be a dancer and they both can come together and have similar experiences or backgrounds that add to the conversation that’s at hand. So, it really doesn’t matter what they do. So, at the end of the day, our goal is definitely to engage different types of artists and it’s great that the direction we went in and allows us now to tap into anyone that has some form of creativity in their background.

Nic: Yeah. More of the creative process that everybody shares. Yeah, I get it. And that’s what feeds my soul. That’s why I kept going. Or that’s why I started listening to you guys is because I definitely feed myself with a lot of education content, but the art part is maybe where I lack a little bit.

So first, before we get into the meat of the next part of the conversation, I want to talk more about each of your lives, because I think we need to know your background before we can go into the next question. So James, will you get started and just kind of tell me, and we know that you’re a dad, but what else in your life, what fills your days?

James: What fills my days? I mean, having a three-month-old…

Nic: You’re done. Done. That’s it.

James: I’m done, right, that’s it. Honestly, it’s a loaded question because I think what fills my days and what my days look like now, because of everything going on, is totally different than what it would look like six months ago. Let’s move beyond, before the pandemic started, I didn’t have a son and I was going into an office and the world was totally different. With my job I traveled a lot, so I was on a plane once every one to two months. And now it’s like, my travel is going into the car to go to Target every day.

So, what fills my day? I guess it definitely changes. And I think one of the perks I would say of this pandemic is it allowed me as an artist to slow down a little bit. So, I started to realize I had all this extra time, right? So when you’re not traveling to work and when you’re not somewhere else, you find all these little pockets. And in the beginning, it’s very confusing what to do with them. And then as time passes, you start to fill them with things.

So, I took up golf really heavily, which is funny, so I go out and play golf. And I bought myself a brand new iPad and I’m drawing more. So as a digital artist, I was always doing product design stuff. I would do stuff in Illustrator. I was very regimented, very… everything I did was very clean cut, where sometimes I would sketch, but it wasn’t really my forte. So, now I find myself like sketching more and drawing and doing things like that. So, I guess the short answer is I feel my days really kind of looking inside myself and figuring out what parts of me I haven’t tapped into and trying to bring those to the surface.

Nic: Sure. Yeah. Candido?

Candido: I think Jay actually just hinted towards what my days are like now. So, I’ve spent a good portion of my day doing self-reflection trying to figure out where I wanted to be at this point in my life. My goals prior to fatherhood was to be in a classroom for 10 years and to move on to an administrative position. I have my certification. I wanted the art director position. But then I realized quality of life to me at this point of my life was more significant.

Nic: That’s right. Okay.

Candido: So, what I have decided to do instead was to pursue my passion in art in a way that would not impede on my time with family. So, I’m actually in the process of trying to work with my son and work on projects that allow me to continue my practice while also spending time with him. And I would say that that makes up most of my time.

In addition to that, I feel like I have a lot of learning to do when it comes to social justice as well. So, while I would say that I’m familiar with Latinx struggles, the Black experience, I’m learning still. And specifically, I’m pushing myself towards learning transgender rights and understanding their struggles. And I’m trying to take the time. That’s why I said that self-reflection is really where I’m at right now. So, whether it has to do with pursuing my passion, spending time with my family, or becoming a better person, better human overall, that’s where my mind is at.

Nic: Oh gosh, you guys are speaking to my heart. That’s for sure. Okay. I love it, I love it. So, this is where I was going with that. We have an audience of mostly art educators that are listening to Everyday Art Room. And of course my mother and my mother-in-law as well, but let’s focus on the educators that are mainly listening. I’m just wondering, I know that they all have hopes and dreams and they have aspirations like you are describing. What would you say to them to encourage them to just go out and seek that? I feel like you guys are really taking control of your life and making it happen.

Candido: James, you first.

James: Okay. So, as I stated earlier, I’ve been in the industry for about 15 years, but as an addendum to that, as an add-on to that, all those 15 years weren’t full time. So, when I actually left college, I had this holistic view of what an artist was supposed to be. And I had this idea in my head that going corporate or working for a company would stifle my artistic visions. I was a 22-year-old and I wanted to make cool art, not and not have anyone tell me what to do.

So, I kind of jumped around a little bit. I worked in the nonprofit sector for awhile. But for that time I always freelanced and I worked… It was fun, because I actually had the opportunity to work for a lot of different companies, a few different celebrities, and it was a cool experience. But there came a point in my life where I started to realize that I would work my nine to five and then I would do design work to the wee hours of the night. And I was more happy doing design at three o’clock in the morning than I was sitting in an office at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Nic: Oh, I see.

James: It started to ring in my head that I had chosen this path and I didn’t regret it, but there was something that was missing. And that part of it was really just jumping into design. And what I did at that point is I left my job. I had no other plans or anything like that. I kind of just forced myself to be unemployed and push myself to really go toward what I wanted. And while I don’t recommend that for everyone, it landed me some great opportunities after that. And it really was the catalyst for who I am today. So, what I would tell people who were listening, who are thinking, do I want to put pen to paper or do I want to do this, or should I take that step forward in whatever direction they want to take? I would say, do it because no one is going to take that step for you. And no one is going to dictate what your life is going to be except you.

Nic: Right.

James: And taking control of that and understanding that it was only me that was going to define what my life as an artist was going to look like was probably one of the most big light bulb moments for me.

Nic: Nice. Nice.

Candido: So for me, you recently had an episode that provided… Well, I guess veteran teachers were giving their perspective or giving their opinions to new teachers. Or advice, I should say. And one of those things was to continue practicing art. I have two veteran teachers that are in my district, one that recently retired and another who’s still teaching. And the one that retired, before she left, I don’t even think that she liked me, to be completely honest. I don’t know if I was her cup of tea. But it didn’t matter.

Nic: No?

Candido: The thing that she told me before she left, which I thought was important and so then maybe she did… I don’t know, maybe it was a misread. But she told me, don’t forget what brought you into this particular classroom. And it was a reminder that it’s not because my strength was science or my strength was math. It’s because my strength was art and it was a passion of mine and I wanted to share that with my students, or with students in general, because they weren’t even my students yet.

Nic: Right.

Candido: And so, I have another teacher who also said, and I know other subjects might get mad at me, but, we’re the only subject matter that can refer to ourselves as a professionals in our respective industry and the subject that we teach. So, we are artists as well as being art teachers.

Nic: Right.

Candido: Not every math teacher is a mathematician. Not every science teacher is a scientist. And so I feel like I’m accountable, or I feel responsible for me for practicing. And the last reason or the thing that pushes me to continue creating is that it creates a trust in the classroom. The students will believe the things that I’m saying if I can then prove to them, hey, every piece of information I’m telling you, I’m putting it into practice. Look what I’m doing. I’m showing here. My social media is flooded with my personal artwork so that if they find me… Because they will find us.

Nic: Yes.

Candido: They can see that, oh, Mr. Crespo is actually an artist.

Nic: Right.

Candido: So they won’t question, why are we learning this? They’ll say, I seen you do this already.

Nic: Yeah.

Candido: So, that just keeps me going.

Nic: That’s amazing.

James: If they ever do a remake of Lean On Me, man, they’re going to cast you. That was-

Nic: That was beautiful.

James: That was beautiful, man. I could just see you with a bat in the middle of the school, just yelling at the students, “Art is life. I’m an artist.”

Nic: “Check me out on IG.” Yep. Oh, I love it. I love it. Yes. No, but I mean, my head was bobbing the whole time. I’m agreeing with what both of you have to say. And I know that, so, your words today are encouraging to a large group of people. But also some of your actions, you are encouraging even your peers or your listeners to participate in creating with you. Can either one of you, would either one of you like to talk about that?

Candido: Yeah. I’ll do it. So, it’s been years already that I’ve been participating in Inktober. But this year when James told me that he was ready to jump into one of the monthly art challenges, we did a little exploring to see what would be suitable for us. And Jay is a Halloween fanatic, so it was best for us to do something that was definitely going to push us in that direction where we were drawing things that are more associated with that holiday and wouldn’t pigeonhole us into a material or medium, so that we can do the exploring we want to. We’re both using Procreate. So that’s a lie, apparently, because we both decided we were going to stick to Procreate the entire time.

Nic: Yes. Okay.

Candido: But we didn’t have to write. I guess we could submit sketches if we wanted to, preliminary ideas.

Nic: Sure.

Candido: But so, yeah, we wanted to do that and we felt like it’s another way to build a relationship with our audience to say, hey, this is who we are. This is why we feel like we can host a show like this is because we are artists and we’re practicing artists. And look at us take on this challenge and find the time to do something that we love. And you, too, should try to find those 10, 20 minutes an hour that you need to produce a work or just get a sketch down so that you feel like you’re still in some type of creative groove.

Nic: Yeah. I love it.

James: Yeah, definitely. And I think where this conversation really started is I bought the iPad and I hit Dido up and I was like, okay, now what? What do I draw?

Nic: Yeah. Yes.

James: And I think literally if you go back to my first art board on it, it’s just circles. I had no idea what to draw. I’m just drawing circles and lines. I’m the worst when it comes to thinking of what to draw and Dido was like, why don’t we just do a prompt? So, every day they’re going to tell you what to draw and you just do it.

Nic: Yep.

James: And I was like, that’s perfect. That is so absolutely perfect for me because I do not want to spend the next 30 days drawing circles.

Nic: Yeah. Good idea. Yeah. Well, and I just find… I had back surgery a couple of years ago and that’s exactly what I did was, I grabbed, I think it was art school or school… drawing school prompts and that’s exactly what I did. I just sat and whatever they told me to draw that day, that’s what I did. And it helped me out so very much. It was really, really art therapy for myself to heal.

Candido: Excellent.

James: Yeah, awesome.

Nic: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, are you having people tag you, are you having people participate? Have you noticed that?

Candido: People are following what we’re doing. We have one other actual fraternity brother of ours that’s participating. He’s encouraging us and it’s definitely supporting the initiative. And we’re hoping that maybe we’re still early on, we consider ourselves to be early, I guess infants still in the podcast world-

Nic: Yeah.

Candido: … because we’re only up to, as of this episode, we’ll be releasing our 12th episode, but we are spending a significant amount of time building our community. So, not just trying to sell them a podcast, but instead, trying to create this One Love community is what we’re doing. So, we’re still in our building phase.

Nic: Yep.

James: Yeah. And we had already spoken about it, too, so, this, these prompts that we’re doing, it’s a pre-existing thing. So, it’s like a global community of artists that are participating. And it’s cool because you get to see the other artists and what they’re doing. But we’ve had conversations about putting together our own prompts for November that are just, we put them out for our community and really get the ball rolling. Because we have so many people that do this in October and then it kind of tapers off. And so, why don’t we do something more fun in November?

And what I found is, I started reaching out to certain artists and they were like, I don’t get it. And I was like… And these are some artists that are also following some of our social media and I’m thinking, wow, we’ve been promoting this thing that we’re doing, but we never stopped to think that maybe some artists may not be so social savvy and don’t really… They’re like, I don’t get the concept here. So, I explained it to a few of them and they were like, this is a really cool idea. I want to do this. And I’m like, if we would’ve just grabbed you in the beginning of October and been like, this is what we’re doing…

Nic: Yeah.

James: So, that was a learning experience for me.

Nic: Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly-

James: Because I always realize that some people just aren’t… You’re like, oh, this is obvious what this is.

Nic: No. Yeah. I know. I know. But no.

James: Yeah. Yeah.

Nic: Exactly.

James: I’m like, I sound like an idiot.

Nic: No. And you know what, my plan… So, I have done several challenges in the past, but just, being forgiving of yourself, too, and being like, I missed today or I missed yesterday or whatever. But now I can pick this up and start again. I can maybe catch up or I can just leave those days behind me. That’s all right. I know the goal is to do every single day, however, you know, life happens.

Candido: Yeah, someone should tell James that skipping intentionally isn’t the same thing as forgiving yourself.

James: No, no, no. I looked at the prompt and I was like, you know what? I don’t feel like doing this.

Nic: I don’t like it.

James: And I looked ahead and I was like, you know what? The one in two days is something that I like a little bit more. So, I’m going to put more attention toward that.

Nic: Yeah.

James: So, I forgave myself and I just need Dido to forgive me as well.

Candido: All right, all right.

Nic: Oh, yeah, you work on that.

Candido: All right.

Nic: Well, and you know what? I think that’s important to hear that we all were like, yeah, we want to do this, but make it work for you. Right?

Candido: Right.

Nic: Okay. Hey guys, it was spectacular to talk to you, but-

Candido: We have to interrupt you.

Nic: Yes, I know, I know. What do you got going on? What do you got going on?

Candido: All right, James.

James: All right. So, we have a segment on our podcast and we end every episode with it. And it’s our way just to have a little fun and really kind of put the artist or our guest on the spot. So, it’s called copy/collaborates. And what it is is, we give you three creatives and you have to pick one that you would copy their style or what they do, one that you would love to collaborate with, and then the third one has to go. That’s always the toughest one. What we did today is we’ve found three creatives who also at some point in their life were educators.

Nic: Okay.

James: So, the three creatives that we have for you that you need to pick copy/collaborate, Georgia O’Keeffe, Stephen King, and Sting.

Nic: Okay. And you guys are going to go first?

Candido: Oh, absolutely not.

Nic: Or I go first? Okay. Now, this is hard. So, guess what? About two months ago, three months ago, I was a guest at the Tennessee Arts Academy and in doing so I got to participate in some of their events. They actually had Sting present online to all the educators.

Candido: Wow.

Nic: And he just donated his time and sang a song to us. And he’s so cool.

Candido: Wow.

Nic: I would… I’m going to go, I’m going to copy him because I just love his chill vibe and I don’t always have that, but it is a strive for me. And then I’m going to collaborate with… I like scary movies. I’m going to collaborate with O’Keeffe because I love the nature of her work and so I’d love to work with the nature aspect. I’m a huge fan of that. And then, you said Stephen King, right?

James: Yes.

Candido: Yeah.

Nic: Yep. I’m going to have to erase him, which is a bummer because I do enjoy his work.

James: That’s always the toughest for people.

Nic: Yeah. Yes.

James: Okay.

Candido: All right.

Nic: Now your turn, your turn.

Candido: James, you first.

James: Yeah, I’ll go. So, I would collaborate with Stephen King. Again, I’m a huge horror person. I think I would copy Sting and I think I’m going to steal your answer to it, because he is super cool and chill.

Nic: Yeah.

James: And he just seems like, if I were to be a celebrity, that’s one of the people I would probably want to be.

Nic: Yeah, yeah.

James: I would want to be Sting if I was reincarnated. So then, sadly I would have to get rid of O’Keeffe, so yeah.

Nic: Yeah. Okay.

Candido: Okay. I’m going to copy O’Keeffe but not necessarily in style. I’m so used to producing my work in a social setting. I don’t do the studio isolation artwork. I like to be present with a group of people. I like to do live paintings. But I’ve never taken the time to do full escape where it’s just me alone in isolation, producing.

Nic: Yeah.

Candido: So, I’d like to do that, but not for too long because I want to come back to spending time with my boy.

Nic: Social guy. Okay, yeah.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Candido: I’ll collaborate with King. I’ve recently started getting into horror and I think that I would like to learn more about it. So, in the collaboration process with him, I would be learning. I would see him as that teacher.

James: Like a Lovecraft Country Two?

Candido: I’m fascinated by that show. Oh my gosh. And I’d erase Sting. And I feel like any type, any kind of explanation that comes after that, it just sounds like I’m trying to convince myself that it’s okay.

Nic: Yeah. Oh, I kind of like that we all had very different answers. That’s really fun.

James: Yeah, that happens.

Nic: Yep, yeah. Okay. Well, there we go. We are at the end of our conversation and I had such a great time learning about you guys, and I’m going to encourage everybody to learn more about you as well.

Candido: Thank you for having us.

James: Thank you so much.

Nic: Yeah. That was seriously fun, to have that script flipped on me at the very end and play that little game. Super fun. And I’ve heard them use this on their podcast before and I think it’s a really creative way to find something organic and kind of spontaneous. So, way to go, guys. I enjoyed playing it. I was really stressed out when you told me we were going to maybe do that and I made it through. I’m pretty excited about that.

So, thanks again to James and Candido. I would highly encourage you, as soon as you’re done with this episode, go seek out One Love Art Sessions. We’ll have it, of course, in the podcast notes, but just seek it out on whatever you listen to, as far as podcasts, and take a listen to their few episodes. As they mentioned, they’re kind of just getting started. Like and subscribe, all that good, good news. And I think you’ll be impressed with some of the people that they have on and the conversations that they have. I was very grateful for them being on today. Thank you. From the Art of Education University and Everyday Art Room, thanks a lot for joining us.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.