Visiting Artists: Lizzie and Isaiah, Dynamic Duo

When I first began thinking about a visiting artist series, Lizzie and Isaiah were some of the first people I thought of. Mostly because I am fascinated by their dynamic and completely in awe of how creative and – from my view way over here on the couch – very successful at what they do and making what they are good at/what they love work for them (vs being a slave to the industry. Oh ennui!). What I see in them is a strength few couples have – the ability to feed each other creatively and in doing so make each other better artists (and better people, as all good relationships do). In my pretend world I would like Kamel and I to function like these two. But I don’t think it will ever be just so.

Lizzie and Isaiah share their adventures, stories, and amazing work over at Love Your Way (which is on the verge of being renamed to BadSmith). And sometimes I have to squint one eye when reading over there because of how good it is. If I look at it sideways sometimes I can prevent the the self-doubt-by-comparison that seeps in. But usually it’s no use. They are that good. Damn them.

I always start off this project asking them how they define themselves as artist. I love this question because it is tricky for everyone, including me. It’s like once you say it you better have proof! I worry it comes off arrogant, like it’s a title only other people are allowed to assign to you. But really, I think it’s important to claim it. So hearing how other artists are traversing the rocky mountains of being an Artist with a capital A seems like insight into a very personal struggle.

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Lizzie and Isaiah say:

We’ve had a tough go of defining ourselves. That’s basically what our whole blog is about – finding our way and figuring out what we want to be “when we grow up.” Isaiah has always wanted to be a graphic designer and fine artist, so I would say he is the one constant and the only artist of the two of us at all. I wouldn’t call myself an artist, exactly. (Lauren edit: Yes you are.)

I will say that we’ve redefined figuring out “what we want to be” for ourselves to include many things and it’s an idea that remains very malleable for us because of it. We’ve just narrowed it down to this: whatever you can create from scratch, that’s what you should do. When I do design work, it’s all very play-doughy. I can move things around, play with typography and come up with new ideas to say old things, but Isaiah – Isaiah can create from scratch something new and awe-worthy. He can paint a blank canvas to be something extraordinary while I never ventured from paint-by-numbers. Words are the thing I can give life to. It’s hard when your “art” isn’t visual, per se, to define yourself as an artist, though.

Lizzie: I have a tough time accepting the descriptors and identifiers that go along with “artist.” I don’t often feel creative. I don’t feel unique. But the things you do that seem so simple can seem inspiring to others, it seems. I’m also a learning machine, so I have taught myself a lot of things that are considered creative – but I don’t know that I have the visual-artist-vein like Isaiah does. I don’t think a lot of value is given to words unless they’re bound up in a tangible book with a New York Times sticker on the front. Otherwise, they often go unnoticed and undervalued.

Isaiah: I believe the term “artist” is relative. Sometimes, I feel like I’m on to something unique – but more often, I find that what I’m working on is a reproduction of something I have filed away in the back of my memory at some point. But that’s the aim – to be original and unique. We’re taught in school and reminded every day that nothing is new anymore. Everything is recycled and re-imagined. So I suppose the goal is to be the best reimanigator that exists.

Lizzie: I work full-time in social media marketing and graphic design so I suppose the title “artist” fits in on nights/weekends best. I’ve been feeling the creep, however, into my day-to-day and the stories of people quitting their full-time jobs to pursue their creative passions without knowing what comes next are now narrated in my head by Morgan Freeman – so my mental emphasis every day is on finding a legitimate, sustainable opportunity to quit our jobs and work in our relative creative fields – together – because that’s how we work best.

Too often, I hear creative professionals telling their story of quitting their day-job, making a go of their creative passion as a career without telling the honest-to-God truth of the story. A lot of those people have spouses with full-time jobs, nest eggs they’ve built after working for years, book deals in place or no-rent situations where they live with their folks or friends. Our goal is always to strive for autonomy and to make careers out of working for ourselves. But I’ll be honest in telling you it doesn’t look like it will happen full-time for quite a while and I won’t bullshit you into thinking it’s something that comes naturally to anyone or happens overnight for anyone either. If someone’s story has seemed like our dream story but a little too good to be true, we usually assume it is and there’s some other stream of revenue coming in that they’re not telling anyone about for whatever reason.

We’re in the working-to-save-up-a-nest-egg phase of the plan – but we work toward it every day we go into work and school and keep it in mind with us while we’re ass-deep in spreadsheets and bullshit client requests and low-ball salary offers. 

***

Hi! Lauren again! I wanted to put my two cents in while we’re on the topic. I often roll around, fitfully, in bed at night wondering how people do it. As much as I wrote about how the shitty economy has a bunch of college graduates – and grad school graduates – scrambling for any kind of employment, there are a bunch of other people who are rockin’ their career, jumping on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and generally blowing my mind because I don’t understand how they do it! And what am I doing wrong? How did I not see so-and-so’s crazy opportunity with all my trolling the internets? When am I going to catch a freaking break? How is it possible that people run off and live in the Europes for a summer and come back all vickychristinabarcelona-ed? And yes, I was able to quit my temp job because of Kamel and finance fenangling, but things definitely haven’t turned out like I thought they would. It’s a learning process. And I guess there will always be those people who just get things easier than the rest of us. And they are talented and worthy and I will curse them till my dying day (not really), but damn. Daaaamn.

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Isaiah: We’re both media junkies. Whether it is movies or TV shows, books or magazines – we’re always trying to absorb content, hoping that the best parts that stick to us somehow get filtered into our design and artistry in general. We have a lot of conversations because we work together – in design, writing, we do just about everything together – so we balance those conversations and inspirations, filtering them through our individual styles and mashing them up together to make something different and, hopefully, unique. Basically, we move toward the identity of artists together, always trying to understand and working honestly, without quick-result, unsatisfying schemes, toward our goal of using our creativity to sustain us.

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I asked Lizzie and Isaiah about there artistic space and I am thrilled! THRILLED! That they included photos. Isaiah’s desk looks like the perfect man work space. Ha. And Lizzie’s looks like it popped out of an anthropologie catalog. You’re going to die. I want that bench. That desk. The little fan. My god, woman. I might actually have to fight you for it. Expect a duel request in your inbox post haste.

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We have just reorganized our place to better facilitate creativity. I’ve always thought pretty work spaces were for creative women with rich husbands who were more or less playing house with their hobbies. But now I see that a creative looking workspace can make you feel inspired to get to work every day.

Isaiah’s space is a techie, guy-geek-fest. He has the iMac, fantastic headphones, metal retro toys and a hand-form to inspire him in his space. He also has an easel, hospital cart and chalkboard for his art space.

My space is a little more organic and natural feeling to me with space to write. Isaiah and I each put our spaces together based on what works best for us and we each have a tall chalkboard on wheels in our respective man/woman caves to keep track of to-dos and ideas we don’t want to forget.

visiting-artist

But creativity haunts us sometimes out of sleep and regular lives. We each carry notebooks with us every day to jot down jokes we think are funny for Isaiah’s stand-up routine, (Lauren edit: Stand up routine?! Be still my heart.) business ideas that might be our “next big thing,” and sketches for designs we want to work on together. Humor is tied to everything we do, so whether we’re dealing with a difficult client or just trying to come up with something else to keep us busy, making us laugh is the one criteria for any new project or schpeal we take on.

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I asked Lizzie and Isaiah about how they relate to the world, how they interact with people who don’t create on the daily, I asked them if they feel a disconnect and they replied:

We tend to think of the world with a tad more cynicism and humor than a lot of the people I know. We never cry in movies, we hardly get wrapped up in things that don’t directly involve us, mostly because we find humor and BS in what some find the most sincere moments. We’re both extremely social, but when we do have trouble connecting with people, it’s typically because we now live in Texas and we’re used to a Chicago kind of person. The problem we have connecting with people sometimes is that they just don’t “get it.” They don’t follow with sarcasm or they can’t keep up or they aren’t interested in talking about anything more than the weather – which is fine. But I don’t think the occasional disconnect comes from being “too creative,” ha! Actually, I tend to despiiiiise people like that who are all, “They’re too suburban…I don’t even own a TV.”

When we were first starting out, people told us we shouldn’t take on working together. They told us we would want to kill each other after the first year. They said we couldn’t have a healthy relationship if we spent that much time together. We keep those thoughts in our head as well, mainly to reminisce on how silly people sound when they’re on soap boxes, but also to keep in mind if that’s ever becoming our reality…we’re happy to say, so far so good. Each day gets better while we learn to work together.

If you, or someone you know would like to be featured here, and undergo my rigorous questioning (it’s fun! no, really it is!), please email me at betterinrealife at gmail dot com.

18 thoughts on “Visiting Artists: Lizzie and Isaiah, Dynamic Duo”

  1. Love this! Love hearing all about Lizzie & Isaiah and their life as creatives. As someone who works full time with her husband and has done so for several years now, I can say with confidence that it can be done. Don’t worry about what other people say. Not everyone is cut out for working side by side with their spouse, but if you approach life with humor, can bounce back easily from sticky situations and at the end of the day remember that its you two that matter most then you will work together splendidly. Sure its a pain in the butt sometimes, but so is working for someone else or in a company with a bunch of people you may not like. At least you’re working with someone you enjoy and hey… there’s always the added bonus of lunch time nookie! haha. Nothing like solving an argument with some lovin’.

    I love that they already have separate work spaces that inspire each of them as individuals. That is so key. We don’t have it yet due to space constraints, but we are moving and will soon. We always say we need an office divorce. Brad and I work very differently and so having our own little place will help us both maximize our potential. Oh and about chasing the dream and feeling cheated when other people’s success doesn’t seem genuine… don’t sweat it. There are those people out there, but then there are plenty who have done it all on their own the old fashioned “work your ass off” kind of way. Years ago, Brad and I phased out my day job first, then as the ball got rolling he quit too and we’ve both been full time now for about 2 years. Sure we don’t live in a mansion on the beach, but we have a great life and we have the freedom that comes from us both setting our own schedule. So keep your eyes on the prize (yes I’m full of cheese) and you’ll make it happen. Don’t let anyone sway you. Best advice is just ignore those peeps that make it seem too good to be true and do things your way. Its the only way to find real success.

    Lizzie & Isiaiah are awesome and I was so happy to read this interview with them. Thanks for sharing Lauren! (and letting me leave such a ridiculously long comment.)

    1. Thanks, Melanie! So glad to hear from someone who does it! I wanted to be a freak and send you 100 emails about how that works after your feature on the blog, but, you know….I didn’t want to be a freak. Ha.

      Thanks again 🙂

  2. All I can say is “OOH look at the pretty office” and that they are amazingly talented. I am working with them on baby announcements now and they are looking so fabulous.

        1. You should make “I just had really rockin’ married sex” announcements. And then people could hand them out at work or mail them to friends/family. Just in case they were concerned.

    1. Awww thanks Meghan! Funny story about the workspaces…we’re like…broke…and those are almost-throw-aways from my family’s antique business I just happened to snatch for a serious discount that were hiding in someone’s basement. They happen to go together. We’re no interior decorators, ha.

  3. Really great profile, Lauren. The part about being a creative bad-ass who quits the day job especially struck a cord. It is HARD to get to that point (I mean, I assume it is–I haven’t achieved it yet!) and it’s so admirable that Lizzie and Isaiah are working towards that. She’s right…you gotta work towards it everyday.

    Also–I WANT LIZZIE’S WORKSPACE. It’s awesome.

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