James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.


The balancing act of art and design


When I started college in 2007, I hated the time it took to learn something new. I was green and eager, wanting to know everything without putting the work in. I looked up to all the young figures in the design world desiring everything: having freelance clients, a full time job I enjoy, and making great things for great people. That would be the life for me.

Flash forward to 2013. I now have freelance clients and a full time job I enjoy. I’m everywhere I wanted to be when I started school. Life should be perfect right, isn’t this what we all hope for when we start college, that feeling that everything works out the way it should?

Wrong. I’m not everywhere I want to be. There’s still an itch that needs to be scratched. Call me an entitled millennial, someone who’s never satisfied, I really don’t care. There’s still something more out there.

Back in those days of college, there was also another study that I took up with design, studio art practices. I loved it so much, I majored in both design and art. For years, I’ve been on a balancing act, compartmentalizing the two. Design is what I made for others and to pay rent, art is where my passions spilled onto whatever medium and I would not expect to make a living from it. Over the past year, I’ve noticed my art take a backseat thanks to moving out of my hometown and deciding to get married in the next year. My design life has flourished: new friends, AIGA events, learning web and mobile design, new career paths, and amazing freelance clients. However, my art has been huddled in the corner like the former fourth member of Destiny’s Child. (You didn’t know there were four? Don’t worry, a lot of people didn’t.)

"Art doesn’t pay the bills, art is just a hobby, art is something you do for fun." I’ve heard all these things when people ask what I do. Design is definitely seen as the sexier position with speaking conferences, people willing to fund it, job security, and people waiting for you to make the next app that changes the world. Art has always been seen on the fringes, with performance artists seen as weirdos and installation art seen as just “taking up space without purpose" (which I’ve actually heard directly from a person who will not be named).

Screw that. I want it all and I want more. A balance of art and design that is both fulfilling, powerful and sustainable, also known as making a living from it. I love making things for people and I love making things that start a conversation. I’m currently in an artist residency at Chicago Aritsts Coalition which is helping tremendously but I need more. There’s so many things going on in the world that it’s time for a little disruption, and it will take much more than good looking typography to achieve.

Design, I love you but you are going to have to share the spotlight with Art for a while. I hope you two can get along. If not, I’ll make sure you will.

(above graphic, My Balancing Act by James T. Green)


James T. Green