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Healthy Creative Living - Interview with Paz

I've decided to conduct a series of interviews with some creative friends in order to shed more light on the topic of what it means to live a healthy creative life. My hope is that it will become a form of worker solidarity that helps creatives set firm boundaries around their time, safety, and long-term health.


For this post I interviewed Paz! I love his fun, colorful murals, and endless creativity! Here he is to tell you about himself.


"My name is Paz, my pronouns are he/him, and I’m a 24-year-old artist from Seattle. I’m most well known for my murals all over White Center, but I also make zines, paint canvases, code things & make whatever I think would be fun to make. You can check out more of my art at Instagram.com/pazuzu810 & support what I do at

patreon.com/pazuzu810 !"




Let's get to the interview! The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.


Suzi

Do you consider your creative work full-time, part-time, a hobby, or do you define it in another way?


Paz

It's just what I do. I guess full-time. I don't want to get a full-time job working retail, or just at a design firm or something. I've just always wanted to do art full time. And after a while, I realized I was making enough money that -you know- I could pay rent every month and just sustain myself.


You know, some months I don't make as much as I did the previous month, but I had some savings from when I made a lot more on one mural than another month. So I'll just dip into that.


Suzi

Can you tell me what a typical day can look like for you? Do you have a routine or do you kind of just take things day by day?


Paz

Lately, I've been kind of taking things day by day. I want to start waking up earlier lately. I've just been waking up at like 11 o'clock and I've been on a little bit of a January/February slump. You know, cause it's after the holidays. Some work kind of dries up during that time. But it gets a lot busier during the summer months.


I don't really have much of a routine. I try to get at least a painting a day done every day if I can. Today when I woke up, I went by my house and I saw my dog and I ran her out. And while I was walking her, I was just thinking of some ideas for creative projects. And after I was done walking her I drove around White Center. And I just scoped out a bunch of windows and businesses that are covered with plywood that I wanted to paint some murals on and went inside of some businesses and I talked to people and I tried to get contacts to see about painting new murals. Because I guess a big part of making a living as an artist is just reaching out and talking to people and staying in touch with people and getting yourself out there.


I've been in a bit of a February slump recently, just cause people don't get jobs as much during February. So I'm going to use this time to do stuff that I just think is creative and weird and fun for me. And I'm also going to use this time to try to get more murals on walls. So I get my art out there and my name out there and people know who I am. And generally, if you start painting them people see it, and work just comes after.


Suzi

Right. I think that's really cool that you have so many different streams of income and you're out there actively asking for jobs. You're not waiting for jobs to come to you.


Do you kind of have an idea of how many hours you spend a week and what amount of hours is safe for you to do?


Paz

I'd say, you know, if I do a painting a day, that's at least like maybe two hours a day or something minimum. And so. Doing the math. It's hard to say how many hours a week? Cause when you're just doing art as your sole means of making money - It's what you love to do. So, when you're done painting a picture of someone's poodle or something, you’re going to do, you know, something that you want to paint for yourself. It's just kind of all-encompassing. And so it's really easy to get yourself lost in making stuff. Some days it feels like it just never stops. And other days I'll just be getting groceries and doing other stuff. And it feels like I'm not doing much of anything. So, I guess it's hard to really define an hour count. It's just an always-on thing. You just kind of become it.


Suzi

Yeah, it's just your life.

Let's talk about the mental health side of creative work. Please share as much or as little as you like about your struggles or successes with maintaining your mental health in regard to your creative practice.


Paz

I guess sometimes it's hard to maintain your mental health if you're doing art full-time because it's not like another job where you're working around people a lot. A lot of it - you're just on your own and it's finding jobs on your own. And some months you're making less, some months you're making more. And it feels unpredictable and that can be scary sometimes. And the other thing that can drain on you is it can be a lonely thing to do as well. Because there aren't a lot of people out there in the world that are just doing art full-time. A lot of them have normal nine to five jobs. And after work, they'll go out and hang out. And at work, they'll socialize. If you're just in your house painting on your own, you don't socialize a lot. You can get kind of isolated and kind of just get stuck inside by yourself. And from there it's easy to get sad. At least once a week I see my boyfriend for a while on the weekends.


Lately, I've been having some high school kids that'll come over and help me. Just do some painting things and help me fold zines. And get products ready and stuff like that. And that's the way I've been kind of getting out and socializing. And, it's getting out of my head too. A really good way to feel better mentally is to make a routine for yourself or make a list of goals you have. And trying to figure out how you're going to stay afloat.

Yeah. A long time ago, when I was in art school - it was a pretty dark place for me.


At the time, I didn't really know what I was doing and I was somewhere I felt like I should be learning about art. But I wasn't learning as much about art as I wanted to. And I wanted to be going out and painting a lot more, but I wasn't painting. And so I was feeling sad. And the sadder I felt the less I painted. And if you start letting yourself get real depressed or feel sad it’s kind of just a downward spiral more and more. So part of why I try to paint every day is not only because it's good for making money and my career and staying in practice, but also because it helps me feel better every day. And if I don't, I'll just feel bad about myself. And so it's kind of like therapy on its own.


Suzi

Have you ever experienced burnout?


Paz

There are times when I'll get sick of what I'm doing or when I'm painting. For a while, I was painting like a lot of cute rabbits. All the time. Cause they sold pretty well and I just kinda got sick of it. You can only paint so many bunnies before you're like, I don't think this is great. But, the nice thing about being your own boss and being an artist is you can change up what you're doing. And if you have money stored in savings from other jobs that you've done, then you can kind of just coast off that for a little while, while you do whatever you want.


And sometimes you'll be surprised because you'll paint something that you just want to paint for yourself. You don't expect people to like it. And you find out a whole bunch of people really like it, and that's the piece that sells. In October, I've been doing the same thing for the past two years where I'll just work for a month on making a little haunted house, and then on Halloween and for two days leading up to it, I'll have it on display somewhere. And for that month I really wasn't even trying to get any jobs or like mural gigs or pet portraits. I was just working on the haunted house then in the final, if I ever did feel burned out, I would just go and get a job that I know would pay well, like painting someone's pet.


Suzi

Yeah. So working on stuff that brings you joy rather than- you know- necessarily what’s going to be the best-paid thing.


Paz

Yeah, well, that's the kind of tricky thing of making a living art with art too. Because it all brings you joy, but it's also all work. So, it's kind of scary sometimes. Because you love it, but you also get tired of it sometimes too. So, it's just about, doing things differently than you normally do. Just getting in the habit of trying different things. There're a lot of weeks where I just go and I just drive my car to some random place in Washington. And find an abandoned building and paint on it. And have fun and explore it. And so, I try to live an interesting life and go places too. And getting out and traveling and driving around. That helps keep you from feeling burnout because you're not just sitting inside a room all day.


Suzi

How do you discern whether you should push through a feeling of creative fatigue or if you should just take a break?


Paz

If you're making art for a living, you can't really have too many days where like, oh, I'm tired of it. You got to paint. You got to make your money. You've got to keep on doing it. So a lot of the time you just got to push through. And a lot of time I'll sit in front of a canvas and I'll just be like, I don't want to paint. I don't even know what I'm going to paint, But I'll just start. I'll just uncap a paint pen and start drawing a circle. And then I’ll start having fun with it. And it just kind of comes through and just happens naturally. And so, if I'm feeling burnout or if I have what people call artists block I just sit down and I just start drawing something. And eventually, that something turns into something you like or just looks like crap. But whatever it is, you made something.


Suzi

So you kind of touched on this earlier of your life being your work, but, do you want to expound at all about what a work-life balance looks like?


Paz

A little while ago. I saw the movie whiplash.

It's about this dude who basically goes to this piano class and he's all excited. And the teacher is just kind of this crazy nut who like yells at him and he's like, oh, you got to play better. You suck. And the dude works in the studio until his hands are bleeding, playing the drums. And at one point in the movie, he meets this girl and he loves her. But then he's playing the drum so much he's like, oh, this is a distraction. Then he breaks up with his girlfriend. And then he's kind of bummed out, but he just goes all-in on playing the drums. And at the end of the movie, he's playing drums well, but there's a little bit of a bittersweetness to it because it's like, he might just live a lonely life because he's just devoted himself to that.


And so it's like, you could go all in and just devote yourself to art. But you're not just a painting. You're a person. So, I guess, you know, I always try to take time just to do things I love or see people that I like. And usually, if I'm hanging out with people, I'm not painting. So that's a good way just to get away from constantly doing stuff. And so I guess just getting out of my house. And seeing people, or traveling. And just making a routine of just getting out of my house or seeing people, I guess that's the best way. I keep a work-life balance just to at least a few times a week just get out and see someone.


Suzi

Has your creative work ever caused you injury?


Paz

One time I was doing a whole bunch of fills with a can of Rustoleum (spraypaint), and I kinda got this feeling in my finger where it got all numb and tingly. Because on those cans, you really have to apply a lot of pressure. I've just been careful to use a spray paint adapter when I use those cans. So I don't put excessive pressure on my fingers or anything.


I guess in general, you just kind of figure out what's safe and what's not. And if you're doing a big mural and you feel yourself getting tired, you got to know how to pace yourself because. I guess when doing public art, sometimes I think of it as kind of like being an athlete. It's kind of funny cause I'm kind of a chubby guy. I'm not really in great physical shape, but the muscles in my body that do that stuff have the muscle memory for it. When you get in the zone, you're just there and you just kind of do it until it's done. And so you got to know how to physically pace yourself. And if I'm doing a big mural I always try to make sure to wear a respirator mask too. That way I don't damage my lungs.


A while ago I had a bit of a pain in my body. I went to a doctor and the doctor is like, “okay, you have an infection, you should take these antibiotics”. And I was on these antibiotics for a while. And they messed my body up and for a few months there it was kind of hard for me to walk and for a little bit, I had to use a cane and I wasn't really sure if I'd ever be able to do mural work again. Or just anything like that. And it was just hard to use my arms and stuff. And for a while, I wasn't able to get out and paint buildings or do what I normally did. And that could be like a scary thing or a career-ending thing. And I didn’t know if I would be able to do murals again. But I was still able to pay rent during the months where I was dealing with that just by doing pet portraits and custom canvases. And there were some days when my arm would hurt and I wasn't able to finish a painting. So I just had to use a hot pad or a wrist brace or something. And eventually, I took vitamins and just took it slow and my legs eventually came back to normal and my body recovered. But for a while, I wasn't able to do what I mainly creatively did. But I was still able to keep myself afloat by diversifying. And finding a different avenue to support myself. While still doing what I loved in a way that didn't really hurt my body.


Suzi

Oh, wow. That. That sounds terrifying. I'm so glad you were able to recover from that!


Paz

Yeah, me too. It was scary. It was a rare reaction side effect to a medication thing. And I haven't talked about it to a lot of people. I think going through it was an important thing for me. And now that I’ve recovered, I've been just going all over the place, seeing about painting new things. I'm really happy that I am able to paint again. And I want to not take it for granted, you know, and just make stuff.


Suzi

What is your favorite thing about being a creative?


Paz

Honestly, this might sound kind of dark but back when I was in middle school and high school, there's like all this career-related talk. Teachers would ask, “What do you want to do for a living when you grow up?” And I never really thought about it that much because I was just like, I want to just make art for a living or I just want to…honestly, I just would want to kill myself. I was very angsty as a teenager. But, I went to this cool high school and it was an internship-based high school. And I worked with this dude who did art for a living Who showed me - yeah, you can do that for a living. So even though it might not be the most regular thing to do for a living…it might not be one that has a normal social life or a stable income, but it is what makes me the happiest. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else because even though it is scary, it's what makes me feel good. And get in your local community and say hi to people and branch out. And they’ll be there for you when you need someone to talk to and there'll be there for you when you need a job or just someone to hang out with. Or paint with. And the best resource is just the people around you. Because they're always there.


Suzi

Yeah. An artistic life doesn't have to be a solitary one.


Paz

Yeah, it doesn’t. And some people make that mistake. But I'm making a living as an artist and it's far less solitary than people probably would want it to be. Because you really do have to talk to people and network and stay engaged.


Thanks again to Paz for being willing to be part of this project! Be sure to follow him and all the cool projects he does on Instagram!




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