Our Interview with Joshua Pearson

As we gear up for our Behance Portfolio Review this Saturday, we wanted to take it as an opportunity to interview our guest speaker on some of the things he learned about coming up as a creative and about building his portfolio. From his first job to where he pulls inspiration from, to defining yourself as a creative, please enjoy our interview with Joshua Pearson.

“It’s ok when you first start out to have a lot of stuff, and maybe even stuff in your book that doesn’t quite pertain to what you want to do, but it’s work.”

– Joshua Pearson

Would you mind telling us a bit about what you do?

“Yeah I’m Josh Pearson, Co founder of Pep Rally Inc., a conceptual studio that works anything creative that you could think of, like photography, murals, identity and branding, graphic design, illustration and pretty much anything else that requires creative thinking. Pep Rally has been off the ground for 2 years although we just recently moved into a new workspace that we’re fixing up. Aside from working at Pep Rally Inc, I’m an illustrator and designer and a father, so I’ve got my hands full pretty much all the time.” Joshua went to school at the International Academy of Design and Technology and graduated with a degree in Interior Design and from there he landed his first freelance position at Creative Arts Unlimited.

How did you first land a job at Creative Arts Unlimited? Did you have much work to show them?

Josh landed his first job as a freelancer at Creative Arts Unlimited by striking up a conversation with the creative director while at work at the retail store he worked at in college. After touring the office, Joshua just flat out asked the CD if he could show him his portfolio; “Things were clearly wrapping up and we were heading toward the door. It was like, here’s your moment so I asked. And when I showed him my stuff, no one piece was incredible or anything, I just had a wide range of stuff, I had ink drawing and acrylic paintings and photos, but I had as much work as I could produce in my portfolio. It’s ok when you first start out to have a lot of stuff, and maybe even stuff in your book that doesn’t quite pertain to what you want to do, but it’s work.” From there, he was offered a freelance position where he took on as much work as he could, even if he didn’t know how to do it; “There was absolute terror when they asked me to do something that I didn’t know how to do, because I knew I would say ‘yes, I can do that’ and I just had to do it, I had to figure it out. It was all trial by fire, and that was the mentality that I maintained. Whatever the team needed, I did it.”

Last time we interviewed you, we talked a bit about how Pep Rally Inc. is hard to define sometimes because you all offer a lot. Do you find that this struggle is translated over into your personal work? How easy or hard is it to define what you do?

“It’s maybe the biggest challenge that any creative faces. I’ve known a few artists in my day that are very specialized and unbelievably talented at what they do, but I maybe know two of those people. I think that, in being creative, you inherently want to do a lot of different things. So it’s less about defining yourself as one particular thing and more about figuring out what you’re good at, then pulling in all of your other interests and skills and talents to complement what you do.” We talked about the importance of exploring within your craft, and also in exploring the areas outside of your skills to flourish as a creative; “Jump in and try something that you may not necessarily know how to do, but then compensate for your lack of knowledge with the skills that do already have.”

How often do you add work to your personal portfolio?

As we’ve blogged about before, when you’re first starting something, go for quantity over quality, but when you’ve got enough, that’s when you can really dive into the details. This notion is echoed throughout our talk with Joshua as he talks a lot about producing as much as possible, then taking a step back to make sure that you’re showcasing things that are of better quality. “Everything that you do should be better than the last thing that you did. Of course you have your off days or your off projects but generally, you should be getting better with everything that you do.” He also doesn’t update his portfolio as frequently as he said other people do, but that’s because he uses other platforms to showcase his work; “I kind of use my Instagram as an on going portfolio. I also like keeping things in the grid, in threes. So it forces me to think in a series, like ‘is what I’m doing good enough, or thought out enough to where I can put it into a series of three or more shots?’ Stand alone shots are awesome, but I’m a huge fan of a series. Like alphabet work, it seems daunting because there are 26 pieces, but it forces you to think through all of it.” Joshua is also an advocate for seeing the process and the outcome rather than just the final product; “I always, always ask for sketchbooks, or other mockups that you scrapped, or photos that you canned because it helps me see how you think. It helps me understand your process and that, to me, is just as important as the final piece that you put in your portfolio.” So yes, have your book, have your portfolio with your best work and all of your finals, but document your process somewhere. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, find a social channel that resonates with you where you can show off your process as well as the polished product.

How and where do you pull inspiration from?

Inspiration is often (or always, depending on who you talk to) the start of any creative process and can help define direction when undertaking a project. Joshua told us that of the places to pull and store inspiration, his phone was of utmost importance; “My phone is my greatest tool and it’s what I use to keep everything, somewhat, in line. Between working, and learning new things and being a dad and everything else, I rarely have time to sit down at my laptop, but I always have my phone on me.” He also told us that he uses inspiration, yes to pull from many great creatives, but also to see what’s been done, so he knows how to stay original; “I’ve actually come to use Pinterest a lot, but I use it more for vetting than for anything else. There’s great stuff on there and it’s a great place to show me a swath of creative work that already exists. So it’s like, ‘show me all of the logos with the letter N’ and so then you have all of this great work, but you also know ‘OK, these are cool, but they are all of the things that I can’t do. Or at least not the whole thing.” This is where line becomes hazy between vetting out creative ideas and pulling from inspiration; “So maybe I can’t use all of this letterform, but there’s this one aspect that I think is really cool, and I can sort of adapt it to my styles and the work that I’m doing, and then it becomes something new altogether.” If you’ve not read it, Joshua recommends Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, because that book specifically talks about taking work and inspiration and turning it into something that fits you. Check it out.

Wrapping up

The kind of reoccurring motif that seems to pop up every time we talk to Joshua is his advice to always, always, always do the most amount of work that you can possibly do. Take on different projects, even if you don’t quite know how to do them and break out of what you know how to do. He told us that this is the single most important thing when starting and maintaining a portfolio. Do as much work as you can, add more things to your portfolio, and then, once you’ve got work to choose from, you can be picky about what makes the cut, an what doesn’t.

Of course, it was a pleasure talking with Joshua and we’re really looking forward to having him out this Saturday for our Bechance Portfolio Review where he’ll be out guest speaker. Check out the link HERE for more information. To get to know Joshua a little better, you can check out his site HERE or follow him on Instagram HERE

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