The Balancing Act of Being a Multi-Disciplinary Artist
Each month, over on Instagram, I chat one-on-one with talented creative professionals across various industries and communities to engage in uplifting conversations around creativity, entrepreneurship, mental health, and how we can show up in our work as our authentic selves.
Today I want to share highlights from my conversation with the phenomenal Laci Jordan.
Laci is a multidisciplinary designer, illustrator, creative Director and the true definition of a modern-day renaissance woman. Laci’s work concentrates on color, pop culture, the representation of marginalized people and the intersectionality of these spheres. As a result, throughout the course of her career, her art has been commissioned by brands such as Bentley, Ben & Jerry’s, Disney, Google, Jordan Brand, Motown Records, Nike, Refinery29, REI, Spotify, Sweetgreen, Ulta, United Airlines, and many more.
I first came across Laci’s work in 2020 when I was starting my own art journey. At the time I worked in a newsroom and was one of the only Black designers in my company. I was starting to wonder… Where are all the Black designers, artists and animators?! So you can imagine how excited I was when I stumbled across Laci Jordan who is not only a Black woman digital artist but is also an Alabama native just like me!
Most of all, I was impressed that Laci isn’t afraid to lift as she climbs. She’s constantly shouting out other people and rooting for other Black people. She has a really deep love for Black culture and more importantly Black people. I’m so grateful for all she contributes to the creative community.
During our talk, we discussed being a multidisciplinary creative, building community around your work, and expanding your horizons as an artist.
Lo Harris: Share a bit about yourself, your work and how you got started.
Laci Jordan: I’m a multidisciplinary artist. I live in LA but I'm from Huntsville, Alabama and I’m very much still a Southern girl.
I got into art when I was in college but I actually started off studying criminal justice because I’m from a Black family and they were like, “Girl, go to school for something that’s going to make some money.” I thought I was going to be an entertainment lawyer but I wasn’t necessarily happy with that.
I was exploring different things and ended up taking a design course. And – long story short – from that one class I just decided to bet on it and try it.
I always say I know that it was God that started me that way because it was literally no type of logic to go from studying criminal justice and interning with the FBI then all of a sudden started designing and then became a designer. None of that makes sense. I feel like it was God that was like, “OK, girl, I need you to pivot into your creativity.”
LH: Can you talk a little bit about your skill set and how you've really come to embrace the multidisciplinary approach?
LJ: I do digital art. I can traditionally draw. I can paint. ButI think it's also about the output in which I use my creativity. So I do anything from like murals to products. And I think in the space that I'm in now is taking that and moving into the next level. What does my skill set look like in photography? What does it look like in fashion? So that's sort of why I consider myself a multidisciplinary artist.
From the start of my creative career, I was never satisfied with doing one thing. At some point, I just couldn't fight the urge of wanting to do more. Once I realized that I was always going to be that person, I just started embracing it and creating.
I do think that there are points in life where you do have to focus more on a certain thing. I don't think that's all you have to do, but you do have to build certain skill sets in certain things thoroughly so you can actually be good at it. So now I give myself a lot of grace. There’s all this stuff that I want to do but I’m realizing that I can't do it all at the same time.
I've been talking to a lot with friends and actually on social media too about pivoting. I started out doing graphic design and got good at that, then started doing web design and got good at that then moved away to doing illustration for digital, got good at that, then started moving more into open spaces, then moving into product. It’s just allowing myself to pivot and not feeling guilty about it.
LH: Do you have any other advice for aspiring multi-hyphenates and how they can strategically approach balancing their multiple skills successfully?
LJ: Oh, that's a hard one because I feel like I'm barely balancing anything. But I would say give yourself grace. Remember that you have time and find projects that will allow you to explore multiple skill sets at once. The other day was like learning Premiere Pro. I have basic video editing skills but I have an idea for something and I want to execute it with my own material.
Even if I don't have a career in video editing, because that's not what I want to do, but I want to know how certain things need to look and I do know that at some point in my life I'm going to be hiring people to shoot things and edit, and I need the education to be like, “Yo set the keyframes this way.”
Give yourself time to play. Teach yourself and don't be afraid to figure things out.
LH: Can you recall a project where you were able to transform it into a new opportunity based on the intersections of your interests?
LJ: I did a 30-day challenge back in 2017. I was drawing shit in planes, trains, and automobiles. I was at a wedding doing an illustration once. I'm competitive with myself real bad. So once I started it, I couldn’t stop. Every day I would create something and post it.
It was more about the strategy behind it. I would draw sneakers because I wanted to work with a sneaker company. I would do things that had to do with music because one day I want to design a tour or I want to do stage design.
Those decisions led me to the job that gave me the money to quit my full-time job, which is Jordan Brand. So it was like me drawing all those damn pictures of Jordan 1s led to me working with the Jordan Brand which led to me quitting my job.
That's something that I'm going back to now. What are the things that I want to do in the future and how can I execute those projects now so I can get paid for them later?
LH: Could you tell us a bit more about the people who have been in your corner along the way? Who makes up Team Laci?
I had the experience of sending a lot of cold emails trying to get answers, trying to get mentors and, with the exception of maybe, like, one person, never got a response. That's why I am so much like an open book when it comes to art and design and the things that I have learned. I'm literally figuring out this shit day by day. I want to share the information because I don't want somebody else that looks like me to have to struggle as much.
But to answer the question, to be honest, the people who have helped me the most are my family and friends and people I've met in my community.
My mom. Everybody knows that Rosemary – that’s my girl. She believes in me way more than I believe in myself.
My friends. I'm blessed to have an amazing tribe of friends who always believe in me, they root for me, they love me.
And then community. I think from showing up very authentically and really just being myself I've gathered this group of people – even online, who don't even know me like that – who say my name in the rooms. And it happens a lot. I've never pitched for a project and I don't have an agent.
LH: Do you have any other words of wisdom for artists who are interested in building or even joining existing creative communities in the design or illustration industries?
LJ: Look within your community and dig into that first. Investigate the things that you want and try to tap into whatever that is. I go back to that 30-Day Challenge. I didn't have any connects outside of social media, but I was just consistent. And I think that's one of the harder parts that people don't want to hear is that it’s literally no way around hard work.
Don't be discouraged if big platforms or agencies aren't giving you the communication that you want. Just know that you have the power within yourself to get stuff done.
And another piece is to pitch yourself. If I want a product in target and it doesn't come to me I'll go to it.
Do research in these companies because I think a lot of stuff looks flashy, and it just looks flashy. It's nothing more than that. And be in tune with your long-term goals. If you're an illustrator, but you want to pivot to motion then you need to be able to find an agency that will support that transition.
LH: Could you define what it might look like to pivot in your career and why it will be beneficial to artists?
First thing that comes to mind is honoring yourself and the interests that you have, and not being afraid to explore that, to figure out what that means in depth.
I think it's something that pushes your creativity. And it also just puts you in a different category. And when I look at people who I see as the greats, I look at how they pivot their careers. I look at how they change their style. Beyonce. Rihanna, Issa. To be able to put your roots in something and then springboard that to something else.
I do want to make a note that if you just want to do one thing then do it because I do think people feel a lot of pressure to be all these things.
LH: You talked about launching your own products. What's propelling you in that direction?
With products, I think that's a way to sort of shape my universe in a way that I want to. Let's say I design a couch right. Then I can conceptually come up with a campaign for this couch which puts me into telling stories. I can hire the homies to shoot it. I could do a little short film about my couch. I can do everything about my couch that I want to do. I'm kind of looking at products as a vehicle to get to other stuff.
LH: Outside of creating, what's bringing you joy?
LJ: Taking photos has brought me a lot of joy. Collaborating with friends. Tapping into different forms of creativity. I just did a short film with a friend. That has been very like inspiring for me to just do things that I normally don't do. Just living my life.
I've been on a break and during that break I’ve been giving myself space for decorating my apartment, being outside in nature. I go to parks a lot. I’m eating a lot of good food. I’ve been working out to get my mind and body right. And just being present.