May 13, 2015

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Internet-Inspired Art by Joshua Rains

What are you working on—on the side?

I make drawings and paintings of an individual’s private life based on information I can glean from the Internet. More often than not I don’t know the person, and I don’t tell them I’m making work based on their life. I would say my work is an exploration in the blur between private lives and public selves, and how that line is mediated by social media and new technology. I’m really intrigued about the reality of contemporary privacy and the exploitation of that dynamic.

For awhile, I was making these large painted diptychs, but I needed a break from that, I think, so I started these graphic-novel-style drawings based on crazy Facebook updates this guy I peripherally know was posting last winter. It was like an amazing, obscene, fanatical soap opera that kept me coming back for more. One day, I was talking about it with a friend, and we were like, you know, outside of the context of Facebook, these would make an amazing story, and I just sort of went from there. It’s been a fun project and a great change from what I normally make.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

About a year ago, I downsized my life significantly. During that process, I finally paid off my school loans, which really freed me up financially. I just didn’t need as much money anymore. The idea of having more expendable income wasn’t as exciting to me as more free time, so after some long discussions with my boss, I went from a full-time employee to part-time. I think I got really lucky at NeigerDesign with having a boss that was both open-minded as well as an artist herself. I think she understood where I was coming from more than I did at the time. Now I work a schedule that varies with the workload at NeigerDesign, and focus my efforts on my art for the rest of time. It’s been an amazing experience so far.

Why have a side project?

I think everyone should have side projects. I think it keeps people mentally fresh. They are good for me, because I need variation. I’m not sure I could do the same thing every single day in any profession. That speaks more to my poor attention span, but I do think everyone needs some kind of variety to achieve happiness. A lot of people disagree with me on this, and I do get the point that stability can ease a lot of anxiety and stress, but I like the excitement of change. In this regard, graphic design is great, because your projects can vary and change pretty significantly, especially at smaller firms. However, I think you need to get away from the computer. Use your hands. That type of thing. I think it keeps us sane.

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Diptych courtesy of Joshua Rains.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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