An in-depth discussion with one of our founders
So let’s rewind a bit. Take us back to where it all started – you went straight to varsity after school, right? Architecture?
Correct that is. You know, you only (really) learn who you are after you leave High School. I don’t know how people make career decisions in high school (anyway – that might be a bigger discussion for another day). So yes, I went to study architecture, partly because I had done an aptitude test and that is what my results suggested, and, partly because my brother had studied the same thing, so there was a bit of familiarity.
You stuck it out though, even though you weren’t sure that’s what you wanted to do?
I finished the course and actually did pretty well, finishing near the top of the class, which helped me walk straight into a job with a small residential company. It was a lot of fun to begin with but I got pretty frustrated there, rather quickly. I then moved on to a commercial company. It followed the same sort of pattern – even though the timeline was a bit longer… I enjoyed working there for a while and started doing quite well (even became a shareholder and had really good prospects) then started getting frustrated. I looked at the position I had been earmarked for and I looked at the guy in that position who had just had a heart attack and said to myself: ‘Is that what I want to be in 20 years?’ The answer as simple as a, ‘no ways.’
So after a decade in the industry you started working on an exit strategy of sorts? This is where things get interesting, because a lot of people trapped in the proverbial rat race will relate here.
Yeah I knew that I needed a way out of that although it obviously came with a lot of comfort – the company had been around for 50 years and would definitely still be around for another 50. The main root cause of my frustration with the industry was that I couldn’t explore the creative side of things in a way I wanted to. So I decided to start sketching again (not as a means to an exit, just as an outlet, initially). I started very simply, without intention or direction. I had seen some stuff that I liked on Instagram and I thought that it is a really cool way to explore my love for nature and the outdoors and with that combined those two elements. So I started an Instagram project with no real intention of it becoming anything.
You refer to your Instagram as a ‘project,’ it’s the first time we’ve heard it called that. What’s the thinking behind that? Indeed, yes. I called it a project because there was no financial intention to begin with. It’s a bit like if you were building a model aeroplane in your garage and you called it a project.
Instagram was very much the vehicle that launched your artistic career, correct?
I’d say so, yes. Posting stuff was great because you got this instant feedback and it was a really nice way to grow, get feedback, develop to see what people like and didn’t like – there are traps in that as well, but it was just a fantastic platform to share. I have a few friends who like going hiking or whatever and you could show your mom and you can show your buddy what you were drawing but this is like a global exhibition to anyone that wanted to have a look at a particular subject matter.
One thing lead to another and you found yourself with another income and a chance to make ‘the great break?’ I did 100 free sketches (you just had to share my post to receive one) as part seeing how I could grow it (the Instagram handle) and get the momentum rolling. It grew from there and I started getting a lot of enquires from people who wanted commissions, murals and tattoo designs and a lot of apparel companies from North America and Europe. I realised at that point that there was a way to monetise it and I think at that stage I had grown quite a bit as an artist already and I had sort of figured out the direction I wanted to go, even though I was still working full-time.
How did you manage that? I would literally come home from work, put the kids down and then draw. I decided that I could come back from work and either watch Netflix on the couch or I can do something productive with my time. That is like a common theory with the side-gig concept. What was nice was that I was passionate about it and it wasn’t getting old. I can understand if I did it 100 times and then I’m done with it, but it kept on evolving which was great.
That was some two-odd years ago and you’re now a full time artist, you’re ever curious about growth and continually on the look to evolve, right? Yes, it is all morphing into something else (something bigger) now. I guess it started with a need to satisfy more ’reasons’ for what I’m doing. It used to be that I would focus purely on outdoor stuff and on the aesthetic of the image. I then realised that people were seeing a lot more than just a pretty picture and they often related the image to a feeling that they may have had. It meant something to them because it reminded them of an experience they’d had. So I realised the value in the story and the emotions and decided to started to focus a lot more on that.
Now, The Great Break is like a summary of the art and the lifestyle and the way of thinking and the way in which I want to do business and create products. It is a platform to create and collaborate in unique ways.
Written by: Jared Kohn