We had the good fortune of connecting with Julian Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julian, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
That you have to move to a bigger city to be successful or gain traction. This may be different for Miami residents, but I live in Kentucky. A lot of times when people here see an artist making strides in their art career, they say things like “You need to move to Atlanta” or “You should be in LA”. Sometimes artists will go through a slump and start thinking moving away is the magic key to whatever they consider success to be. I’ve been there. But, While this may have been true 20 years ago, i don’t think that’s the case any longer. On the contrary, it’s my belief that if you’re struggling to build a foundation in a place where you know the culture or grew up around the people, you’ll have a much harder time making it happen in a place where you’re a stranger in a larger population. Rent is higher, there’s more Competition, and you quickly discover your talent may not be one of a kind. Moving to a bigger market can be beneficial, but it should be an expansion of something you’ve already built. Thanks to the internet, we have instant access to communities and resources the world over. Make use of that to plant seeds in other places while you tend the garden in your own back yard. Im in Kentucky, yet I’m doing an interview for a miami publication. I’ve not been to Miami in years; this opportunity came from a relationship i built right here at home. Long story short: Fix your own house before you try to move into someone else’s. If that new house doesn’t work, where are you going back to?
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m the writer and creator of the graphic novel series “Black Heart”, a cyber-punk action-thriller that examines what is like to be trapped between the forces of love and ambition. I’ve taken my favorite aspects of eastern and western comics alike, embraced the significant impact of American black culture on the world at large and came with a style all its own. Before i wrote comics, i spent years as a professional rapper. I have the same hustler, “get it out the trunk” mentality i developed while touring and building rap foundations across the country when it comes to comics.
I’m most proud of getting the chance to inspire other black kids like myself. I teach comic courses at local museums and high schools, and nothing is more satisfying that seeing a child’s eyes light up when they realize the aspirations they’ve been told are pipe dreams are not only possible, but probable. As black child that likes anime, you rarely get to see yourself represented in the things you love. When you do, it’s usually a racist caricature. I’m proud to show kids not only are we welcome here, we belong here.
I got to where i am today through consistency and risk taking. Switching from rap music to writing comics was a huge risk, but now my work has been displayed in museums and sells well enough for me to keep doing it. Though the medium may have changed, I’ve consistently focused on creating and releasing quality work. People see that and gravitate toward it. That’s all they really want to see, that you’re working toward something. An investor wouldn’t give money to a company that doesn’t look like it has a future and, for fans, their attention is an investment, it’s not easy at all, it’s quite difficult. So many times I’ve considered giving up, so many times I’ve spent my rent money on my art and ended up sleeping on a couch as i wished I’d just went to vocational school or something. I stayed with it though, and it’s paying off. You’re only a failure if you give up.
When people think of my brand, i want them to think of art that is helping usher in a new generation of revolutionary and compassionate humans dedicated to creating a better…. And that the stories are wildly entertaining 😉
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First, we eat. There’s a myriad of top notch dining in Louisville, we may spend the entire week just gorging ourselves. We’d get kangaroo from Game, Oxtails from Rooftop, wings from Indi’s and Chicken King, sushi from Sapporo, and ice cream from Louisville Cream. We’d check out the Speed Art and Kmac Museums. We’d have a drink at Tap Room where the pours are heavy and the karaoke performances are wonderfully bad, then maybe go dance at Galaxy. We hit the Tim Faulkner Gallery or the Flamingo lounge and catch some of the best local music you’ll come across in any city. During the day we’d go to the Waterfront to ride bikes alongside the river and check out the art walks. We’d Grab coffee and thrift in the Highlands, hang out at Oneness where the people are fly and you can be too if you can afford the shoes, and listen to jazz at Decca’s underground speak easy. We’d go hiking among the giant wooden sculptures at Bernheim Arboretum. Finally, We’d wrap it all up with a night at the Pull Up or Brunch and Beats, two seasonal parties where fun and black culture are exalted. To be frank, my friend may have to stay an extra week, the list goes on.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My long time friend and one stop shop for all things digital art, Levon Kadamyan. Levon’s been an integral part in my artistic pursuits Whether it be music, videography or writing. Not just myself, you’d be hard pressed to find an artist from Kentucky that hasn’t benefited from Levon’s work in some capacity. He’s amazingly talented, and many times has been the extra set of eyes needed to properly see the vision i have for my work. Graphic designers and animators don’t often enough get their flowers, and Levon deserves several bouquets.
Andrea Hardesty Taylor Ryan