Where are you originally from?
I am originally from White Plains, NY.
What medium did you start working in at the beginning of your artistic career?
I guess that more so depends on what you would consider the beginning, because I’ve been drawing since I was 5, so lol, a pencil and lined paper were my tools of choice… good ol’ graphite!
What made you stick with digital illustrations as your current medium? What do you love about it?
So when I was in 5th grade, without any knowledge, I remember being in class and they just got computers, like real ones with color screens and I remember always wanting to draw on the computer, like something about it fascinated me, although all I was using in the class was a roll mouse, I knew there was something profound about digital illustration. In my head I always said, I want to be in computer graphics (didn’t know a term for it then so that’s how I described the field… turns out I was pretty on point with my assumption). I love the ability to not ruin the medium when you make a mistake, I love how it allows you to be a little imperfect and correct in such a way that you learn from your mistakes, and it makes the process from analog to digital that much more expeditious at the same time by simply eliminating the middleman (no more scanners!).
When did you realize creating art was your calling? How old were you? Was there a piece you created that made you realize this passion?
I realized it was my calling in kindergarten at 5 years old when my mother took me and my two female cousins into the dining room, whipped out a sheet of lined paper and an old school number 2 pencil with the chewed off eraser, and began drawing each of us. I was completely floored and had no idea what kind of wizardry this was. It was a moment, not any specific piece, but just a moment when I realized my hands could be used to create from my imagination. My mother always told me “You can be anything you want and do it better than anyone else” and I lived by that; at that young age, I believed within every fiber of my being, this was what I would do.
Your work seems to focus on women, what draws you to using women as your muse? What about women inspires you?
Well, black women, their strength and perseverance has always caught my attention. The fact that they are the mother of all creation is always an amazing thing to me. Women are also notoriously more refined in appearance in terms of simplicity, but in art we often learn “less is more” and that simplicity especially in the female form is often the most difficult to portray and I love taking on that task. Because of this, I also focus on black women because it seems the world in general demonizes the black woman and goes out of its way to make her feel as if she is the least desirable of all people, when in fact we know it is the complete opposite. I have nothing but beautiful black women in my family and the universe was gracious enough to bless me with an intelligent, artistic, beautiful, and uniquely stoic daughter who I refuse to ever allow to not see her beauty in all things. I have a responsibility to them and my female friends to learn from the things that may have discouraged or lead them astray and to correct it to the best of my ability. My ability is via my art.
What pushes your drive to create?
My drive is really pushed by the desire of two things, 1. To leave my community with a figure to be proud of. Someone determined to continually evolve and be an example of the talent we as a black community possess. 2. My children. I want them to always be able to see the work which I created and the lengths to which I strived as an inspiration and motivation for their continued growth and expression. I need to make them proud, because just as the black woman is targeted, to me, the world would love nothing more than to shine the light on another quote unquote “bad black father”.
What are you trying to communicate through your work?
I am trying to communicate that no matter what you do, you can never erase our excellence. We always survive and through our survival we evolve and overcome. We are eternal.
What does your tagline “A Shaper of Destiny” found in your email signature and bio on your website mean? How and when did you come up with it?
Well, it was time for me to branch off of my company brand 5thGM, where the tag was/is “Never Sacrifice Creativity” and make my brand more personal. When doing so, I realized the amount of control and leverage I have when people offer their brands up to my creative vision. This essentially lets me “Shape your destiny”. It’s also an indicator and reminder to me that I should always take as much pride in the development of a client’s work as I do my own… I am just as much responsible for their visual representation as I am my own when they come to me.
Is there a creative medium you want to pursue but haven’t yet?
I have pretty much tapped all mediums, except there is one I would LOVE to really master but I know it will take time and that’s Oil Painting. Just saying that makes me sweat.
Have you found there to be distinct obstacles being a black male in the art industry?
I wouldn’t say there is an obstacle, but I would say that I have found that I never want to come off abrasive. That’s just me. I am the most humble person you will meet and will offer help in almost any way I can, but I also notice that sometimes some women specifically may not have had the best experiences dealing with men in general in the art world. I try to avoid any type of narcissistic behavior so as never to offend and to provide an environment of comfort, which is why I love talking to and being open with people with just about anything when they approach me about my art.
What advice would you give to artists who want to work in graphic design?
If you want to work in design, quality is always key. Schooling isn’t necessary as the tools are out there and employers are more concerned with what you can produce than what is on paper. Build your portfolio. Learn many tools but have a specialty. Use your specialty to open the door. Brand yourself. Make sure you take the time to know who you are and what you want to be/do. Whether you are working for someone else or for yourself, the key is to build yourself and your aesthetic to a really refined edge. Always create and always update old work with newer quality work. Never ever undervalue yourself either. Know your worth and stick to your guns.
You can view more of Will Focus’ work on his Instagram @theonewillfocus and his online store (click here). Additionally, his work will be featured for the entire month of January at Sehiii Live which takes place every Wednesday at 7pm! Tickets are just $10 at the door and you can enjoy a night of live music, poetry, art and shopping at their pop-up shops. (We’ve went and we promise you will enjoy yourself!) Now go and support this talented man!