Eleazar Ruiz
Eleazar Ruiz. Graphic Designer Based in Seattle, WA.


4 Ways to Discover Who You Are as an Artist

 Photography by Travis Tuttle

Photography by Travis Tuttle


I don't know about you, but I have spent the majority of my design career trying to speak like other designers speak, conduct business how others conduct business, blog how others blog, create the same type of work that others create, and flow with the design trends. Lately, I have been asking myself, "Do people know me for who I really am? Or do they only see who I'm pretending to be?" The honest answer was a difficult self-realization.

There is certainly nothing wrong with mimicking others as you learn the trade. Everyone has (and needs) teachers and role models who help shape them. The problem comes when you realize that you have essentially lost what makes you unique during the process.

In his book "Steal Like an Artist," Austin Kleon says,

What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.


Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.

Firstly, allow me to give you permission to copy because I agree with Austin Kleon. However, I also want focus on the idea of being yourself (and creating from that space). This is what I'm personally wading through right now, and I'm hopeful it might prove helpful to you as well.

No Two People Are the Same

You were uniquely crafted, and I don't mean the whole "you are a snowflake" cliche. I mean you were already created authentically. There is only ONE of you, thus there is something that only you can add to this world. Yes, our ideas are a mashup and collection of other ideas, but there are factors which when experienced together (by one individual person) create an entirely unique point of view, perspective, and creative eye: our background, gender, ethnicity, childhood, faith, etc.

Don't Be Afraid to Be Yourself

I have always had certain fears. Like most people, I care about what people think so there are some things (like my faith) about which I'm not overly vocal because I'm afraid that I won't be accepted in the design community. I'm not vocal about my ethnicity, or the fact that I speak two languages, or that I grew up in a third world country. It took me a while to realize that those very same things that I was "hiding" are the things that allow me to contribute something totally unique to society.

Being somebody else doesn’t serve anybody else.

When the Journey Begins

When you realize that popularity is superficial and that it ultimately fails to serve us and those around us, then and only then will your discovery journey truly begin. Embrace your uniqueness. Don't conform. Don't fit in. The world misses out on so much when we do.

It's Right There

Don't go elsewhere to find originality, you are already authentic.

Believe me, I'm not attempting to write a self-help kind of post. I hate fluff. But I also believe that we were created to behave as who and what we are, and we are all different.

Practical Tips

  1. Share your personal stories and how you and your craft have been shaped by your life circumstances and experiences.
  2. Ask others what your three strongest qualities are. This will help you continue to embrace your uniqueness. Figure out your strengths and build them into your business.
  3. Discover your voice and "talk" with it. But also continue to ask yourself this question. We all change and grow. I'm not the same person I was even five years ago. Things have changed in my life: I got married; I started a couple new jobs; I moved to a different city; I have experienced more of life. My voice has modified a bit, and I need to be aware of those minor changes. 
  4. Create a list of things you love and incorporate them into your product and business.

From now on, you can expect me to be authentic in my writings and to address topics which I actually care about. I will talk about how my faith, relationships, ethnicity, health, and business corporately and individually affect why and how I create stuff. 

Be you. I'll be me.