Showcasing a new Creative every Saturday #WeAreAfribeanCreatives
Who is Damian Libert and where is he from?
I am a 37 year old freelance graphic designer, photographer, and motion graphics artist, born, raised, and operating in Trinidad and Tobago.
How did you come to your artistry? And what place it has in your day to day life?
I have always been interested in creativity but I never saw it as a way to earn a livelihood. Caribbean culture focuses heavily on academics, and this led to creative endeavours being relegated to hobbies. There was not much encouragement in that direction, so a career in creativity was not even a consideration.
In college I was pursuing a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, and a friend suggested some design courses to me. In my final semester I ended up taking a graphic design course, and I was horrible at it, but I loved it. After completing my degree, I was accepted in design school where I studied Art Direction for Advertising. It was a struggle to start off at that level without a formal background in art, but I did make it through to the other side, and everything grew from there.
As a full-time freelancer, creativity is most of my day, it helps that I enjoy it. The fact that my projects can be branding, print design, photography, animation, or spatial design means that I do tend to shift focus often. This is very important to me because monotony can drain me, and these shifts bring new challenges and learning opportunities.
How easy it is to attract “paying commissions” work from where you are?
For the majority of my freelance career I have been very fortunate to not need to market myself heavily. A significant amount of work has come from agencies that have employed me in the past, and by word of mouth.
However, with the recent downturn in the local economy, all businesses are feeling the impact. Client budgets have shrunk, and design work is not as abundant as in past years.
What is the funniest and saddest “unpaid commission” requests you have received? How did you handle it?
Most requests like that come from close family so I don’t mind working on them.
I remember doing some stationery design for my dad and he did not like the layout at all. He basically sat down and told me where every element on the page should go. I was there thinking, “Good thing you sent me to design school.”
What platforms do you feel are most relevant to you as an artist? For what purpose in each?
I am actually very new to social media. Since I had been getting a lot of work through recommendations, I had decided not to expend energy towards social media. I am now on Instagram though. Locally, Instagram and Facebook seem to be ideal for self promotion.
What type of skills you consider yourself an expert in?
Creative direction. The ability to define a creative path, and to pull a project together in a manner that ensures cohesiveness, not just aesthetically, but also conceptually.
What would be your idea of your big break?
I love client work, but lately I have found a desire to focus on more personal projects (especially fine art photography). These projects are still very much in the conceptual stage. A significant marker for me would be delivering that work and pushing it beyond Trinidad and Tobago.
What artist’s previous work keep you motivated in that direction?
I expect the fine art photography projects to reflect a lot of myself. So I am inspired by artists who seem to prioritise their personal identity in front of their group identity, in a non-destructive manner.
A good example of that kind of artist is Tanya Stephens.
When I listen to her albums, I don’t get the impression that she cares about what is expected of her as a Jamaican/Caribbean/Dancehall/Reggae artist. Ultimately she is making a Tanya Stephens album first, all those other categories fall into place because she just happens to be those things. It doesn’t matter if parts of her work protrude beyond the margins of cultural expectations. In the end she feeds the culture by being herself, without apology.
How do you juggle between your creative life and your family life?
I try to find out what my family needs from me on a weekly basis and compare it to my client obligations. Lists help a lot in scheduling the week. Sometimes you can get a call that causes you to restructure your entire week because a client requests a deliverable with a quick turnaround time, but that is the nature of the design business. Extreme deadlines and all-nighters can upend other commitments and it helps to explain to the people around you, just how different the creative industry is from a 9 to 5 job. You can’t always just close off work and leave at 5.
The Enemy Within: Reflections of the 1970s Revolt