My day job is being a graphic designer. By day I do screen printing at Ameriprint Apparel and I also handle graphic design projects for Forward Community Investments, which provides loans, grants and investment help to non-profits.
On the side, I handle freelance projects for a variety of clients. I’ve done everything from posters and logos to complete branding packages. One favorite recent project was the album art for my friend, Ben Cameron, who records as William Z. Villain and got a record deal in France. His album was profiled in the French edition of Rolling Stone—including a shot of my artwork. You can also find examples of my work at my website, iampeeld.com.
When I first started in the field, my work tended to be a mix of traditional and digital media. Now I’ve gone to straight digital. It’s cost effective and I love the infinite possibility this medium provides.
But I do struggle with the question of deciding when a project is done. When you can edit and re-edit, when do you let it go? I’m finding that as I grow and become more in tune with myself—and let go of my false sense of self—I’m more comfortable letting go of my art when it’s at a rougher stage.
I became a designer in a somewhat unusual way.
I was a troubled kid. I was influenced by the wrong things, including gang culture. By the time I was 17, I had lost two of my older brothers to the prison system and was going down the same path. High school wasn’t working for me; I didn’t feel like I could learn in that environment.
Someone suggested Operation Fresh Start and that place changed my life. Operation Fresh Start started about fifty years ago as a place to help young men who weren’t on a good path to learn some skills to help them find a job. I got to help build three homes and rehab a fourth.
That experience gave me a belief in myself that I hadn’t had. At the end of the program I received a grant through Americorps and used that money to buy a computer and go to school at Madison College.
I discovered their graphic design program—I had no idea what that even was. All I knew what that I liked to draw, I liked to be creative. Graphic design gave me a way to turn those interests into a career. Their amazing two-year program was another life- changing experience.
When I graduated with my associate’s degree, I started freelancing around town. I’d do gig posters for my friends, logos. People kept using me and sending other people to me for design projects.
Around then, I also got back in touch with Operation Fresh Start. I’d come to the point in my life when it wasn’t just enough to be grateful for their help—it was time to do something about it. I reached out to Jill Pfeiffer and asked what I could do to help. They were just moving into their facility on Milwaukee St. and wanted posters to celebrate alumni.
That led to Greg Markle, the executive director, asking me to serve on the Operation Fresh Start board, which I was happy to say “yes” to. I was the first alum to join the board. I’m also designing their 50th anniversary logo and graphics and I do speeches to share my story—basically, whatever they need.
My most memorable caffeine happened the first time I had it. Let’s just say it involved being stuck at a stop light and really, really needing to get home. If you’re a coffee drinker, I imagine you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
My current caffeine of choice is green tea. It’s not as intense as coffee and I drink it every day.
My favorite places for caffeine are Jade Mountain Café—they have great tea—Michelangelo’s Coffee House, Johnson Public House and Cool Beans.
The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Jimi Hendrix and the Buddha.
I could pick Jimi’s brain all day. We lost him way too early—he was only 27 years old when he died. When you read his interviews, you can see he was committed to sharing his journey of self-discovery and that everything about him was original.
A lot of the music of that time focused on positive change and how your inner world affects the outer. Jimi had a language he didn’t have a chance to explain—when you lose a person, you lose the entire library of who they were and every experience they ever soaked up.
As an African-American male, I’m inspired by Jimi’s message to be yourself. I’ve often wondered what could have been if he had lived long enough to mature—I’d love to be the person interviewing the Jimi who was still with us.
And the Buddha? Who wouldn’t want to experience his presence and perspective in person? That would be a life-changing exchange.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Judgement. I’d love to have the world practice not judging each other for a week.
There is so much judgment and labeling of other people. None of our labels can really capture what we’re actually experiencing. Those labels often mean we don’t get to know each other genuinely and have a distorted view.
I think if we could stop judging, we’d find we’re more similar than unalike. And that even our unalikeness is really just a different perspective. Why not add someone else’s perspective and learn from them instead of needing to label everything as “positive” or “negative” or “good” or “bad.”
When I reflect on my life, I see that all my negative experiences propelled me to a positive place and caused a lot of growth. If that’s the case, can I really label those experiences as negative?
Life is messy and a lot of that mess is caused by separation and trauma. What if we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable and lean into things that are speaking to us and trying to guide us to something closer to what we really feel?
Let’s re-evaluate: Have we outgrown the shoes of our past viewpoints? Let’s figure out the new shoe we want to wear.