Interview of Travis Seale

We interviewed Travis Seale, an Arizona based artist who has gathered a loyal following on social media. As our first official Artist of the Month (a.k.a. #AOTM), we spoke to Travis about his work, inspirations, and were even given advice on how to overcome creative blocks. Read on to hear a little more about Travis and peek into his world as an artist and as a creative!

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Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Travis Seale and I’m currently working full-time as a product photographer for a luxury clothing and accessory boutique. In terms of work it may not sound that exciting, but being constantly surrounded by designer wear helps me to imagine what I would style my model’s with and how I want my next shoot to look. On occasion I get to pull pieces from the boutique and use them in my shoots, so it all works out perfectly for me.

What’s your background?

I grew up in a small town in Arizona where there really wasn’t much to do, so as a kid you kind of had to get creative to offset the small town boredom. I was always interested in art and the more creative aspects of life, so I knew my ultimate end-goal in life was to be a part of that community in some way. I remember a long time ago I was at a grocery store with my mom and I was thumbing through a copy of Nylon magazine and thinking the pictures were so cool. Everything was kind of an avalanche from there and I was soon obsessing over fashion editorials and how I could produce content like the kind I had fawned over in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, etc. Nylon magazine was the catalyst in helping me decide what I wanted to do when I grew up, and my dream is to shoot for them one day.

Where are you currently located?

I’m still located in Arizona, but now I’m living in the greater Phoenix area. It’s so incredibly hot here in the summers that my creativity kind of dies, but it also kind of works to my advantage because it forces me to do more studio work (not a strong area of mine). I love the beauty that Arizona has to offer, but who knows where I’ll end up in the future. Hopefully in northern Arizona where there are more trees and it’s 30 degrees cooler, but for now I’m content.

What role does the artist have in society?

I think it’s kind of hard to say what the exact role is an artist should play within a society. I believe that we have been raised with this preconceived notion that artists should be activists or that what we create should have a deeper meaning, but I think the role an artist plays is entirely dependent upon the individual and what they want to say when they create. For me personally, I’m not really looking to create anything that deep; I use photography as my own personal escape and it really helps me get out of my own head. I do believe that as artists we have an obligation to respect and be mindful of the cultures and people around us because what we put out there can be easily misinterpreted. I think the only role that anyone should play in society should be one that revolves around peaceful interaction with those around us regardless of personal beliefs or differences in opinion.

Who is your favorite artist(s) or inspirations?

I really love Ellen von Unwerth and Tim Walker. Ellen because her style just has this vibrancy and very youthful aesthetic. Everything she creates just looks like she – and everyone involved – had so much fun during the process. I follow her on Instagram and she seems to really have such a joyful demeanor about her I think it’s important to surround yourself with those types personalities. She just seems fun. As for Tim, he’s just such a visionary. His imagery is so beautiful and he has created a style so distinct that it’s easy to get lost in his work. His photographs are otherworldly and he really is a storyteller. There are so many others I could name, but at this moment these two are my main sources of inspiration.

What kind of message(s) do you want to send to your viewers?

I’m hardly the person to come to for advice because I still have a lot to learn, but I guess if I had one message to say it would be to never stop trying to improve. Whether you’re improving your craft, or your overall self-worth, it’s important to never stop trying to progress. We only have this one life so we should be sure that it’s the best life we can lead for those around us well as ourselves. I struggle constantly with not feeling adequate or talented enough, but at the end of the day you have to remind yourself that having those thoughts can either help you or destroy you. If you turn those thoughts into positive actions you can’t go anywhere but forward. Obviously it’s easier said than done, but doing nothing results in nothing. 

What do you dislike about the art world?

The cliques and subsequently the “us vs. them” mentality. I want nothing to do with that. It leads to a lot of talented people being shut out and not receiving knowledge or room to advance because they aren’t deemed cool enough or talented enough. It opens the door for people thinking it’s okay to be taken advantage of because they’re led to believe that one day their efforts will be acknowledged only to be tossed aside when someone else comes along that fits a certain mold. That mind-set is not okay for either parties involved and I think as a community we have to step away from that kind of thinking. Obviously there are going to people that just you don’t mesh with – and that’s okay – but don’t put yourself in a position that only benefits others.

What is your favorite thing you have ever created? 

I have a love/hate for a lot of things that I’ve created. When you spend too much time staring at the same thing you start to question whether or not you could have done better, but that also means you’re allowing yourself room to grow. To answer your question though, one thing that I loved from the get-go was a photo I did where the model’s face (shout out to D’arcy and Maria for helping me bring that to life) was covered in googly eyes. I’ve actually seen it recreated by multiple different people and it [my photo] was even vocally recognized by Kat Von D, so I would say that. I loved that process from beginning to end and it was a lot fun to make. I will say that the only problem I have with it is my team and I not getting credit for it when someone reposts it on social media. It’s not that hard to tag people when the tools provided have literally been created for you to do so!

Sometimes artists have creative blocks. Do you have any advice on how to overcome them based on past experiences? 

To be honest, if I don’t feel like the effort I’m putting in will yield the result I expect, then I just put the project aside and start a new one. It’s okay to put an idea or project on hold until you’re ready or certain you’ll be satisfied in the end. If for you that means trashing the idea entirely, so be it. I find that if I can work through a different project without hiccups then maybe that’s what I’m supposed to be doing whether I like it or not. I’ve had shoots where I didn’t release a single photo because I was completely unsatisfied with my work and didn’t want to be associated with it. That’s not a bad thing. If you don’t find yourself moving forward, find a different route. It may take longer in the end, but at least you’ll reach your destination until you decide where to go next. If you’re working with a team, don’t assume that your ideas are king just because you came up with it. Don’t be afraid to ask for ideas or help because it will “taint” your creative process. You may be having a block, but someone else may know how remove the stick in the spokes. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to say thank you for giving me a chance to put my words and art out there. I hope that No Sleep New York becomes a thriving metropolis of creativity and I can’t wait to see where it’s headed.

To view more of Travis’s work, check out his website and follow his instagram to keep up to date with his artistry!

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