ASPIRING ILLUSTRATOR DANNY TSHIBAMBE DISCUSSES OVERCOMING LOW SELF-ESTEEM AND BEING A PRODUCT OF GOD’S GRACE.
Danny Sylvain Tshibambe is 23-year-old self-taught graphic designer/illustrator from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. A self-motivated, selfless and super optimistic person who is often described as nice. Danny sees himself as a happy guy often smiling or doing something silly – a big kid at heart and peacemaker. The one who always tries to avoid conflict but when conflict arises tries to resolve it in a calm way. Born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Danny moved to America when he was just 10-years-old but remembers his passion for the arts to have started way before.
We caught with Danny to find out challenges behind the art and the lessons he’s learnt along the way.
How did it all begin?
“My first encounter with art was back in Congo at an early age. The country being rich in resources as it is, we had fresh white clay in the backyard and I use to spend my time playing around with it a lot. My friends and I would also sometimes make cars out of any wires we found lying around, and I used to love it! ‘Dragons Ball Z’ was very big at that time too, and a lot of us were into drawing the different characters from the show. My two older brothers were much better at drawing than me and this is what pushed me to improve my drawing skills.
When I came to the US, I always excelled in all my art classes. Although it was something I was good at and enjoyed doing, I never really focused on it as much. It was only until High School where I started to grow more of an interest in art, and that continued in my Senior year. I had gotten into Advanced Art because the teacher needed enough people in the class for it not to cancel. It was crazy! I felt so out of place and average in a class full of so many talented people. We even had 3 students who were award winning artists. Our teacher would spend most of her time with them and paid no attention to me.”
So how did you get into Graphic Design and Illustration?
“I was at a point where I wanted to push myself further as far as my art, and that’s simply why and how I got into graphic design and illustrations. Although I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, I started to study more into art and teach myself on all things art related. I spent most of my time browsing through the internet and finding a bunch of tutorials, to reading up on Graphic Design and Illustrations. The little support that I got from my family caused me not to pursued it in University. I ended up studying Accounting & Business Management which I stopped this year to my parents displeasure. I stopped because I wanted to purse my passion for art full time while I still can. I’m therefore currently taking an online web design class and plan on completing my Accounting & Business Degree later on.
The decision came about because I won a design contest my friend had told me about. I realised then that Illustration and Graphic design was what I really wanted to do in life. That’s where I am at right now, still learning and still creating. It’s always crazy to me when people tell me I’m talented because I just feel that it’s all just a product of my hard work. What I have is indeed a gift from God that I really took time, and still taking time to cultivate. I’m just a product of God’s grace.”
Why do you think your family didn’t support you as much when it came to art? And do you think things would be different if they did – if so how?
“I really think my family didn’t show any support because I developed a strong interest in art very late. If I’m being honest I had low-self esteem and that’s why I didn’t know whether it was something I really wanted to purse. I do sometimes think to myself that if I had the support and actually did Graphic Design in college, I would have been way better by now but to tell you the truth, I’m really glad things turned out the way they did. I say this because this path helped me overcome my low self-esteem and because of that I started trusting in myself more. I’ve made really great friends who are very critical of my work and who encourage me on a daily basis.
This whole experience has been extremely humbling. It’s taught me about perseverance and doing what I feel is right in my heart. You can’t live your life trying to please everyone else, whilst you’re still struggling on the inside because you know what you really want to do. Maybe things would be different but like I said; I’m really glad they turned out this way. My family are starting to come around now and that’s all because of how dedicated I am, and the progress I’ve made.”
When you mentioned you had low self-esteem, can you recall why? What was the cause of it and how did you get out?
“I was really shy growing up and kept to myself a lot. I got to a point where I would rather make others happy than myself and that had an effect on my self-esteem. My confidence started to build when I began to pursue graphic design. I would get a lot of compliments on my work and I found a good group of friends who also helped. I’m really thankful and happy for the people I’ve met in my life.”
Was there ever a time where you felt like giving up doing on art? If so how was that like and what made you keep going?
“That’s the crazy part, I’ve never really thought about quitting even when doubting myself or when others doubted and criticized me. It all just pushed me to work harder.”
So when it comes to being creative what and who inspires you?
“I’m easily inspired by friends, family, my surroundings, my culture (being African and all) and other artists. I’m really into African art, and I love portraying what Africa stands for in my work. My all time favourite artist is Vincent Van Gogh but I also look up modern artist such as Andreas Preis and Tang Yau Hoong.”
Do you have any favourite pieces of work by you?
“I have a love and hate relationship with my work. I love them all but once I look at one, I always want to fix or change something. If I was to pick, I’d say my favourite ones are the piece I did on Nelson Mandela and my Patrice Emeri Lumumba portrait. I’m a big fan of these two because they are the ones I spent the most time on.”
What is the hardest thing when it comes to being an artist? Do you think there are any misconceptions?
“The hardest thing is not getting the respect from peers or family and one of the biggest misconception is that what I do is easy. There are plenty people who have told me I’m wasting my time, and sometimes my parents would think I was just playing around on the laptop and such.There’s nothing easy about what I do. There’s times where I have spent enormous amounts of hours researching, times where I’ve run out of ideas and time’s where I’ve been mentally strained. I could quickly sketch something on paper, transfer it onto the computer to work on but then spend 20 hours plus (not consecutively) editing it. Research is a big part of graphic design because you never want to duplicate someones else work even if it’s unintentional. So the conception that the design field is easy, is one that I really hate.”
Touching on people’s view that being an artist is easy, what would you then say to another young person who is in the same position as you?
“One thing I’ve learned about doing something where you’re given little or no encouragement is that it really all starts with you. You have to believe in yourself, your skills and most of all you have to be honest with yourself in order to know where your skill sets are; and what you have to do to improve. You have to always be willing to learn. Encouragement and rewards will always follow when you’re doing something you love and doing it well.
Once you stop believing in yourself, that’s when it all starts to crumble. This is why it’s always good to surround yourself with people that will encourage you on days you just feel you can’t do it anymore. If you have no one in your corner, than just stick making short term attainable goals – nothing will feel better than reaching those goals as it helps to push you even more. Be open to criticism aswell. Some are going to be harsh, but remember that you can’t please everyone so learn to take the good out of every criticism; and just push forward.”
How has being a Christian and a believer in Christ had an impact on you not only for pursuing art but in general?
“Apart from the support I get from friends, God has always been the constant support I’ve gotten throughout my life. Being a Christian has helped me with keeping faith not only in God but in my work also. There’s a quote by Chris Durso that says – “All work may be done by you, but all the praise and thank you’s belong to God.” I really live by that quote. I give God full control and thank him for all the opportunities that have come my way. I know he has a plan for me and I’m just doing my best to follow it.”
What is your biggest life lesson?
“My biggest life lesson is that you can’t please everybody, just make sure you keep yourself happy and always take the positives out of everything life has to offer. Everything happens for a reason, and dwelling on the negatives will only be a waste of your time.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“It’s really hard for me to pinpoint an advice I’ve received that I would classify as the best. That’s only because I’ve honestly received a lot. But my dad constantly tells me that in everything I do, I should always consider the end. Because of that, I always have a goal in mind and never waiver until I reach what I envisioned. The beginning or journey might be hard but it’s important to achieve the end result.”
What’s one random thing a lot of people don’t know about you?
“I know how to count in Japanese from 1 to 10 and also know a couple words. I think that’s as random as it gets. I’ve always been fascinated by and curious about the Japanese culture ever since I could remember, and so I just learned online. I’d like to visit Japan one day so maybe I’ll be more fluent in the language.”
What are some of the things about our generation you would love to see change?
“I think the biggest thing that’s effecting our youth is the lack of positive influences in their lives. Even though some may not agree, it’s easy for us to be unconsciously influenced by the things we see and hear – this leads to many of us being lost. It’s sad because it’s even easier to fall into the category of “just going with flow” and doing what everyone else is. Not many of us are self motivators, and usually the ones that are, have experienced something on a personal level that pushes them to dare to be different.
One thing I think our generation lacks is patience. There’s a saying that says “Anything worth having is worth fighting for.” I like to call our generation ‘The Microwave Generation’ because we feel like everything has to happen instantly, and if it doesn’t than we change our minds and look to something else. I would love it if our generation would strive more, and put in the work when required.”
What is the future for Danny? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
“I’m working towards becoming a successful entrepreneur in 5 years, owning a Branding, Graphic and Web Design firm. I also want to become a graphic artist myself. I would love to start a foundation to help children in Congo aswell. A non-profit organisation that employs, trains and discovers local youth and talent of the Congo. This is all to create art, impact their community and also give them an opportunity to display their art on a worldwide stage – uniting and transforming the region through art. I’m just hoping to make a difference not only in my community, but also in my home country where I grew up.”
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