We tell our children they can be whatever they put their minds to. We encourage them to dream big and pursue their passions. Yet the idea of starving artists is universally understood and transcends borders, cultures and generations. It’s never been easy for artists, and as adults they hear a completely contradictory message from what they were told
Like many Raleigh artists, Jason Clary, knows this struggle all too well. He has faced numerous challenges that have caused him to question his artistic pursuits, and yet he has somehow managed to stay positive and overcome things when others would have given up. Not originally expecting to face this challenge, Clary packed up and moved to a new city full of hopes for his college experience. But once at N.C. State, Clary found himself unable to get into the College of Design. Eventually, dwindling college funds forced him to leave school.
“I had to go through this process of self-doubt and weighing my own work,” said Clary. “I got really depressed during that time and didn’t work on any artwork for a couple years.”
But the connections and friends he made while in school were crucial to him being able to overcome. “It’s basically like Kooley High and Count Bass D were my school in a lot of ways,“ he explained. Having met Raleigh rapper Rapsody and later Charlie Smarts, Clary’s fun projects for friends would eventually lead him to design album covers for musical acts like Inflowential, Count Bass D and eventually Kooley High’s Eastern Standard Time album and their latest release Heights.
Those designs would lead Clary to work for brands and acts across the country, including the brand identity for Flying Pepper Vodka, an exciting new spirit distilled in Pittsboro.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Clary admits. “Something that I take as one of my biggest blessings was to be rejected. Because I was looking at things in a different way and had to make my own path to still follow my dream.”
Yet, that feeling of rejection and the need to prove himself is still something Clary carries despite his success. “Knowing your self-worth is incredible. Letting go of fear and self-doubt, that’s the big thing,” he explained. “I think that’s what a lot of people struggle with. It’s universal. But getting past that wall, letting go of fear and allowing yourself to be free, and let inspiration flow, can be terrifying. You have moments where you are up and down with it. But I think that’s just the nature of doing creative work.”
And despite the hardships he’s faced, Clary’s energy and optimism are contagious. He said, “Tab One used to say ‘Artwork to make your heart work.’ So that became a mantra for me.” Clary is also working to make sure that Raleigh follows that mantra as well and supports up-and-coming artists. “We are in a position with Raleigh growing at the rate that it is, the creative class coming together and the network that’s already here and deciding what do we want to create, what do we want to see for the future,” he adds.
As far as his hopes for the future, he said, “It’s about the power within you. Standing in your own power. Being with others and holding them up. Just