Trent Thibodeaux / Graphic Design

Trent Thibideau, Watkins College of Art, Nashville

What’s your ritual to get prepared, or in the zone, to create?
My ritual is mostly getting a cup of coffee, putting on headphones and listening to music. Music sets the tone for creating. Sometimes it’s instrumental, shoegaze, rap…whatever I’m feeling that day. But it always gets me going.

Which artist, historic or contemporary, from any discipline, couldn’t you live without?
I think that changes for me, but I can think of two who have helped form my perspective. Danny Lyon, a photographer, is one. I just recently discovered him at a random retrospective in 2016 in San Francisco. His body of work captures the human condition in a real, unassuming, and unapologetic way. Through his lens, he truly captures the stories of his subjects. He’s definitely an inspiration for me in the art of capturing humanness.

Painter Edward Hopper has always been a staple for me. His work is about feelings. It’s about expressing emotions and environments in which those emotions live. Hopper was the first artist I learned about where the storytelling was more important than the medium/application. I apply this idea to my photography as well. It’s okay if there is camera-shake, or if the image is slightly out of focus, or the color isn’t right, as long as none of those detract from the story. In fact, they should add to the overall feeling/mood of the piece. It’s concept over perfection.

Success to me is experiential, creating memories and connections

Tell us about a time you failed.
Just one moment? That’s a tough one, because I’m constantly failing.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you want to do professionally?
I don’t understand this question. Ha!

Favorite addiction or guilty pleasure that keeps you inspired?
I have a couple, but they’re not really “guilty” pleasures. Going for a hike or a long weekend in the mountains always rejuvenates me creatively. It lets me breathe. I also love going to drag shows. There are quite a number of drag performers who are pushing the drag world into the performance art arena and I love it. The layers of courage it takes are both inspiring and empowering to me.

What implement or tool in your toolbox as an artist do you love or depend on most?
My computer. I hate to say that, but it’s true. I use it for editing photos, digital collages, pulling up references, for inspiration.

What do your parents think about your being an artist?
My parents have always been fully supportive of what I do. They have always told me the classic, “If you are happy, then we are happy” line. I feel very fortunate to have such supportive parents.

Trent Thibodeaux - Watkins College of Art

As an artist, what keeps you up at night?
I sleep pretty good…about eight to nine hours a night. I also love to dream. I process a lot through my dreams, so I look forward to the nights.

What does success look like to you?
That I’m able to do what I love to do with people that I love. Success to me is experiential, creating memories and connections. It’s definitely not about prestige or the monetary.

What advice do you most often give yourself or other artists?
There is a poem by Nayyirah Waheed that goes, “Would you still want to travel to that country if you could not take a camera with you?” It’s a question of appropriation. This is the advice I tell myself and others, because it begs the question why, and from what, are you pulling your art?

Where in the world have you gone where you feel most at home as an artist?
Since school, I’ve lived in quite a few different places and have traveled overseas and also to both Central and South America. My current place, Tacoma, Washington, is where I feel most at home as an artist. For the first time I have my own space, my own studio, and a lot of inspiration around me: nature, an amazingly creative LGBTQ community, and good people.


What space at Watkins did you particularly love?
Late nights in the painting studio or the dark room were my favorites. It was a quiet time where I could be with just myself to create.

When do you know a piece is finished?
When I run out of wine. Just kidding! There is a moment for me when creating becomes work, and I know I should stop – either finished for the day or finished with the piece. I like to take a day or two to step away from it, to view it with fresh eyes and usually I can see if anything needs to be tweaked.

Why does art matter?
Because artists are the ones who create change. Artists are the ones who, unabashedly, tell the stories.

Biggest myth about being an artist?
That we can turn on creativity whenever we want.

Which one quality do you think the world most needs from artists?
Vulnerability. The ability to feel and then express that feeling for those who don’t know how to.

Trent Thibodeaux grew up in southern Louisiana and moved to Nashville in 2001 to pursue a degree in graphic design at Watkins. It was during this time he developed a more well-rounded creative expression; developing skills in photography, printmaking, painting, and multimedia. Thibodeaux has worked for a number of large advertising agencies, smaller design shops, owned his own company Design13, and was lead designer for Third Man Records. He is now senior visual designer for Pandora media and lives in Seattle.

Trent Thibodeaux - Watkins College of Art