Interview with Raymond De Jesus
Raymond De Jesus, born in Dorado, Puerto Rico, is a talented artist, photographer, creative writer and new media guru. His talent’s can’t be announced without the recognition of his grandfather, who gave him a gift that changed his life…
“For my 10th birthday, I was expecting a really cool present since my twin sister had received such an awesome gift. To my surprise my grandfather had given me a drawing book and said “draw me what you see!“ and with it, he gave me so many lessons. The following two years I grew wiser. I filled two books, with images of his sermons or of elderly people we would visit after church. I wanted to be just like him, full of life and wisdom.”
You mention that your grandfather, Arturo De Jesus, was Pastor of The Second Pentecostal Batiste Church ( 2da Iglesia Pentecostal Bethesta) and some of your first drawings were of the elderly in the church. How have your beliefs influenced your artwork?
I visited many elderly after church with my grandfather, every sunday afternoon we would visit one or two before we would get ready for the night service. My grandfather had many tricks up his sleeves, however, something that I picked up in both my personality and my work is that sense of listening to a person speak. While my grandfather visited with spiritual means, he suggested me to be silent and listen because I might miss something that could be important. I took this advice and sunday after sunday I would take notes about their lives. Their struggles in life, mistakes, success, hopes, and dreams. They painted a visual picture for me to learn from. I would usually draw some sketches of what I heard and save it to remember the conversation in the future. This is true about me now, when I am working on a personal piece and not working on small commission pieces for people , I tend to listen to my surroundings, and to what people have to say. Listening gives me the problem while my work on the topic portraits what I see from it.
What influences did moving to the United States from Puerto Rico, have on your attitude towards art?
Moving to the United States from Puerto Rico changed my attitude all completely, I wanted a complete change in my personality. It gave me a fresh start on a different race. When I first arrived to the states my english was [not good looking] It was hard for me to adapt to the language. What made the move so influential for me in art is the fact that I have realized that I’m not perfect, there is always something I can improve on. and that fear of failing can be my fuel to succeed rather than the reason for my failure.
“I feared it all. I feared the sky, land, sea, and even the pillow I slept on… Something, I learned with time is that FEAR Fears You… If you face Fear, you will realize that fear is just an excuse, idea, a fiction of your imagination, a door you closed days before and did not remember you had done so… Fear tells you to quit the day you arrived at that closed door. you stop and turn the other way due to the door being closed, however, when we face fear, you take the time to look in your pocket for the key to the closed door. You may not be strong to overcome all of your fears all at once but with time and a good mind set, you will get better. “
This is my motto for art which came with proving to myself that I can do what I think I can’t do.
I would love to hear more about the role you took as Programming Captain for the USFIRST team. What is USFIRST and what did you learn from this experience?
US First Robotics is a robotics competition hosted at the University of Florida for students in which they have many categories including, wed design, spirit, and the actual competition itself. Their mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. I have a small love for engineering and programming this I take from my father, Raymond. I became the robots programming captain with out any real knowledge of the software only some wed design html programming experience. I took on the challenge in learning the new program eventually I became the best student that understood and mastered the program. The irony behind it was that I only joined the team because the professor, Richard Miller wanted me to make props for the team. The role as the captain gave me patience and the skill to sit and look at a problem with more than one way of looking at it because we all know that there are many ways to get to the same place.
“For every new piece of work there is a reason why I do it, to over come a fear. My greatest challenge was painting. I have a love/hate relationship with painting, however, I paint more than anything else. Practice makes perfect.”
Absolutely, that is my motto in life, if at first you can’t succeed then try again until you get it right. I have been trough many hard times in my life that I am grateful for because they have made me such a stronger person, any time I see that I am not good at something I keep working on it until I see some progress I don’t have to be the best but as long as I see some sort of progress with every piece or anything I do then the time spent on it is worth it. Sucking at something only means you can be great something! It just all depends on the persons disciple. Painting is one of the examples of this, however, I have another field that I struggled even more than painting, writing. I love to write and express myself. I have many gestural writings meant to be loose and expressive, after I write about a topic I sketch a gestural drawing about the matter something like i used to do when I was a child and my grandfather was still taking me to visit people. They are not the greatest when it comes to grammatical error but I never stop writing because is something that helps me relieve the mind, This I owe to my mentor, Journalist Stacey Creecy recently divorced now goes by Stacey Pierce.
What has been the greatest lesson you have learned from your mentor, Stacey Pierce, and how have you used it to improve the way you live?
The greatest lesson I have learned from my mentor, Stacey Pierce is to believe in myself more than anything. There is one thing of her that I keep close at all times, a recommendation letter she wrote for a scholarship I was once applying for. It got me off guard because I never really seen the fruits of my labor until I read the letter myself;
“As teachers, we hope to make a difference in our students’ lives, but sometimes we get more than we bargain for. That’s what I got with Raymond De Jesus – in a good way. Raymond comes from a culture that expects you to do for your family, not for yourself; that tells you you’re not good enough to succeed and you might as well just go to work like everyone else. When he got to me, he was a junior struggling with his writing so much that he could barely put together coherent sentences – and he was enrolled in my student newspaper class. Beyond that, he had personal issues going on at home that were starting to overtake his life.
My first thought was, “What have I gotten myself into!”
He was the programming captain of Ridge Community High School’s Robotics club, the only one of its kind in the county, for two years. Robotics was also sponsored by NASA for two years.
He was also a member of The Striker newspaper staff, serving as the Graphics editor – and boy can he do some amazing things with graphics and computer animation. That earned him a partial scholarship to attend a graphics/animation program at American University after one year of doing editorial cartoons for our newspaper. He ended up not being able to attend because the money set aside was used for something else by his family.
During his senior year, he created an entire high school on the computer, complete with a virtual tour, as part of a movie project we were doing. It was amazing.
While being heavily involved in Robotics and The Striker, he was also involved in other activities on campus. He was sometimes overwhelmed and got a little bit off track, but he always persevered and got back on track and did better than what was expected of him. So much so that he did extra practice for his ACT test with me and also started to work on the school TV show, Storm Watch, while also taking care of newspaper duties, competing at the state level and winning and working on the yearbook DVD crew.”
- excerpt from the recommendations letter.
Meeting her was probably one of the best things that happened to me due to the fact she was the reason why I picked up a drawing pencil and a piece of paper once again after I promise not to draw ever again due to my grandfathers death . My drawing at the time were not good at all and know I am only getting better because of her.
I really love the detail in your “Sea Life” painting. Is there a story behind this piece of art?
Competing for Pierce in the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA) gave me a hunger for competitive competitions, the Sea Life conservation painting was my entry for Sea World’s next door neighbor Springhill Suite’s “October Art Night.” I based by entree on the fact that Sea world has an organization called the “Sea World Cares,” it focuses on volunteering beach clean ups along with other events, where the Sea World and Parks Enterntaiment employees give up part of their time to help the clean the beaches of florida. Around this time there was an natural disaster well in other words a man made ecological contamination that treaten a lot go the sea life within the golf of mexico and the inner peninsula of florida. The BP oil spill impacted the life of many animals, humans included this was my message to audience for that night. I wanted to demonstrate Sea Worlds dedication for Sea Life conservation, they provided much help when it came to the spill, however, I also wanted to show that with the right amount of respect for other life, co- existing is not impossible but desirable.