News Column

Edinburg resident balances work, passion through design

June 22, 2014

By Amanda A. Taylor, The Monitor, McAllen, Texas

June 22--Living a life devoted to the arts is hard work. Whether it's painting, freelancing or designing, the business of selling and marketing personal creative expressions can be tough.

A life like that may not appeal to most, but Jonathan Gaytan wouldn't have it any other way.

The 27-year-old Edinburg resident works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer.

Being a freelance illustrator doesn't include being confined in an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but relying on commissions and contract work can keep a freelancer busy seven days a week.

Currently Gaytan is working for a company that publishes bilingual children's books that help children learn English and Spanish.

"I am currently illustrating children's books for Brewster's Guacamaya Enterprise. They are bilingual poetry books made to help kids learn English and Spanish," he said. "Right now I am in the process of editing the latest series of six books to come out, three of which I illustrated myself."

With his affiliation and dedication to Brewster's Guacamaya Enterprise, Gaytan hopes to culminate his efforts into becoming the main illustrator for the company.

"This is part of the freelance work I do. In the future, I hope to be the main editor and illustrator of this company. Just one of the responsibilities I wish to take on," he said.

Aside from illustrating children's books, Gaytan also works as a freelance graphic designer. One company he works with regularly is ABC Custom Advertising out of Edinburg.

"With ABC Custom, I design school shirts for the Valley and small companies, as well as fliers, plaques, business cards, etc." he said.

Being a freelancer doesn't secure a job all the time. Gaytan often has to go out and look for jobs himself. Obtaining and keeping contacts is essential to any kind of freelance work.

"I get in contact with people who own printing companies and ask if they need any graphic work," he said. "Other times I look up jobs on Craig's List. Sometimes, I have friends who help me get into contact with other clients and companies. It's all about networking."

With freelance work, Gaytan has the leisure to work for clients from his home but to help pay the bills he works as a sales representative for Xpress Printing in Edinburg Tuesday through Friday.

"There (at Express Printing) I regulate projects that come in and out. It's nice working there," he said, "I don't have to do much designing, just oversee production and the art work that comes in."

Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays he devotes solely to freelance commission work and tuning up his own projects.

"At home I work on illustrating and designing for others as well as making time to make my own projects and dreams come true like painting, creating and trying to make my own clothing line," Gaytan said.

He plans on starting a website to sell his own T-shirt designs and graphics soon, but it is still in the works, he said.

In the meantime, Gaytan is managing several Facebook pages for his T-shirt designs and personal art.

"It's simply a Facebook page with likes to purchase, but you have to start somewhere," he said.

Gaytan has always had a fascination for the arts and painting.

Some of his biggest inspirations stemmed from contemporary artists such as Alex Grey, Alex Ross and Jim Lee, and from classic artists such as Dali and Picasso.

He is able to incorporate his artistic aspirations into graphic design, although it wasn't his first career choice.

"I fell into it (graphic design) after I graduated high school in 2005," he said. "I went straight up to the Art Institute of Pittsburg to get my degree in animation. After a year, that didn't work out so I had to move back to the Valley and find work. I had some background in graphic design so I embellished a little on how good I was just to pick up work at first. First rule of freelancing -- you have to know how to sell yourself to your clients."

After perfecting his skills, he was able to move on to digital grid freelance work for magazines such as MagX when it was still in publication.

"For about four years, I did digital grid freelance work for magazines here in the Valley as well as tattoo flash art to sell, and other basic graphic jobs," Gaytan said.

In 2010, he was able to move to Austin to pursue a degree in graphic design at the Art Institute of Austin.

Hard work and determination may have earned him a degree, but his passion for painting was the driving force in his creative career, he said.

"I love to paint. I've been painting for 13 years and have displayed my art in countless art shows, but the pay is minimal because it's difficult to sell large pieces of work," he said.

Because the industry for freelance artists is competitive, Gaytan relies on selling his digital graphics that are used for T-shirts and other items distributed by various companies in the Valley.

Although designing is sometimes a thankless job, years of practice have distinguished Gaytan's style and method when starting projects.

"It's super awesome to go to Wal-Mart or H-E-B or a restaurant and see people wearing a shirt I made for them, but they will never know it was me because I'm just the graphic designer," he said.

Much of Gaytan's artwork can be viewed at The Drunken Clam in Edinburg.

Those interested in viewing Gaytan's T-shirt designs can visit Facebook page or to view his artwork and paintings.

He can also be contacted by email at

His artwork will also be on display during SLAAM (Support Local Artists and Musicians) from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 12, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hidalgo County, located at 1401 S. Nebraska Ave. in San Juan.


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Source: Monitor (McAllen, TX)

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