When you combine a passion for history, culture and community with a deep seeded pride in America and love of the natural world, you begin to understand what makes Joe Barsin’s illustrations special.
When did you start your business?
Citizen Pride was formed with my wife, Eva Barsin, in 2013. Prior to that we owned JEB Design, Inc., a successful graphic design company that kept us busy for over 15 years. My most notable project during this time was illustrating the Bay Plate for the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
How did you decide on the name of your business?
The name, Citizen Pride, was created after much thought about what drives me as an artist. I was a Boy Scout (Eagle Rank, 2 Palms) who had the opportunity to travel through Europe and the USA when young. I never served in the military but many of my best friends are veterans. I love and respect history as much as art and I’m patriotic to the core. As divided as our country may seem at times I know for sure we have much more that unites us than divides us. My art speaks to the special pride each of us take in our hometown, our home teams and the iconic symbols that are unique to where we live. The name, Citizen Pride, is a registered trade mark and our logo, an original design that we developed.
How did you get started as an artist?
During my formative years I lived in Genoa, Italy. My earliest memories included painting flags on huge easels at the Montessori school I attended because I loved the bold graphics and bright colors. How funny that I now illustrate and sell flags! The later years of my youth were spent growing-up in Akron, Ohio and I was fortunate to have taken a variety of art classes. I learned from many outstanding teachers and ultimately earned my BFA from Kent State University. My career in graphic design was launched in Baltimore, Maryland.
What made you decide to transition from graphic design to the business of gifts and retail?
I gained invaluable experience working over 25 years in the professional field of graphic design and advertising and I still take on select design projects. With the economic downturn beginning in 2008, I had more time to focus on my initial love of illustration and soon after, began having my work featured in art galleries in and around Annapolis. When we attended our first trade show in 2013 we were presented with the opportunity to put my art on garden and house flags and since then, have manufactured and sold tens of thousands of flags. In addition, I offer my illustrations featured on a variety of products, all under the brand of Citizen Pride.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
There are many fine artists and interesting people right here in Annapolis who inspire me every day. I also try to stay informed with a variety of subjects and open my mind to other cultures and ways of thinking that are presented around the world. My ideas always begin as sketches and I enjoy the transformational process of executing those concepts to the final product using Adobe Illustrator. Seeing my improvement over the years encourages me to keep developing even further as an artist. However, the positive response we’ve received for our Citizen Pride items and nice comments from customers is the best inspiration by far!
Any advice you would give to aspiring artists?
Nourish the creative passion you have by traveling, reading, observing the world around you and staying-up on current, social issues. Your collective knowledge will come together and challenge you to think bigger than yourself. Pretty is pretty, but having that extra level of concept in your art will make you stand out. Art is subjective so there’s room for all of us to meet the demand for different styles of work. Support other small businesses and be generous in helping artists who are truly open to your particular experience. Share advice, business tips and even your failures as those are not unique to anyone. With that, we are learning the importance of surrounding yourself with people who inspire and support you, not drain you. Make the time to practice your skill and unique technique and most of all, never be afraid to pivot and adapt over time!