Santiago Carrasquilla on the Prize of Process and the Catharsis in Crying

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Debbie Millman has started a new project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an ongoing effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer 10 identical questions, and submit a decidedly nonprofessional photograph.

Up next: Santiago Carrasquilla, an award-winning designer, animator and filmmaker. He is the founder of Art Camp, a creative studio devoted to crafting rich experiences in the form of video, animation, photography and design.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

It’s a good question. There are so many things, it’s hard to pick one.

Feeling a single breath! A glimpse into the infinite space that exists in a single breath!

Sitting down on an early Saturday morning, putting on a Mahler symphony, drinking a cup of coffee and writing in my journal.

Maybe “making things” is also on the very top of my favorite things to do list. Sure is.

Being in nature—looking at a perfect blue sky and appreciating as fully as possible the moment.

Reading. Meditating. Cold showers. Running. Cooking. Nature. Playing music. Working, working, working.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

I remember asking my mom to buy me a canvas and paints when I was maybe 7 years old. We still lived in Colombia at the time; I remember going to this art store inside of a mall called Centro Chia and getting the paints and canvas.

I also distinctly remember painting a beach scene. After finishing it I was determined to show it to Carlos Arturo Ramirez, who is the father of my great friend Mateo, and also the first “professional artist” I ever met. He was this heroic masculine Picasso-like figure; he told epic stories and did things like arrive at the breakfast table at 6:30 a.m. covered in charcoal after having been up all night drawing a mural in his home. I was impressed.

I have no idea what happened to that beach painting. I might have even given it to him as a gift. I don’t remember.

What is your biggest regret?

In a way I try my best not to have regrets. I try my best to maintain an account of my life that leans more heavily towards positivity and optimism. For that reason the idea of “regrets” makes me want to fast forward quickly past this question.

I maybe wish I had started doing certain things sooner. Like the process of learning to love and accept myself. Which is complex and an art in itself. In turn, this pursuit seems to also create a more positive impact on those around me. Those things together will likely yield a future with many less “regrets” than I might otherwise have.

Of course, there are plenty of small-, medium- and big-sized mistakes I’ve made throughout my life. But I think I’ve also done my very best to learn from them.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Heartache can be so incredibly intense. There’s a good side to it, for sure—there is something so livening about it. The tricky part about heartache is that it so easily creates one of those situations where the mind taps into that part of our brains that will gladly obsess and repeat mental/thought patterns over and over again. Which then in turn triggers memories, which trigger feelings, which have a strong biological effect on the body. Soon enough, the whole thing becomes a giant knot—hard to come out of.

I would say that I’ve cured my heartache by being attentive, kind and sweet to my heart. Sweet to the life energy that flows through me (Tara Brach quote, I think). I got serious about meditation at the height of a broken heart and haven’t stopped since. Being able to see how patterns of thought occurred and learning slowly how to break/interrupt those patterns was hugely helpful. At the very least, not allowing them to simply run like wild horses! Particularly the dark ones. I’ve found that becoming sharply attentive to what my mind is doing moment by moment has helped me heal in multiple ways, not only heartache. When shit is hardest, pay more attention!

What makes you cry?

The last time I cried was during a roadtrip from NYC to California this past October.

After eight days of being on the road all alone, I arrived to the Grand Canyon and walked to the very edge of a cliff, and just started crying out of pure joy and awe.

Some days later on the 13th day alone on the road, somewhere in Arizona, I began to feel a profound sense of loneliness and nostalgia that was suffocating. It all built up until I finally wept like a baby on my way to Sequoia National Park. What an amazing, beautiful release and cure for pain a strong cry can be. A direct door into childhood, also.

Sitting on an airplane, writing in my journal, listening to some of my favorite music is also very likely going to get me to cry.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

The final thing is just a symbol for everything that it took to get there. In it are all the stories, the memories, the struggles, the highs, the lows. It represents life lived.

The more I look at a project and recall a beautiful process, the more I feel satisfaction and amazement. I am more and more amazed at the complexity and depth that some of our projects are attaining.

An example would be our latest, the film Ride or Die for Kelsey Lu & Boys Noize. It is the result of many humans collaborating passionately, efficiently, openly, through the ups and downs, through the many challenges, through the endless feelings, all fueled by artistic visions and artistic energy. The result being this incredible symbol of many people’s obsessions and perspectives in harmony with each other.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of seeds. If you water them and give them your love—they will grow!

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

Perhaps I don’t believe in the afterlife simply because I haven’t yet imagined it or thought about it that much.

It’s all just energy floating through us, isn’t it? What happens when we die? How does the energy get dispersed?

Trillions of cells in our body, all their energy, suddenly leaving and dispersing to form other new life forms. Energy gets transferred to other living things. In that sense I suppose I do believe in the afterlife.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I of course have trouble with many aspects of myself and with various energies that arise. But actually, I find that being soft and sweet towards those most difficult things makes them much less enflamed, and therefore more likely to subside. Even that word alone—hate—conjures up such a high level of aggression that I instinctively want to turn the other way.

What do you love most about yourself?

I have a very genuine deep burning desire to live my life in as rich and fully
explored a way as I can manage. I am going to fall short of the astronomical aspiration, but so far I seem to have an endless well of energy for this pursuit. For that I feel very grateful.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

Freshly cooked vegetables from a home-grown garden.