Andy J. Pizza is an American illustrator, podcaster and public speaker. His explosive color drenched illustrations have brought hope and smiles to clients like The New York Times, Nickelodeon, YouTube and Warby Parker. He is the founder of the Creative Pep Talk podcast, a mostly monologue show with occasional interviews with creatives like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Poet and Lettering Artist Morgan Harper Nichols.
Creative Pep Talk has been featured by Apple, BuzzFeed and Vanity Fair and has over 5 million listens.” Today we talk about how he found his first artistic path, how he manages creative deadlines as a neurodiverse individual, and why sometimes red means green. Enjoy!
***CORONA VIRUS EDITION***
In this episode Peter & Andy J. Pizza discuss:
1:00- Intro and welcome Andy! Check out his great podcast www.CreativePeptalk.com
2:15- So was Art always your thing; your way of ‘getting in trouble’?
4:10- On trying so hard as a kid to outwit or out-will his ADD/ADHD
5:00- On lessons from his Mom, trying to pass as neurotypical
7:00- On how/why he finally went into illustration
8:15- On realizing you’re not broken, but also learning how to articulate that.
9:07- Are you also colorblind or Red-Green deficient? Check out these glasses!
9:45- Peter found solace in computers; Andy found some control in Illustration…
11:40- Once you found your thing- how did you turn that into a career? What did your parents say?
13:15- On strategic thinking and reverse engineering how to find your creative path/career. Check out Andy’s CreativePeptalk podcast
14:34- Please talk about how you handle “creative deadlines” client retention, and your ADHD
15:38- This is how Andy keeps his work week, happening, productive and on schedule!
16:20- On keeping it simple and keeping your creative SuperSelf healthy.
16:54- Knowing your power hours! Ref: Molly Fletcher’s book “The Energy Clock” here
17:32- On knowing the things that set me at my best, at my worst, etc. Ref: Jim Collins’ Study thyself like a bug. Other recommendations here also!
19:22- Thank you Andy! And thank YOU for subscribing, reviewing and listening. Your reviews are working! Even if you’ve reviewed us before, would you please write even a short one for this episode? Each review that you post helps to ensure that word will continue to spread, and that we will all be able to reach & help more people! You can always reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials.
STAY HEALTHY - STAY SAFE - PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASK.. until next time!
19:50- Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
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We have a new sister video cast called 20MinutesInLockdown! A video podcast devoted to learning fascinating lessons from interesting humans all around the world, all in 20 minutes or less! 20 Minutes in Lockdown was born in early April of 2020, when we were in fact, in lockdown, and couldn’t do much of anything. Realizing that more than ever, people could benefit from learning from people outside of their comfort zone – people with interesting stories to tell, people with good advice, people with useful ideas that could help improve lives, we started hosting short Facebook video interviews, and we grew from there. (Plus, you can actually see my hair colors change before your very eyes!) Check it out: www.20MinutesInLockdown.com
Welcome to Faster Than Normal, the ADHD neurodiversity podcast that is slowly but surely changing the world. We're also working on a cure for COVID. We're not actually doing that, but you never know. I mean, it can't be any worse than what's currently out there. It's good to have you guys back. Thank you again, as always for listening. My name is Peter Shankman.
Our guest today who's illustrations you've seen. He works with clients ranging from NY times, Nickelodeon, YouTube, Warby Parker. I actually saw him in Scholastic. I think reading a book with my kid. I mean, his stuff is everywhere. He's brilliant. Brilliant. He’s massively ADHD and was diagnosed as an adult, he’s the founder of the creative pep-talk podcast as well. It's a mostly monologue show with occasional interviews with creators like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Broad City’s Rusty's Abby Jacobson, who I'm in love with, by the way, poet and literary artists, Morgan Harbor Nichols. Um, It is awesome to welcome Andy J Pizza.
Thank you so much for having me Peter.
It's awesome. I love seeing brilliant people doing brilliant things. Um, and, and, and, and being able to try mean just some of the stuff I was looking at. Um, I mean, my God, you've done Nickelodeon, um, the book So Many Sounds, which, which I've seen. Um, I'm looking at some of the other stuff that I'm, that I'm familiar with coloring books, right.
I mean, it's just all of the charts and it's gorgeous. It's so brilliant stuff, mental floss, it's brilliant stuff. I mean, it really, really is incredible stuff. So it's great to have you on really appreciate it. Living proof that. That ADHD is a gift not a curse time. So tell us about where you are always attracted to drawing where you like.
Was doodling your, your, your, your go to, to get in trouble with, in school or, you know, tell us your story.
Yeah. I'd love to jump in there. I am going to say real quick, uh, one warning is, and I'm sure you understand this. Anytime I, when I'm talking to somebody who doesn't have ADHD, I find myself able to sometimes, somewhat pass as neuro-typical. Uh, but when I talk to someone from who has ADHD, it's almost like when you put two mirrors in front of each other and it just goes on until infinity and refracts and tangents, like that's how that's what happenes. So I'm just warning you up top, this whole energy and everything is going to bring out my, my, uh, my weird self.
I call it ADHD-dar you can always tell the other people that have it as well.
100%. Okay. So I'll tell you a little bit about. Uh, he may grown up and all that good stuff. Um, yeah. So, you know, ever since I was little, I was always doing creative things and I, uh, you know, honestly I think of it like, um, you know, I don't think a lot of people think of ADHD as a, primarily being those people are driven by boredom, but that's what I like just.
Obsessively not wanting to do boring things or mundane things. And I think creativity was really born from just the cure for boredom. How do we, how do I make any circumstances even now, today? You know, if I'm on a bike ride and I'm bored or I'm going, you know, have to take the kids to the doctor or whatever, I just find weird problems to solve in my head, be it for the podcast for a kid's book or whatever. I'm just always. I'm driven to do those things just to, at all costs, avoid being bored. Does that resonate with you or do you know..
Makes perfect sense. There are two roads you can go down with that, you know, as, especially as a kid is a positive road, a negative road.
Totally. Yes. You know, I was actually the kind of kid who really wanted to be a good kid. Like I really wanted to. I wished that I could do all of the right things. And I tried I really, and that was kind of probably part of why I didn't get diagnosed for a long time is that I was just always trying to perform. I was trying to out-will myself to do all the things and just beat myself up and shame myself into making all the deadlines and getting everything right. And all that. And it, you know, you can go so far doing that. Um, but you know, at some point, you know, I, I had a, I learned a really important, um, from my mom who I believe has undiagnosed ADHD. And, uh, she, you know, she gave me a really huge lesson by showing me not what to not do. And I, you know, when I was really little. Everybody in my life would constantly know my uncles, aunts, grandparents, whatever would constantly be like, you are just like your mom. And I'd be like, that's amazing. My mom was the coolest person, like, yeah, my mom wasn't around. Uh, I didn't grow up. You know, I didn't grow up in her house. She, my parents split when I was really little. So I didn't like that. You know, I didn't get to see her that much, especially because I was just totally, I just thought she was the coolest person in the world. She was always drawing.
She was loud, was weird, wwas funny, you know, all of that stuff. Um, and so when people would tell me, you're just like, did your mom, when I was little, I was like, yeah, man, keep it coming. Keep it saying that I love her. She's the coolest person I know. But then as I got older, her life just continually kind of unraveled over and over until things just become, you know, tragedies compounded on other tragedies. And by the time I was in high school and her life has just completely fallen apart. I bet those words that were told to me when I was a kid became this like prophetic a message of doom over my life of this is what happens to people like you you're just like her. This is what's. This is what the world does to people like that.
It's like seeing as opposed to having a parent, an alcoholic parent. Right where you see that and you’re like I can't let that happen.
And what I did it, maybe I didn't have words for it at the time, but what I saw was this is a person who has all of this, like everyone that meets her, she's there, she's charismatic and funny, and she's got all these talents and she's doing all this stuff, but she constantly tried to pass as neuro-typical she tried to just be a secretary, just be a waitress, just be, just be the thing that normal people are. And she never bet on her weirdness. And so I saw from early on, I was having, you know, she would be a waitress and she'd miss do the, you know, miscalculate the change and have so much shame that she'd like walk out on her first day and she, you know, she just could not hold a regular job. And when I started, my parents made me have part time work and I could just feel I was losing money. I was doing things wrong. It didn't matter how much I tried to be normal. it wasn't working. And so from that early age, I just realized that normal is never going to work for me. And I watched my mom. That's what I learned from her. I watched her spend a lifetime of going against the grain for herself. And so that was the thing, the plan I had for 99 or 99 people out of a hundred, like I just knew there's no way that going to work for me.
And so I started to think early on thinking about, you know, what. Kinds of things. Could I do with me weird stuff. And that's why I'm into illustration.
And I think that, you know, what's interesting about what you're saying is that even at a young age, you knew, you know, something's not something's amiss.
Yeah. And the problem is, is that at a young age, it's hard to put that into words. And so you start thinking that you're broken.
100% and I, you know, and also I grew up in the South of Indiana and there wasn't a lot of talk about mental health. Right. And they're, you know, there's just a lot of stuff, stigma around that.
And I think that the words that they had for my mom growing up. Uh, they weren't words like ADHD and kind of the same for me, they were words like lazy, you know, or a mess or forgetful, you know, whatever disease.
“Sit down you’re disturbing the class” disease.
Yes. That, all of that. And so, you know, I think that, uh, um, I didn't have words for, it took me forever to even be able to articulate to my dad like, you know, kind of the perspective thing of like, you're seeing blue, I'm seeing red. I don't know how to sh I don't know how to show you that, you know, um, that's just a metaphor. I'm also color blind, but illustrating the story line. Yeah. I'm not fully colorblind. It's red, green colorblind. But I think that probably contributes to my weird color choices,
Which is funny because a lot of the people I've talked to who have neurodiverse brains are also red-green deficient. I wonder if that.. sounds so weird I wonder if there's something there.
I bet on it. I bet on it, but I, that I desperately want.
They're very cool. They really, you really can see a difference.
That's really cool. Yeah. I w I want to do that. Um, but yeah, I didn't have the language for it for a long time.
Let’s talk illustration. So for me as a kid, I found solace in computers. Right. I grew up in the, the early eighties. I was, I was, you know, age 8 to 18 in the 1980’s. And so I discovered and I had an Apple 2E, and all of a sudden I code and if I coded and I made a mistake, it wasn't so stupid. Right. It wasn't because the kids didn't like me. It wasn't because I open my mouth and say, there's something wrong and I could fix it. Right. So I was able to get a, a level of control through that. I'm assuming you found the same thing through illustration.
Yeah, I'm trying to, I, you know, illustration was weird because as you know, I've since kind of moved over into storytelling and illustration is serving that I think the
Japanese arts or creativity, whatever, you know, the term being, I'm not forgive me for getting it wrong, but no,
I call myself and that's primarily what I do, but it's just evolved over time.
And I think, you know, illustration, when I first started getting into band posters and stuff like that, for me, I think it was just the first path that I saw to not be a complete screw up. I've just like, I. That those are people that have, instead of like repressed their weirdness, they've crystallized it into a style and to a voice and, and, you know, and they did it through the medium of illustration and, and it was kind of just like a yellow brick road into a future that I actually wanted to go into. Um, so that was just the first one like that. But as any ADHD person can probably testify, I, that I can kind of see, like, those hyper-focused obsessions kind of last from anywhere from five years to a decade, like the full.. and I kinda, and I think at the end of, by the time I was about 28, I think I was like, okay, I have illustration. I can do that. It'll serve all my other things, but now I'm interested in storytelling. Um, I don't know if I answered your question.
You most certainly did. I think that, you know, again, one of the things about ADHD, you find. That thing. Yeah. And you go full speed with it. The problem is not everyone finds it once you do, you know, then you really have to have something there. So how did you, how did you turn that into a career? And when you went to your parents and said, here's what I want to do.
What was the reaction there?
Yeah, I mean, their reaction was, well, you know, my dad and my stepmom. Uh, they knew they didn't understand me. They knew they didn't like the path that I chose. Cause I was, I always had, I never planned on getting a job. Even when I went to college for illustration and design, I kind of told them, like, I'm not doing this to go get an entry level Graphic designer position, I'm doing this so that I can work for myself. And the truth is, is that that's really where that thing for my mom kicked in is just, it didn't matter what they said. They didn't like it. They didn't think it was a good idea that, you know, when I graduated, they were constantly telling me like, you know, the newspaper has a graphic design position and I was like, I'm not doing it. There was no part of me that has ever entertained the normal path ever, ever since I watched my mom's life go up in flames, I was just like; you can say whatever you want. I know if I take that path, it's going to lead to destruction. It's not gonna, you know, it's not gonna work. So, um, but how I turn into a career, that's kind of been uh, the second, the second half the, of my career has been talking about that on my podcast, Creative Pep Talk. And I, and I did it in a very strategic way. So I, you know, I have a lot of frameworks and strategies around how to break into your, uh, niche of choice and, you know, I studied a lot. I did a lot of strategic thinking, you know, first and foremost, one of the things that I talk to people about is we always. We always think that your talent is something to do with your ability. And I would argue that it starts before that, not things that you can do, but how deeply you can receive. And I have this whole spiel about that, that I guess I could go into if we want to go that direction, but essentially it starts with collecting all of the things that move you in the deepest way, you know, reverse engineering, both the mechanics of how they're achieving what you love and reverse engineering their career paths and looking for patterns, um, and that's kind of all of the things that I explore on my podcast, creative pep-talk, which is about building a creative career, but also it's for anybody that has to approach “career” creatively, where the normal path just isn't going to get you there.
I do encourage you to subscribe, to CreativePepTalk. I like it. It's a, it's a, a very useful podcast. I strongly encourage everyone listening here, to listen to that as well. Talk about. So when you're on, when you were, when you were illustrating drawing stories on whatever, uh, for clients, you're obviously doing it on deadlines, talk about the secrets that you're using to keep your ADHD at bay or make it work for you, so you're not missing those deadlines and being fired.
I've learned, you know, first of all, uh, I'm lucky enough to be, I was always looking for an agent. I was always good at; getting work. So I never needed an agent to go out there and get me work. Uh, but I was looking for an agent that would help me be a manager and help me to stay on top of that. So part of staying on top of all that is just outsourcing, you know, staying in your strengths zone and outsourcing your weaknesses. Um, now early on, I wasn't able to do that, but I got habits like, um, just some, you know, when I look at a calendar uh, Google calendar, Apple iCal or whatever. It just does not compute. I'm not exactly sure why, but it just is, um, it's it's information overload. It does not help me stay on task. And all of the, you know, all of these project managers, none of that works for me. I have to do a much simpler approach. So what I do, I use the calendar for the stuff that I knock it all in there, but then at the start of the week, every Monday, I create a little Monday through Friday schedule. I've start by adding all the days of the week. Then I block in all of the appointments, so I, you know, things like this podcast are in there and then I work all and then I put the deadlines in. And then I work backwards from there of like, this is how I'm going to spend my work week. Um, and that kind of simplistic approach to managing my time has been a lifesaver.
I imagine that that keeping it simple, um, allows you to put your energy, your creative energy towards things that actually matter.
100% and I, yeah. And you know, that's a, and then the other thing, yeah. On that topic I've learned, you know, I think a lot about like my creative self care diet, and I think about, you know, what are all the habits that I need to be doing in order to be my creative, super self?
What are the things that, you know, things like running, things like a quiet time things like, you know, there's I have all of the, I've also learned like Molly Fletcher. Yeah. This book called a what's it called energy. I can't remember if I, well, I hate it, but I can't remember that, but it's, it's all about, it's all about, um, knowing when your power hours are like, what, when are you?
Um, I think it's called THE ENERGY CLOCK. Yeah. It's all about knowing when are you at your best? Because for me, and even this has gone into my diet and everything. Just knowing that like my willpower just dramatically diminishes throughout the day. And so there'll be..
You gotta be aware of yourself.
You've gotta be aware. You've got it. You've got to be hyper aware of what are the things that I do that me at my best. And what are the things that diminish me? For instance, I, for the most part, during the workweek, I won’t eat bread for, for lunch because as soon as I do my brain's foggy. So just weird things like that, and it kind of, uh, Jim, I'm getting all my names are all over the place right now. Who's the massive business, uh, writer, Jim Collins, Jim Collins talks about, he talks about how one of his professors told him to study himself like “Jim the bug”. So it's just this idea. He has this massive Excel spreadsheet where he's over the years, studied himself like a scientist, studying a bug, just noticing all that, what are the, all the little things that you do? Oh, when I do this, it ends in that when I do that, I get this. And so, yeah, that, that hyper awareness of my ADHD, what triggers it? What helps it, when do you know there's times where I want the ADHD to just fly. You know, when I'm on stage, I want it to go let it go.
It's a spectacle. It doesn't matter if it's good or bad, at least people are like, what the heck is going on? Mmm. It's something to behold. So yeah. Yeah. That self awareness studying yourself like a bug. That's something I've been dedicated to for the past decade, at least.
We're coming up on 20 minutes on the podcast. People can find wherever you find a podcast probably CreativePepTalk but where can they find you?
Probably the best place is Instagram at AndyJPizza. Um, I'm pretty active over there.
Awesome. Andy, I think we're going to have you back cause I want, I want to dive more into sort of getting to know yourself. So we're going to definitely have you back on next couple months, but guys, Andy, first of all, thank you so very much for taking the time. I really appreciate this was, this was fascinating. We're going to have you back.
Guys, you're listening to fast than normal as always. If you like what you hear, drop us a note. Leave us a review. Reach out to me on Twitter, Peter Shankman on Instagram, Twitter at fast and normal. Um, whatever you do say hi, have a great day. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home. If he can wear a mask and we will talk again next week. Thank you for listening. And remember the ADHD is a gift, not a curse. We'll see you later.
This has been Faster Than Normal as always, my name is Peter Shankman. I thank you for listening. Please leave a review on anywhere that you download this podcast, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher. We will see you next week with a brand new episode where we continue to press the notion of ADHD and all sorts of their diversity is a gift and a curse. Thanks for listening.
Credits: You've been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We're available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I'm your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at petershankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you've heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were performed by Steven Byrom and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We'll see you next week.