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Meet Trevor Linder

Today we’d like to introduce you to Trevor Linder.

Trevor, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was just a kid that was addicted to mac’n’cheese and project runway. I did not know anything about what it meant to be an artist. No one in my family knew anything about visual art and every art teacher in school growing up told me there was not much they could teach me. Not unlike the miniatures I collect and paint, I acknowledged the drawing as a hobby that could never be practical as a real profession. I went into high school thinking I wanted to be an engineer and after a week in honors geometry, that dream died. When I aced the final for that class, I had the most mixed feeling of not understanding why I felt happy (that I did perfectly on a final) but so unfulfilled with life and my trajectory in it. I thought about what the most interesting thing I had learned in the class was, and it fell outside the course curriculum. I was in the School Parking lot one morning and I saw a sticker of the Mandelbrot set on the back window of my Geometry teacher’s car. I had never seen fractals in my life (in that context) and I spent that week learning everything I could about them. The connection of geometry to nature sent me on a manic quest to understand them visually and I produced some images that semester in an attempt to understand the visual structure of fractals and their beauty. I hadn’t realized how much joy producing those drawings had brought to my life until I succeeded at the geometry and the feeling paled in comparison. I had showed the drawings to the guys on my football team and at one point during a practice, I was standing on the sidelines with a teammate, and we were quiet for a bit, and then all of a sudden, looking off in the distance he says, ” Trevor, if you were a tenth as good at football as you were at drawing, our team would be undefeated,” and though I loved football, his words were clarity. I was perceived by my peers as a person with a high level of skill at a niche thing and whereas I dreamed of being able to draw and paint well enough to show people my imagination, I knew how far I was from being able to actually do that. I did not go out for football the next year. Instead, I joined the choir.

As one of 4 brothers, I had always had an older brother to go to school with and it was new to me as a sophomore when my brother had graduated and I was alone for the first time at school. I had not realized how much my identity was wrapped up in one or more of brothers being around. I began to branch out and try things I was specifically drawn to. I learned to sing in harmony, I fell in love with it. I was an usher for a show, and then a make artist. I tried out for a theater production at the behest of friends and teachers, got a lead role and pulled 21 hour days for rehearsals in order to stay on top of school and the production. I sang in front of the curtain solos for sold out audiences in which I was giving voice cues to a live professional band. We were well-loved by the community and an elderly home let us practice give performances at the professional theatre they had on their campus. I learned a bit of acting, Broadway singing style and had the most incredible coaches, teachers, and peers to learn and perform with. It was all so new and the scale of the production was so epic and exciting. I would come off stage from holding my own in a eight or nine part harmony and the high from just how well executed the music and acting were together would make me feel as though I was floating above the ground with full-body cascading chills for a half hour. The lights would be so bright on stage you couldn’t even see the crowd. The suspended feeling of reality was absolutely intoxicating. It was a drug and I was addicted. They had made me the tennis team captain that year and because of the theatre production, I made it to 3 practices and 2 games…

That was junior year, and I was beginning to think that musical theatre was where I had to go with my life. It was just too much fun. Then I heard about a pre college summer art program that a classmate of mine had gone to, it sounded awesome, and I wanted to try it out to see if maybe visual art was for me still. The program was a little expensive, and my Dad, God bless his penny pinching soul, was disapproving of the tens of thousands of dollars it would cost for a month long program. My mom started searching for other options. She found one for a grand or so in Pasadena at a school called Art Center College of Design. That was the school my teacher from High school went, but he studied advertisement and packaging and made art that confused me. I was so absolutely uneducated about art and design and their cultures and history that I figured Art Center was just another art school with a very low job placement rate after graduation. So with reluctance, I told my mom I would check out the program even though I knew I was not as interested in it as the very expensive, enticing and well-advertised program my friend had told me stories of. When I started looking into the school and the program, I started to realize there was something a little different about this school. Every artist I had worshiped growing up from the film industry was from Art Center. The more research I did, the more I realized how serious everyone from the college was about being able to communicate the design.

They also had a brand new program that focused specifically on conceptual art for films, games, and entertainment and I remember being in the third grade at a book store with my mom, finding an art of book, realizing concept art was even a job and telling her that I was going to do that. I had forgotten, but everything fell into place so fast, I knew that was where I had to go. My aunt lived close enough to drive to Art Center’s Entertainment Design Summer intensive and that was that. I had to know if there was anything more to visual art for me than drawing beautiful shapes and “cool” designs of robots and space ships. I needed to know if it could take me to the same place as the music had taken me. Could it have meaning in the same depth? Day one of the intensive the teachers told me that Story is King, and everything else comes after that. There was the meaning. And it was also in that moment that I realized why I enjoyed Theatre so. It was because of the storytelling; getting into character so intensely that you are simulating feelings and channeling them to produce that story conflict in real-time. This concept art was designing the playground that I got to have so much fun in when I was performing the musical. The story is the playground for everyone else that makes art for it. This new understanding of the importance of story instantly eclipsed how I felt about pursuing musical theatre.

I worked nonstop every day for a month while I was in the intensive, I pulled a few all-nighters and gave one of the best presentations between the two classes. I felt like a full person for the first time in my life. Firing on all cylinders in a way that had always happened so disparately. I had finally found a place where I could take all of my interests and start using them all at once. It felt like soling in jazz and singing in harmony plus cooking multiplied by so much new knowledge about image production and storytelling that I was overwhelmed. It was everything I could have ever dreamed of. The teachers were better than me by a very large margin and they were so confident in there skills and ability to make dreams reality. I wanted to have what they had, and I had never come in contact with anyone that I thought was better than me. I knew it had given me an ego and I resented myself for having it. The intensive was the perfect humbling experience for me at the time. It was exciting and challenging and now I knew what to aim for with my skill and what training regimes I would need to employ to get to that level.

After the intensive, I was back in my life and gave myself a little break. My Senior Year started and I thought about college, what I wanted, and the time it was going to take to make a portfolio for Art Center and apply to other colleges. I realized I did not want to go anywhere else, even if I didn’t make it in, I wanted to go to Art Center and I would keep trying. So I gave it my all in that direction and pulled a 0.65 GPA that first semester of Senior year. I failed a few finals and missed a bunch of homework, but I spent almost every waking moment of my time writing and designing the visuals for three stories and trying to do enough homework to satisfy teachers, though most were very supportive of my ambitions. I remember being so tired from staying up late to draw that I fell asleep in my government class and woke up having fallen over on a friend. It was funny at the time, but it was nothing in comparison to what I would experience at Art Center. I got the acceptance letter in March and felt like I had accomplished something. I stopped drawing, took a break with my life, and tried to imagine what the fall was going to be like, I had worked so hard that I went outside one morning I realized it had been months since I let myself focus on the sky and the clouds. I then realized that I was scared to go to ArtCenter, as I knew it would be the hardest thing I ever attempted.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Art Center has proven to be the most Ultimate and incredible challenge of physical health and mental fortitude. After my first three days had already had 25 hours of class and the homework just for that looked like 50 to 70 Hours. I started doing the math on how many hours were in a week and I realized I did not know how to work fast enough to be able to support the demands of the school. I was doing well, but I had to pull at least two all-nighters a week in order to sort of keep up. I was young, hyper-motivated, and prepared to push myself into the ground to take advantage of the opportunity that Art Center and the Universe had given me. My motto was, “Let it not be said that I did not give it my ALL,” and that’s what I did. It was actually all I could do to feel like my head was above water. Being asked to do as many artistic things as they asked was overwhelming to me. I had not ever drawn this much for more than a month at a time and it seemed like everyone around me was more prepared and well equipped. As someone that had not met an artist that was better than he was (I thought) since I was 12, being the small fish in a big pond was humbling. There was this whole world of art and design that I was diving deep into and it was overwhelming. By week 6 of 14 in the first term I felt like I had learned more things about art and design and drawing and mark making than I had about everything in all of school before that combined. I desperately tried to take notes to catch the new information that I was sure I did not have time to assimilate now. I told myself I would compile the notes later.

After that first term, I slept for 18 hours straight. I got good grades but It was extreme. Life did not feel normal after that. I went home for break and hung out with friends from high school, they talked of college partying and boring GE classes and I felt like an outsider. We did not do those things at Art Center, during my first term, I consoled a few people that considered suicide because of the workload. There was a girl that passed out in the workshop and broke her jaw in my class. A girl in my Viscom 1 class had dropped out of Harvard law because art was always her dream and she was asking me, a 17 years old, about time management. I tried to join my friends and realized that partying was a skill that you had to invest time into being good at also. My girlfriend from Highschool had dumped me that first term and the girl I started seeing after that left me for my best friend. I went back to school and buried myself in my work. As hard as the work was it was rewarding. The effort I put into fundamentals that first year began to pay off I began to see results in my work. I pushed harder the second term than I did the first term and I was beginning to acquire new skills in speed and accuracy. I wasn’t just another artist wasting his family’s money going to an art school. I was going to do something with this. More than anything, I wanted to not be a waste. The feelings were toxic.

I went home that summer and worked private weddings in the Napa valley for money while I took a break from school. Something had shifted within me. I was constantly stressed about school and deadlines within my degree audit and building a portfolio to get into the industry and prove to everyone that I was accomplished. At the end of the term I had some health issues. I figured it was just the normal sort of intensity that you go through during finals, and that It would clear up with some rest over summer. When the constant bad feelings in my gut did not go away, I went to the doctor. After a few visits and then a colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It meant I was going to have to turn my life around if I ever wanted to be an elderly artist. I was 260 pounds, had a very unhealthy diet, and it was a wakeup call. I went through another breakup after the diagnosis and gained 40 pounds. I was on a medication that allowed me to eat what I was normally eating (bad food) with higher nutrient absorption and the weight came on very fast. It was strange because I hadn’t changed much but the medication. I got curious and started to do research on my body and found out that I had been having symptoms of Crohn’s disease since high school, and other people did not regularly have the pains and stomach ache like I, I guess, always did. I had learned to ignore it as normal.

I had been malnourished in high school and college and whereas I was on medication that was helping a bit, I began to imagine how good I could feel if I was healthier and not relying on medication to make it okay to eat unhealthily. I decided to go with a different medicinal approach that focused on natural healing and medicine that doesn’t let you eat whatever you want. I changed my diet to what a new doctor’s opinion had told me and it was intense. I, a fat kid, was about to only eat cooked vegetables with supplements for eight months. I got a gym membership and fell in love with running and yoga. Those two terms, I lost 100 pounds, and then a little more. Nothing was going to stand in my way. I was powerful and I had changed my whole body. That was the proof. It was the most amazing transformative period, and everything in my life followed with it. I had applied what I had learned of design as problem-solving to my health with incredible results. I still had symptoms of Crohn’s and will as I continue to heal, but what I had done was a very loving thing for my body and my life.

People did not recognize me because of the weight loss, and it felt like a clean slate to start a new chapter in my life upon. I had gotten behind in school because of my health and decided to take that slow while I adjusted to the Chronic Illness. Over the next few years, I was hospitalized twice because of flare ups, and had to call the ambulance on multiple occasions because my body started feeling so out of whack that I had no clue what was going on. I took two classes a term, focused on my health, found good friends, and slowly healed. I wanted desperately to be the savage Art Center Student that could handle triple all nighters like I had been, but those days were over and my ego would have to deal with it.

Fall 2018 rolls around. I was living with my girlfriend of 2 years in a beautiful place that we had found together. We were taking classes and getting freelance work where we could for money, and I was starting to feel like I was healthy enough for full course loads again so that I Would not be in college forever. The recent painting classes had taught me things brought me skills that I had not thought possible for me to acquire. I was taking an independent study with one of the painting teachers and he asked me what I wanted to paint. I had no clue, no one had ever asked me that before. I was used to just doing the work and being the guy that produced it. These new inward thoughts brought me to a story that I was writing and I started expanding the ideas. I was falling in love with painting in a way that felt like the right direction for my life and I was just starting to feel like I was healthy again and then the week before finals I get a call from my aunt. My dad had a stroke and was in the hospital. I flew up to see him and three days later, I held his hand while he died. I went back to Art Center and tried to finish the term. I was a mess but bottled the feelings as hard as I could in order to stay at school. I wanted to drown myself in work but I ended up taking just one class the next two terms and went a little crazy building shelves for my apartment doing a lot of drugs as a coping mechanism. My girlfriend left after the summer and It then it was fall 2019.

I skimmed over about a year just now where I was under intense emotional turmoil form the loss of my dad, the crazy environment of Art Center, drug abuse, and a recent breakup. Because of the disease, the 2019 lifestyle affected the health of my body heavily and after deciding to stop abusing my body and get back in good health, I got very sick and lost 20 pounds in a week and a half. It took a month to recover and I thought about my Dad, his sacrifice to us during life, and what a powerful role model he was, I let myself be as sad as I was about it and I shaved a 6-inch beard and started anew. I have since taken up music again and hope to someday play guitar with some amount of skill. I am trying to pursue my own direction with my art and I do not stress over homework or freelance work. I plan to take freelance work and classes all year, take a break for my health, and graduate in the Fall of 2021. I have much hope for the future with my brothers and family!

What else should our readers know?
Right now, I am mainly a student but I take work when I can get it, mostly from friends and old classmates now in the industry. I specialize in drawing and painting. I am writing a comic. I also love model fabrication and painting and have done work for the theme park industry.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
My honesty. It can be a double-edged sword that requires much failure and learning to wield, but if you keep picking yourself up every time you fall, you eventually learn to succeed.

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 7077716965
  • Email: trevordesignlinder@gmail.com
  • Instagram: trevorthelinder

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