Save Our Libraries: a GIPHY Arts Q&A With Ari Farley

GIPHY
GIPHY
Published in
7 min readDec 19, 2023

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GIPHY Arts commissions hundreds of artists a year, all of whom do impeccable work. Today, we are happy to spotlight GIPHY Artist Ari Farley and share a Q&A that dives deeper into the creative process.

In 2021, Tennessee-based artist Ari Farley faced a life-altering decision: should she leave her job at a science camp to pursue art full time?

By then, Ari had worked a decade at the camp; it was her first job after she earned her bachelor’s degree in forensic science. However, after years of telling camp attendees to pursue their dreams in science, Ari realized that it was time for her to chase her dreams as well.

“I realized that I was telling the campers to follow their dreams, but I wasn’t even doing that for myself. I had an identity crisis of wondering how I could be the person I was telling the campers to be.”

Today, Ari is a full-fledged hand-lettering artist and illustrator with several projects under her belt, including a recent GIPHY Arts commission calling on the public to support their local libraries and librarians. For Ari, the commission was personal; a scientist at heart, libraries had always been a place for her to explore her love of learning and nature.

“There are so many things that libraries offer that you don’t know about. […] once you recognize that, then you realize how important it is that they stay funded. I think funding comes from a lot of different areas, but it starts with support from the community. What’s important is us getting out and showing that we are using our library.”

Below, you’ll find our full Q&A with Ari, as well as several of her GIFs from her GIPHY page.

How did you get your start as an artist? What has your journey been like?

Like most creators, I’ve had a childhood love for creating. Growing up, I’ve always drawn and created and my family cultivated that. But, I developed this little bug of an idea that creatives don’t make a sustainable living, which is such an untruth. With that fear in mind, I went ahead and pursued science in college, which I loved.

I love science, and I was so inspired by the field that I wanted to take that route in my career. But, during my last semester in college, I took a 3D art class and realized that I should have been creating art the whole time. When I went off to my first post-college job at a science camp, I was lucky to have opportunities to paint, design and learn Photoshop, Illustrator and Procreate, which is how I learned to animate and make GIFs.

What did you get your bachelor’s degree in, if you don’t mind us asking?

Forensic science! I majored in chemistry with a specialization in forensic science.

That’s so interesting! Do you find that you use your background in forensic science in your art?

I truly believe that my background led me to this path now. I think we often beat ourselves up for not following our passions, but pursuing a science job after college led me to a science camp that I worked at for a decade where I got to meet amazing people, watch kids grow and have life-changing experiences. It was actually within that job that I got to learn design and bring in this love for science and animals, so I truly believe it all happened for a reason.

I’m still obsessed with science. My appreciation for nature, flowers, animals and the outdoors has been such a huge inspiration for my artwork. My job at camp gave me access to all of that.

How did you start making GIFs?

When I was working at camp, I was running social media and several creative projects, and through that work, I discovered Procreate and learned that they had an animation feature. I really wanted to be able to use GIFs that I made and I wasn’t able to find the GIFs that I wanted to use in our projects, so I Googled “how do you make GIFs that can go on the internet?” and that led me on a path to GIPHY. I started doing animation that way, purely because I wanted to use GIFs on the camp’s Stories. But then, I realized that if I could make GIFs for the camp, I could also make them for myself.

I left that job in 2021 to pursue creative work full time, and as I left that job, I had to ask myself what I loved making. I realized that GIFs were something I really enjoyed making. It’s simple and GIF-making really taps into the scientific part of my brain of figuring out movement and how to creatively solve problems. I got back into making GIFs because it was something I knew would be creatively challenging and soul-soothing as I’m trying to explore this new creative path.

It sounds like your science camp job was foundational to your journey as an artist. What was it about that environment that fostered your identity as an artist?

As I was preparing to leave camp, I had to have this realization about why I was choosing to go. At camp, we have a really big mantra of following your dreams. The camp’s founder built the camp on a dream; she’s passionate about kids following their dreams and helping them find a logical way to get to their dreams.

It was around year six of camp where I realized that I was telling the campers to follow their dreams, but I wasn’t even doing that for myself. I had an identity crisis of wondering how I could be the person I was telling the campers to be.

Camp was foundational in so many ways; anyone who’s worked at a camp has these strong emotional connections to the place. For me, camp fostered a lot of my life’s passions and loves.

Your GIPHY Arts commission calls on the public to support their libraries and librarians. What is your personal connection to the subject?

I love our local library here in our city. Growing up, my family was really big on us going to the library. My library time was actually spent engaging in the digital formats: I remember renting seven CDs at a time from the library and listening to them all the way through. For me, libraries hold a special place in the formation of who I am and the things I’ve grown to love.

As I mentioned earlier, I love learning and exploring curiosities, both in my passions, such as plants and animals, but also in cultures and lives beyond my own. I’m passionate about people being able to engage in the information that they want to seek. I don’t want people to be kept from information that helps form their view of the world, other people and cultures that they don’t have direct access to. I want people to read stories about people, places and things they don’t know, so they have a worldview that is bigger than their own.

What do you want people to take away from your commission?

I really want people to get out and explore everything that is possible at their local libraries. In the process of making this commission, I researched and discovered what libraries offer, which I feel like a lot of people don’t know.

For example, a lot of libraries offer historical information for the city they’re in, and sometimes genealogical information if you’re from that place. They also offer computer classes: my mom was learning Microsoft Excel at our local library, which I think is so cute. They have a crochet club, anime club, and children’s story time. I also discovered that my library gives free after-school meals to kids.

There are so many things that libraries offer that you don’t know about. And I think once you recognize that, then you realize how important it is that they stay funded. I think funding comes from a lot of different areas, but it starts with support from the community. What’s important is us getting out and showing that we are using our library.

So, go rent a CD or a movie, learn how to crochet, take your kids to story time or just inform your community. That’s what I would like for this project to really bring to light is all the beautiful opportunities that our local libraries are providing for us.

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