The following article is a guest blog post from our dear friend Adam Denais, who is an active contributor to the NEXT Architects Facebook Group. He originally wrote this post for the group, which he let me publish as a guest article. Feel free to send this blog post to your friends and coworkers.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know Antonio through several of our NEXT Events. He always brings infectiously positive energy with him. I am excited to share with you all more about him!
Toe Knee, tell us a little about yourself, your career journey so far, and what you are all about.
My name is Antonio Sierra, but I also go by Tony, Toe Knee, whichever is most natural for people to address me as. I’m currently working independently, through my business of Sierra Creations since July of last year (2020).
Before that, I worked at a small firm doing a little bit of everything (drafting, project management, field measurements, permit documentation, and expediting, among other things).
I graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Miami in 2014 and moved to Chicago three months later when I started my professional career.
I take joy in embracing the things around my life, whether it is the people in my life (family, friends), my hobbies (drawing, painting, gaming, traveling, socializing, trying delicious food), or my career aspirations (art, architecture, and design)
What are you doing to build a career/life that is healthy for you?
I’ve been making an effort to foster more genuine connections with people within the profession that have values and morals that align with my own.
Through my years of experience, I’ve learned that certain personalities are easier to work with than others, and it comes down to what values the people you collaborate – whether clients or fellow professionals -have. Having paid attention to this has given me the opportunity to understand what type of circle I need to create a healthy career, as well as a healthy life.
At the end of the day, having people that you can be of service to in an honest and enthusiastic way means much more to me than knowing “the right people.”
What are you passionate about? What gets you up in the morning?
Being able to create is my overarching passion.
To be able to successfully conceive an idea that was in my head and put it into a tangible medium (preferably on a canvas) brings me a lot of awe at myself… Like “wow, I really made that, didn’t I?’ is a great feeling I strive towards.
Being able to see the end product of your creation is one of the things that make my life worth living.
How would you say your culture or experiences influence your art?
When I first started painting 15 years ago, I immediately started embracing a variety of colors and incorporating them into my art pieces.
Having experienced the Puerto Rican and Dominican cultures, I saw and was fascinated by how colorful and lively they are, whether it’s their music, art, customs, etc. I try to invoke that liveliness into my art.
However, I try not to box myself into a particular style or theme but experiment with many different subjects and themes throughout my artwork.
Any tips for someone who is struggling to start a creative hobby?
I would like to give two pieces of advice, which may sound contradictory:
1) Don’t force yourself out of a creative block. Sometimes what you might need the most is to distract your mind and let the inspiration come to you. It might take a while, but always make sure to be taking care of yourself.
2) Don’t think too much about it and Experiment! The creative process is a series of finding which concepts and ideas will work for you, or will get you closest to that idea you have, or guide you to a much better place.
Anything else you would like to share? Where can people connect with you?
Yes! In architecture school, we are encouraged to be creative with your problem solving, which is something that for many of us, myself included, have a hard time implementing in our post-graduate life.
I encourage you to re-engage with that creativity with which you approached your studio projects and find ways to enhance your life with it!
You can connect with me on Facebook and Instagram through my personal pages:
Or my artist and graphics pages at: