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Cut Yourself Out a Life

Farmer Bill. He was a family friend who had a little farm on the backside of Mt. Diablo. My Mom took me there when I was a kid. He was cool. Kinda’ old timey, but still open minded and curious like a kid himself. He checked out one of my toys once and said.. “..it’s amazing what they can do with plastic now.”

He’d let me and Mom ride around on a couple of horses he had there. He had worked ranches when he was younger and knew horses and cattle pretty well. Like I said, he was cool.

As I got a bit older he shared with me why he was happy most of the time, even though he had lost his wife some years earlier and his kids had moved off to make a life for themselves. I think he felt I would one day understand, and need this tid bit of advice.

He said, someday I’d need to “…cut myself out a life.” He said that cowboys would cut out cattle from the herd that they needed on any given day. That a person could “cut out a life”. You don’t need everything life has to offer. You don’t need some other’s life. It will never be the perfect life. But it will be the life you need, and if you’re lucky, the life you want.

Not long after, Farmer Bill went to be with his wife. I suppose his kids sold the farm, and went back to their own lives. I meanwhile, spent quite a few years trying to “cut myself out a life”. Took me a few decades to figure it out, but I’d have to say, Farmer Bill would be proud.

A beautiful little daughter, a loving wife, a decent job, clothing on our backs and a roof over our heads. Food in the fridge. Thank God. A simple, and relatively happy life.

So in 2018, if you haven’t already, “cut yourself out a life”. It doesn’t need to be some other’s life. It will never be the perfect life. But it will be the life you need, and if you’re lucky, the life you want. Miss you Mom. Happy New Year.

~ Chad (the kid) and Farmer Bill

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Root of Creativity…Love?

Grunt, Snort, Bash

Even before early humans used sharpened stones as tools, we’ve been creating. Simple somethings at least. Maybe not the Mona Lisa or the Taj Mahal initially, but we’ve been producing, with our own two hands, things which would not otherwise exist.

Whether it was a spear for hunting, drawings in a cave for reference, or jewelry for rituals, humans, for obvious reasons, have been basically making stuff.

The obvious reasons are clear as day. Got to eat, got to get to where food and water is, got to make shelter, got to appease a Deity.

The mysterious reasons that unknowingly eluded me was why create art? Dance? Music? Why create sports, vivid stories, or sculptures?

I’m sure many had that answer, but at the time, me along with my eager shallowness, did not. Heck, I wasn’t even asking the question.

Damn Hipsters

What a pivotal time; in my thirties and back in school again. There wasn’t a better moment to reinvent myself and decide I was a rock star again. So in my spare time I picked up my guitar and started playing and writing again. I sucked, but with practice I got a bit better, or at least good enough to not get laughed out of the local coffee shop open mic. And with my groove back, a good time was sure to be had. An even better time when I managed to make a couple bucks on the corner covering “Mainstreet” among others, and praying somebody still remembered Bob Seger.

One day on that corner, a slightly disheveled intellectual looking Hipster (that was my nick name for him) came and joined me during a break, and I’ll admit, I was a bit uneasy. I had seen him around before, but unfairly labeled him “unfriendly”. Maybe because he was always carrying around a book with a title I didn’t recognize and he was about a half foot taller than me. Of course his “know-it-all” smirk didn’t help.Yeah, I had some insecurity issues.

After some surprisingly delightful banter, I picked up my guitar to check for tuning when he hit me with a bombshell. And I’ll never forget him for it, hence why I’m writing this eight years later.

Hipster: “Do you know why you write and play songs? Ya’ know. Why you perform them for people?”

Me: “No.”

Hipster: “Because it’s your way of saying ‘Look guys! Look what I’m doing! Please Love me!” … “It’s how YOU seek love and affection from the world.”

Me: ?

Hipster: *smirk*

Me: Ohhh.

He, in a few sentences, had explained something to me that I didn’t even know I was questioning. It has honestly helped me to define what love is over the passing years. Love used to be the only four letter word that I did not understand.

Repeat the Question Please

Why, for all those years had I drawn pictures for my friends and family? Why, during my rebellious teens, did I take the time to sit down and learn to play guitar with my father? Why, do I still create things and stress about the criticism I may get from others? Why, is seeing someone pleased about what I created so damn important?

Well what about money?

Sure, money is a bit important, and an obvious need, but what about the root of it?

Fear. Everyone says that fear is the root of many human emotions. But what are we fearful of? Rejection. Not being loved. Again, leading me to feel that Love and Affection are the foundations for creativity.

Who would have thought? Not a meat head like me apparently. At least not until that day. Love could possibly be the root motivation of creativity, of performing, of writing, of all art forms. The root motivation for wanting all of those things.

Hipster: “Because it’s your way of saying ‘Look guys! Look what I’m doing! Please Love me!” … “It’s how YOU seek love and affection from the world.”

So, there are some I’m sure who think that “Love” may be too strong a word, I mean come on, a lot of the people I’ve performed and created for were total strangers. How could I possibly expect “Love” from them? Well, thank the Ancient Greek peeps for clearing this up.

To best explain this I’ve chosen two out of the four words for “Love” the Ancient Greeks used. Agape and Philia.

Agape is the type of unconditional love you would have for your child, wife, or Higher Power (God, Jesus, Allah…) etc., and in turn the type of love they would have for you.

Philia is a more common brotherly or sisterly love, which is that kind of general love you have for your fellows. Here’s a little interesting tid bit – Philia means the exact opposite of the Ancient Greek word Phobia. Many have the exact opposite of philia for spiders and clowns. Makes sense right?

So as a creator of anything, to have and seek philia (love) from your audience doesn’t seem too far fetched. In fact again, this could account not only for the feeling and rush I get from performing, but also the pleasant feelings I get from observing another artist.

Looking back even years from now, I’m sure I will still remember the lesson I learned that day. And I’m very grateful that the honest, and much wiser than me Hipster had the guts to tell it like it is. Fore if he didn’t, I don’t rightly know if I would have recognized the feelings I had for a young lady whom shortly there after I began spending time with. She is now my lovely wife, and we share a beautiful daughter together. Things have truly never been better.

The one regret I do have from that day is never getting the name of that chap. Maybe I’ll just start calling him a fine upstanding young man.

There’s a bonus lesson in this.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or because it has a title that you do not recognize.

Today, I find more joy in the little things, deeper empathy for my fellows, and more time for creating … thanks to an open mind, and a friendly stranger.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment and share!

Starving Artist to Thriving Artist – Making $$$ with your Talents

Show me the MONEY!

There are thousands if not millions of Potters, Weavers, Glass Blowers, Tattoo Artists, Make-up/FX Artists, Muralists, Portrait Artists, Face Painters, Artistic Photographers, Animators, Illustrators and other Fine Artists … just to list a few, in the Arts and Crafts Industry. And that’s not even including the Design Genres or The Performing Arts.

What do all these professions have in common? Well, they are Art done by Artists that fetches them the Benjamins … The Money.

Let’s rewind to 1980, central California, and a snot nosed kid doodling at his grandparent’s T.V. repair shop. Some of the best memories of my life were those afternoons, sitting in front of a mountain of paper and looking up at my Grandma Pat’s smiling face. In fact, she loved my passion for art so much that she bought my first “commission”. A 2″ x 3″ Dale’s T.V. ad in the local yellow pages. It was a hideously cute portrayal of two monkeys trying to fix a television set placed above the tagline, “Don’t just let anyone monkey around with your T.V. set”. I was probably the happiest kid ever to crack open a telephone book the day it, and my glorious ad were delivered; not to mention I made a whoppin’ ten bucks. Darn good money for a kid in those days, and if memory serves, it bought me the start of my first G.I. Joe collection.

Okay, fast forward to now. Ten bucks may not go as far as it did then but I tell you what, if you can’t make a living off of a five minute $6 face paint job then you really need to adjust your budget. That’s what the Face Painting Artist shown above made painting my daughter, Milla’s, face. And there was a steady line six people deep. Think of all the G.I. Joes she can buy now. Actually, it’s a pretty reasonable price considering my little girl had a big smile plastered on her face; giggling at every reflection she walked by. Well worth it, and that nice lady got some financial gain out of it too, but here’s the kicker, I didn’t just pay for her overhead and that 5 minutes, I paid for her talent, experience, and expertise. Things she had nurtured within her skill set for years, maybe even decades.

She may have been some snot nosed kid sitting in front of a mountain of paper not so long ago, with a doting grandmother who encouraged her healthy doodling habit. Now, she’s putting her love for art to good use. Using it to her advantage. Making ends meet by sharing her gift.

I’m sure she has days that drag on, and ups and downs like any other business, but one fact remains, she took something she was good at and enjoyed, and turned it into her own business. That to me is as impressive as Bill Gates’ story, just on a slightly smaller scale.

Let’s imagine for a second that she, at some point, got tired of waiting on tables or working long shifts at the hospital or wrenching on engines (she has some strong looking forearms) or whatever and decided to use her talent for art to make a living. She probably prayed or meditated, or looked in the mirror, or confided in a loved one, and decided, “You know what! Let’s do this!” and the next thing you know she hit the next local festival and made bank! Right on sister! Glad you’re doing it. She’s probably glad she’s doing it too. She seemed very happy and content.

A wee bit of my story! (stick with me)

My story is very similar. Though nothing I could have imagined at the time. Somewhere in my early twenties I landed into electrostatic painting. From there I went to roofing, then back into painting, then on to framing and so on. For the next fifteen years I worked in the trades. Then one day hanging siding I noticed my back wasn’t feeling quite as good as it used to, and my pep had kind of lost it’s pep. Upon waking the next morning I began to formulate a plan. A simple plan, in my mind, before I could even get it down on paper or take any action. I think we all call that a dream. A GOAL!

Now where do I start? Sure, I can draw a bit but what’s with all this computer stuff? How am I going to afford training? College? I’m broke. How can I pay my bills while going to school? Will I find a job in a new career once I get out? So I wrote down a list of questions. A LOT of questions. That would be my starting point. Now came the research to answer them. The results would be my finished plan, my strategy, and my mission. How am I going to pass Algebra? Ugh. Moving on.

After three and a half years of college, and some of the best times of my life, came the real test. This was, as we say in construction, where the metal meets the meat. Where did all the jobs go?!? With degree in hand, I struck out on the last leg of my mission. It was tough. I was scared, no lie. To make matters worse the market was saturated with hungry (and much younger) designers looking for the same thing I was, a career, but I was determined. More determined than I’d ever been in my life. I ate, slept, and breathed Art, Marketing and Design.

I felt like Yoda deflecting lasers of disappointment. One after another opportunities came and went. Most often with no more than a phone interview. Money was scarce, food was Ramenized, and hope was dwindling. Then one glorious day, I scored a decent job in the industry. It wasn’t much, but it lead to another job, then another, then next thing I knew, I was sitting in a fairly decent cubical at a fairly plush job. One I don’t have to tear myself out of bed in the mornings to go to.

From starving to thriving life for me went. (damn you Yoda)

My heroes have always worn Blue Collars

Now, do not be mislead by my previous realization. I think to have a passion for construction, lawn care, manufacturing, and other crafts and trades is awesome. In fact I am one of those who finds art in a lot of things other people wouldn’t consider art. Whether it be a warehouse worker picking orders to 99% efficiency or a butcher with all ten fingers. That’s talent! Watching these masters of their craft is inspiring. But, after experiencing my transformation from what I was good at to what I have a passion for, I truly had to share a bit of my story for those who are questioning a mid-life career change.

It can be done smart, practically, and you can be a success.

This article wasn’t written as a “How To” guide, but rather to raise awareness that art isn’t merely a hobby you have to treat as an after thought.

This article wasn’t written as a “How To” guide, but rather to raise awareness that art isn’t merely a hobby you have to treat as an after thought. I really wanted to share my experience and hope to anyone who wants to make their living at something they love. I still sit in disbelief sometimes while designing thinking, “Wow, is this really what I do now, and I get paid for it?”

Maybe in another twenty years I’ll switch it into third gear and become an astronaut. Who knows? But for now, I, like the nice Face Painting lady, are delighted doing what we love.

Don’t let that “no” in your head break the spirit in your heart. Stay awesome and keep the dream alive.

Skill + Ambition = Cha-ching! $$$ 🙂