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ARTROVERTS! UNITE! Being Successful As An Artist

Recently I designed a t-shirt that says “ARTROVERTS UNITE! We’re here! We’re uncomfortable! We want to go home and create something.”

If you had asked me a few years ago when I started selling art, what it takes to be a successful artist… my answer would have been simple: the ability to produce good art.

I imagined that my artistic life would consist solely of me working in my studio, producing strokes of genius.

Art collectors would magically appear (poof) to buy art and leave. I would rarely have to leave my studio, and I would never have to go out into the “real” world. I would never again have to go to any social gathering I didn’t want to go to. This belief was clearly absurd, but I had all kinds of silly ideas in my brain jar of what being an artist was.

Now, almost a decade into it, I realize the subject of what it takes to be successful as an artist is much more intricate. It’s not just about producing art, although that is a BIG part of it. It’s about putting yourself out there again and again. Falling on your face and accepting rejection as part of the process.

Had I known all these years, my fear would have either gotten the better of me, or I would have blazed my own trail long ago. I would have become an ARTROVERT.

I love making art. I love being in my studio. Creativity is what keeps me from losing my shit, makes my life meaningful, and encourages me to jump out of bed in the morning even when the world seems to be amid a crap-storm.

The thing I didn’t understand when I first started was how much being an artist would require me to stretch myself. Or maybe I knew, which is why for most of my life, I didn’t pursue an art career. I stayed comfortably in the shallow end.

I had a friend that used to tell me that even our dream jobs will have roles we don’t like but which we accept so we can do the parts we love.

To be an artist, we have to accept the discomfort of being perpetually vulnerable, having no financial security, and being rejected often.

This involves putting yourself out there in front of the world… Which can be terrifying.

So How did you do it Rafi? How did you get over your fear?

I decided to take it step by step and not try to eat the entire enchilada all at once. I realized it wasn’t all or nothing, I could do it in chunks. I knew those chunks were going to hit on some major comfort zones. I also stopped comparing myself to where other artists were at in their careers.

Being an ARTROVERT is all about accepting the fact that it is OK that you don’t want to be social, and not punishing yourself for it. It means that you trust in communicating with your art and don’t concern yourself so much with how people see you.

You’re an artist, you are weird, and awkward sometimes, and that is OK. Artroverts love their studio, they love creating, and they love their quiet time. An artrovert also understands that if you are not putting yourself out there, you are not communicating your art with the world… so you show up.

To be an artist, it is quite simple. Create art, put it out there, and persist through the bullshit of your own mind or other people. Keep creating, keep showing up, and through that experience, you will let your weird artistic personality shine into the world along with your art.

Be unapologetically awkward, be creative, be an ARTROVERT.

Listen to our podcast below, where Klee and I talk about being ARTROVERTS.

And Here is A Quick Message From Some Random Sponsor (sorry 🙂 not sorry)

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How To Get Noticed

I get approached by a lot of artists who are just starting out, who ask me how they can get noticed in a saturated art market. They think there is some trick to it, some magical formula that exists that causes millions of people to suddenly flock to their social media page. Usually, I leave them very disappointed with my answer, because unless you are selling a gimmick, it is going to take time.

Being Childish Is Fun

What I do tell them is that it is time to take that scary step and stand in the limelight. I also tell them to think of their future followers and collectors as human beings and not just a gathering of statistics. The answer is NOT about having the lowest price, being the best, offering free shipping, or any of the stupid gimmicks people pull to try and close a sale. Besides, amazon already has that jazz on lock-down. Certainly, some of those things are nice, but honestly, in an age where the masses are taking that route it is not going to set you apart. Standing out is about building relationships and that starts with each and every encounter you have. Whether you are developing a relationship online or face to face it is that extra humanity and authenticity that will set you apart.

Rafi Perez Live Painting Vinyl

Be genuinely interested in people. People are what make up businesses, galleries, art studios, and everything else in the world. Create a real connection by actually being interested in them, instead of focusing on what you can get out of the relationship. On social media, it is impossible to look at everyone’s feed, especially when you start to get a lot of followers, but make it a point to acknowledge everyone that makes the time to communicate with you.

Most importantly, ask yourself: how can you add value to their lives after knowing what you know from meeting them. A lot of typical marketing is mass targeted, and with that approach you might as well be throwing a wet sock at the wall and seeing if it sticks (the imagery of both makes me gag a little). When you are genuinely interested in the people you connect with, you reach out to them with specific content or creations that are relevant to them. Things that you know they are interested in because they are interested in the genuine you.

Rafi Perez Live Seminar

“Be genuine, authentic and have people in your life that will call you out and hold you accountable.” – Jim Palmer

A lot of people will tell you to be unique so that you stand out when you market yourself. What they don’t tell you is that you are already unique. There is no one out there quite like you, nor will there EVER be anyone out there like you. That is why, I think it is most important to be authentic. I think a lot of people will look to someone else as a guide on how to act. The problem with this method is that you are playing a role and eventually that is going to become exhausting. Also, the most loyal collectors will be those who have gotten to know you… the real you.

News Journal Photos

And last but not least, put yourself out there. Take action, starting today, right now. Open your mouth, let your opinion be known, share your art, share your music, share your writing, share your videos, be remarkable and go big or go home. Putting yourself out there might mean stepping outside your comfort zone, doing something that you have never done before and taking some risks. Push yourself beyond the walls that you have built around yourself for so many years. Stop telling yourself NO and start telling yourself YES. You got this.

At the end of the day, getting noticed is all about realizing that you are remarkable and you have a voice. It’s not about forcing your opinions on someone, but simply speaking your truth and sharing it with the world.

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When A Harsh Critic Attacks – How I Handle It

Not well sometimes… but I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that have helped me get better and better at dealing with poo flinging critics.

I think it is a necessary plight that one will have to get used to when you are putting yourself out there. I am an artist who creates art, music, writing, YouTube videos, and puts them all out there for the world to see… I get a lot of negative criticism.

People Can Say Mean Things About My Art And I Don’t Care

Comparatively speaking, I mostly get a lot of beautiful comments on my creations. We have a following of some of the most amazing humans I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with.

Yet, negative comments can still throw me off kilter, despite the overwhelming positivity I experience in the world. It’s almost like a temporary reminder that the world isn’t such a wonderful place… and there is an a-hole around every corner, just waiting to jump out and say you suck.

I want to be clear about something, I’m not talking about constructive criticism. Listen, sometimes even a helpful criticism can be hard to hear, and our first response may be to run away flailing our arms helplessly, but sometimes it’s valid. Follow the source and stop for a moment, get off your high horse and check to see if it is valid and constructive. If not, then we are talking about destructive criticism. If the criticism is constructive, then it’s intended to guide you and to help you improve as a person, not to bring you down and make you feel inadequate.

People Say Mean Things On My YouTube Channel All The Time, And I Don’t Care… Kinda… I’m working On It.

If the criticism is completely invalid, totally off, and only meant to hurt you, then that’s what I’m talking about here.

So what do I do when someone is all “blah blah blah you suck Rafi blah blah blah!” I Don’t take it personally. It takes a miserable person to try and make themselves feel better by giving some misery to someone else… don’t take it, it’s not yours, and it doesn’t belong to you. Understand that people who are in pain say really hurtful things, especially people that may know which buttons to press. Think about a time where you may have said something terrible to someone. Were you in your right mind? Were you in pain? Were you feeling like a victim? Some people live there in that place… don’t take it personally, unless you wanna visit and stay a while.

Recently A Friend Said Something Mean About My Singing And I Don’t Care.

Understand that it’s your buttons. Why is it that one person can be called ugly and not even react a little, but someone else will blow a gasket? It’s because we all have our own little triggers based on our own insecurities. So if someone says something and it bothers you, take a look and see if you can identify the insecurity or doubt behind the emotion. In my opinion, when someone says something mean and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are full of crap, you hardly even react, but if they touch on something that pushes on an insecurity it can be devastating. Just remember, they are your buttons. Figure out what’s behind it and sort it out.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Are you going to stop being who you are simply because someone spewed some garbage at you? Of course not. If the criticism has no basis whatsoever, then the best thing you can do is to ignore it completely.

Honestly, only very few people will talk smack, and I’m going to keep doing what I do… and they can kiss my booty.

Listen, people talk shit all the time because they are not putting themselves out there in the muck, sweating, bleeding and enduring the terrifyingly exhilarating ride that is fulfilling your dreams. They are going to say you can’t sing, you can’t paint, you’re not funny, you’re are not good enough, and everything else that they can say to destroy your hope and get you to stop. Don’t EVER let someone who is not putting themselves out there in the muck discourage you from going all the way. If they are not doing it themselves, and facing critics of their own, then they have no right to talk.

Don’t feel bad if you’re not able to push all of the negative words aside right away. It takes practice to work it out and get to a place where it’s no thing… But you got this.

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Be The Change You Want To See In The World.

Rafi And Klee Studios

Gandhi said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

I think this statement says a lot to explain how changing my perspective had a huge impact on the way I see the world, and in return the way that the world sees me.

I used to have a very negative and cynical point of view, I wasn’t a joy to be around. Mostly I behaved this way because I felt unhappy, isolated, lonely, and out of control. It was after a life altering experience that I realized that all these feelings are just feelings. Just because I’m feeling it, doesn’t mean that I have to buy into the belief or reaction that is causing it. Ultimately, I realized that I could choose to respond to things vs react.

This small shift changed my world. Once I changed, my world changed.

What does his statement mean to you?

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5 Things I Remind Myself Of Every Day

Believing in yourself can be tough, but I can honestly say that it is my self belief that helps me really make the most out of this precious life that I am experiencing right now.

There are 5 things I remind myself of daily in order to really get the most out of life.

Do as much as you can to experience new experiences.

#1 Time is short

It might sound a little morbid, but the idea that our lives could end at any moment causes me to both evaluate the relationships that I am in, and really appreciate the people I love. It also reminds me that life is too short to spend any time worrying about something and not simply doing something about it.

I’m willing to talk to anyone, even if it scares me.

#2 Be fearless in taking the next step and enjoying life

Taking the right risk is one of the most important aspects of being happy in life. Always take the first step with optimism and a gusto for life. I knew a beautiful woman who was 88 years old, and one day I saw her riding on the back of a motorcycle. It was her first ride ever, she was smiling from ear to ear and said “If not now, when?” that’s been my motto ever since. As an artist, my entire career is one emotional and financial risk, and if I wasn’t willing to face those fears, I wouldn’t be enjoying what I’m doing now. Listen, if it doesn’t work out at first, you are always free to try it again.

Time is going to pass anyway, so I might as well work a little every day towards what I want.

#3 Time is going to pass by anyhow

Sometimes it seems like certain things I want to do are going to take such a long time to accomplish. In the past, I would quit before I even started because it was disheartening. I realized later that time is going to pass anyway, so you might as well chip at that wall.

#4 Don’t allow yourself to settle

I remember a while back looking at my life and thinking “That’s it? That’s all there is to my life?” I was miserable. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I had a mentality that was putting me in a miserable place. I settled for things that were satisfactory, but not satisfying. My relationships, my job, my car, my friends, and my self esteem was satisfactory… Life didn’t become satisfying until I decided reevaluate my priorities.

Every day has the potential to be awesome or not, you decide.

#5 Take every day as a new chance

Today is a day for you to begin creating your unique and fulfilling life. Today is the day to begin to release all your limitations. Today is the day for you to learn the secrets of your life. Today you realize you already have the tools within you to do so… and if today was just eh, move on from it, because you get 365 days a year to practice being awesome.

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Watch Rafi’s Artist Talk – The Art Of Imperfect Art

A few weeks ago I spoke at the Santa Rosa Art Association about the perils of being a perfectionist as an artist. If I’m honest, being a perfectionist when it comes to certain things is important. For example, if you are performing open heart surgery or are operating on my brain, I would hope you are the perfectionist vs the guy who thinks that leaving a piece of gauze in my skull is just how it goes sometimes.

Rafi Perez Live Seminar

For the most part, I’m talking about perfectionism in the sense that it can be debilitating. Where you encounter the following problems:

You can only start in ideal conditions.

You never feel like a piece is finished.

You constantly get creative block.

You have lots of works in progress, but not so much ready to sell.

You constantly dwell on past failures.

You compare yourself to other artists, or people.

You never show your works in progress to other people.

You are losing motivation.

Being perfect is exhausting.

Rafi Perez Live Seminar

Enjoy the video of the talk. I mostly tell stories that frame the idea that trying to be perfect is silly, because I don’t believe there is such a thing. Let me know what you think?

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Reasons I Feel Gratitude As An Artist

Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous. I’m not kidding, people that are way smarter than I am research this stuff.

The Happy Art Tour THAT

Like Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

I practice feeling grateful, and before you start rolling your eyes, and think I’m talking about some secret or something, I’m not. Practicing gratitude simply means you make it a habit to appreciate what you have instead of being so focused on what is missing. Listen, if you are reading this right now on a computer or a phone, then you have something to be grateful for.

Practicing gratitude allows you to focus on what is good in your life, and if you have a hard time doing that, it is a clear indicator that you are too focused on garbage… just sayin.

There are so many things I can be grateful for, running water, hot water, a flushing toilet, clippers for my rambunctious nose hair, the air I breathe, anything. When it comes to my art career, I have certain things that I am grateful for. I think if you can’t find things to be grateful for in your career, then it might be time to change things up.

Rafi and Klee Traveling

I remind myself of these simple facts:

You’re always able to express your creativity.

You are doing work that you actually believe in.

Being your own boss and not having to answer to anyone else in what you create.

Being able to put paint on canvas anytime you want.

Seeing that what you’ve done has made someone happy.

Giving other people a new perspective.

Living the life that you want to live.

Creating art for yourself and no one else.

Blue Phoenix By Rafi Perez

Deciding that it is time for something beautiful and surprising to come to life.

You get to see how you progress as an artist.

Living in a world where everything is an idea or possibility for new art.

Endlessly being able to learn and grow.

You have the potential to be famous for something you make.

Getting to play around all day in your studio.

Sharing your creations with amazing like minded people.

2 Birds On A Wire By Rafi Perez

Experiencing the flow of creativity.

Being able to move people intellectually or emotionally through something you’ve made.

Making money from something you’ve made.

The pride and sense of accomplishment after you’ve finished a great painting, sketch, sculpture or installation.

You get to share your art with the world.

Seeing your art touch someone’s soul.

Getting to be part of an exclusive community of creative people.

How could I not be on top of the world after telling myself all of that?! Go ahead try it yourself!

-Rafi

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Being Quiet Makes Me Creative

I know what you’re thinking, but I can be quiet… kinda… sometimes.

To be fair to myself I’m not really talking about keeping your mouth shut, or not speaking your mind, I think you should always speak your mind.

On a side note, speaking your mind with love and being non-judgmental is what I actually mean when I use that term. Too many people spew garbage and call it speaking their mind. In my opinion when people spew hatefulness they’re just barfing up their reasons for blaming someone else for how they feel.

Meditation In The Art Studio

I guess I’m talking about meditation. Yep, I said it, meditation… It’s cool. You can believe that from someone who still occasionally uses the word “cool” and thinks its… well… cool.

So, let’s get right into it. What are the benefits to an artist of quieting your mind for at least 5 minutes a day?

Deep Intuition

When you allow the myriad of thoughts and emotions to settle, you might just find that you open up the way for valuable creative insights and “a-ha!” moments. Especially when it comes to that project that keeps looking like a turd no matter what you do.

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”

Steve Jobs
Meditation In The Kitchen

Staying focused on your work.

It’s incredibly difficult to sit down and complete any sort of creative project when your attention is constantly being pulled away by phone notifications, social media updates, and zombie attacks.

Perhaps the single most valuable use of meditation for the creative person is in warding off unwanted distractions. A number of studies have shown meditation to improve focus, attention, and self-control. Distractions keep us stuck on the shallow surface of the mind. If we want to come up with truly creative ideas, we must have the focus to “go deep.”

“If you want to catch a little fish, you can stay in the shallow water, but if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”

David Lynch
Meditation In The Office

Overcome fear and self-criticism.

Fear is the most powerful creativity-killer there is. Meditation helps overcome fear of failure and harsh self-judgments. By turning down the volume on the voice of our inner critic, meditation helps us move into a place of pure self-expression and enjoyment.

You’re essentially training your thinking muscle. Most of us have thoughts come in and take control over how we feel, yet they’re our thoughts, we think them. Meditation helps you flex and work out a process of understanding that you don’t have to believe and feel every thought you have… you can observe it and pick and choose what to think about. You think your thoughts, your thoughts don’t think you.

Being present to what’s around you.

Great artists are great observers — of life, the human condition, nature, their environment, and social norms. Creating art requires being deeply attuned to life in the myriad of ways it presents itself.

Meditation In The Bathroom

Relaxed and at ease.

We’re more creative when we’re relaxed and at ease. It’s as simple as that. Meditation has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels, lessen feelings of anxiety and depression, and reduce negative self-talk while also boosting mood and overall well-being, thereby putting you in your most energized, creative mindset.

Enjoy your quiet time 🙂

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Winning Is Always An Option If You Don’t Quit

As I approached the gallery I found myself wondering how in the world I was going to get the massive sculpture I constructed up the stairs. I had somehow managed to squeeze it into my car without damaging it, which I attributed to dumb luck.

Luck seemed to be on my side that morning, considering I had pulled into a parking spot right in front of the shiny and unending staircase into the gallery.

Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez
Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez

I’ve entered the juried art competitions at Artel Gallery a handful of times with varying results. I still remember the first piece I entered, which was rejected with no particular pomp and circumstance. It was laid off to the side with the other rejects waiting for me to glumly collect it, like picking up a child from detention.

That rejection had a devastating impact on my self esteem as an artist for some time. I had just started selling my art and gaining some traction with local collectors, and it caused me to feel like I wasn’t good enough to continue masquerading as an artist.

It wasn’t until several years later that I decided to enter another piece, which didn’t get rejected.

Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery
Rafi Perez Artel Gallery

The marble steps to the gallery blazed white in the hot sun, daring me to make a move. I had managed to get the sculpture out of the car without damaging it, knocking myself in the head only once.

The only idea that my mind could seem to muster that morning was to pick up the sculpture and maneuver the stairs as quickly as possible. The sculpture isn’t necessarily heavy, it’s just awkward to carry around, because like most sculptures, I didn’t design it to be carried around.

I prepared myself at the bottom of the mountainous stairs, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and steadied my breath. One false move and all the work and effort that went into my art would be laying in pieces on the forbidding marble steps.

Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery
Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery

After deciding to enter my art again, I got pieces into four separate shows, won best of show, and had a solo show in their alcove. I also got rejected two more times, but it didn’t have an impact on my self esteem as an artist. Some might attribute the lack of feeling dejected to the fact that I had a couple years as a career artist under my belt, but I know plenty of seasoned artists who have a difficult time with any rejection.

I don’t have difficulty with rejection because after two years of avoiding art competitions, I finally realized that you can’t win if you don’t enter; and your art is not being rejected, it simply didn’t match the taste of the juror. The thing is, that art competitions don’t matter, but if you want to win one, you are going to have to face rejection. In fact, if you want to do anything awesome or important with your art career, you are probably going to face a lot of rejection and criticism.

If you want to be safe from rejection, then don’t put yourself out there, don’t do anything different from the norm, don’t try to have a voice, and definitely don’t become an artist.

Rafi Perez Solo Art Show 2017
Rafi Perez Solo Art Show 2017

Simply because someone rejects your artwork (or whatever it may be) doesn’t mean that you are worthless. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, and never will. A lot of people avoid thinking about being rejected or losing, but in my opinion it’s a good idea to think about that worst case scenario, and face the fear in your mind.

What if my piece gets rejected? How will I feel? What does it mean?

These could be hard questions, but until you ask yourself and question the validity of your answers, you are going to keep reacting in misery to rejection. The really cool thing about exploring these questions is that you don’t have to react at all, you can respond to the situation however you like.

My answers are less dramatic and devastating since I’ve had a chance to explore this topic and really decide how I want to respond to these questions and this particular type of rejection.

What if my piece gets rejected?

Then it get’s rejected. I pick it up, bring it home and probably sell it at some point in my lifetime. Who knows, it may win a prize at some other art competition… just didn’t suit the juror this time I guess.

How will I feel?

Fine, I have other more important things to focus on.

What does this mean?

Only what I think it means. If I think I’m a failure or a reject, that’s on me. This is an opportunity for me to show myself who I am, by the way I respond. I choose to respond by saying “Well, maybe next time… I got shit to do right now.”

Chasing Fairies By Rafi Perez
Chasing Fairies By Rafi Perez

I glanced around one more time, held my breath, and made a run for it. I verbally counted every step as I ascended the stairs with the agility of sloth in running shoes.

Out of breath and elated that I made it to the top, I stood there gleaming in victory. I then proceeded to scrape and bang my way awkwardly through the front door, hitting my head one more time for good measure. I placed the sculpture safely in the gallery lobby, signed it in, and breathed a sigh of relief.

By the way, it was number 13 in the roster… talk about dumb luck.

I had done it. I achieved something I thought was impossible to do on my own, willing to face humiliation and rejection for something I love and believe in… my art, my sense of fun, my freedom to be me.

Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez
Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez

Had I given up, after that first rejection it would have controlled me. I would have spent the rest of my life being afraid to face rejection, and I would have been filled with “what ifs”.

I don’t believe you actually fail, even if your art doesn’t get in. Even if you get rejected, or lose… I think you only fail if you give up… because that’s the one thing you have control over.

It’s sometimes easy to give up because things might seem hopeless or hard. I didn’t think I could possibly get the sculpture to the gallery on my own, but my belief in dumb luck took over, and I decided to try.

Good thing too, I won Best Of Show.

Recycled Art By Rafi Perez
Best Of Show Recycled Art By Rafi Perez

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I’m pretty sure my dad hates my art.

As you know, recently I was invited to create an art chair. This was a big deal for me, because there is a finesse that needs to happen when turning furniture into art. I wasn’t really sure I could pull it off.

Art Chair By Rafi Perez
Art Chair By Rafi Perez

You might think that something as common as a “chair” just needs some paint and crazy designs to stand out. Not true, just like any abstract painting it can go wrong really fast, and just like an abstract painting you have to rely on your gut feelings and not technical skill.

All You Need Is Love Chair By Rafi Perez
All You Need Is Love Chair By Rafi Perez

So I went through the typical creative process of feeling like I had an epic failing every step of the way, until it finally started to come together.

So, I created my first art chair, worked through my own insecurities, pushed through the boundaries of what I thought was possible for me, and validated my self status as an artist.

All You Need Is Love Chair By Rafi Perez
All You Need Is Love Chair By Rafi Perez

That’s about the time my dad stepped into the picture.

He stood there and stared at it for a while… didn’t say anything.

At that point, I apparently felt the need to boaster the chair up and make it important in terms my father would understand… money.

“Yeah dad, people were putting $100 in raffle tickets for it!”

He pause, scrunched up his face and then said…

“Someone paid $100 for that shit?”

All You Need Is Love Chair By Rafi Perez
All You Need Is Love Chair By Rafi Perez

Yes they did dad… yes they did.

There are so many stories like this when it comes to my father and art, luckily, it doesn’t bother me any more… in fact, I find it kind of funny.

I spent a long time blaming him for my insecurities, and as it turns out, they were my own insecurities, and I needed to get rid of them myself.

It’s still a work in progress, but I think it will always be.

Watch this video to enjoy the full story, and more stories of my dad and my art… including a big event that took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago… Oh boy.

Have fun!!!