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Time To Smell The Weeds

Ever felt that there must be more to life? Well, good news, there is! And it’s right here in front of us. We just need to stop and take notice.

As an artist, I have taken a notice of color and contrast in the world. There are times where a vivid sky or blade of grass will stop me in my tracks, I will take in the color combinations and imagine using them to translate into the emotion I’m feeling at that very moment.

I remember at a very difficult time in my life, where everything just seemed wrong and I found myself downward spiraling into despair, that hope came from a simple place. I was on my way to work, and I felt like breaking down. I pulled over and despite running late, decided to sit down at a park bench.

There I saw people walking their dogs, playing with kids, and relaxing. This was a stark contrast to my mood, and actually caused me to feel more bitter. Suddenly, a sad little weed caught my eye, it was the way the sun was casting a shadow that almost made it seem to glow. It was this ugly, little, insignificant weed, and it was glowing brighter and more vivid than anything else in that park. Suddenly, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

I sat there, me and my new glowing friend, for quite some time. I turned off my phone, and just sat there, and took everything in… This time, without judging what I was looking at through a filter of misery.

For the first time in probably my whole life, I just sat there and took everything in. I wasn’t thinking or worried about the future and I wasn’t dwelling in the past… I was just there, in that moment.

That moment changed me forever.

Magic Seasons Trees Textured Original Painting by artist Rafi Perez on Canvas

Learning to be more mindful and aware can do wonders for our well-being in all areas of life. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, so we get more out of the day-to-day.

When do you stop and take notice?

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3 Artist Rules That Apply To Life

Along with our creative careers, Klee and I also do YouTube Videos. The videos are mostly geared towards artists, but also have a lot of life advice that we have picked up the hard way, mostly by living life as career artists.

When you are an artist, you live a life full of fun things like constant rejection, people thinking you do drugs, people feeling sorry for your life choices, banks denying you for a home loan (while smirking at how cute it was that you walked into the bank in the first place), people thinking you should get a “real job”, and general disapproval of your status as a contributing member of society.

Don’t get me wrong, being a career artist is amazing, but not everyone looks at us in a healthy light, and if you don’t have your thoughts in the right place, it can destroy your emotional state. I’ve seen people crumble after one rejection and give up.

That’s why I think as artists, we can have an advantage in living a happy life, because we have to face rejection, find our inspiration, manage a business, manage a stream of income that is unpredictable, create product that is considered a luxury to most of the world (even though I will argue that owning art is one of the healthiest things you can do), deal with our own insecurities, and constantly have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to stay relevant… I know, I’m not selling the concept, but bear with me.

Rafi and klee

As an artist you have to face your fears, if you run away from them, there really is no way to make a career of it.

So, here are the 3 rules that I would say apply to everything in life, but also to having an art career.

  • Be authentic.
    Paint or create only that which interests you, in the way you choose to paint or create it. Don’t change your approach to gain sales, popularity or acceptance. You will never do your best work if you do. In life, you will become trapped in a version of you that isn’t real. It is much simpler to be yourself, that way you can surround yourself with people that you don’t have to put on an act for.
  • Compete only with yourself.
    Avoid competitions, contests and measuring yourself by how many shows you’ve gotten into or awards you’ve won. Seek validation internally, you will never please everyone. Don’t ever compare yourself to anyone on any level. You are the most perfect version of you that exists in the world. It’s when you try to be someone else that you’ll think you see flaws in something that is inherently perfect.
  • Remember that it takes a lifetime.
    You can’t just sign up for a workshop or go to an art class once a week and expect gallery representation and collectors to follow shortly thereafter. It takes time. Be patient in life, but take every opportunity you can to smile, laugh, love, show your art, and have fun. You may get rejected, but that’s all part of this wonderful journey we are on. If rejection doesn’t bother you, then you are halfway there.
Rafi and Klee Photography

The goal should not be to get famous or rich, just to enjoy your precious life as much as possible. If you get rich and famous in the process, that is just bonus.

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I Burst Into Tears… Well, Kinda.

Empowering Art By Rafi Perez

The other day I was thinking about working on a special piece. I started sketching it out and thinking about the meaning. Someone being pulled in so many different directions that he becomes a puppet to the world around him.

Art By Rafi Perez

While talking to Klee about it, I broke down and my eyes started tearing up. The only reason I didn’t go into a full sob was the fact that I was so surprised at my emotions.

Listen, I am a grown ass man, and I’m not embarrassed to cry, or admit that I cry, but this actually caught me off guard.

It made me realize that something had felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but deep down I knew something was bothering me.

Do What You Can Rafi Perez

For the most part I’m a pretty happy guy, in fact our following online knows us for our upbeat perspectives on life and being artists full time.

Over the last few years I had developed a public image of a guy who’s genuine, creative, happy, upbeat, and loving life. But recently I had been a little stressed about some things… and I didn’t feel like myself. Worse, was the idea that I had never been that guy and that my entire life was a sham.

Luckily, Klee was there to talk sense into my confused brain unit. She told me that the only reputation I had to uphold was to be the real me. She said I have a really hard time being anything not real, so I have nothing to worry about.

2 Birds On A Wire By Rafi Perez

I guess sometimes you may try to bury things inside, but they’ll always come up to the surface for you to look at and face head on. So next time you cry during a cheesy commercial, think about that.

I was allowing myself to feel like I was less than who I am, and that everyone was pulling me in different directions. I have done a lot of work on myself for over a decade, to make sure I am comfortable with who I am, and that’s who everyone sees.

Whether it’s in a YouTube video, a blog, a work of art, it will always be me… So, if anyone expects anything different, then they’ve never looked at any of my stuff before.

Moral of the story… Just be you, it’s way easier than not being you.

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Get Out of Your Head and Into The World

As an artist, I work from home, in my studio, on my laptop, at the easel, and sitting on the couch sketching. We have a YouTube channel, Patreon account and other social media where we connect with many people online, but few “real-life” interactions.

Rafi Perez in his art studio

Luckily, Klee and I share an art career and get to spend that time together in the studio, but sometimes we can spend over a week inside. There are times when talking with the cashier at the grocery store is the social highlight of our day.

Klee In The Studio

In a world where so much happens online, we have to be careful to not neglect the importance of real face-to-face connection.

I find that sometimes things can feel a little disconnected when you don’t venture out much. Listen, I love our studio time, and I totally thrive as a hermit… but sometimes it can go too far.

If you’re going through a tough time, you might feel especially inclined to isolate yourself, but it’s only going to make things worse. I find that even when I don’t want to be around people, it’s important to surround yourself with people you love, and people who inspire you.

Rafi and Klee Art

So next time you are feeling a bit down, or you are stuck in your head, go outside. Interact with humans, have fun, and live an adventure with people who inspire you.

Then, once you get your fill, go back to your creative hermit hole inspired to create your next masterpiece.

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The Little Things In Life Are Huge

Recently Klee and I went up north to go see my daughter’s lead performance in her last High school play. It was an amazing trip, watching her on stage was a highlight of the year. I don’t think I can describe in words how proud I am. I’m also happy that Klee and I had the opportunity to talk in the car for 28 hours of driving.

Rafi and Klee travel

I’ll be honest, before we left I was a little stressed about time and finances. This year has been a bit slow starting for us, and although I know things always look up, I was in the thick of it while paying and planning for the trip.

I also knew that the long drive would be a great opportunity to talk things out and figure out what was going on in my head. I’m usually very optimistic and tend to feel empowered in most situations, but somehow I had lost my grasp and was venturing into a dark place. This drive would be a great way to dig deep.

Final Bow

One of the things that struck me while investigating my head was that I was distracted. My mind would wander into worst case scenarios and I would miss the experience I was in. I noticed that Klee had to repeat herself at times because I just wasn’t there. What was interesting about this, was that life was happening, and I was missing it.

I thought about all those little moments that we fail to notice, and how freeing it is to appreciate those little moments.

Rafi at Natural Falls

And yet most of the time we fail to notice them. We don’t recognize them properly, forget them, or simply take them for granted.

Once I realized this, I made a mental list of reasons why gratitude for the little things in life is important.

Appreciating the little things in life means that you focus your attention on what nurtures, sustains, and brings you even the smallest amount of pleasure. By appreciating life, you won’t stop bad stuff from happening, but you’ll learn how to stop emphasizing the meaning of bad events in your life.

Rafi and Klee Art Mobile

Once you take a moment to appreciate an act of kindness coming from someone you love or a person you don’t even know, you’ll become more aware of your belonging to a community of people who care about each other. Reciprocating these actions only helps to strengthen these social bonds.

Resilient people build their strengths on positive emotions. These emotions simply help them to cope with difficult situations.

Rafi and Klee travel

When you’re in the middle of a life event, it’s important that you savor it as much as you can. Choose to be present in the now. When you’re living with more awareness, you notice everything – the little pieces of everyday beauty.

I think we tend to get caught up in the drama of our minds and forget that life is beautiful, precious, and short. So stop and appreciate all of it.

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You’re Awesome Reason #1

This is written simply to tell you how freakin’ awesome you are! Yes, YOU! Stop looking behind you. You are more awesome than you might like to believe, and I want to give you one reason today, so listen up.

Rafi And Klee Studios

Reason #1: You Are Beautiful – So Darn Beautiful!

That’s right I said it. You’re beautiful! Yes you!

Listen, the way you look is different from anyone else around. Your unique look is beautiful.

You have been through so much in your life – you have come so far and you’re still moving along. No one has experienced your exact experiences, and that’s one of the many things that makes you beautiful.

Klee is so stylish

Your laugh is beautiful (even when you snort). It is. Nothing is better than your joy.

You may not think of yourself as a creative person, but you are. Somehow, somewhere you have created something, imagined something, dreamed something. Creativeness is beautiful, and you’re creative in your own way, and that is beautiful.

No matter what you’ve thought about yourself in the past, someone out there thinks you’re perfect. Someone loves you for who you are, just the way you are, and wouldn’t change a thing.

Be Brave

You are brave. At some point in your life you had to do something that you were afraid to do. You had to face your fear, and that is beautiful.

You have your own unique thoughts, your own unique experiences, and your own unique life. Your uniqueness makes you beautiful, and it’s what makes you, you!

You exist. That’s beautiful in itself. Life is a precious gift, and knowing that out of all the unknown in the world, you were created, and you turned out… well, as you – now that’s beautiful.

Happiness is beautiful. Even if you’re having a bad day, or you don’t feel the greatest – smile. Smiles bring happiness, happiness is beautiful, and your smile is beautiful.

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Getting Rejected And Still Being Awesome

There is nothing fun about getting rejected.

Ever notice how being turned down stops some people from trying again, while others bounce back from rejection stronger than before? Everyone experiences the sweet sting of rejection, but some people use that pain to grow stronger and become even better equipped for the next round of rejection.

As artists, Klee and I experience rejection ALL the time. In fact if you are in a creative field there is one constant in your life… you are going to be rejected time and time again. This was one of the fears I had that kept me from experiencing an art career for most of my life. Luckily, I’ve stumbled upon five steps that help me use rejection instead of rejection using me.

1. I Acknowledge My Emotions

Rather than suppress, ignore, or deny the pain, I acknowledge the emotions. I openly admit when I’m embarrassed, sad, disappointed, or discouraged. I have practiced confidence in my ability to deal with uncomfortable emotions head-on, which is essential to coping with the discomfort of rejection.

No matter what kind of rejection it is, trying to minimize the pain by convincing yourself–or someone else–it was “no big deal” or “it’s their fault” will only prolong your pain. The best way to deal with uncomfortable emotions is to face them head-on.

2. I View Rejection As Evidence That I’m Pushing At My Limits

I know that rejection serves as proof that I’m living life to the fullest. Honestly, I expect to be rejected every once in a while, and I’m not afraid to go for it, even when I know it might be a long shot.

If you never get rejected, you may be living too far inside your comfort zone… just saying.

3. I Treat Myself With Compassion

Rather than think, “You’re so stupid for thinking you could do that,” I treat myself with compassion. I stand up for myself and respond to negative self-talk with a kinder, more empowering message.

Beating yourself up will only keep you down. Speak to yourself like a trusted friend or cheerleader. Drown out your harsh inner critic by repeating helpful mantras that will keep you feeling awesome.

4. I Refuse To Let Rejection Define Me

I stay away from making sweeping generalizations when I’m rejected. If one gallery turns me down or ignores me, I don’t declare them or myself incompetent or a bad artist. I try to keep rejection in proper perspective.

One person’s opinion, or one single incident, should never define who you are. Don’t let your self-worth depend upon other people’s opinions of you. Just because someone else thinks something about you, doesn’t mean it’s true.

5. I Learn From Rejection

If I’m rejected I’ll ask myself, “What did I gain from this?” so I can walk away with something I gained for the next try. Rather than simply tolerate the pain, I turn it into an opportunity for self-growth. I’m all about using any opportunity to learn and feel better about my life and what comes next.

Whether you learn about areas in your life that need improvement, or you simply recognize that being turned down isn’t as awful as you imagined, rejection can be a good teacher. Use rejection as an opportunity to move forward with more wisdom and love.

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Get Annoyed Or Laugh More

As artists, we can sometimes be stereotyped as serious and tortured. Which is hilarious to me because, in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. That being said, it’s easy to get in the habit of being in the semi funk seriousness of being an adult artist.

Sometimes you have to stop what you are doing and ask yourself- When was the last time you burst into a gut hurting laugh? I have a friend who laughs so much and so loud that she leaves a memorable experience for anyone within earshot. I think that is amazing, her laughter leaves a positive impact on people and probably annoys all the curmudgeons within a ten mile radius.

The Happy Art Tour THAT

Sure, it’s fun to share a good laugh. But did you know it can actually improve your health? It’s true: laughter is strong medicine. It draws people together in ways that trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the body.

Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.

As children, we used to laugh hundreds of times a day, but as adults, life tends to be more serious and laughter more infrequent. As an artist, I tend to hold on to that childlike instinct to use my imagination, but sometimes I hold back from just letting out a good belly roll.

There are ways to get your laughter back, if you have temporarily lost it.

Find things to laugh at daily, whether it be putting on your favorite comedy while eating dinner, reading funny comments, or just playing music and dancing goofy dances. You might even consider laughing for the sake of laughing, as a change in your body affects your brain chemistry, which ultimately affects your mood.

Laugh and you will find yourself actually feeling better, even if you have been a sourbutt for the last few hours. This is why it’s important to surround yourself with positive, upbeat people.

Our photo shoots are very serious

By the way, if laughing annoys you, that’s when you know, you need to laugh more.

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Where Does Inspiration Come From?

Rafi And Klee Studios

I’m writing this because sometimes I don’t feel as creative as usual. There are days where I’m just staring at a blank canvas, or the cursor blinking on a blank screen as I attempt to write my book.

With my book in particular, I’ve been stuck. I’ve been in a middle-earth of wanting to write, but can’t.

I am writing this right now to Be Raw. To Be Real. To Be Honest.

To Be Present.

For me, inspiration starts the moment that I just focus on this moment right now. The joy of writing this line. The idea that one of you may read this. It’s inspiring. As long as I allow myself to go there.

Inspiration does not magically show up when I snap my fingers. Although, there are days that I wish it worked that way.

Sometimes I’m on fire… other times it’s more of a tiny flame

Inspiration for me is like a small buzzing of a bumble bee that is skipping from flower to flower. Fuzzy concepts and ideas that don’t have any solid foundation.

And then, just like that — Poof. It’s gone. The tiny bumble bee turns into a grouchy old man yelling words of self-doubt, self-apprehension, and indecision into my brain hole.

“Shit, I had it!”

The crumpled piece of paper.

Sometime I just have to be Patient, Open, and Honest.

And Present.

Because, inspiration comes from inside of us. It comes when you least expect it, or when you most expect it. It is your best friend, or a bitter ex girlfriend. It could be an inspiring memory, or a new experience. It comes from moments of frustration, fire and passion. It comes usually when you are ready to give up.

Ultimately, your inspiration is you. It’s how you see the world. So no matter how stuck you may feel.

Don’t give up yet… and keep smiling.

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Happiness Is An Empty Chocolate Wrapper

Have you ever looked around at the expression that people make when they aren’t putting on a happy face? I believe it’s called “resting bitch face.” In my opinion, this is what happens whenever you aren’t feeling happy or confident and you try to fake it.

I’m not sure what face I’m making here

I know you’ve heard the saying “fake it ’til you make it”, and I’m sure there are times where that comes in handy. I know I’ve used that philosophy before, but when it comes to happiness, I feel like there is an extra ingredient that needs to be added.

Understanding that happiness is a choice. You have to genuinely understand that you choose in that moment to be happy or not, despite what is going on around you.

It’s like a wrapper of dove chocolate with its little motivational sayings. At that moment you can see it as something that you enjoyed in the past, but is now gone forever. You also have the option to appreciate the experience you had of chocolate sweetness, and the extra little token of love written on the wrapper. It’s your choice to make, and one makes you happy and the other may make you sad. Just like you can be happy about this bad analogy or upset that I just wasted a few seconds of your life.

Happiness is being lost but still choosing to be good spirits

Happiness really is a choice you have to make. Many of us get it wrong: We think that happiness is a byproduct of something good happening to us, success, be it a high-paying job, a successful business, raising a family, or achieving a goal.

Ever heard of this old song?

If I have the money, then I will do the things I want. Finally, I will be happy.

Yet, dissatisfaction and sadness often keep us from doing the things we want. We lack the enthusiasm and the vigor to do those things in the first place, because we think we are not happy. That can be exhausting.

I like to say to myself, I will decide to be happy now. Then I will do the things I want and be happy about it.

I still remember the excitement and ah-ha moment when I first discovered this. I thought about it for days afterwards, I contemplated it, in fact I still do. It has had such a large and profound impact on my life that I still talk about it, even after a decade.