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How To Be A Badass Artist

Many people will ask me about my art and popularity and assume that I have always had some secret answer to both. The truth is much more exciting. Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t born with it. In fact, I spent most of my life having abysmal social skills.

Any sentence containing the word “Rafi” would not be followed by a phrase containing the words popular, cool, or badass. It was quite the opposite. I was painfully shy and assumed that I would never amount to anything. Of course, back then, I didn’t push my own boundaries.

Just look at how cool I was.

In my shy brilliance, I understood I was introverted and scared to get in the limelight. Anything requiring me to face rejection or put myself out there would bring paralyzing fear.

So what changed?

I did. At some point in my life, I decided that life was too short to be invisible. I knew somewhere deep inside that I was stronger than I had believed. I also understood that the best way to conquer fear was to face it head-on. Hence, my art career. Sure, I wanted to share my art with the world, but honestly, this whole ride has been a self-conducted social experiment. I wanted to see if I could turn someone who felt broken and small into someone who would have a powerful creative voice in the world. To this day, this is what motivates me to create and put myself out there.

Here are seven things that I have learned along the way.

Worrying About What People Think Of You Is Useless.

This is one of the most powerful lessons I have learned. I had a hard time wrapping my head around it, but it was life-changing once I did. People will always have opinions, no matter what you do or say. Not doing a thing or holding yourself back and not living the life you want due to other people is a waste of precious time. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what they think. They have their lives. You have yours. As long as you are not hurting anyone in doing your thing, they can go fly a kite.

Invest In Yourself And Your Badassery.

Back in the day, everything I did could be traced to trying to get validation or some kind of reputation. I spent most of my time trying to prove that I deserved good things. I didn’t self-indulge in art materials because I thought it was not responsible in other people’s eyes. “Why do you need so many sketchbooks?” Because I’m a damn artist, that’s why. Invest in yourself, and don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about it.

If I was dating this would be my profile picture because I’m so cool. Thank the lord I am married.

Choose Carefully Who Influences You.

There are a lot of naysayers in the world. This is because most of them have given up on their dreams for some reason or another. These people usually have great arguments on why something isn’t possible. I guarantee you that they have spent their lives justifying their decision to quit and thus have a convincing argument. However, they are full of shit. Everyone I know actively pursuing their dream would never crush someone else’s dream. People that give up are so jaded that their only way of making themselves feel better is to convince someone else that their way of thinking is the correct way to see the world. You don’t need those people to influence how you will live your life.

Just Go For It, Especially If You Are Afraid.

The fear never goes away on its own. If you avoid it, it doesn’t get better. In fact, the act of avoidance just makes it worse. The only way to honestly face a fear is to do what you are afraid to do. At the beginning of my art career, EVERYTHING I did to put myself out there was terrifying. However, my life was exciting. When you push boundaries, fear is always involved as you have new experiences. Embrace the fear and have the adventure. The alternative is to just go back to how things have always been. For example, I am terrified to play music on stage and this weekend I will be performing music at our art exhibition. As scary as that is, the adventure of facing the fear is absolutely worth it.

I’m so cool that the autofocus can’t keep up with me.

Argue With The Stickman.

Every morning I calm my mind and breathe. Some call this meditation. I call it arguing with my stickman. The stick man is that inner voice like a drunk asshole that just blurts out the most damaging things about you. Most of us either take what they say as truth or try to bury the feeling inside us. Suppose you’ve heard yourself saying, “I’m so stupid!” or avoiding an unsettling feeling. That is the stickman. The stickman has a kegger in your mind, totally disregarding your furniture. Even if you hear yourself getting mad and throwing daggers because someone is trying to empower you, this can mean that the stick man is in control. Argue with that voice and remind yourself that you are capable. Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s true or even a belief that truly belongs to you.

Let Go Of The Past

The truth is that we all have epic stories of tragedy in our lives. I am talking about some horrible shit. Every one of us. We’ve all had painful experiences. It’s just part of being a human being. However, I’ve seen people stuck there and unable to move on from the pain because they carry resentment. I spent most of my life with the weight of resentment on my shoulders. It was limiting me from moving on with my life and approaching it as an empowered badass. Once I slowly let go of something, I could move on and reidentify with my badassery. I realized that by holding on, I was allowing someone who had wronged me to have control over my life and emotions. Fuck that.

This is my cool looking at my phone face.

Do It, Not Say It, And Spray It.

Back in the day, I constantly talked about things I would do but never took action. I think I was looking for validation for my ideas. It’s almost like looking for permission. As I started to change my way of thinking, I realized it was better to just do the thing and prove to MYSELF that I could do it. That’s where your power is. It is in what you believe about yourself. Everyone else can keep their opinions to themselves.

At the end of the day, this is an ongoing journey. We never get it done. I will be learning from my experiences and pushing more and more boundaries as I ride my life to the end. It’s not about fame or being famous. It’s about being yourself and unapologetically sharing your voice with the world. When you are genuine and don’t carry a chip on your shoulder, you will bring authenticity and love to the world through your art and everything you put out there. So I urge you to go for it because the world needs more artists sharing their creative badassery with the planet.

I’m such a cool magnet that I attracted this coolness… She’s SO cool.

You can take my word for it… cause, you know… I’m like, cool. The kids are still saying that right?

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Human Connection Is Everything

Last week was something of a blur. With everything going on lately, I frequently walk into rooms and forget where I am. I’m also guessing at what day of the week it is because I honestly don’t know. Our exhibition has been extended. We are working on commissions, trying to remodel the third floor (our bedroom), hosting guests, recording an audiobook, practicing for a concert, and figuring out how to create clones of ourselves. 

Have you ever had one of those days that felt like you were moving at the speed of light? This week (or month, I have no sense of time) has felt like that. 

However, some moments stand out—moments of connection where time slows down. As two “Artroverts,” Klee and I spend a lot of time hidden away in our studio, where we express ourselves through our creations. These creations will connect us with humans when we put them out there. Some may glance, listen, or read it and scoff. Some may ignore it, but some will connect. Some will even feel inspired to reach out to us; thus, the connection comes full circle.  

Robin came all the way from Kansas and hung out with us at the gallery. This was our first time meeting him in person. He is an amazing human and we were so happy for this opportunity!

Because we are very public on the internet, we get to connect with people from all over the world. This is something that still surprises me. I tend to forget that Klee and I are public personalities. This is because the reality is that we are total nerds. We are both socially awkward and weird. Yet, people from around the world have connected with who we are even though we may have never met in person. I think this is a beautiful thing.

Putting yourself out there and making human connections will always require being brave and taking chances. Engaging in conversation with someone new can be intimidating. Many creative folks are shy and would tweeze their nose hair out rather than start a conversation with a stranger. However, if you put yourself out there, you will have to step out of your comfort zone despite the nerves.

Something magical happens when you connect with someone in a conversation many miss because they are too scared to go for it. 

Darren drove in from Ohio and spent some time with us at the gallery and we had some really awesome conversation.

Listen, Klee, and I know what it feels like to be so painfully shy. Every time we put ourselves out there, we are pushing through a comfort zone. It’s gotten a little easier over the years, but the fear never really goes away. That being said, we keep certain things in mind when choosing to go public with our awkwardness.

Choose the things you like. It is easier to engage in a conversation when surrounded by people with similar interests. If you love reading, join a book club. If you create art, volunteer to teach an art class. Put yourself in an environment where YOU are comfortable. Talk about what you enjoy. Don’t jump on subjects because they are common or popular unless you are genuinely interested in them.

Embrace rejection for what it is. Everyone is not for everyone. You may click with some and not so much with others. Introverts tend to feel like they are on trial. You are not. You don’t need to gather friends, just people you connect with. If a conversation doesn’t jive, don’t blame yourself. It just means there was no connection. If someone rejects you, then it means they have no business being in your life anyhow.

Heather and Steve visited Oil City During their cross country trip and we spent a great time together. This was our first time meeting in person and it was awesome!

Be yourself. It is exhausting to try and be anything other than yourself. You don’t have to be anyone else to make a connection. Just be yourself and connect with your people. 

Have fun. I think we can quickly turn meeting people into a serious act for many of us. The truth is, if you make it no fun and are not having fun, then why do it? 

Be vulnerable. Don’t put up an act. Allow yourself to be more vulnerable. Don’t drop filters or boundaries, but don’t curate a version of yourself that is not you.

The Kirkman’s came in from Cayman Islands and spend a few days with us. This was our first time meeting and it was like hanging out with old friends.

These moments are magical. These moments only happen if you allow yourself to be who YOU are. Last week, we connected with some unique humans. Some traveled quite a distance to meet us. This is bravery, and we are so happy to have had the opportunity to share that time with them. This is what it is all about. This is the stuff of life.

Over the years, we have extended our Rogue family of creative humans across the globe only because we treasure our connection to them. In a world where everyone is chasing fame, likes, an algorithm, or money, I think it is important to remember that we are all human. We are all connected. We all cry, laugh, get stressed, jump for joy, and do our best in life. Our humanness and humanity are what can bring us together. It is also what has the most value.

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I Can’t Seem To Find Time For Art

Artists will contact us every once in a while telling us they have no time to create art. Between house chores, work, and taking care of someone else’s needs, they find themselves at odds with what they want. They explain how they feel guilty even thinking about taking creative time. That guilt is compounded when the people around them think that creating art doesn’t matter. This guilt and perception can add a lot of undue stress which will lead to less creating.

It’s funny to me that the perception exists in the world that says that artists don’t do anything important. Some people believe that our lives are stuffed with unicorn farts and rainbow ice cream. It’s been an insane couple of years for us. We’ve had a few large art exhibitions, commissions, power outages, bad weather, art studio closures, moving across the country, and don’t even get me started on water leaks or plumbing. We’ve also dealt with butt hurt friends, rejection, financial struggles, and all other manner of emotionally draining events. Things always felt worse when I didn’t give myself the space to create. 

I’ll be honest, as much as I hate to admit it, some of it has been stressful. Not because things go wrong. That’s just life. We all know that the shit will hit the fan at some point just to keep us on our toes. 

No, it’s not the events or circumstances that happen in life that bring me stress. In actuality, it is the crap that goes on in my brain that stresses me out. It’s the excuses I use to not create or do what I want. Klee and I do a lot of stuff that we consider fun. We make art, jewelry, film videos, play music, design t-shirts, manage an online community of awesome rogue artists, write books, and record podcasts. We do whatever we think will be fun. We also do all the things that people consider not as much fun. Things like managing our business, yard work, house repairs, and other domestic arts (as one of the Rogues called it). Add to that all the different components that come with life, relationship, home, and work, and it can all feel overwhelming. 

However, it’s just life. It’s every moment. And moments are precious. But, art is what allows me to process it all.

One thing I like to remind myself of is that overwhelm is not what is going on around you, but what you think your role is in what is happening. Honestly, it is reminding yourself that you can just walk away or say no. It’s easy to feel like things would fall apart without you, but trust me, things probably feel like they’re falling apart anyhow. 

On the flipside, it is also ok to say yes. It’s also ok to say you don’t want to do something any more… I mean, it’s your life, you get to choose how you want to live it. 

Now, if you do happen to do a million things, and can’t find time for what you want, here are some best practices for you that I have learned the hard way.

STAY POSITIVE AND CREATE

Don’t get wrapped up in the humble brag that you are the busiest person in the world. It is easy to exclaim to the world that you are the busiest human on the planet. I’m not saying you are not, but constantly repeating that mantra for yourself can have some bad results. Tell yourself that you have a choice on how you decide to spend your time. You may make a lot of excuses on why you can’t find time to create when you are wrapped up in your drama, but there is always time if you decide there is. Even 30 minutes of creating is better than no minutes.

HAVE SOME KIND OF PLAN

I hate planning things. I hate schedules. I hate when a past version of me writes something down telling me I need to do something. Why didn’t he do it? That being said, when you are juggling a lot, it is important to make a plan and space it out. Honestly, each day should have no more than four large tasks. If you have more than that, you will run yourself into the ground. However, plan the things you want to do and make it sacred. That means that NO ONE has the right to guilt you out of your plans. It is not selfish for you to want to create, it is selfish of others to monopolize your time and keep you from doing what you want in life.

DON’T JUST SAY YES

It’s ok to say no. You gotta take care of yourself. Also, if you can’t finish something in time, just get it done when you can. Don’t kill yourself to finish it. People might expect things and it might be time to introduce them to a word that they may have not heard from you yet. 

THE DISHES CAN WAIT

Honestly, when it comes to doing dishes or creating art, art will win every time. Also, if there are more than one of you in your household, it might be time for other people to pitch in and ease up time for you. 

COMPLETE AT LEAST 1 THING A DAY

You can be busy all day, from phone calls to finalizing a large project. However, forming the habit of working on art every day is important. Try to complete something, It doesn’t matter what it is, it can be a quick sketch, just give yourself a sense of completion. 

FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME

People out there love to say that they are great at multitasking. They are full of it. The brain isn’t designed for that. You can jump between projects when you are at a standstill, but even then, shift your thinking and focus on what is in front of you. This is why meditation is important, because it helps you build that focusing muscle. Also, have a space that will not be interrupted with other things. 

MAKE IT ALL FUN

Bring your creativity back. At the end of the day, It should all be fun. Why not? Sometimes, you won’t be able to work on art, and that is ok if you are used to giving yourself that creative time. This weekend we have a lot on our plate. I will be doing my first book fair at the Oil City Library from 10-2PM, then heading to Graffiti Gallery and sitting our show from 2-6PM. This is followed by a friend’s birthday party. Meanwhile, we have a million things that we are juggling at home. It is easy to forget that it is all delicious if you feel like a martyr. When you take control and give yourself time for what you want, you remember that you have a choice. It’s easy to use excuses for why you “HAVE” to do something, but at the end of the day, it is our choice. You will feel better making time for other people and stuff if you make time for yourself when you want it.

TELL SOME PEOPLE TO BACK OFF

People can get really used to you being the one who takes care of everything. Humans are habitual creatures and whenever something happens often, it is easy for it to become the norm. I’ve even experienced people feeling entitled and getting mad at me because I didn’t want to hang out due to my art. Either put people like that in their place or get rid of them.

I’m going to say something very grim sounding but it was important for me to hear when I was killing myself with overwhelm.

“The world will keep going if YOU are not around cleaning up messes and juggling a million things. The people who rely on you would figure it out one way or another.”

If you are stretching yourself too thin, it might be time to reevaluate. This might require you to tell someone you are no longer going to do something for them. It’s hard, but you have to take care of you before you take care of someone else’s needs, or else you are useless to them and yourself. 

So, take care of yourself.

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Sometimes You Just Have To Go For It

Many people assume that I am what you call an “extrovert” and that everything I do in public comes easily. They may think this because they watch me rambling in videos or go out in town wearing a sandwich board to promote our exhibition. The truth is, I am painfully shy and would rather crawl under a heavy rock than put myself out there. That said, I’ve gotten better at managing my anxiety about publicly engaging in embarrassment over the years. 

Look at that silly guy!

Klee has a saying, “The remedy for fear of doing the thing is to do the thing until you’re not afraid anymore.” 

Obviously, it’s not easy. Your mind can quickly spiral downward into worst-case scenarios, and your body will betray you in ways that can be embarrassing. Trust me. Gas bubbles are no joke. However, the choice is simple for me. Either you face the fear, or you run away from it. 

Today, I will face an irrational fear I have carried with me for years. Singing on stage is one of those things I have always wanted to do but could not bring myself to do it. Sure, I have played guitar in front of a group of people a few times and have even had my knees give out from anxiety, but singing is a whole other ball of wax. 

So, how do you face fear when it can be paralyzing? I don’t know, but I can tell you what I do.

Shift Your Focus. Whenever I am doing something that scares me, I try not to allow myself to overthink myself and my fear. That’s where your mind will go into fight or flight. I think about why I’m doing it or the combination of why. For example, with music, I want to challenge myself to do the thing so I can prove to myself I can. It doesn’t matter if I screw it up. What matters is that I did it. The other thing I focus on is bringing something of value and not running away from who I am.

Understand That Things Might Go Wrong. Back in the day, before I even attempted to do anything that was in public, I would ruminate on it going wrong. Our mind tends to want to protect us from embarrassing moments, so it will bombard you with things that will dissuade you from doing something that scares you. The truth is, things might go wrong. So what? Those moments, you either roll with it and laugh or fall apart. Tonight, I know I will screw up a few times, and how I deal with it is what matters.

Know That Self Doubt Is The Challenge. We all have insecurities. Honestly, things changed for me when I stopped focusing on what people thought about me and more on what I thought about myself. The truth is, no one cares if you screw up. We tend to worry that people will hate what we do or call us names, but ultimately it is YOU thinking the thoughts. When I play music tonight, I know the people are there to support me. If anyone is a hater, that says more about them than me, and they can eat a bag. 

It’s A Muscle Thing. Many of us will have a physical reaction to stress. Your body may get jittery, and you may experience shortness of breath. Fight or flight does exciting things to us, but it is only a physical response. It’s not reality. I know my body will freak out tonight, and that’s ok. Deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and a quick meditation may not make it go away, but at least I’ll have something else to focus on. 

Just Have Fun. Most importantly, I must constantly remind myself that the experience will be whatever I say it is. No matter how it goes tonight, I can walk away from this feeling empowered and better for it, or the opposite. It’s up to me.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what your experience will be, not your fear.

As for now, I am preparing my equipment and getting ready for our concert tonight. If you happen to be in Oil City and want to watch me screw up on stage, you are welcome to come to Graffiti Gallery on 8-12-2022 for our concert at 5 PM EDT. We will be there talking about our art from 3 PM – 7 PM.  Luckily for me, Klee shares the stage with me and she is AWESOME!

There will be delicious EMPANADAS prepared by our beautiful and talented friend Nessacraft (who you can follow because she is incredible). What are empanadas, you ask? Empanadas are a Puerto Rican pastry turnover filled with savory ingredients that are either baked or fried and DELICIOUS! This is the awesome human who is making them. 

I’ll also do a book reading the next day at 4 PM (we’ll be at the gallery from 12 PM – 6 PM). Surprisingly, I’m not scared of that at all. 

Have a fabulous weekend!

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Live Your Life Your Way

Life is an exciting roller coaster for creative people trying to make a living with their creativity. The truth is, it is not an easy road. No matter how long you manage to make it work, you will run into a few hiccups here and there. With the internet today, there is a lot of advice for artists, some good, some bad, and some that are just complete bullcrap. Klee and I have a YouTube channel, a podcast, resources, we put art shows together, and published books meant to help those creative souls. Still, none of that is going to make the journey easy. In fact, our road isn’t all unicorn farts and rainbows.

The fact of the matter is that life is an ever-evolving and complicated thing. We recently moved, had to do repairs, and are currently in a rat race to get caught up both emotionally and financially. It is easy to feel like everything is not going how you want it to go, especially when you are waiting for a check to come in the mail and it never shows up. However, life is also wonderful, but even the most seasoned artists can make things complicated. We all know how to move forward without allowing stress to take over. The problem is that knowing is not doing.

Even though we all know what is truly best for us, we don’t always follow that path. It will eventually come back and bite you in the butt. My recent experience with burnout is a great example. Instead of enjoying the ride and making the most of it, I was allowing my days to get consumed by worry. This caused a downward spiral that I don’t wish on anyone. 

Let’s be honest, worry doesn’t accomplish anything. It hinders your ability to move forward. In my case, it zapped my creativity, caused me to make poor choices, and didn’t allow me to see blaring red flags. This road is difficult enough, and being worried makes it almost impossible to navigate. 

So, what do you do? 

Stop thinking, and start doing. Clear your mind of all the bull and put one foot in front of the other until you get your joy back. Focus on what you appreciate and not what is going wrong. I know, it sounds like some crap that some self-help guru might be trying to pawn off on you, but it is true. You are either paralyzed by worry or striding forward and not giving a rip. 

Here are mantras I take action on when I find myself in a creative slump or a downward spiral.

My priorities are mine, and I’m not in charge of anybody else’s priorities.

Just get up and do it, whatever “IT” is.

Take 10 minutes daily to clear your mind and focus on what is going right.

Slow down. Enjoy your food and focus on every single bite.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you.

Everything is possible. Spend at least ten minutes focused on that.

Don’t spend your time “repairing” relationships blindly. Evaluate and move on if you have to.

Get boots on the ground, and stop thinking and planning.

Put yourself out there and enjoy the process.

Create art, practice, experiment, and make a mess.

Don’t wallow on what went wrong. Look for the lesson and move on.

Agree to disagree and move on. Stop trying to win the argument.

Enjoy the moment, every moment. Life is happening right now.

Share moments with people you love.

Take five minutes to stop and breathe deeply throughout the day.

Define your own success and screw what anyone else thinks.

Live for the moments, not what you own.

Love the badass that looks back at you in the mirror.

Take ownership of your life, it’s not up to anyone else what you do.

Don’t get desperate, and do not make choices while feeling desperate.

Practice listening to your gut. 

Look at your life like it is your most significant art in progress.

Sure, the journey might be arduous, but you can make it whatever you want it to be. What’s holding you back from making it fun? Are you waiting for other people to take you seriously? Are you waiting for someone to do it for you? Only you are responsible for your life. Only you can make the choice to keep talking or start doing it. Live your life the way you want to live. 

If you do nothing, nothing happens.

It will not happen overnight, and if you have a habit of stressing out all the time, you will try and sabotage yourself to return to that status quo. However, only you can take yourself out of that pattern and embrace the awesomeness that is you.

Don’t wait around. Don’t hope that someone saves you. Just pick yourself up and do it. Getting yourself past self-sabotage is the hard part. This is the struggle. It is not what you might have blamed in the past. It’s not the things that went wrong, or the people who made things harder. It is you who needs to take responsibility for your life and how you want to live. 

Success isn’t about fame, fortune, subscribers, likes, or anything outside of you. It’s about being who YOU want to be. Living the life YOU want to live, and feeling how YOU want to feel.

So go out and live it.

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Where Inspiration Comes From

People often ask me, “What inspires you and your art?” At that moment, people expect me to say something like “Picasso, Warhol, or Dali.”

Although the great masters of the past inspire me, their art doesn’t inspire me at all.

Oh, sure, I may grab some ideas from here or there because I find something fascinating in the art. However, when it comes to inspiration, the things that inspire me have more to do with life than the products of life.

Let me explain.

What we create always comes from inside of us. It comes from that place where we absorb the world around us. It’s the stuff of life. Although just about every creative endeavor you witness expresses the artist’s journey, it is their interpretation. In fact, when you resonate with a work of art, it is because you have written your own narrative for it. It’s a beautiful thing. At that moment, the art becomes a collaboration between you and the artist. Ultimately, the artist sees one thing, and you may see something totally different. You see an image that may symbolize a moment in time in your life, but you can never really put yourself in the artist’s shoes. The art then becomes something even more powerful and transcends into synergy.

Recently Klee and I took a long road trip to Illinois for my daughter’s wedding. It had been two years or even longer, since we had seen anyone in the family (due to the year that shall not be named, and pandemic).

We were excited. That being said, there was also a good amount of mental preparation. Obviously, anyone with a family knows that sometimes you will have to deal with some quirkiness that is unique to your family dynamic.

Those things, those conversations, those smiles, those interactions, those quiet conversations, those heated moments, that laughter, the sadness, and all of it, are part of the stuff of life. All of it is part of what inspires us. These are the things that can knock us down or pick us up. These are the things that show us the lessons of who we are or what we want to be. These things allow us to overcome or fall flat on our faces.

These are the things that inspire my art.

It’s not Picasso’s art. It’s Picasso’s life that I’m fascinated by. Art is simply an expression of how he looked at the world. How ANY artist sees the world. It is merely an expression of how they saw the things that we can all take for granted.

In this world of hustle and being busy, it’s easy to let life pass us by. It’s easy to forget the little moments. It’s easy to look at the destination and forget the journey altogether.

Inspiration surrounds us. It comes from those moments of overcoming. It comes from those moments of absolute joy, and it comes from those moments of heartache. This is what inspires innovation and creativity. Many of us believe that we have to think our way through things. That we have to figure this or that out. But in reality, thinking doesn’t really get us anywhere. Usually, we exhaust ourselves by overthinking and take a break from it, that’s when feelings finally get their say and the solution comes to us. This is inspiration.

Feelings are powerful. Most people try to suppress or hide their feelings, yet feelings express our ultimate truth. So, if you’ve ever been taught to hide your feelings, it means that you’ve been taught to hide who you are, your authentic self, and the way you process and see the world. We have been led to believe that our feelings make us vulnerable, yet only in that vulnerability can we find our strength. It takes vulnerability to truly fall in love with life, yourself, and other humans.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, the things that inspire me are the things that I get to experience. Only because I allowed myself to be there fully in my feelings and not question the moment with brain chatter.

Things like watching my beautiful daughter walk down the aisle. That is a lovely moment in time. That is something that will inspire my art. In fact, I’m planning on creating work specifically for them based on my interpretation of that beautiful day.

There are so many things in life that we can focus on. I feel like sometimes we’re trained to focus on the things that really, ultimately, at the end of the day, don’t matter. What really matters is the fact that right now, you are breathing.

You are experiencing life and feeling your way through it right now.

So if your focus is on something that ultimately doesn’t matter, that may mean you’re stuck in your head.

I suggest just being out of your mind. That is where I like to spend most of my time. There’s no better place to be for true inspiration.

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Sharing Who You Are Matters

Sometimes, things suck. Sometimes we feel like what we have to share doesn’t matter. However, the world may need exactly what you have to share. More love, more support, more creativity, more awesomeness!

Buying an old house can be quite demanding. It’s been about four months since we signed on the dotted line and moved in. The plan originally was to have our art studio up and running, explore all the art happenings in town, and get the pre- order books out to all the amazing people who ordered them. Oh yeah, and we would be filming and editing the entire process and sharing it with the world.

However, electrical, plumbing, structural, buying furnishings, and other issues decided that our overly ambitious plans would have to take a backseat to life. Life… It’s always there, lurking pleasantly in the hopes that you’ll remember that you are human and you are alive.

Honestly, it’s been awesome. The good, the bad, the stressful, and the overwhelming. The fact of the matter is that we are quite lucky to be having first world problems like “plumbing issues” because it could be much more serious.

As we reach the end of the plumbing saga, and prepare to sit down and finish the books that were originally supposed to go out over a year ago, I am reminded of the love and patience displayed by all the people out there who support us.

As you know we have had an adventurous year with many many changes. At the beginning of the Indiegogo book campaign of writing on rogue marketing, I never expected the challenges and changes that have taken place. A global pandemic, struggles with close friends, political drama, a hurricane, power outages, an infestation of fungus gnats, a large solo art exhibition, winning awards, an epic adventure, a devastating leak, and buying our dream home with it’s own challenges. During last year, we have had some really dark times, and some sunshine… and through it all, you were there… patiently supporting this book. Supporting us, and that means the world to me.

So, thank you. We will be quiet for a couple weeks as we go into hermit book mode and get our books polished and ready for release. We will also be building the studio back up (finally) for our opening on April 1st.

If this adventure has shown me anything, it is this… It’s easy to want to get wrapped up in all of the crap that happens in life and the world. It’s easy to isolate and believe that what you do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s easy to believe that everything is so much bigger than you and you are but an insignificant spec.

However, people I have never met in my life have brought sunshine and light to some moments that were difficult. Simply by showing support, joy, and giving in their own unique way. We all have that gift, we all have something to give, we all have something to share… and it matters… it ALL matters.

So, as I get ready to release a book full of my thoughts and words out into the world, I am reminded of a special quote that keeps me going when things may seem dark. When asked why he performed at a free concert just two days after getting shot, Bob Marley responded, “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”

So share more love, more support, more creativity, and more awesomeness! The world can ALWAYS use more of that… We can ALL use more of that. Thank you in advance for being the awesomeness that is you. See you soon.

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YOU BRING THE LIGHT

I wrote this to my amazing rogue artist family on Patreon today and wanted to share it with all of you.

We are still waiting on test results for COVID and I am convinced we do not have it, but there is no way to be sure until we get the results.

It is interesting to me, finding myself at this moment where I feel so run down, and not well, with this lingering thought in the air of “Do I have it?”

We don’t feel well, yet we’re not exhibiting many of the severe symptoms, which is great. The symptoms we do have are not constant such as chills and headaches… Although fatigue and body aches seem to go from extreme to not so extreme.

I made the mistake of reading some news about the situation out there in outside land and a sense of sadness took over.

Humans are such beautiful creatures who can accomplish extraordinary things when they stand together in that beauty… Yet everyone seems so divided right now…

I am holding back the tears in my eyes as I write this…

Maybe I’m feeling the effects of the fatigue and right now is NOT the time to be reading any world news. Especially because I have not been creating an outlet for myself of my art.

I always feel that by creating beauty, empowering people, and expressing how beautiful and amazing we all are – it’s my way of adding light into a world that seems to have a shadow looming… If everyone understood how absolutely amazing they were, they wouldn’t power struggle to be better than someone else… No one is better, we are all beautiful and uniquely perfect at being who we are, which is an ever-changing, ever-evolving thing that grows and blooms as we experience this crazy thing called life.

I don’t know… Part of my brain says “You are so full of crap Rafi, nothing you do is meaningful, nothing you do has an effect on anything.” Luckily, I don’t buy into that voice.

Sure, everyone may not find it meaningful, but I feel that everything we do impacts the world. Just existing and breathing has an impact on the world around you.

It’s like walking into a room where someone has been stewing in anger and you can FEEL the tension in the room… We can FEEL others joy, sadness, hopefulness, anger, fear… and it is contagious.

Right now I feel sadness, but less so than I felt before I started writing this. I may not be creating art right now, but I am creating this… expressing my empowerment and ability to understand that even the smallest flicker of light can shine bright in the darkness.

We all can shine bright in the darkness with the smallest flicker of hope and love. We can cultivate that flicker into a flame and eventually a burst of light as powerful as the sun… and it all resides within us… Imagine knowing that everyone can somehow feel that, and that light is contagious.

Love… Hope… Feeling empowered… Feeling beautiful… And knowing that we are all a force of nature.

Yeah… I definitely need to get back to painting and creating soon 🙂

I Adore You All-Rafi

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Sometimes Life Happens And It Sucks

I have been told on occasion that I’m so lucky to be able to live the life I live. Someone sees a snapshot of my life as an artist on social media and thinks that is the whole picture. As if everything is easy and just sunshine and rainbows float around my life. The truth isn’t as glamorous.

I try to be as honest and authentic as I can be with any content that I share with the world, but even then you are only getting part of the picture. In a world saturated with smiley faces and picture-perfect snapshots of everyone else’s life, it is easy to think that you are alone in feeling unhappy.

We all have our moments. When you see a picture of me creating a work of art, you don’t see all the insecurity, doubt, and worries I may have at the moment. When you see a picture of me smiling, there is no way to know if I have lingering doubts in the background of my mind.

Back to back questions can fill my head like “Am I going to have enough money to pay the bills this month? Do my children hate me? Can I pull off this next art project even though I feel like an impostor? Am I doing enough to promote myself? Why do I feel so invisible? Why am I so fat? YouTube is probably slowing down because I’m old and ugly? Aaaaaarg!”

Sometimes Life Happens And It Sucks

You know… I woke up this morning feeling unmotivated and defeated. The book is eating up a huge portion of my life right now, and my days are spent sitting on the couch typing. I can easily get overwhelmed trying to balance writing a book and running my entire art and media business. Throw a small wrench into the mix like a water pipe bursting over your bed and all of a sudden it seems like the end of the world.

No matter how wonderful someone’s life may seem, we all have insecurities creep up, we all feel overwhelmed sometimes, and we all have things we are afraid of.

This morning, I feel like I’m a failure at my art business, YouTube, Patreon, and life. I hardly make any income from all the work I put into a lot of online platforms and I have to wonder if I’m wasting my time. Am I wasting my time writing this blog? I feel like I’m letting everyone who believes in me down and everything I create is crap.

From art to podcast, to videos, to life choices, to writing, to everything I do, it all feels like crap. I feel like everything I try to do is harder than it should be, and I feel isolated and alone.

Listen, I’m not sharing this with you because I think my life sucks or anything. I also don’t want you to think I’m complaining, because I’m not. I just want you to know that you are not alone, we ALL have days where our thoughts are less than satisfied with our lives. We all have those moments where we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. No matter how wonderful you think someone’s life is, I guarantee that daily, they may have something they are struggling with.

I think the reason I keep going with everything is a stubborn determination to smile. I don’t quit. I know that at some point during the day, I’m going to discourage myself. I know that there is a huge possibility that I’m going to call myself names. I am probably going to worry about the future and make myself feel bad about the choices I’ve made.

I know that a part of me will do whatever it takes to keep me comfortable, small, and hopeless. That is a safe place to be because you don’t take risks from that place. You don’t put yourself and your ideas out there if you feel that you don’t matter. My brain will do whatever it can to protect me from rejection or failure… even go as far as saying some really hurtful stuff in my own head and heart.

Insecurities are complex and hard to describe. We all have them, and they are all different and multifaceted.

I just don’t buy into mine as often as I used to, and when I do… I remind myself that when you are about to make a breakthrough, that’s when the negative voices in your head get louder and more desperate. I also don’t give myself any labels that are damaging. You may be feeling depressed, but you are not depressed, it is a momentary feeling.

We all go through this, and we all deal with it in our own way. I channel my emotions into all my creations and find a way to feel empowered by the experience.

Some commiserate with each other, some find a way to smile despite all the setbacks and some rise above the crap. Some choose to believe in themselves and focus on their life, and others compare their lives to what they assume others are experiencing.

It is after the experience, where I have faced the worst of it that you may see a picture of me smiling on social media. Shit happens, life can feel like it sucks, and times can be tough, but you get to determine how you respond to all of it. If your day sucks, then so be it, but don’t isolate yourself by thinking you’re the only one.

I share this with you because I think you’ve got this. I’ve got this… we can be heroes of our own story. We can all be champions of our own life… Just gotta choose to be awesome and roll with the punches.

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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?