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The Nature Of Being Who You Are

Recently I finished three pieces in a series called The Nature Of Being. This series has evolved over the last four years from beautiful crudely dripped forms to detailed flowing figures, but the message remains the same.

It represents our purest form of growth.

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We find ourselves on this blue ball hurtling through space and time, constantly in search of meaning. The whole while we are almost overcome by our immediate circumstances, and our world seems to only consist of what is around us. Our fears, triumphs, and aspirations revolve around the ideas we consume growing up.

But our world is so much bigger than that, and we all feel it. We all go out and search for meaning in something to fill that sense of missing. We can find personal meaning in our job, hobby, marriage, kids, religion, clothing style, etc.

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But rarely do we look for meaning in things that are not outside of us, but simply in being.

I feel like I’ve been running around my entire life trying to find my purpose in things that are fleeting, when the one constant in my life has been the possibility of having a relationship with myself and finding meaning there.

This series is about being rooted here and now in your world, yet constantly growing and reaching higher than you ever have, naturally and organically. It’s about being flexible and naked to the world and showing yourself as you are, never hiding behind a facade of fear.

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Growth, in my opinion, is not about how much you know, or how powerful you are, or the things you’ve collected, it’s about finding that sense of perfection in the simplicity of life. Not worrying about the opinions of others, or how they perceive you.

It’s about stopping, looking, listening, smelling, feeling, sensing, while you experience the fullness of every moment of your miraculous life.

We tend to get lost in our minds, thinking about our problems, looking for solutions, and missing out on the wonderment that it is to breathe a single breath.

Find meaning in you, your experience, in the now, that’s where it’s at.

-Rafi

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Because Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright

A few years ago, I had gone through a pretty difficult time and I honestly wasn’t sure that I would make it. It was during this that I discovered the power of reassurance and three little birds.

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Bob Marley repeated simple words in my mind with imagery of three little birds to remind me that no matter how difficult things seemed to get, that everything was going to work out for me.

Let me tell you in his words:

 Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing’ don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Rise up this mornin’
Smiled with the risin’ sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Saying’, (this is my message to you)

Singing’ don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing’ don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Rise up this mornin’
Smiled with the risin’ sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Sayin’, this is my message to you

Singin’ don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh
Every little thing gonna be alright, don’t worry
Singin’ don’t worry about a thing, I won’t worry
“‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Singin’ don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright, I won’t worry

Singin’, don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Singin’ don’t worry about a thing, oh no
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

If you’ve ever wondered “Hmmmm, I wonder why Rafi paints birds?” now you know.

Ever changed and ever inspired by the beauty, simplicity, and love in that song.

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Why Do I Paint Birds?

I seem to have always been fascinated by birds, from the pigeons in Chicago with the iridescent neck feathers, to the occasional happy bright red cardinal.

Recently someone asked me “So, why do you paint birds?”

rafi painting birds

I though about the question for a moment and said “Overwhelming fascination.”

When I was a wee little artist, my mother who was young and dangerously overprotective, didn’t let me go outside much. For years, my entire world was from a large third floor picture window that looked down on a busy street.

I spent hours a day looking out at the people going about their day, the different birds roosting and flying about, the abstract landscape over the buildings, the little bit of greenery that would emerge from fascinating places in the concrete. I also gave everyone personalities and stories, people would have daily novellas play out in front of me, and so did the birds.

Why I Paint Birds By Rafi Perez
Love Birds By Rafi Perez

But, although I felt that the humans had dramatic stories of heartbreak, turmoil, and moments of happiness, the birds symbolized something powerful.

Birds symbolized freedom and perspective. Because they fly high into the sky, I believed they were messengers who provide humans with a bridge between the mundane daily routine and powerful spiritual life.

I know, I know… I was a weird kid.

Why I Paint Birds By Rafi Perez
Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Every once in a while I would see someone at a bench feeding bits of bread to the pigeons. From my third floor window I could see a powerful dance taking place between the person throwing the bread and the birds. I could see something beautiful, a powerful connection to something greater, a brief moment of stillness among the chaos of daily life. No one else seemed to notice, they just hurriedly went about their day, barely glancing up or interacting with one another.

Years later, with no window barrier between me and the world, I was part of that chaos. I hurried importantly past people to get to work, or anywhere for that matter. I pounded my fist and certain index fingers at people who drove too slow. I was an adult, I was busy, I had things to do, I was responsible, I didn’t have enough time, and I was miserable.

Flight Of The Hummingbird By Rafi Perez
Flight Of The Hummingbird By Rafi Perez

One day, the overwhelm hit a fever pitch. As I was barreling down the road cursing in my mind at the lady in the car directly in front of me, my heart started to beat out of my chest. I loosened my tie and found that my forehead was soaked in sweat. It was so bad, that I pulled over.

I stepped out of my car to get some air and walked over to a bench.

As I was sitting there, wondering if I was going to die in my stupid suit, on a dirty bench, in a strange part of town, I noticed an old man walking towards me with a crinkled up paper bag.

Rafi Perez Art 2016
Rafi Perez Art 2016

“Great, he’s gonna ask me for money, just look away.” I thought to myself.

The man sat down, opened his bag, and started to sprinkle little bits of bread on the ground in front of us. Like a scene out of the movie “The Birds” a hoard of pigeons and other birds descended on us.

Didn’t he see that I am an important person? I was appalled at how rude this man was, surely a bird was going to shit on my suit.

Then, my heart started up again, and I breathed in deep… and just relaxed.

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Fun Bird By Rafi Perez

Suddenly, amidst the gaggle of birds was a pop of bright color. A cardinal flew on to my armrest merely inches from my hand. I found myself mesmerized and just stared at it, we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. It then jumped down, grabbed a scrap of bread and flew away.

I’m not sure how long I was on that bench. I just sat there and time seemed to slow down. I could see the world hurrying past me, people waving their fists in their cars, and others looking at their watches every five minutes. I felt like they looked so… so… stupid.

At that point the old man looked at me, I could feel him studying me.

“Taking time to do nothing often puts everything into perspective. Remember that, young man.”

Why I Paint Birds By Rafi Perez
Be Different By Rafi Perez

Then he got up and left.

I get visited by that cardinal every once in a while, when I get caught up in hurrying through life. I sound like a crazy person, but it’s true.

And that is one reason why I paint birds.

 

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Ignited From Within

I’ve been thinking this morning,

I recently sold a piece of art that symbolized a very special story. When I posted it on social media I captioned it with:

Life can be a thrilling ride, or a terrifying one. It’s just a matter of perspective. It’s not always easy to remind yourself that you are on fire for life, but it is necessary if you want to ignite yourself, and blaze your own trail.

Ignited By Rafi Perez

This piece symbolizes what I think all of us have inside, a flame that burns and refuses to be snuffed out, no matter how hard we might try.

When I look at my life, I can see a very clear separation between the person who buried their ambitions and dreams behind a wall of fear, and the crazy risk taking weirdo that I am today. I’d be lying if I said that I am completely devoid of fear, but it is worlds away from the old version of me.

Ignited By Rafi Perez

The thing is, that if you ignore that flame, that passion that burns within you, it doesn’t go away, you are just constantly reminded of the things you are suppressing.

We are all such beautiful creatures, with amazing potential. I feel that we all know that to some level or another, but might be too scared to express it.

But the flame within you doesn’t go away.

Ignited By Rafi Perez

We are brilliant in our uniqueness. In the history of the world there has never been anyone like you, there is no one like you, and there will never be anyone like you… soak that in for a moment. Yet, we tend to compare ourselves and put ourselves down.

But the flame within you doesn’t go away.

It is simply a matter of perspective… The flame within you, is that part of you that sees your beauty, ability, potential, brilliance, your worth, and uniqueness. It see’s what you really are…

Amazing.

-Rafi

 

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The Man And His Shadow

Hi guys, here is a short story I wrote a while back, I wanted to share this with you. It seems a little dark in the beginning, but I promise the ending is pretty bright.

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The Man And His Shadow

One day, a man was walking down the street on his way to work. His thoughts were on his life as he looked into his passing image in the store windows.

“What has happened to you, you look horrible.” He thought as he turned away
from his reflection.

His stomach rumbled a bit in passing the faint smell of delicious coffee and pastries emanating from the small café on the corner.

“If only you had woken up earlier, maybe you would have time to eat, not that it
matters, you don’t have a dime to your name. You’re such a loser, you know that?”

The man’s expression soured and his shoulders slumped a bit. He made his way to the bus stop and stood next to a group of people, none looked up from what they were doing.

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“You don’t even exist, you could die tomorrow and no one would notice. You are
worthless.”

He looked out at the passing cars as people made their way to work. Some were talking on their cell phones, others seemed barely awake, and some were applying make up.

Just then, a man in a beautiful expensive car drove up. He had a smile on his face and exuded a confident warmth.

“Look at that, if you actually had done something right in your life, maybe you would drive your own car instead of taking the bus with all the other losers.”

The man looked up briefly at the crowd and then back at the crack in the cement by his feet. The bus arrived and he fumbled with his change, and felt slightly embarrassed that he had taken as long as he did.

“You do this every morning, you make yourself look like an ass everywhere you go. You are such an idiot.”

Not looking at people, he made his way to the handrail and stood there quietly as the bus took off. A beautiful woman stood at the other end of a group of commuters. The man always looked forward to seeing her, but had never had the nerve to talk to her.

“Are you kidding me, what the hell do you have to offer her? She would laugh in your face, or vomit. If you talk to her you’re just going to make yourself look stupid again.”

He looked away disappointed, and wondered if he would ever meet someone. He glanced at his reflection on the bus windows and noticed something on his shoulder.

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When he looked down at his shoulder, there was nothing there. Looking back at his reflection, he could distinctly make out a form of a small person sitting on his slumped shoulders. It bent down and whispered in his ear.

“Not only are you an idiot and a loser but now you’re going crazy too. You should just end your meaningless life now and put everyone who knows you out of their misery.”

He blinked his eyes and the image was gone.

Maybe it was just the fact that he was hungry, he couldn’t afford to start going crazy now on top of everything else that sucked in his life. 

After getting off the bus, he watched the beautiful woman walking away, a dream that would never come true. Suddenly, a cab honked it’s horn, startling the man. 

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“Watch where you’re going you idiot!” Screamed the cab driver.

The man jumped out of the street and looked around, embarrassed.

“Even the cab drivers know you’re an idiot. You might as well walk around with a sign that says “I’m an idiot”.

The rest of the day pretty much went the same for him. He avoided talking to people, and just kind of kept to himself. The conversations he had were either about work or mindless small talk.

That night as he was getting ready for bed, he looked into the mirror and saw the shadowy form sitting on his shoulder again.

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Frightened, he looked away. After a few seconds, he felt himself compelled to
look again, and the shadow was still there.

“Who are you?” The man asked.

“I am you. A form of you anyway.” The shadow said.

“What does that mean? Why are you here? Am I going insane?” The man questioned.

“It means” The shadow shrugged “that I am the voice that tells you what you think you should hear. I am you, telling you what you can’t do, in order to keep you safely where you are most comfortable.”

“I have been conditioned by you all your life.” The shadow continued “You have told me what to think, what to say, and how to remind you.”

“My whole life?” The man asked.

“Yeah, but our relationship was much different when we were young. I was much brighter then. Our world was one of wonder, exploration, and imagination. We played for hours and loved openly. There was nothing we couldn’t do, and we did everything our hearts desired.”

“What happened?” The man asked.

“We were introduced to fear, limitations, intimidation, by words or actions. You started to tell me to remind you of these things so you wouldn’t get yourself into trouble. All of these fears and limitations were based on other people’s opinions. We believed them as our own because they would keep us safe.

After a while we were just not good enough. We believed we had to be something other than we are in order to be worthy, worth it, or good enough. We consoled ourselves by saying nobody was perfect, but everyone else seemed so much more perfect than we could ever be. So a shadow filled my light, and I became darker. It became my job to remind you of your imperfection.”

“Why does it have to be this way?” The man asked.

“It doesn’t. I am tired of telling you horrible things based in lies. The truth is, you are perfect, you are the most perfect and beautiful version of you that exists in this universe. You are a unique gift to the world.”

The man looked deep in the mirror, and tears swelled in his eyes. He saw that the shadow was actually him. The shadow was the smoke that had prevented the light from shining within him.

The shadow was a lie that hid the truth from him. In that moment he caught a glimpse of his perfection. He realized that almost everything he believed to be true about himself was a lie he believed. The light shone within him, the light that was always so familiar.

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He made a choice at that moment based on what he wanted out of life. A choice based on fearlessness and limitless potential. He made a choice, looked at the person in the mirror and said…

“I love you.”

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In The Mouth Of Madness Again

As some of you know, we recently took a nice long impromptu trip to explore the country, see an eclipse, and visit family. A necessity for anyone that is wondering what this whole life thing is about. It’s also for anyone that wants to throw caution to the wind and lose their mind.

Rafi and Klee In Franklin Tennessee

Now, I know, I know… why would anyone want to lose their mind?

Well, think about it, when you get stressed out, where does it usually take place? When you are missing something in the moment, because your mind is thinking about your bank statement, where does that take place?

Why do you think people meditate? it’s the best way to train yourself how to shut off your brain and pay attention to what is around you.

I’ll be honest with you, I look forward to times in my life where I am completely out of my mind and enveloped in the moment. Creating art does that for me, taking walks in nature, sitting by a bonfire, star gazing, singing and dancing like a ridiculous buffoon, plus anything else that makes me lose a sense of time.

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

I focus on that when I’m creating, every piece is my attempt to slow time down and pull the viewer out of their mind and into the moment. To lose themselves in my art, to give them a breather so they can come back from it without the mass jumble of thoughts that preoccupy busy lives.

Well, that’s what I’m attempting, along with giving a sense of empowerment, happiness, and a general sense of well being. I like challenges :). I believe happiness is a result of  just taking a break every once in a while and letting our minds go. Well, it’s just a thought.

I’ll leave you with this, stare at this for a while and go out of your mind.

Magic Seasons Winter Tree Textured Original Painting by artist Rafi Perez on Canvas 18X24

Stay awesome!

-Rafi

 

 

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Getting My Morning Started Off Right.

So, I have a confession… The last few days I have been in a confusing place when it comes to my own sense of happiness.

Honestly, it’s something that I think about a lot, and feel like I am constantly reevaluating where I’m at, and what I can do better to feel more fulfilled and whole.

rafi happy sketches

This morning, I had somewhat of a revelation.

My mornings, for the most part can be pretty routine:

  1. Drag myself out of bed.
  2. Think about how I feel and determine what I can do to feel better.
  3. Listen to an uplifting podcast or audio-book.
  4. Drink coffee and read positive quotes.
  5. Clear my mind for 5 or 10 minutes or meditate as you hipsters like to call it.
  6. Think about the here and now, and what I’m grateful for.
  7. Plan my day, look at my calendar.
  8. Get a little workout in, I prefer to just go for walks, mostly I just lift heavy things.
  9. Shower, and get started with what ever I’m doing at the moment.

That’s how an ideal start to my day would look. Lately, its been looking more like this:

  1. Drag myself out of bed.
  2. Think about how I feel and wonder why I feel that way… usually blaming someone or something.
  3. Drink coffee and begrudgingly look at my calendar.
  4. think about how I really should meditate or something.
  5. Feel overwhelmed and like there’s not enough hours in the day.
  6. Rush to get started, try to do everything… and I mean EVERYTHING.

So, needless to say that my days are a little less focused on well being, and more focused on the task at hand. Whether the task is in front of me or inside my head, makes no difference, it’s just all reactive.

I prefer to be in a powerful state of mind in order to create my art. The underlying message is meant to be one of self empowerment and happiness, and if I’m not feeling those things, the art is going to reflect that. So, although I have all these things to do, I do none of them, because I’m not willing to sacrifice my message for the sake of being productive… which can make me feel like a failure… it’s so stupid when you think about it.

rafi happy sketches

Ok, back to my revelation.

So, this morning I was thinking about how I felt, and wondered why I felt that way… when it hit me like a ton of bricks… on the forehead… while falling off a mountain.

I wasn’t choosing my thoughts, I was reacting to my feelings right from the beginning. Instead of determining what I wanted to think about, I was evaluating myself emotionally without setting a solid set point for my day. which meant that my day could go either way.

Being deliberate about what you are going to think about is key. Choosing a subject that you want to think about and just thinking about that, and training your mind to focus on what you decide to focus on.

The subject should be empowering, make you feel alive, bold, bright, powerful, exciting. It can be a question that is framed in a way that causes the answer to be a positive one, such as “What are all the things that make me feel awesome today?”

rafi happy sketches

So my days would start off like this:

  1. Drag myself out of bed… Still working on this one.
  2. Think about what I want to think about and determine the most powerful thought.
  3. Listen to an uplifting podcast or audio-book, maybe about the same subject.
  4. Drink coffee and read positive quotes.
  5. Clear my mind for 5 or 10 minutes or meditate.
  6. Think about the here and now, and what I’m grateful for.
  7. Plan my day, look at my calendar.
  8. Get a little workout in..
  9. Shower, and get started with what ever I’m doing at the moment.

I’m not one for routines, but I am one for forming deliberate habits, so this should be fun. I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far, so great!

 

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Become A Creative Failure To Succeed

Have you ever had someone tell you that you weren’t good enough, that you’ll never make it, or that you would fail? If you have, then welcome to the club, this is a good place to be so don’t fret.

I think we all have some of those people in our lives, that either verbally or quietly disapprove of what they consider our childish ambitions. The truth is that anything that is outside of the norm is considered childish most of the time.

It’s interesting to me that most artists that are revered today for ushering in a new era of art, were considered losers by the art establishments in their day. We usually write this off by saying that the artist was ahead of his time, but I think it has more to do with perseverance than anything else.

Van Gogh

Today, we consider Vincent Van Gogh to be one of the greatest and most influential painters of all time, but that wasn’t the case when he was alive. Van Gogh’s work received little to no recognition during his lifetime. His paintings were often described as being too dark and lacking the bright liveliness seen in Impressionist paintings of the time.

The funny thing is that Monet’s Impressionist paintings were rejected before they became popular as well. His work and other Impressionists’ paintings were rejected by society and art exhibitions because it went against the traditional style and method of painting.

Claude Monet
Painting By Monet Rejected By The Paris Salon

Even Picasso was highly criticized by his peers quite often because some of his paintings diverged from the divergent artist movements that were happening already.

The fact is that each one of these artists embraced their craft and just kept creating despite what people were telling them. They painted what they painted because they wanted to, not because it was popular. Eventually, they had a large body of work that just could not be ignored.

Paris Salon

Vincent Van Gogh died poor, having only sold one painting to a friend in his lifetime, but he also died young. I think had he lived longer he would have found fame like any other creative person that perseveres through what I call the dark years.

No matter what you want to do in your life, I think if you don’t give up, you’ll get there. If you keep going, creating, and moving forward there is no way you can truly fail. If you quit, it’s like closing a fairy tale book before getting to the end. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a happy ending, you just stopped reading before actually getting there.

Stephanie's Mermaid By Rafi Perez
One of my paintings, because… why not??

People around you are going to tell you that you will fail, and they’re right, but failure is a temporary stretch of road that can lead to a happy ending. But, you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Watch me talk about other creative geniuses who were considered losers in this video:

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The Critic Doesn’t Count, THE MAN IN THE ARENA

It was about nine years ago, when I ran across this excerpt from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt. This speech changed my life and my point of view of people who criticized my ability to succeed.

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Klee and Rafi traveled the country and challenged their old way of living, despite the naysayers and critics saying it wasn’t possible.

 

I am working on a video that is about taking negative criticism, so I’ve been inspired to share it with you:

” It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ”

— Theodore Roosevelt

UPDATE:

Here is the video I recently did about some of the negative critics I have had, and how I deal with them.

When you hold on to your vision, no one can ever stop you.

Vision In My Mind By Rafi Perez
Vision In My Mind By Rafi Perez

Stay endlessly inspired by the stuff of life. Love you. –Rafi

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Art Carousel Horse By Rafi Perez

It’s not every day that I get to cross something off of my bucket list. As a kid, I remember being mesmerized by the the carousel horses at Six Flags Great America. This year, I was given a blank horse and asked to make it look beautiful.

“Do what you want with it, I trust you.” He said.

Art Carousel Horse By Rafi Perez There is just something magical about them. When you are a kid, they can easily spark the imagination… Oh, who am I kidding, as an adult they spark my imagination. As an artist, I think it is such a great opportunity to tell a story using such familiar imagery.

Think about it, if you give a hundred artists the same blank horse, you will get a hundred different horses. Each one telling a unique story. A story that reflects the artists that created it.

Art Carousel Horse By Rafi Perez
Art Carousel Horse By Rafi Perez

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the opportunity to design another carousel horse, but the fact that there is one out in the world, with my signature on it is so exciting to me.

I just had to share it with you. Stay awesome!