This time of year I always seem to find myself more contemplative than ever. It’s almost like I can’t help but evaluate my experiences of last year and come up with a fuzzy idea of a plan that is not really a plan for the new year.
I think everyone does this to one extent or another. I remember back in my less optimistic days, this time of year was only a reminder that time was running out. I would spend most of my time thinking about lost opportunities, and how terrible my year went. Yeah, I was not a ray of sunshine back then, and to be honest, my life was a reflection of my attitude.
Luckily for me, I stopped being a dumb-ass and started to appreciate this thing we call life.
My new year resolutions are not the typical “I want my butt to look better in jeans” type of resolutions (my butt looks great in jeans, btw), they have more to do with realizations I had throughout the year.
The one that is really on my mind is based on our recent trips and around 60 hours worth of conversations on said trips with Klee.
Appreciating every single individual moment that I spend being alive, and really taking advantage of the fact that I am breathing and able to make decisions that impact my life now. Essentially, not waiting around for things to happen, but just living now. Our experience last year was a solid realization that life is extremely short… So EVERY moment is precious.
Remembering that I am unique, but so is everyone else and there really isn’t such a thing as normal. Everyone is weird, but there are those who embrace it, and there are those who hide it. Embrace it always.
Well, that’s all I have so far, it’s still a work in progress and Klee and I will probably have some long conversations about feelings, goals, life, and other fun stuff. Have fun figuring out your awesome resolutions for 2019.
Oh yeah, play more guitar, write more blogs, film more videos, create more amazing art, and try to ween myself off of Snyder’s buffalo pretzel bits, those are on the list as well, so we’ll see how those go for 2019. Just kidding on the pretzel bits, I’m never gonna give those up.
As some of you know, the last few days Klee and I have been putting some mileage on our little yellow Jeep. We scheduled a trip up north to visit my youngest kids for a couple days and watch my daughter perform in her fall play.
I’ll be honest, the idea of scheduling any kind of trip during the holiday season is not something that is easy for me because of the potential loss of income for our business while traveling. Not to mention, there is technically no one there to run the business while we are on the road. Throw in the ever looming uncertainty of being career artists and you can imagine my struggle.
But, you know, I realized something… Life is happening right now. I’m not saying that my art career is not a part of my life, because it is, it’s a great part of my life… but it is not all there is to life. My life is a complex series of moments that involve all the different facets of the ever changing human that I am.
Don’t worry, I’m not quitting my art career, that would be ridiculous. I love creating art, it is definitely a large part of who I am. I’m not sure I would even know what to do if I wasn’t creating something.
What I am saying is, I think I have to put myself in check. So not much will change except the way I see things on the inside, so don’t freak out… I’m not going anywhere.
My trip was amazing, Klee and I froze our butts off in the wintry weather, we hung out with two little amazing humans, got to teach my daughter a little something about driving, and got to see an awesome performance by my superstar… Life is good.
There are so many things to be appreciated in life. So many little things that can leave such a beautiful impact. These little things in of themselves can seem unimportant when you are thinking about your career or making money, but it is those small moments that are so powerful.
A hot chocolate in a cute cafe, on the main street, in a small town, in the mountains, that is decorated for Christmas, with my son complaining, is a memory that I will always cherish.
I guess what I am saying, is to be aware that you are not turning something that you love into a serious thing that keeps you from experiencing the things that you want to experience in life. It’s easy to say “I don’t have the time or money to do that”, and honestly sometimes you don’t, but will it be something you’ll regret not doing?
I guess I’m thinking about this because we just got back and will be leaving again tonight and going down south to a funeral. Life and death, it’s the one thing we all share, we live and we die.
I hope I’m not getting you down, that’s not my intention. I just think it’s important to stop and think about these things every once in a while.
Because life is precious… and it’s happening right now… Enjoy it now, while you can… every beautiful moment.
This month is always fun for me, because it marks the anniversary of Klee and I taking a chance on the unknown. It will be about 9 years since we jumped into the Explorer and decided to go on an adventure to push our limits beyond what we had experienced.
I’ll never forget the day that Klee looked at me seriously (it was a very dramatic tele-novella look) and said “I’m going with you”. See, I had decided that I was going to travel around the country and experience a new perspective on life. Despite the fact that my family kept saying I would probably die from eating poison berries, my mind was set.
In fact, even finally meeting the love of my life and developing a beautiful new relationship wasn’t going to deter me from taking this journey.
I had spent my life the same way that many people do, being someone who I wasn’t. I mean, I didn’t really know who I was. I knew I liked certain things, didn’t like other things, got mad about things, and laughed at others… but I wasn’t sure if it was just who I thought I should be, or who I really was.
I had never really taken a look at myself from the outside, or challenged my own thoughts. I just reacted to situations and circumstances in life, but never really asked the question “Why am I reacting this way?”. I think I was under the impression that I didn’t have a choice, that I was “just that way”.
As a result, my life sucked, or at least that’s how I felt. I think back then I was so far down the rabbit hole that no matter what the circumstances of my life could have been, I would have made it suck in my head.
Then I hit rock bottom… and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
It was as if someone had reset the computer in my head, and for the first time in my life, I was questioning why I was settling for beliefs that worked against me, and actually caused me to hate myself.
Cut to 2 years of self examination and I was ready to challenge the world.
Yup, that’s who Klee decided to get in a car and travel around the country with. Some hairy bandanna wearing guy that freaked out her mother.
A guy that she would spend weeks in the middle of the everglades with.
A guy that she hiked shark valley with, even though we underestimated what 14 miles would take out of us.
A guy that she took turns with hugging a four and a half foot alligator named Leroy.
A guy she wrote music with and performed live while his knees gave out because he was so nervous.
A guy that she lived in Key West with for several months while they worked out some of their baggage.
A guy that she went kayaking with for their first time and got lost in the sun for six hours and still had a blast even though they were sunburned.
A guy that encouraged her to interview David Sheely who is the top investigator of the Florida Skunk Ape.
A guy she encouraged to show his art for the first time… and who is forever grateful.
A guy that loves her more and more every day and can’t possibly write down all the amazing things we have done so far.
I’m so happy she did.
So, here we are still on this adventure. We may not be driving around the country but we are most definitely staying true to who we are as best we can every day. What I didn’t know back then, when I planned this adventure was that I would be sharing it with Klee… And that I am ever changing, and so is she… So no matter what, every day is a new adventure.
Yesterday Klee and I dropped off some of our art for the 25th Anniversary Show at Artel Gallery in downtown Pensacola.
As some of you know, I won ‘Best Of Show’ at the last exhibition with my sculpture. Klee was there with me at the reception, she has always been so supportive. At every reception, she has been there to help me face anything that may come my way and to be my cheerleader.
What makes this particular show super exciting for me is that Klee also has a piece in the show. So we will both be there for the reception on June 14th strutting our stuff and representing our own art. This will give me a chance to show my support for her and her awesome talent.
This event is open to the public, so please join us on June 14th, 6pm at Artel Gallery in Downtown Pensacola.
My submission is Chasing Fairies.
ABOUT THIS PAINTING
In a world where everything is much more serious and complicated than those moments of innocence and wonder we experienced as children, this piece symbolizes the child within all of us that will believe in the impossible. Everything is possible.
Klee’s Submission is “Everlasting Oak” Tree of Life Pendant Necklace.
One of a kind solid 14k gold tree of life necklace on a stunning rectangular cushion cut moss agate stone with genuine blue diamond leaves.
Moss Agate is a variety of Chalcedony, a mineral of the Quartz family. It is clear to milky white, with dendritic inclusions of manganese or iron that has grown into patterns similar to moss or lichen. It has been highly regarded throughout history as a stone of strengthening, stability, healing, balance and abundance.
The oak tree has long been a symbol of strength, endurance, wisdom and nobility, highly revered for it’s size and longevity as well as the abundant gifts it has provided over the centuries. This tree, created in solid gold and blue diamonds, is truly an “Everlasting Oak.”
Diamonds are the most well known symbol of “forever”. The leaves of this tree are genuine conflict free blue diamonds (color enhanced). Their color is a greenish-teal blue that perfectly compliments the mossy inclusions of the agate. 44 of them adorn the branches of this tree, sparkling and shimmering in a truly magical way.
Hope to see you there:
What: Art Exhibition – 25th Anniversary Show Where: Artel Gallery – 223 Palafox Place, Old Escambia County Courthouse, Pensacola, FL 32502 When: Opening Reception June 14th, 6pm-8pm (Show Runs June 5th – July 13th) Why: Because it’s awesome! Come hang out with us during the opening reception!
As I approached the gallery I found myself wondering how in the world I was going to get the massive sculpture I constructed up the stairs. I had somehow managed to squeeze it into my car without damaging it, which I attributed to dumb luck.
Luck seemed to be on my side that morning, considering I had pulled into a parking spot right in front of the shiny and unending staircase into the gallery.
I’ve entered the juried art competitions at Artel Gallery a handful of times with varying results. I still remember the first piece I entered, which was rejected with no particular pomp and circumstance. It was laid off to the side with the other rejects waiting for me to glumly collect it, like picking up a child from detention.
That rejection had a devastating impact on my self esteem as an artist for some time. I had just started selling my art and gaining some traction with local collectors, and it caused me to feel like I wasn’t good enough to continue masquerading as an artist.
It wasn’t until several years later that I decided to enter another piece, which didn’t get rejected.
The marble steps to the gallery blazed white in the hot sun, daring me to make a move. I had managed to get the sculpture out of the car without damaging it, knocking myself in the head only once.
The only idea that my mind could seem to muster that morning was to pick up the sculpture and maneuver the stairs as quickly as possible. The sculpture isn’t necessarily heavy, it’s just awkward to carry around, because like most sculptures, I didn’t design it to be carried around.
I prepared myself at the bottom of the mountainous stairs, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and steadied my breath. One false move and all the work and effort that went into my art would be laying in pieces on the forbidding marble steps.
After deciding to enter my art again, I got pieces into four separate shows, won best of show, and had a solo show in their alcove. I also got rejected two more times, but it didn’t have an impact on my self esteem as an artist. Some might attribute the lack of feeling dejected to the fact that I had a couple years as a career artist under my belt, but I know plenty of seasoned artists who have a difficult time with any rejection.
I don’t have difficulty with rejection because after two years of avoiding art competitions, I finally realized that you can’t win if you don’t enter; and your art is not being rejected, it simply didn’t match the taste of the juror. The thing is, that art competitions don’t matter, but if you want to win one, you are going to have to face rejection. In fact, if you want to do anything awesome or important with your art career, you are probably going to face a lot of rejection and criticism.
If you want to be safe from rejection, then don’t put yourself out there, don’t do anything different from the norm, don’t try to have a voice, and definitely don’t become an artist.
Simply because someone rejects your artwork (or whatever it may be) doesn’t mean that you are worthless. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, and never will. A lot of people avoid thinking about being rejected or losing, but in my opinion it’s a good idea to think about that worst case scenario, and face the fear in your mind.
What if my piece gets rejected? How will I feel? What does it mean?
These could be hard questions, but until you ask yourself and question the validity of your answers, you are going to keep reacting in misery to rejection. The really cool thing about exploring these questions is that you don’t have to react at all, you can respond to the situation however you like.
My answers are less dramatic and devastating since I’ve had a chance to explore this topic and really decide how I want to respond to these questions and this particular type of rejection.
What if my piece gets rejected?
Then it get’s rejected. I pick it up, bring it home and probably sell it at some point in my lifetime. Who knows, it may win a prize at some other art competition… just didn’t suit the juror this time I guess.
How will I feel?
Fine, I have other more important things to focus on.
What does this mean?
Only what I think it means. If I think I’m a failure or a reject, that’s on me. This is an opportunity for me to show myself who I am, by the way I respond. I choose to respond by saying “Well, maybe next time… I got shit to do right now.”
I glanced around one more time, held my breath, and made a run for it. I verbally counted every step as I ascended the stairs with the agility of sloth in running shoes.
Out of breath and elated that I made it to the top, I stood there gleaming in victory. I then proceeded to scrape and bang my way awkwardly through the front door, hitting my head one more time for good measure. I placed the sculpture safely in the gallery lobby, signed it in, and breathed a sigh of relief.
By the way, it was number 13 in the roster… talk about dumb luck.
I had done it. I achieved something I thought was impossible to do on my own, willing to face humiliation and rejection for something I love and believe in… my art, my sense of fun, my freedom to be me.
Had I given up, after that first rejection it would have controlled me. I would have spent the rest of my life being afraid to face rejection, and I would have been filled with “what ifs”.
I don’t believe you actually fail, even if your art doesn’t get in. Even if you get rejected, or lose… I think you only fail if you give up… because that’s the one thing you have control over.
It’s sometimes easy to give up because things might seem hopeless or hard. I didn’t think I could possibly get the sculpture to the gallery on my own, but my belief in dumb luck took over, and I decided to try.
I talk a lot about ways to empower yourself and investigate some of the patterns we play out in our minds that may cause us to feel like victims. To determine whether or not I am feeling powerful, I ask myself whether a situation, circumstance, or person makes me feel like a victim, or do I feel empowered.
Anything that causes you to feel like you don’t have control over your emotions is a sense of victimhood. I don’t mean expressing those emotions, you can sit down to have a good cry because you know it will make you feel better, that’s empowered crying.
A good way to feel empowered and happy is to spread it like a contagion into the world. I do it through art, but I also have a few weapons in my arsenal against feeling like a victim.
1. Smile at people.
It’s amazing to me how powerful a smile can be.
2. Be positive.
Be conscious about your words and actions so that you can be a positive force, rather than, you know, a drag.
3. Give genuine compliments.
I’m a firm believer in saying what you mean, when you want to say it. That means being genuine. What is interesting is that a lot of people assume that being genuine means being mean, but I find that when you are truly genuine with yourself and others, everything is infused with love.
4. Encourage creation.
Themed movie nights, to adventure walks, to art parties. Encourage yourself and others to have creative fun.
5. Live outside your comfort zone.
6. LOVE real big. QUESTION everything.
In every given moment there is an opportunity to fear, judge, or love. We sometimes have to seriously question our own beliefs and where they came from in order to get to love. The thing is, the more you love yourself, the more you can love the world… So start by questioning beliefs about yourself.
Being an agent of positive change in this world is a label that I’ve proudly given myself. I ask that you also wear it wisely and wear it well. It takes real determination and commitment, but it brings color and wonder back into the world.
I wanted to let you guys in on a process that I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed or dark. I write a letter to myself and then respond from a different point of view. This isn’t something that someone typically shares with folks, but I know I’m not typical, so here it is.
Warning, you may read things that concern you, don’t worry, I’m fine, this is just a way to get the feelings out in their rawest form.
This week has been a tough week for me. I’ve been wading through an emotional cesspool of insecurities and old painful memories. As a result my environment has lost some of it’s vibrant color. I am walking around in a world that I recognize, yet haven’t visited in a long time. It is a dark grey world in which the sunlight is nonexistent. For a person such as myself, an artist who thrives on vibrant colors and light, this is what I imagine hell would feel like.
It’s interesting to me that when your mind takes you to a dark place, it seems like the entire world has conspired against you. It’s like you’re in a movie and the set design is based on the overall feeling of the main character. You watch yourself on the silver screen of life following an old dramatic script that you have rehearsed so many times that it seems like it all comes so naturally. You are the main character, yet no one else is experiencing what you are experiencing, feeling isolated and alone, surrounded by smiling faces, yet totally by yourself.
So, my question is this, what do I do now?”
After a short pause… I read the letter, take a deep breath and respond as best I can.
“Dear Dramatic Self,
Good question! Well, you get off your ass and out of your head. Listen, I understand that sometimes shit happens. You are going through a point in your life that might be transitional. Maybe you feel like you lost a sense of direction, maybe you are going through something emotionally taxing, maybe some button got pushed that hasn’t been pushed for a long time, maybe things just suck right now. No matter what it is, you have every excuse to feel the way you do, but that’s the thing, they’re just excuses.
In my opinion, things that people call emotionally chronic are simply practiced. You’ve spent years practicing how to be dramatic and respond to certain thoughts or situations in a certain way. That dramatic script you mentioned is a real thing, people can follow the same script over and over in their lives without even wondering if they can change it. They can feel like their thoughts are thinking them, instead of them thinking their thoughts.
You find yourself in a rut and what do you do? You sit, slump, cry, withdraw, and replay events over and over in your mind, and repeat. You find something or someone to blame for what you are feeling. Maybe you even pull yourself momentarily out of your funk by putting all your energy into being angry at this person or situation. Yet, nothing changes, this just keeps replaying over and over in your life. So much so, that you think this is just the way it is, “this is my life”.
You believe your story, you shape the world after your story, and discount anything that challenges that story. The story has to be true, if it wasn’t true, then it means you are torturing yourself for nothing.
Well, guess what? It is true. It’s true because you think it’s true, and your brilliant mind is going to do everything in it’s power to make it the truest thing you have ever experienced. Your doubt is going to punch you in the face, your insecurities about yourself are going to knock you down, your judgments and fear about people will come true, and everything you surround yourself with will be a constant reminder of your misery and fear.
Do you know what else is true? That your courage will destroy anything doubt can throw at you. Your determination will pick you up when you fall, stronger and better equipped than ever before. Your hope and unconditional love will present itself to you in overwhelming love and kindness, and everything around you will glow with vibrancy and light, this being a constant reminder of your sense of optimism and hope.
It’s ALL true… Every last bit. The question isn’t who is right or wrong, or what is true or untrue, or what you should or should not do… but simply, what would you rather do? How would you rather feel? What would you rather think? What do you want to focus on? Who do you want to be? And what do you want to believe, right now… in this moment?
We don’t carry feelings in our pocket, or find them in a box buried somewhere. We produce those feelings based on our perspectives and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. You can believe what ever it is you want to believe about yourself and what is possible for you, and you can do that right now.
Honestly, this moment is all we really ever have, this moment, right now. So make a choice, despite the script you have been rehearsing all your life. Just make a choice.
Now quit whining and pick yourself up like the awesome person I know you to be.
As this week comes to a close, I look around my messy studio and ponder the events that lead up to this point. Several projects in their half finished state screaming for my attention, wanting the closure that all artistic creations seek.
Yet, in this myriad of untidy unrest I find myself happy.
Not because of the mess… I’m actually not fond of messes. I feel like your mind is a reflection of your surrounding, so a cluttered mind equals a cluttered house. In my case a holy crap batman studio equals a holy crap batman mind.
I think it’s because this week I was very deliberate about how I spent my time. I looked at every moment as a gift and decided to spend it doing something meaningful.
Now, I have a lot of projects that I’m working on, such as artworks, pieces for the art hunt, videos, planing an exhibition, so you would think my time is always pretty deliberate… but it’s not.
Recently, I had gotten in the habit of sitting on my couch in the studio and vegging out. Like full on, staring at nothing for who knows how long, minus the drool… that’s gross.
I realized that during that time, I wasn’t thinking about what I was thinking. I was just thinking random things and not necessarily noticing what I was thinking. It wasn’t good things either, I was complaining to myself about things and not even noticing that I was complaining.
So, I decided to pay attention, I was going to think about the things that I decided to think about, not just random happenstance.
And so, when I looked around today, I saw passion and a sense of love for what I do. I felt full… much better than sitting there mindlessly wondering what I would do if I was fighting a zombie dressed as a clown… Not that I wouldn’t take an opportunity to think about it, but it’s so much cooler when you do it deliberately.
There was once a boy who wanted to be an artist. This boy spent all his time planning and thinking about a way to be able to accomplish this. He knew that everything needed to be perfect. He would need all the best equipment, all the best education, and most of all, enough pieces to justify showing and being taken seriously.
In case you are wondering, this boy was me, and that plan was crap.
I couldn’t ever seem to create enough work to justify showing my art. As far as getting the best, anytime I purchased some equipment, something better would come along that I now needed to get. Not to mention, I was stuck working the family business and didn’t have time for school… not that I could afford it.
So, I spent most of my life wishing and eventually giving up on an art career.
It was only a few years ago that I just jumped in and did it. I pretty much had nothing to get started, but I had enough.
I had a bit of crappy old paint, some poster board someone donated to me, and some old pieces of wood. Most of all, I had people around me that didn’t discourage me, well… mostly… kinda.
I realized I had it all wrong back in the day. It wasn’t about waiting until everything was perfect, because that is an unattainable goal. It was about getting started with what you had. I also learned that it’s OK to start small… as long as you start.
Listen, I feel like the worst thing we can do in life is regret not doing something. That means being willing to fall on your face, pick yourself up and keep trying, at least until you make it, or you just don’t care anymore.
It came down to one question:
Are you willing to fall on your face, look like an idiot and put yourself through hell to accomplish what you want? Sure.
…and, just keep moving, even if you fall down… just keep moving.
So, if you have something that you’ve been wanting to do, go ahead and start… start small, it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture… just a bunch of micro gestures.
Those small steps add up over time, and take you further than waiting around for the perfect moment.
Besides, why not just do it? You don’t have to quit anything, you don’t have to leap over a tall building… just take a step.
I have a series called the nature of being, or as some people like to call them “Rafi’s Lady Trees.” This year I have really enjoyed reigniting the series as I set a goal to add subtle differences to the message in pieces within the series itself.
The series itself 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.
I wanted to showcase a unity within the scope of the collection with pieces that showed masculine and feminine intertwined with one another.
These pieces are inspired by the journey that I have been on with my beautiful wife Klee and some of the lessons I have learned about what it means to be in love.
In the past I always assumed that being with someone meant that it was your job to make sure they were happy, and in return it was their job to make you happy.
Yet, this never seemed to work out.
It wasn’t until experience brought me to a place where I started to question the status quo of relationships and love that I realized that I had it all wrong.
It wasn’t about making the other person happy, it was about finding your happiness and sharing that with the other person. This in no way was a guarantee that it would make them happy, but that was alright. See, I found that the only person that could really make me happy was me and it was unfair to try and throw that burden onto Klee… She had enough on her plate just trying to make herself happy.
It was during that realization that I started to understand unconditional love. It meant that I had no conditions or expectations that she would behave a certain way in order for me to be happy, she had the right to be herself. To express herself and continue on her journey of finding out what life was all about for her.
I did the same, and we shared those moments with each other, talking about our experiences and realizations. We also share in our moments of growth as we journey on this road to find what makes us happy and how to enjoy our lives to the fullest.
It is quite beautiful.
I’m not saying there haven’t been moments of turmoil, because we all experience them, but with every moment there has always been an honest revelation and a stronger bond than ever before.
The thing is, we are both growing, learning, changing, evolving, on our own, yet our lives are intertwined because we choose to walk side by side.
It just wouldn’t work if one of us decided to carry the other… and it wouldn’t look as cool in a painting.