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The Substance Of Reality And Balloons

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

Recently I created a painting titled “The Substance Of The Real.” It shows a rather stoic, old century style, statue of a man struggling to hold on to a big red balloon on a string.

The statement for this piece is as follows:

So many things that we hold near and dear… thoughts, beliefs, or habits, we hardly ever question. Yet, many of those hold no substance. This piece is meant to be a daily reminder to question everything, to look closely at your own motivations, and to determine what is true for you… Not to ferociously hold on to something that you don’t quite understand. 

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

Now, I wanted to clarify something about this piece and my belief in what is real in the world. I know that a lot of spiritual beliefs state that the world is an illusion, and a lot of people will be surprised to hear that I don’t believe that.

I do believe that we live in a delusion… I know, let me explain.

I don’t believe that the world is unreal in of itself. It becomes an illusion when we look at it. We look at the world through our filter of understanding, through the eyes of our knowledge, understanding, prejudices, judgments, love, ideas, opinions, and current circumstances.

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

That world is unreal in the same way that a dream is unreal, because it’s based on delusion. The world is just there minding it’s own business, open for interpretation, it is our interpretation that is the illusion, and thus the way we see the world is an illusion based on our own beliefs.

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

You take two people to see a symphony, they sit in similar seats, have the same physical experience, and yet they will have a completely unique experience. One person tells you it was terrible, the other will say it was amazing… who’s right? who’s wrong?

Whoever you agree with the most will be right, and the other person will be wrong.

I like the idea of questioning the whole delusion… Cause, you know, I can’t be right ALL the time, and chances are a lot of what I believe has the substance of a red balloon.

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

In my opinion, you get to choose how you feel about the world, people, politics, religion, love, relationships, anything and everything.

If you ever find yourself repeating some crappy saying that you’ve just never thought about, I suggest you look at that. Where did it come from, some older generation that maybe didn’t have their shit together yet? Maybe an old racist uncle? A victimized mother? A womanizing father? A corrupt grandfather? A jealous aunt? A hypochondriac grandmother? All people that love me, all good people, just screwed up.

I say question everything, remember that the world you see is your delusion, and that you get to decide how you feel about the world you see. You can choose love, and not hold on so vehemently to those beliefs that are outdated.

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Drunk Art Critics And Masochistic Angels

Have you ever had somebody just destroy something you created with an unwelcome verbal assault? That’s what a lot of us artists feel it like when we get any type of negative criticism.

“She looks like an amputee, do you find amputees hot or something?” Said drunk she.

Rafi Perez Art 2016
Rafi Perez Art 2016


As an artist I expose my emotions to the world in my art. This can be slightly terrifying unless you have a particular mindset when showing your work. I’ve had the benefit now of showing my pieces in just about every venue you can imagine. Some prestigious events and showings, such as my solo show at Marty Campbell Gallery, and some not so prestigious such as the flea markets and drunken parties.

“Some artists that I talk to, believe you have to develop a thick skin in order to be able to take the criticism.”

Personally, I think a thick skin only suppresses hurt emotions and leads to other issues. I’ll give you an example, recently I was showing my pieces at an event and a woman who had been clearly plastered made it a point to make a snide comment about every piece I was exhibiting.

“Is she supposed to be an amputee, is that what you where going for?” Said drunk she.

“Nope.” Said me.

“She looks like an amputee, do you find amputees hot or something?” Said drunk she.

“Sure… Being an amputee doesn’t make someone less hot.” Said me.

“Well, that’s fucked up.” Said drunk she.

“Guess you would know.” Said me as I walked away.


Admittedly, I could have just walked away without making that last comment. The truth is it wouldn’t have mattered if she was standing in front of a masterpiece or a turd on a stick, she was trying to be funny for her friends and acting like an idiot. That’s not to say that she is an idiot, she’s probably really sweet, but she is definitely not a very good art critic when she’s drunk and trying to be funny.

“I think you can easily get wrapped up in an “us” versus “them” mentality when you are showing something so intimate.”

Had I developed a thick skin, I probably would have just gotten mad under the surface and ignored her. But later on, I would be talking crap about her to my friends and complaining about stupid people who don’t appreciate art, and on and on.

What you have to remember is that everyone sees what they see. You see something special when you look at your art. Someone else looks and they may see something special to them, but they are not seeing the same thing. Reality is subjective and everyone sees the world through their own filter of understanding. That is what makes being an artist such an awesome thing, you get to hear all kinds of different interpretations of the world through your art.

Some are easy to hear because they resonate with you, some don’t and you consider it negative criticism of your work.



“He stared at me for a minute like I was the biggest idiot on the planet and then stormed off.”

I had another guy look at one of my pieces and tell me that my art was just ok, but it could be great if I followed his advice.

“That angel piece is cool, but it could be so much better.” Said drunk he.

“Really, how so?” Asked me.

“If you had her cutting her wings off, you know, because she hates herself and doesn’t think she deserves them.” Said drunk he.

“Um, that’s not really my thing…” Said me, gesturing to all my paintings.

“Bro, if you did that you would be famous! You Know, she’s a cutter and hates herself, and she’s cutting her wings off and there is blood. She doesn’t think she deserves life, she doesn’t deserve her beauty, so she cuts her face! You do that and I’ll buy it from you! And…” Exclaimed drunk he passionately.

I cut him off at that point.

“Not my thing, but thanks for the input.” Said me as I walked away.

“I’m sure there is a big market for masochistic angels who hate themselves, and he’s probably right, I would make the big time, but it’s not who I am.”

I’m am always aware of how powerful emotions play in creating a piece, something like that would require me to go down an emotional path that I’m not willing to take. That being said, it doesn’t mean he was wrong or stupid, it was his opinion and feeling of what he wanted to see. It has to do with him, not the art itself.

Basically, everyone sees your art through their eyes, 10 billion different interpretations of your work. Whether they are drunk or not. Love it or hate it. Don’t take it personally, it has nothing to do with you. Enjoy the ride, the criticism and remember that if no one was saying anything about your work, that would suck way worse.


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The Secret To Being A Success

I had an interesting time titling this article, I must have typed and deleted the title a bazillion times. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about success and whether or not I’m qualified to talk about it. I’ve written blogs on success before, but usually those came at a moment where I was feeling successful and didn’t think much of it. I decided to dig a little deeper and see if I could define success for myself.

When you look up the definition of success in the dictionary, or the inter-nary as I like to call it you find this:

noun: success; plural noun: successes
  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
  2. the attainment of popularity or profit.
  3. a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

Let’s take a closer look at the definitions.

The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

True, if you set out to accomplish something and you do, you will most definitely feel successful. Or if you feel like you are doing something that has purpose and accomplish it, again you would feel like you succeeded at something great. I’ve set several goals in my life that I have accomplished and have felt that sense of accomplishment and success. I wanted to be in publications and currently have 22 frames with several snippets of articles and interviews in magazines, newspapers and television. I set out to be a full time artist and this is what I do for a living. I decided that I was going to create art that I enjoy and not cater outside of what I enjoy and I’ve developed a following for my style of art. For all intent and purpose I am a success, but I have new goals that I haven’t accomplished yet. Does that mean that I’m not a success? The fact of the matter is that we will always have new goals as we move forward through life, so I’m not sure if this definition fully covers success. I think its a partial definition, like winning a game of hopscotch and proclaiming “Success!”

I guess if you are popular and make a bit of money you would feel successful. I have a friend who constantly tells me I’m famous, I don’t believe her, but she insists that it’s true. I’ve had moments waiting in line at the grocery store with an awkward amount of groceries juggled in my arms (because who needs a cart) and had people recognize me and tell me how amazing they think my art is. I also make a pretty good living with my artwork, but in all honesty I’m figuring all this stuff out. Do I feel successful when I’m waiting in line at the gas station for the bathroom and someone recognizes me and wants to take a picture? Probably a little. I think this definition doesn’t really cover success, you can lose your popularity and profit, and that would probably not feel all that great if that is your definition of success.

a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

Again, reaching a desired goal and making huge amounts of money could make you feel successful. As I stated before, goals are always changing, evolving and being reached. In fact, it’s impossible to fail at anything unless you give up right away, and money comes and goes. I don’t think this is a good definition either.

Looking closely I have the realization that success is a feeling. All three of these definitions would help you feel successful but I don’t think any of them are the cause for success. Like most definitions, it’s based on the external environment, other people acknowledging that you are a success is based on the above criteria. This doesn’t mean that you feel successful to yourself. Besides, if you are dependent on what other people think of you, then you have a long roller coaster ride of emotions  ahead of you.

I think feeling successful is up to you. If you set the goal to smile every day, laugh, dance around in your underwear like a fool, enjoy the sun, look in the mirror and fall in love with yourself, I think these little things are what success should be rated on. Obviously, it’s not the typical way of seeing success, but I do think that if these things were important we would have more people striving and aiming for a goal to just be happy and enjoy life… Have fun, live long and prosper.

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Imagination Is Bigger Than Reality

I remember being in class and being told to get my head out of the clouds and pay attention. This was usually followed by me pretending to pay attention and figuring out ways to day dream without anyone noticing. Of course, I also thought I was a bad kid or there was something seriously wrong with my ability to focus. I imagine if it happened today I would have been labeled with some kind of attention deficit disorder and given drugs or something to fix me.

Honestly, I was just bored. Not all the time, some of my teachers were fantastic at capturing my imagination and taking me on a fun learning adventure where I just soaked in every detail of the experience. Other teachers were bland and it was much more fun to venture into my mind than to listen to them yammer on about the boring text book.

Either way, I spent a lot of time developing the skill of purposefully creating pictures in my mind and playing out complex scenarios that involved slaying dragons and saving a damsel in distress.

I think everyone has the ability to create pictures and complex scenarios in their mind. Whether or not they are practiced at doing it on purpose is another question. I know people who walk around for days frustrated and angry because they create an entire story in their mind that is completely false. What’s worse, is they believe it actually happened.

I think this is really powerful, I mean think about the last time you flipped your lid because you thought something was going on that wasn’t actually going on. You felt all the emotions, all the anger, sadness and momentum as if it had actually happened right in front of you. Now imagine if you could use that power of emotion on purpose.


Even something as silly as imagining having your own brand of cola because you are super popular is better than thinking some of the lame thoughts you may be used to thinking. Have fun with it.

Instead of letting your thoughts run away with you, you can decide to think whatever you want to think… I mean, they’re your thoughts, you actually decide to entertain them or not. I think it just takes a little practice and consistency. Creating new habits of thought and connections in the brain actually doesn’t take to long, but consistency is key.

Just imagine how awesome it would be, to put your head in the clouds and let your imagination soar and take you wherever you want to go. I know that if you do this enough times, eventually your life catches up and a new story is told all around.

I spend a lot of time imagining myself on the cover of Time magazine with a headline that says, “One of the greatest artists of our generation.” It’s fun and feels pretty awesome.

We spend a lot of time in our head anyway, might as well think about stuff that makes you feel awesome. Because honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s right in front of you or in your head, it all feels the same.

Just a thought… We’ve got no one telling us to get our head out of the clouds anymore, and if someone does, well that’s what the finger next to your ring finger is for.