As I've been thinking about the next step for myself and my art, part of that is figuring out where I've been, and where I come from. One of the things I've been focused on is my artistic voice. But even beyond that, why an artistic voice is even important for me and why I choose to paint and draw as my life’s path over anything else. It stems from a desire to be a hero of my own story, and not understanding myself as a young person. I want to share with you my journey of self-discovery.
My earliest memories are of myself doing some sort of art. I remember sitting at the table drawing comic characters in a yellow legal pad with a #2 pencil. There were stories I was trying to tell through these characters I created. As I got older, these comics morphed into things that I wanted to talk about in my life; things that I wanted to either poke fun at or use as a vehicle to express how I felt about the world. This felt to me at the time like the only valid way I was allowed to express myself. There were many times growing up where I felt like I wasn't allowed to speak my mind, or my ideas being shot down if I did. So I was conditioned into thinking that my voice, my actual literal voice wasn’t really meant to be heard. But I found that through drawing and writing there was still an outlet to get my ideas heard. Even then I understood the power of attaching pictures to words.
I just never really felt comfortable trying to assert myself. So I turned to art as a way to get whatever was in my head out and to be “heard” in that way. That carried on as I went further through life. Especially as a teenager, I got more and more withdrawn. I just felt like I was never really going to be the “Superman” that I fantasized for myself to be. I went from junior high to high school, to eventually college with the hope that things would just change in that way for myself. I would jump in that booth and come out as the outgoing person I wanted to be. It was frustrating because I knew that I had things I wanted to say, but I just didn't either have the nerve to do so or the know-how, other than through drawing and painting.
I had always loved being in my comfort zone. My comfort zone was copying what I found to be “cool” or “pretty” in other art that I admired. I was never really expressing myself in the way that I knew that I could. I thought that going to art school would change things for me, and my voice would flourish in this new environment.
It definitely opened my eyes to the large world of art that I quickly jumped into. I just really soaked it in, but still, things didn't totally turn around for me. I was still the same person at the end of the day. I always thought that you would be able to go into new situations and with a blank slate, and the emotional baggage that comes from being the person you are wouldn’t come with you. I thought that I had no identity and no voice coming from a place of speaking in whispers, so I believed that I could start with a blank slate and reinvent myself into the Superman I wanted to be. I had fantasies of becoming this super-popular outgoing ladies-man that I was envious of as a teenager. The problem was that this person didn’t just magically appear, and that I couldn’t just wake up and be this avatar that did not yet exist. I was attempting to define myself in a way that I thought would make people more interested in me.
One day during my first semester, I came back to my dorm room after class, feeling particularly sorry for myself. I climbed into my bunk bed, put my pillow over my face and cried. I just remember thinking, why couldn’t I just be this person I wanted to be? How come I couldn’t just come out of my shell? It should be easy as just doing it, right? I laid there for a while, shameful for even feeling that way. Here I am, a young man with a golden opportunity given to me in the fact that I was allowed to pursue an education at an expensive art school, a relatively easy life to this point, and still feeling miserable in this moment. What got me here? What was I going to do in order to not feel this way again?
What I came to realize later was that, if we were to step outside of ourselves we would see that we already have an identity, and that mine is one that I was always fighting against. It was a turning point for me. In that moment of self-pity, I discovered within myself a part of me that was desperate to come out. The only way I knew how to bring it out was through my sketchbooks, my drawings, and eventually my paintings. From then on, I committed myself to being more expressive about the beauty inside me. This was the key to attracting people to me, not by worrying about trying to become a non-existent Superman. It was something that I owned and accepted the importance of for myself in that moment.