You may have noticed that I have been posting a lot of personal stories lately…why???

Last year I made it a practice to say yes to everything that terrified me. I learned a lot about my self definition, self imposed limitations and self image. The process of becoming a better artist/designer involves self work and self discovery.

This is the year of being BRAVE, TRANSPARENT, TAKING STOCK and BEING VISIBLE. We are all extensions of each other…and if I keep hiding I rob myself of your connection, your thoughts, your insight and I rob the world of our shared value.

SO here it goes…
Waaaayyyy back in 2002 I was in the thesis program at California College of the Arts. At that time, there wasn’t on line education and if you wanted to learn design, you had to go to design or art school. During thesis we had the option of making a book or making a short film with an accompanying book with the documentation of our work. The fail rate was about 30% and if you didn’t pass thesis you received a general arts degree….

Fast forward to midterms…I was struggling…couldn’t find the story I wanted to tell…or couldn’t define it. I was experimenting with combining opposites to create tension like “Beautiful Violence”, exploring ways to portray the “personal/universal” storytelling technique…but I was still searching for the story.

We had to present our midterm progress publicly to a group of about 50 SF designers in the main room of CCA. All I had were motion experiments, typographic explorations and a terrified, lost look on my face. I explained to the committee my goal… my thesis.

I went to the back of the room to hide after the grueling presentation. A designer from LA pulled me aside and said “I really like your work, but you can’t show what you don’t know”. All of a sudden everything came into sharp focus and I knew EXACTLY what I needed to do. She was right…I don’t know what other people are feeling, perceiving, thinking…I had to share MY OWN vision, my own experiences, I had to open myself up and tell my OWN story.

Spring break was frenetic, I rented a camera, worked non-stop, edited, mixed sound, created type treatments from light, wrote a story and sat in my broken down car outside of the school recording my own voice reading the script I wrote. I didn’t know what I was doing…I had never edited, never worked with sound, never worked with a camera…day turned into night, night into day.

I passed thesis…went on to my final year at CCA…the Adobe Awards were in their second year, many of my peers were applying. I dismissed the contest and went on with my studies. Jim Kenney (my Motion Design professor) passed me in the hall and wanted me to enter…I blew him off. Fast forward to next week, I’m sitting with Jim, who scheduled an appointment with Adobe representatives to help me fill out the application.

Summer came and I had guests from out of town. I took them to Napa for a fun day at wineries and the beach. I drove home to Oakland, walked in the door…I checked my phone and there was a message I HAD WON THE ADOBE AWARD….I played the message at least 10 times as the words slowly sunk in.

Adobe flew me out to NY, my film was in the Guggenheim for 2 weeks, I meet Sagmeister and Lynda Decker (whose support has stayed with me my entire career). Jonathan Wells of Res Fest (an indie animation festival) approached me and wanted to showcase my film. It was picked up and toured around the word, I had radio interviews that broadcast throughout the bay-area and saw my piece at the Res Fest Animation Festival in the Palace of Fine Arts…and was unexpectedly called on stage to introduce my work.

I am not anyone famous, or someone with an impressive career, but I have had amazing experiences, met incredible people and have remained true to myself. Winning this award helped me keep going when I thought I couldn’t because I knew I could do anything if I changed my ideas about myself.

Creating work that matters to you, being true to yourself will stay with you throughout your life. Trust your process, life is not linear, success is not a destination, keep growing, keep exploring, keep contributing, keep loving, stay curious and open. Life has so much to offer to brave and open.

Cutting Through

I used to dance with this sword…there is still blue paint on the hilt from the last time I performed on a stage in San Francisco.  It’s balanced in the middle to sit perfectly on my head. Correct alignment. strong spine, energy extending from the top of my head through the bottom of my feet, a perfect line.

Dance is all about the line, the extended gesture made in space that continues to echo into the next movement. This sword now sits in the corner of my office to remind me of where I’ve come from, what initially sparked my passion and drive for expression, what connected me to my life in a deep and meaningful way.

All of my life I have surrounded my self with the symbol of the sword…jewelry, apocalyptic angels, hats, paintings and Sufi history.  I am taking stock of where I have been, how I have changed, what I have learned.

I keep coming back to this moment in time, dancing with a sword on my head.  I know this is the true me…I’ve tried on so many outward faces to find approval in the world, to make money, to find my tribe, like a large outward radiating circle of experiences I explored the world. The echo of my past has returned and I am calling out to myself again…but this time the message that comes back, is “come home to yourself”.  Come back to this person you let go so many years ago…now armed with courage, wisdom, strength, skill and truth.  The sword of truth, the object I danced with so many years ago has now become the way. 

Interview with Scraper Magazine

Tell us where you were born and about your early childhood.

I was born in Goleta, CA, but I only lived there for a few years. We then moved to Fremont, CA, then to San Jose CA, and then to Fairfield, IA to join a meditation commune.  While there, our house burned to the ground, we lost everything.  I was sent to live with my Grandma in Eugene, OR with one of my sisters to finish out the school year. From Eugene we moved to Bend, OR where I went to Jr. High and High School.

Do you remember some of the first things you used to draw?

Yes! I was obsessed with drawing the assassination of Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.  I had an amazing marker set of 200 colors and I also took a lot of art classes in San Jose. Used to love to draw the shadows that my face and hair created when I bent over a piece of paper.

What were some of your first inspirations that made you want to get involved with the art world?

I spent a lot of time at the Library as a kid and loved the illustrations from Grimm’s fairy tales, specifically “The Little Mermaid”.  I used to photocopy my favorite images from the books I read to hang on my bedroom walls. My best friend’s mom was an artist and she would set us up in the living room with giant pieces of butcher paper tacked to the wall, we would spend all night drawing lots of whales, Star Wars elements, and random doodles.
Later, when I was 16, I went to San Francisco with a friend and saw a B.F.A. dance performance at S.F. State that transported me.  I decided at the moment that I would move to the Bay Area, because I wanted to be in the heart of the creative, electric, energy there.

What was your experience like at California College of the Arts.  Did you have any favorite professors?

CCA Was a very difficult, intense period for me.  I was an underdog for the first two years.  Coming from a fine art background, the mathematical precision of design was a struggle.  But there were a few teachers who took me under their wing and saw potential in what I was doing.  

Eric Heiman really worked with me, he used to say that I had compelling image making skills. Eric helped me understand typography as another visual element, instead of a mathematical component. Once I changed the way I saw typography, my design career started to open up for me.

The following year Jim Kenney taught me motion graphics, and I was transfixed. I loved it immediately. MGFX Design incorporated graphic design, film, story telling, and choreography. It was because of Jim that I entered the Adobe Award competition.  I didn’t think too highly of my abilities, and kept putting it off.  Jim made an appointment to have one of the Adobe “helpers” sit down with me to fill out the application. 
Lastly, Terry Irwin, Jim Kenney, and Michael Vanderbyle pushed, encouraged and helped me to be the designer I am today during the intensity and rigors of the thesis program.

See the whole interview here


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