When I was a kid, I had a dire fear of living a normal life – an actual phobia of working a nine to five. The idea of waking up, going to a job, going home and getting sleep seemed so monotonous.
After 40, 50, 60 years, I knew I would be wondering, “What did I do with my life?”
Even so, back then, I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do with my future. You were a single mom raising three kids. Our biological father wasn’t in the picture and we lived in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I saw a bunch of situations that kids should never witness: dead bodies, people jumping off of balconies committing suicide, drug deals and robberies,
As a mother, it wasn’t easy for you. But you set the example, showing us what it means to be strong, while also pushing us to be different from the world that surrounded us. You were a force in encouraging us to stand out versus fit in. That mentality, coupled with your support, became the framework for the person I am today.
See, I always enjoyed being creative. You never pressured me to lean toward one activity or another. You were just always there for me as I explored my interests.
For example, I was a super shy kid. In second or third grade, I was on stage for my school play. When I saw you, I would freeze up. So, when you would come to watch me perform, you would hide to avoid triggering my nerves.
Around 11 or 12, I started drawing cartoon characters. Your favorite character is Fred Flintstone. I drew you a picture of him and to this day, you still have that picture hung up in your office.
When I was a teenager, I started seeing paintings in public places such as buildings and offices.
I thought to myself, “I can do that.”
It was you who bought me my very first set of art supplies. I started painting and my passion developed as I began doing larger canvas pieces. Painting was freeing for me. I could throw paint. I could splatter paint and I could splash it. It was way more fun than the cartoons I drew when I was younger. Quickly, I fell in love with art and decided I wanted to make a career out of it.
Some parents might have thought it was an unrealistic goal, but not you. Mom, you told me I could do it. You believed in me.
I started watching documentaries about artists, learning what made them unique and how they gained notoriety. I studied their techniques and their styles and incorporated certain aspects of their work into mine. It was a lot of trial and error.
With no formal education in art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Keith Haring became my teachers. The world was my training ground.
As I progressed, I started adding my voice to my pieces through poems or haikus. I want all of my paintings to evoke thought or promote personal growth because the work I create is a part of the legacy I will leave behind.
Through the years, there were times that I struggled. As a mom, you have always been realistic, but you have never told me to give up on my dream. Your continued belief in me has made me believe in myself. So, I have become relentless.
For a couple of years, I was a personal trainer. People who use a personal trainer usually have expendable income. I’d let my clients know that I was also an artist and tell them to check out my work. Constantly, I was meeting new people and marketing my art.
Eventually, my network expanded and my pieces began to sell. Then, I ended up donating a piece to a charity called Les Couleurs. They were auctioning off artwork at a gala event. All the proceeds went to providing kids in Haiti and Mexico with arts and education programs. My piece sold for $9,000, which at the time was the most anyone had ever paid for one of my pieces. It was amazing. Not only did I get to help children, but it raised the value of my work.
However, with the pandemic this past year, adversity struck again. No shows and no events made it tougher to make money. But I didn’t give up. Instead, I looked to my creativity. I started a clothing line and began painting nude women online. It worked.
Mom, today, I do not work a 9-5. Instead, I have been able to make a career with my passion. Through my journey, I can show young artists that if art is what you want to do, you don’t need to go to a particular school or come from a certain neighborhood or have specific training. You just need to be yourself and have a never-quit attitude.
I feel good about what I’ve been able to accomplish with my career so far, but I still have way bigger goals, including making enough money so you can retire.
As an artist, I am constantly evolving and growing, and because of the foundation you laid for me, I am unafraid to try new techniques and avoid following trends.
I don’t want or need my art or my life to be like anyone else’s. That’s because I am very secure in my relationship with myself and God as well with the man I am and the man I am supposed to be.
Mom, by giving me the space, freedom, and encouragement to be different, I have found tremendous happiness in a career that allows me to be myself.
I owe everything to you. Thank you.