“I’ve always been artistic. It often frustrated the less creative people in my life, either because I was not enough like them…or, they were not enough like me. Funny. I wanted neither to happen. As an artist I always figured that no matter how hard you try, you just end up unique anyway…like it or not. why not LOVE it? I looked for a way to justbe. Most of the time, I just wanted to be left alone. I suppose that’s a part of adolescence but for me it became a quest… A quest that led me straight into the public eye in more ways than one. One of those ways of course being 3D Chalk Art.
Believe it or not, it all started with a young homeless man in Chicago.
Follow me here…this is the reason I play with chalk all day!
I’m not going to get into all the details of my youth in this post, but suffice it to say, i used artistic expression to navigate some treacherous mental storms that often nearly took my life. I was battling Bipolar Disorder, Rapid Cycling, PTSD, a bit of Dyslexia and OCD, etc. i was often suicidal. it was hard to work for anyone and further schooling (although a possibility) was never going to happen after high school. It seemed that a nocturnal life of janitorial work fit the bill.
This is when I met Samuel…a guy who was obviously not achieving much in life because he was a new hire under me! I was to teach him the art of nighttime janitorial and building maintenance, he was to show up, sling a mop and succumb to the depressing idea of “this is our lot in life”. I knew he didn’t fit in from day one and tried to help him fit in better with the crew. I guess he didn’t get the memo.
Turns out, Samuel was homeless and living in his car. He wasn’t a street person and didn’t look that way. He often had coffee spilled down his work shirt, but still blames that on my driving to this day. ;)
He was, however, depressed and nearly hopeless… A zombie if you will. He’d show up to work and wonder why he still tried. He seemed to be insecure and unsure of everything he did. I liked him anyway. He reminded me of everyone who’s ever been through their teen years. When I found out he was sleeping in his car it changed everything. I began to reach out to him with a deeper interest. I applied the few things I knew about counseling and mentorship …even friendship. I knew I wasn’t an awesome role model, but I had learned more than I realized previously. It seemed natural and I liked our nights in Chicago’s frigid winter cleaning floors and discussing the meaning of life. We were janitorial philosophers and often comedians discussing topics as heavy as the Bible, suicidal thoughts, war, abuse and politics and usually ending up laughing so hard we’d have tears streaming down our faces.
Then it happened… Our lives changed forever with one question:
“Do you think you could teach me Art?” He asked.
My response was a resounding “Ummmm…no.” Followed by, “what makes you think I know anything about art?” He explained what everyone else but me seemed to know already… I was an artist. I was the kind of guy who didn’t pursue art history as a major but liked it anyway and could talk about it with great passion unless it was a formal setting. I thought creatively in everything I did and applied it to as much as I could in a frenzied manic display of trailblazing new paths in fashion, music, lettering, speech and mentoring. Creativity came off of me like water dripping off a freshly washed car leaving a wet trail for anyone to follow. It mostly got me in trouble not because it is wrong to be creative, but because I was not putting myself purposefully in a useful position to use it.
Samuel brought a dirty hat full of used lecturers chalk to work one day. I didn’t know where he got it, or why he was interested in creating with it, but it was more colorful than chalk you see kids playing with on driveways, so I gave in and tried it out on some office paper. Samuel then begged me to teach him Art and though I was completely convinced we were wasting time on this, creativity won again. I quickly realized that he would have to learn by imitation of an individual work, rather by concepts of Art. I showed him Step-By-Step Instructions to create a chalk art masterpiece. To be honest, I was just as amused as i was frustrated by his lack of artistic and creative skill. Giving him something to practice was a way of taking a break from this student… And… Probably my first real experience as a teacher.
I watched day after day as he practiced those lessons over and over and eventually tapped into his own creative thought processes. I was amazed. He worked harder at art than anyone I ever met. I learned later that he- like the rest of the people in my life- was just as amazed at how little I worked at using my natural gifts and how little I had achieved with them.
One night, we showed up early to work on a chalk picture. We were goofing off a lot and ended up throwing chalk at each other like a couple of kids. A piece of highly pigmented purple chalk hit my black T-shirt and I was stopped cold by the vibrancy. It looked fluorescent against the black cotton cloth. I’m sure I yelled something very profound, like: “DUUUUUUUDE!!! I need a huge t-shirt to draw on!” Thus began our quest for a black canvas that would work. Up to that point we took cues from older chalk talks and used Gray Bogus Paper. It was slow and while it lent itself to details, not for me. I was not truly interested in this whole thing until someone gave us the idea to use a black bed sheet. I had tried to chalk on nearly everything I could think of, but when I swiped that purple chalk onto the black bed sheet stretched out between Samuel and myself….it was all over! The chalk went on like butter! That vibrancy i was looking for all those weeks was staring me in the face. I had found something new and awesome. It was so fast! I could create at nearly the speed of thought.
It took some time to get used to a canvas that moved and stretched with pressure, plus the chalk consistency (rather Inconsistency) made certain colors difficult to work with, but with the energy of something new, and advice from other artists, we helped to bring chalk art to a whole new generation through high energy performances set to music. I eventually dubbed my performances “Chalk Rock!” Because I often used driving rock music during my shows.
Samuel and I both took our stories to the motivational circuit and developed our talent for public speaking and entertainment. We often worked together sharing stages in front of thousands, energizing conferences and events nationwide. I love to travel and meet new people and do this consistently to this day. While motivating people through this art form is fun, it does not give me the possibility to demonstrate other unique gifts I have, so when I started noticing the resurgent popularity of anamorphic art in emails forwarding around the Internet, I decided it was time to take chalk to the streets in Chicago.
Since doing my very first 3D chalk mural, I have learned valuable lessons in efficiency, technique, and cross marketing. I have taken chalk art in various forms around the country and I’m not done trailblazing new techniques. The next few years promise to be the most productive and creative for me and for those teaming up with me to create an artistic leadership chain reaction.
In 2013-2014 I will be speaking at conferences on creative leadership, innovation, story and art.”
If you wish for me to be a part of your event(s) in any capacity, contact us Here! or call 1(312) 233-2620
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