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How did I get here?

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

Graphic designer, lettering artist, problem solver, skateboarder, musician, festival goer, espresso enthusiast, love, and peace spreader, extreme optimist, that's me. Seems like everything is just about figured out. These are the things that fill this soul with heaps of happiness. Now you may be wondering... How does a 22-year-old figure out what they want to do with their life at such a young age? Well, I'll tell ya but first, we gotta start from the beginning. The very beginning before I was exposed to the realm of creativity.

From the beginning of my existence, I seemed to be a pretty happy child. My smile was ridiculous and would probably make you chuckle. It was me, my older sister, mom, and dad. We were on the path to becoming a typical middle-class family in the suburbs. Dad had a very well paying job and mom was also working as well. Had a pretty nice car (90's Corvette I reckon), we were about to buy a home too. Some stuff happened that forced my mother and father to split up. Was only about 4 or 5 years old when this happened so it didn't impact my happiness all too much. I would still get to see my dad and mom, back and forth until one day. I was sitting on the couch in my mother's upstairs apartment just fiddling with some action figures when she came into the room and broke the news to me that my father was being incarcerated. What!?!? I had no idea how long he would be gone or why he was forced to go. I soon found out he was to be locked up for 10 years (Also found out he was framed by someone I would've once called family). That means I would be graduating from high school when he would be getting out. My world had flipped upside down from that point moving forward.

Around the same time (7 years old) that my father was taken from me, I had started playing baseball and football. My dream at that time was to be a pro football or baseball player, fly like Superman, and climb walls while spinning webs like Spiderman. I really believed that one day I'd be able to climb walls and fly around.

After a few years of playing sports, I discovered the art of skateboarding. First starting off with those cheap Walmart boards which would break after one good ollie. There was something about this new found hobby that instantly clicked with me. I had finally received my first pro brand board around 9 or 10 years old and started learning shove-its and kickflips. It took me about 4 months to figure out the concept of pop, flicking, jumping above the board, and catching. At that 4 month mark, I remember distinctly where my first kickflip was stomped, right outside of my 2 bedroom complex on the sidewalk next to the parking lot with broken gravel and weeds springing up out of every crevice. Landing my first kickflip fueled my adrenaline quite a bit, it kickstarted the obsession of progressing my skills. On my skateboarding journey, I encountered several slams and bruises. Some may ask why I continued to get back up after slamming down on the unforgiving concrete over and over? Optimism, that's why. Skateboarding taught me that you may not land something on the first go around, it taught me to be optimistic that if I continue to try I will land it eventually.

Being indulged into the creative skateboarding community lead me to discover graffiti art. There was something so fascinating about these artists ability to manipulate letters into their own creations with beautiful colors. I was so intrigued that I started trying to imitate what they were doing with my own words. As a beginner in fine art and graffiti lettering, it was difficult to see my progress as I compared my work intensely to those who had the cleanest and most wild style of graffiti. Around this time I was just starting middle school and my dad was still not around. Behind the scenes of my very active lifestyle, I started to discover that I was much more introverted than my life would appear to others. I believe losing my dad at such a young age pushed me into a very depressed state, a state where the only cure was isolation, art, and skateboarding. My mother is a very amazing human being who did her best to play both parts of being my parent but you can still imagine the things I never learned with my dad not being there to teach me.

It wasn't until later towards the end of high school that I knew my personality was mainly introverted. I always wondered why I was so quiet and never wanted to stand up and speak my mind. I slipped into the shadows where it was safe. Befriending everyone but not belonging to any particular group. I hung out with the geeks, the jocks, the stoner's, the skateboarders, the artists, the weird ones, all of them. I didn't know where I belonged. All I knew was when my 9th-grade teacher asked us what we wanted to do with our lives (go to college, etc..) I had this grand idea with no idea how to get there. My idea was to start my own skateboard brand. I loved skateboarding and loved creating art (I had been in art class for a few years at this point). I was going to create my own designs for this skateboard company. Didn't know how my sketches were going to turn into a board graphic but I believed it would become a reality one way or another.

The second semester of freshman year our teacher introduced us to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The class followed along with his tutorials, learning about layers, cropping, paint bucket, etc.. The class seemed like they were understanding it and then there was me, I was in a maze of layers and selections, trying to fill color in layer 1 but realizing I just duplicated that layer 11 times. Again my patience was tested with trying to learn a new art form. The programs were so complex for me at that point in time so I decided I was going to do all of my graphics by hand.

Fast forward a few years, it's junior year of high school. The elective I chose was art but they placed me in Graphic Design 1 with Mr. Macaluso. I decided to stick it out because I had a few friends in the class and Mr. Mac seemed really rad. We would be tasked with completing tutorials on the Windows 7 Pc's loaded with Adobe CS5 or 6. There was still a struggle for me to grasp and follow along with these tutorials, but I powered through it and finished the year with an A, somehow. Yeah, I don't know how that happened either. I started to understand the program a little better though after that first year so I decided to enroll in Graphic Design 2 for senior year, my friends tagged along as well.

Senior year of high school, what a year. Joined FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), fell in love, progressed immensely at skateboarding, decided I was going to go to college for graphic design. No idea what college I would be enrolling in. My choices were to go to art school in Chicago, San Francisco, or my hometown Reno. After checking my budget I realized that going to school out of state was not an option. It was between the UNR and TMCC. The state college or the community college. I knew that I wanted to get my degree in Graphics, that of which UNR did not offer. So the choice was easy, I would go to Truckee Meadows Community College. I was blessed by the state to receive federal aid that helped pay for my entire 2-year degree in Graphic Communications.

High school was over and now it was time for college. I was working my slave job and going to school full-time. There would be nights that I'd be up till 4 am working on projects for that day's critique at 10 am. I definitely had too many Red Bulls past 12 am. At the time I didn't realize how much I enjoy those moments when you're lost in the moment creating those pieces at 2 am with a fresh crisp drink. After 2 long years of grinding, I somehow acquired enough credits to grant me my Associates of Applied Science in Graphic Communications, and Certificate of Achievement in Graphic Design.

A couple of months before graduation I landed my first screen printing design job. This lasted through the summer until October came around. Business was getting slower and they could only afford 1 designer so I had to go. Oh shit. I just signed a year lease 2 months prior. Now I'm out of a job and I have like hella bills to pay still. I searched eagerly for 2 weeks straight when one magical thing happened. I forgot to mention earlier that when I fell in love things fell apart right before high school graduation. Well, this magical night two things happened. The one I fell in love with 2 years earlier reached out to me after many years of not speaking (this kickstarted a flame that had once died out). The other thing that happened on the exact same day was job offer at another screen print shop in town that I had interviewed roughly a year prior. My lover was coming back into my life and I now had another good full-time job. Things were great.

Fast forward some more to March of 2017. My love and I split ways for good even after buying our Coachella tickets a few months prior. She sold her ticket, I was determined to go regardless. This all happened a few weeks before the festival. The breakup definitely pushed me into a trance of trying to figure out who the hell I am (it was very emotional and I spent 3 whole days trying to figure it out). Part of what helped me overcome my sadness was dedicating my time every day to create something new even if it sucked.

Now, what was I gonna create every day? I still didn't know what my niche was in the design industry. I remember scrolling on Instagram and seeing modern calligraphy somewhere. It instantly grabbed me, I wasn't sure what it was but I had to give it a go. I tried to create some modern lettering sketches my first few days of creating something every day, then I discovered the Happy Lettering Challenge. Sweet! I don't have to think of what to write because the prompt gives me a new word for every day of the month. I had some Tombow Dual Brush Pens that were rarely even used because as many artists know, sometimes we just buy art supplies because we want new supplies. Anyways, I discovered that the brush end of the pen was practical for modern calligraphy and started creating every day even with going to the music festival.

Let me take a moment to talk about my solo adventure to Coachella. The farthest I had driven by myself was probably 1 hour away. This drive to Coachella Valley was 12 hours. The most by far that I have ever driven alone. On the drive down, about 1/2 way there I stopped at a McDonald's to call my mother and let her know that I was still alive. As I finished checking in and using the restroom I headed out into the parking lot to get in my truck and start driving. Before I could grab my door handle I saw a beautiful skate plaza right next to the lot that I just parked in. How did I not see this thing when I pulled in?!?! Luckily I always remember to keep my skateboard on me. Some people would say that the session was fire or lit, that it was. Met a couple rad locals, but it was time to hit the road because I still had about 6 hours of driving and daylight was ticking.

I arrived at my campsite around 12 am, tired as heck. Threw some blankets in the bed of my truck and hit the Zs. 7:30 am came way too early, the sun was beaming down on my forehead and cheek as I tried to shield myself with blankets. I finally got up and got ready for my first day at my first festival ever. Coachella 2017's lineup was too good. So good, that it kinda sucked (not really though). All my favorite artist were playing at the same time at different stages. The good thing I found about going to a festival alone is that you can leave when you want and go where you want whenever you want. So taking this into consideration I used my ultra-strategic skills to squeeze in everyone I wanted to see over the 3-day long festival. I met so many awesome people, some from many other countries. Three long days of dancing my butt off and singing, it was now time to drive home. I ended up stopping at that skate plaza I found on the way there, this time people would not say the session was lit, it was the opposite of lit. I had been trying to backside crooked grind this flat ledge off a small set for about 1 hour straight when suddenly my front truck rolled on top of the ledge and all my weight pushing in that direction. I had slipped out from the top of the ledge and landed with my wrist jabbing right into my upper ribs. I had bruised my ribs pretty bad and still had like 5 hours to drive home. You can imagine how exhausted I was. This taught me how to mentally power over the pain and sleepiness. The bruise took about 6-8 weeks to heal (well.. for the most part..).

Tuesday had come around and it was back to the full-time job grind. I continued to work full-time and create a new lettering piece every single day. A few months flew by and it was January 22nd, 2018, another big day with a big choice. I had to leave my design job to pursue my own design business. I last about 3 months working for myself when I realized that I needed to overlap my passion for lettering and graphics with a day job that was not design related. The reason for this was because I was burning myself out working 40 hours at the print shop designing, and working another 40 with my own business outside of that. So I started making coffees and salads for my day job and working on building my brand outside of it. I started teaching what I know by hosting a few workshops at some local spots around town. The few classes that I taught went very well and my students got a lot of value out of the class but I'm still hungry to make them even better which is why I stopped hosting workshops for the past couple weeks so that I can refine my class and make it even more valuable. I'm excited to introduce my new refined class once I finish designing it.

In other news, I'm still working two-day jobs and building my brand on the side. I've been progressing quite a bit. Got a few pop-up shops in several art events in town, joining more art events, and getting more design jobs. I love what I'm doing at this point in time and could definitely see myself doing it for a very long time. Now at the beginning, I asked how a 22-year-old has been able to figure out what they want to do with their life at such a young age? Well, I hope the above paragraphs help answer that because I still don't quite know. Things just happened this way. It feels right, where I'm at right now, it feels right. Everything happens at the right place, with the right people, at the right time.

Now that you know how I got here I'm curious to know what you're doing and how you got to where you are.

Thanks for reading, cheers mate!

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