And then, in the midst of nebulous fear, I had a pivotal moment of clarity. I had a thought that changed the rest of my life and it was this: I imagined myself as an old woman, looking back on my life, wondering… What if I had just tried to do exactly what I wanted to do?It sunk in…I realized then, that to not know the answer would be tragedy, an utter tragedy; A life un-lived.I realized in the same moment that if I tried, really tried, and failed…I could live with that.And so from that moment forward my only choice was to try to live my passion.This clarity and certainty gave me the determination that pushed me through fear and onto my path. I knew that since I was now going to try, I wanted to try with 110% of my being. I thought of the endeavor as a backflip. NO HESITATION. If you hesitate doing a backflip, you will never make it all the way around and you might even break your neck.
I wanted to make art… and so I made a decision to only do things that pertained to that in some kind of way; to do things that were creative to make a living. I started painting kids faces in Central Park. I made a sign and sat by the carousel and painted spidermen, butterflies, tigers and such. I could make my own schedule and got to paint. It was pretty great. But summer ended and the parks emptied and fear gripped me once again with a voice that asked “Maybe you need to just get a real job.” Remembering the old woman that I will one day be, I decided instead to approach the owner of Umbertos Clam House in Little Italy, whom I knew from my waitressing days, to propose to paint his windows for Christmas. He agreed, and while I was there painting elves and Santa drinking wine with a bowl of clam linguini, the owner of the Caffe Roma across the street came over and asked me to paint his windows next. I was so delighted!
Caffe Roma, 2007, Little Italy
When you are on a path of passion… things lead to things, opportunities lead to more opportunities and a world of possibility that you could not have imagined before opens up to you. My window paintings spread down Mulberry street and soon I made a portfolio and went around town with it… building up a bevy of clients from Grand Street to the Bronx. Window painting turned into other opportunities for murals and signs. I had more work than I could do myself and so I started a business called Paint the Town and hired my friends to paint with me. I felt so tremendously happy.
Painting the windows of Umbertos Clam House, 2008
But the path, as sparkling and uplifting as it can be at times, it not always easy. It can be quite unstable, especially in the beginning, and in fact sometimes it’s really hard. There are so many times over the years that the voice of fear still whispered sinisterly in my ear “Maybe you should get a real job.”
But I could never give up, I had to create to save my life. I just kept pushing steadily through ups and downs. I used my window and sign painting money to fuel my projects of passion and now I’m here, seven years later, making 100% of my living from creating and receiving more and more freedom and opportunity to do so. I am far from rich but creating feeds my soul and gives me a wealth that money could never purchase.
East Village, New York, 2011
The cable car I painted in Valparaiso in National Geographic, 2011
Painting a tap tap in Haiti
Boats I painted in collaboration for FlutuArte, a project I created in Brazil in 2012 with fellow artist Maxine Nienow
I think it’s good to understand that passion doesn’t have to be the thing you do to make your living. It’s passion itself that is most important. Make room for it! It could make more sense for you to take up a job that is not necessarily your passion, but earns you a living and gives you the possibility to do what you love. As Kurt Vonnegut says it: ”Go into the arts, I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
I believe everyone on earth has a natural intrinsic passion for something and their own unique purpose. What would you do if you could do exactly what you wanted to do? Take money out of the equasion for a moment, what your parents want for you, your friends, society… What could you be happy doing your whole life? With your whole self?
What is your passion?
You can enter your path with just one step. And as much as you walk forward, your aspirations will move toward you. Many people have found the energy that comes to help you when you set your rudder in the direction of of your dreams. The great writer and philosopher Goethe said, ”What ever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
Go do your dance, Start off with a backflip~