Paint, Music & Healing by Antoinette Cauley

Album art by Antoinette Cauley

Album art by Antoinette Cauley

Have you ever heard of a painter creating a sountrack to a collection of art? Well, now you have! I kept this project super under wraps for the past several months while I worked on putting it all together with the help of DJ John Blaze. I am so HYPE to finally share it with you all!

My art is so hip hop and so dependent on musical inspiration that I felt it only right to team up with some of my amazingly talented musician friends who have inspired me over the years to create “AIN'T NOBODY PRAYIN' FOR ME: The Sountrack To A Collection Of Work By Antoinette Cauley".

A few months back I sat down with each artist on the project and shared my story and the reason behind my new collection of art. They then used that as inspiration and brought me songs that related their own stories to mine, celebrated womanhood, focused on overcoming the odds and touched on me learning to navigate through a life that I was forced to grow up too fast in.

When I began this collection of paintings over a year ago I had absolutley no idea the journey it would take me on. I spent most of the year in solitude working and digging within myself for answers as to why I was painting what I was painting. It forced me to reflect on my childhood, the trauma I experienced as a youth and helped me work through some unhealed wounds centered around loss and greiving. This body of work is very reflective of a lot of internal feelings I've felt for years but never knew how to vocalize until now. I will finally share the full story in detail as to what happened to me and how it led to me turning little girls into famous rappers on April 19th during a screening of my documentary “Somebodys Prayin' For Me". The viewing will take place at the monOrchid gallery and will be followed by a Q&A with me and those in attendance. To be the first to know when tickets go on sale follow me on Instagram- @AntoinetteCauley

Until then, enjoy this eclectic mix of music brought to you by some of Arizona's most talented artists.

Album art by Antoinette Cauley

Album art by Antoinette Cauley

Numb The Pain With The Money: The Story Behind The Painting That Changed My Career And My Life by Antoinette Cauley

Each painting I do is an extension of myself and my current state of emotion. Each painting in my new body of work (where I am reimagining little girls as famous rappers) has a very specific piece of my struggle hidden within it; things you would only know if I told you.

It was December of 2017 when everything came to a head. Inspiration for this new collection hit me unexpectedly and to be honest, it hit me quite painfully. Let me rewind for a second. Last year, through the help of my counselor, I had learned and put into practice a new life lesson- how to be vulnerable and open with a man about how I feel about him. I did it once last summer with a man I had spent years in limbo with. Being that vulnerable with someone who was not vulnerable in return caused a lot of really agonizing heartbreak.

I thought this man was the one and I watched my world with him shatter around me as I continued to let my walls down. I had to accept that we weren't going to work despite the fact that I had done everything I could have to keep us together. In the midst of it all I became self destructive and not myself. It was a really tough time and I wasn't sure how I was going to make it out. When the dust settled and I realized I survived, I took a few months to allow my heart a little breathing room.

Eventually I felt okay again and I found the courage to be vulnerable once more with someone new. This time I was open about my feelings for a friend of mine. Long story short, this particular situation didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. It was the second time that year I had put my heart out there with men I care about and felt the sting of what felt like rejection so intensely. It was too much for me and I had reached a breaking point. I was so hurt that the only way I knew how to cope was to escape reality for a bit, lock myself away and just... paint.

Antoinette working on "Numb The Pain With The Money"

Antoinette working on "Numb The Pain With The Money"


I hadn't painted in about 3-4 months up to that point which wasn't normal for me. But all of  the hurt from the year finally hit me that December and it was so overwhelming that I locked myself away from the world and finished five paintings in seven days. FIVE IN SEVEN! I was a little shook at how fast I worked, I can't lie lol! It was then that I decided to take a month long break from people, events and social media as a whole and really spend some time with myself conquering this confusion and sudden depression I had seemingly slipped into. I focused on channeling that hurt into my work. During that month I had found my creative groove again. The pain, while intense, pushed me to paint and forced me to refocus on myself and my personal needs.

At the time of all of this, I just so happened to be listening to a lot of 21 Savage (at the urge of a group of teens I was teaching art to) and I found myself actually connecting to some of his music. The first time I heard his song “Numb” I just got it. It related to how I was feeling so much. The chorus is this repetitive “Numb the pain with the money, numb the pain with the money, numb the pain with the money..." in his mellow and monotone voice. The thing is, every-time I feel hurt or heartbroken I naturally go into "make money" mode as a way to cope with that hurt. The money gives me this temporary high and distracts me from the real internal issues I am facing. The high, while it makes me feel good and creates a space where I am super productive, never lasts. I am always left back where I started, wounded and sometimes just not happy. I am always forced to face the real issue even if it is delayed.

In this painting, which is the first in my new series, seven year old Faith is posing as 21 Savage from his "ISSA" album cover. She is holding a cup of lean- symbolic of drowning your sorrows in drug use. The cup is animated as to take away from the seriousness of drug abuse and to make it a little more playful as (unfortunately) is often done in rap music. Her face is a little sad and filled with a bit of depression as to reflect the internal pain I was feeling at the time. The pile of money at the bottom of the painting, well that's how you really numb the pain! This painting came together so beautifully and captured what I was feeling at the time so perfectly. 

This series had been one I planned on creating for about a year. It took that hurt to push me into the space I needed to be in to really create. This was the first time I felt that I was actually using my true voice and all of the skills I have accumulated over the years in my work. I have a lot to say in my artwork and this piece was the doorway to finally letting that voice come through.

I knew that this painting was special and that it was going to change things for me. I didn't know how or when but I knew that my pain would not be in vain. Roughly three months after I completed "Numb The Pain With The Money" and announced my new collection, I caught the eye of the monOrchid Gallery in downtown Phoenix. The monOrchid is the "it" gallery in Phoenix and is a space that artists across the city dream of showing in. This specific piece caught their eye and within days of them stumbling upon my work, they were asking me to represent me. THIS. WAS. MAJOR. I had dreamt for YEARS of showing work at the monOrchid. Never did I imagine I would one day they would want to represent me.

The opening nght of "The Coterie Exhibition" at the monOrchid. This exhibition features selected works from all seven of the monOrchids represented artists and is open to the public through Sptember 7th 2018.

The opening nght of "The Coterie Exhibition" at the monOrchid. This exhibition features selected works from all seven of the monOrchids represented artists and is open to the public through Sptember 7th 2018.

This painting was an absolute game changer, but when the reality set in on just how much of an impact it made on my life as a whole, suddenly it made the hurt and heartbreak all worth it. It made those tearful nights and wondering "why?" all worth it. Yes, my heart took a real beating last year, but the beauty that rose from that pile of shattered pieces of my heart manifested into something absolutely amazing.

Maybe we don't give our pain enough credit, you know? It pushes us creatively and inspires masterpieces a lot of the time. It lights a flame that otherwise might have stayed dormant. That flame can illuminate a beautiful path that leads to understanding and liberation if we are brave enough to take a step forward. Maybe if we took the time to sit down and listen to our pain and asked it what it was trying to tell us,  we would learn some real life lessons. Maybe we would find true happiness and see that everything in life has its own unique and important purpose; that nothing is ever in vain if we simply decide so.

Meet Shoreigh and Amir- Two Young Artists You Need To Know. by Antoinette Cauley

About 6 years ago I met a Prophetess at a church in central Phoenix. Now, I am not religious BUT when I heard there would be prophets speaking to people I was really curious on what they would say to me. At the time I was working with youth at the time and was feeling very conflicted inside as to whether to pursue a career in youth development or in fine art.

I had never seen or spoken to this woman in my life. I will never forget walking up to her that night. It was like the Universe had something to tell me and she was its voice. She grabbed my hand and instantly closed her eyes and made a face that looked as if she was overwhelmed with thoughts that hit her all at once. She began to speak:

"I see you with a paintbrush in your hand. I see you making beautiful art. I see you at the First Friday Art Walk displaying and painting in the city. Your hands are like swords that God has been sharpening. He has been preparing you for battle. I also see you working with the youth. I see you bringing your art into places like group homes and inspiring teen girls to chase their dreams. Your gifts were given to you so that you could lead people to God through them."

I was in TEARS. It was no wonder I had been conflicted for years as to whether or not I would work with youth or art. I was supposed to be doing BOTH. So, 6 years later I am proud to say that all of what she prophesied and more has come into fruition into my life. I have been mentoring and teaching art/ music to teens for the past few years. I don't talk much about my programs because I don't feel the need for public validation but I felt it was important to share this story because of some very special teens I work with.

I decided at the end of 2016 (after years of wanting to) to launch the J.A.R.R. Initiative. Through this initiative I bring free high quality arts programs into communities who need it most. So far I have been able to run an extremely successful music program as well as a new fine art program. Currently I have a group of roughly 15 teens who I mentor who mean the world to me. They are the highlight of my week and they constantly remind me what life is about- love and family! All of my teens will be helping me at my last art show of the year this Saturday, Sept. 16th from 6-10P at Dionne's Wall of Flowers. The show is all ages and is only $10 at the door!

Shoreigh Williams (17) will be showcasing a small collection of original art work and selling her merchandise at the show as my guest artist. I have been working with her to get her business together for the past few months and this girl is going to be a force to be reckoned with! She has so much hunger and drive that I couldn't help but take her under my wing. Amir Billings (18) has been a part of my Lyricism 101 class for the past year. He is a lyricist and will be preforming a couple spoken word pieces at my show. His talent is undeniable and his star power is evident every time he preforms.

These are just two of my many amazing teens who I have chosen to spotlight for this go-round. We have showcases planned for both music and visual arts for the teens in the near future. So, be on the lookout and come and support these young artists this Saturday!

Amir & Shoreigh

Amir & Shoreigh

My last art show of the year! "Long Live The Rose That Grew From Concrete" by Antoinette Cauley

I will never forget when my Dad gave me the book "The Rose That Grew From Concrete" as a gift when I was around 13 years old. I was hooked. The book featured poetry from a young Tupac Shakur. It comforted me as I navigated through my seemingly confusing life. It helped me to understand some of the issues I faced and let me know that I wasn't alone.

I have always felt that I was the rose Tupac spoke of that defied the odds and grew from a crack in the concrete. I felt that Pac was talking about me and he didn't even realize it! I often times use roses and flowers in my work to pay tribute to that notion. I even had that rose growing from concrete tattooed on my when I was 17 years old as a reminder of my own strength.

As a youth I looked at Tupac as this incredible activist and poet who made me feel like my voice meant something. His music and activism inspired me to use my voice in my art and to touch on politics and social issues. As a result I have pieces I have done over a 15 years span that all have been influenced by his life and teachings in some way shape or form. It was important to me to do this show to honor his life and memory and to show that his work still inspires artists today. I want his spirit to live on through artists like me and to remind the world that his death was not in vain.

"Long Live The Rose That Grew From Concrete:  Art Exhibition and Event"

  • Saturday, September 16, 2017
  • 6:00pm-10:00pm (All ages)
  • Located at Dionne's Wall of Flowers (3508 N. 7th st.)
  • $10 General Admission at the door
  • $25 (or 2/$40) VIP Online Only. Includes a gift bag, a rose and a drink ticket.****

**Please bring donations for those affected in Houston to recive $2 off of general admission!

Photo/ Contrast Pics, Hair/ Annie Cavanagh of Rebel Salon and Vintage, Makeup/ Stephanie Hernandez

Photo/ Contrast Pics, Hair/ Annie Cavanagh of Rebel Salon and Vintage, Makeup/ Stephanie Hernandez

I will also be featuring the art work of Shoreigh Williams, her 17 year old mentee who is an up and coming visual artist in Phoenix. The night will feature a spoken word performance by 17 year old Amir Billings who is also one of my teen mentees. Both teens are a part of J.A.R.R. Initiative programming which brings free high quality fine art and performance art programs into communities that need it most.

Amir Billings and Shoreigh Williams

Amir Billings and Shoreigh Williams




They Don't Know About Those Sleepless Nights, Those Looking For A Reason Nights: A Story For The Dream Chasers by Antoinette Cauley

I have literally waited for over two years to tell you all this story. I had a vision as to how it would all play out from the very beginning and so I fought the urge to prematurely talk publicly about what happened to me until my vision fully unfolded. I chose to be patient, trust my journey and let the story unfold.

When I want something, I figure out a way to make it happen regardless of what my circumstance may be. So when I first met Nipsey Hussle back in 2015, it was no surprise to my friends and family. I focus on what I want, believe it is going to happen and then I work my ass off until it does. I have just always had hustle in me. To anyone who is chasing their dreams or maybe just want things to change within themselves or their lives, I hope that this story inspires you and opens your eyes to the possibilities within your own life.

It was December 2014 when I finished up my very first painting of Nipsey Hussle. It was one of, if not the most meaningful paintings I have ever done. It was inspired by his song “Overtime” which had gotten me through so many sleepless nights of chasing my dreams. I was working a full time job and trying to manage a full time art career. It was absolutely exhausting both mentally and physically. I would stay up until 430am sometimes and cry my way through exhaustion as I painted while I played that song on repeat. My goals didn’t care if I was tired, no. My goals kept me up at night and kept me pushing.

Antoinette holding her painting "Sleepless Nights" after it had been autographed.

Antoinette holding her painting "Sleepless Nights" after it had been autographed.

 That painting (titled “Sleepless Nights”) was for my solo show “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” coming up that February 2015 where it would be on display for the first time ever. I decided this piece was going to be a gift for my little brother. But. I really, really wanted Nipsey to see. I HAD to figure out how to get it in front of him. So I took to Instagram to see if I could get his eyes on it. I sent it to everyone I could find who was in his circle. Producers, artists, DJs & anyone I could find who was tied to him received a DM with the photo of my painting and a quick message. Everyone loved it, some even posted it but I never heard from Nipsey.

April 2015 rolled around and Nipsey was scheduled to come into town for a concert for the first time in a couple years. I knew this was my chance. I remember laying in my bed on a Saturday the week before the concert and thinking “How tf can I get this painting in front of Nip?” and then it hit me. I came up with a brilliant plan that (little did I know) would change the course of my life forever.

I decided that I was going to draw a picture of Nipsey’s DJ. At the time I had a little crush on him and he was super active on IG, so I knew I could get him to see it if I posted it. I planned to post the drawing on a Monday as my MCM. I figured if he saw it he would repost it and tag me. I thought if he did that then I would let him know I could either ship the drawing to him or I could give it to him in person when they were in town Friday that same week for their concert. I did exactly that and it happened EXACLTY how I envisioned it. It was crazy!


“I’ll grab it from you on Friday in Phoenix. Here’s my number. Hit me!” His DJ responded after I let him know his options. I was stoked. I remember Friday rolled around and I got a text from his DJ that they had just gotten into town. Reality set in that I was finally going to make it happen. I told him that I would let him know when I got to the venue so we could meet with him to give him the artwork.

My friends and I rolled up to the concert that night all wearing shirts that had one of my original Nipsey paintings on them. We grabbed all of my artwork and got ready to head inside. I went into the meet and greet to give work to his DJ and was able to finally walk straight up to Nipsey and get my painting in front of him. “This is dope af! You’re the one that did this? I saw this on IG!” Nip said to me. “Did you really!?” I responded, “I have been trying so hard to get you to see it!” I exclaimed. He replied’ “You did the one on your shirt too huh? I saw that one too!”

I was beyond excited to hear all of this. We talked for a minute and then I went over to chat with his DJ and give him his piece. He was so excited and grateful for it. He told me that he had never had anyone do a piece of just him and he was going to hang it right above his bed. “Let me walk you guys out” his DJ said to me. As we headed toward the door, Nipsey stopped me and told me to come back. He shook my hand and said “Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep going.”

“I will!” I said.

“ I’m forreal!” He responded.

(Right click the images below for more!)

When I left that concert I felt so accomplished. I made a plan and executed it all within a week. It really had my mind thinking… if I could accomplish all of that within 6 days then what could I accomplish with that same passion within a year? What could I accomplish within five years or even ten? I instantly felt this overwhelming sense of desperation. I kept hearing Nipsey say “Keep going!” and I knew I had a decision to make.

That desperation I felt was the equivalent of being trapped under water and my face being only inches from the surface but not being able to break through to the surface to get to the air. That air was my liberation in the form of artistic entrepreneurship. I had met Nipsey on a Friday, thought all weekend about what had happened, how it happened and what more I wanted to accomplish and then… cried on my drive to work Monday. I pulled into the parking lot in tears and told myself that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I literally sat in the parking lot and called my job to tell them I was going to be out sick. I pulled out, drove home and started to make a plan on how I was going to quit my job and chase my dream. It took me 10 months to execute that plan and quit my job and another 8 months to get through a transition plan I set for myself. I have been a full time independent artist ever since which has been over a year now.

Along your journey you will find that there will be a handful of very pivotal moments that shape and mold your path. This was one of the most important moments along my journey to full time artistry because it was the final push I needed to commit to give my dreams all I had. I told myself that one day I was going to meet Nipsey again and that I was going to thank him for that day and tell him what he helped me do. There was never an inch of doubt in my mind that our paths would cross again, I just had to wait and trust in the Universe to make it happen.

So, fast forward to now! August 2017, almost two and a half years later. The amazing Jazmine Nash had recently asked me to display artwork at her event, The Cluture Show Phoenix where she had booked Nipsey Hussle to preform. I jumped at the chance! I briefly told Jazmine my story and asked her if she would be able to let me give Nip a painting and tell him thank you. She wasn’t sure if she could but let me know she was going to try! Even if she couldn’t, I was just grateful that she was even willing to look into it.

I had a painting ready to give him. I will never forget sitting at my booth at the Phoenix Convention Center with all of my art that morning while Nipsey was 100 feet away on stage for sound check. He was wrapping up and I knew it was time! I sent a text to Jazmine and said “I have my painting to give to Nipsey if you can make it happen. If not I am just grateful to be here!” Not more than two minutes later I hear Jazmine yell across the room to me, “Do you have it ready!?”, “Yes I do!” I yelled back. She went to walk Nipsey and his entourage off stage and brought them straight over to my section.

“I’m Antoinette” I said as I shook his hand. As soon as I started talking I immediately noticed how present and focused he was on what I was saying to him. I told him about how I had met him a couple years ago and reminded him of what he said to me. I told him how I left that day a changed person and how I credit him for sparking something in me. I said to him “That was such a pivotal moment for me and my journey and I appreciate you so much.” I told him. He genuinely seemed so touched by my story. I told him how after that day I knew I had to quit and go for it and that I have been doing this full time for over a year. He instantly smiled and laughed a proud laugh and exclaimed “You’ve just been doing it huh!” I said “Yup and this is all of my work!”, as I pointed towards my set up. He then had a chance to look at all of my art. He told me that my giant Outkast painting was amazing and that it caught his eye from across the room. He said he had seen a few more of my pieces like my Kobe and Dom painting online and that it was all amazing!

 I then was able to finally give him the painting I did of him. “This is my thank you to you and my way to say I appreciate you!” I said. “This is so fucking dope! I’m hanging this up in my house as soon as I get home!” He said. His whole crew loved it. I asked to take a picture and he said of course! Afterwards he gave me a big hug and told me to keep going and then thanked me. It was a surreal moment that had been over two years in the making. Not once did I doubt that moment would happen and once it did my heart was overflowing with gratitude. I didn’t want anything from him, not a post or a tag. I didn’t care if he bought art from me or not or took a business card or not. All I wanted was to express my gratitude and  let him know what that day and his words meant to me. And I did.

(Right click the images below for more!)

After the event I was outside waiting to load up my paintings when Nipsey and his crew were leaving the building to head out. “Bye Nipsey!” I said. He walked over to me with his hand raised for a high five and said “Keep doing what you’re doing!” “Always!” I responded. It was in that moment I was able to close the chapter on one of my biggest personal accomplishments to date.

I felt so unbelievably thankful and fulfilled that day. The power of projection is real. The power of knowing it will happen even if you don’t know how is real. It will happen if you trust in your ability to figure it out over time and you hustle. By all means, statistically I should not be in the position I am. I am a young woman of color who was raised in a single parent household in the hood. Statistically I shouldn’t be where I am today. But I made choices that shaped my life into what I wanted it to be. It took sacrifice, dedication, loneliness, investments and patience to accomplish what I have. But the only difference between me and the average person is that I made the choice to go for it with all I have.

Within the past year I have been able to accomplish more than I could’ve imagined as a full time artist. I have been able to build relationships with some of the leading art organizations in the state including the Phoenix Art Museum and The Phoenix Center for the Arts. I have been able to help raise over $5000 for the Boys & Girls Club alongside the legendary Evander Holyfield. I had the complete honor to launch the J.A.R.R. Initiative (In honor of my late Aunt Julie Ann) which brings free high quality fine art & performance art programs for teens into communities that need it most and work with dozens of teens who fill my heart with so much joy. I had the honor of creating album art for Olympic medalist and artist Will Claye and have begun to build a following of celebrity clients. I was recently awarded AZ Foothills Magazines Best Local Artist of 2017. I have accomplished more than I have room to type in the blog and watched my community support through it all! My gratitude honestly cannot be measured in words. 

I say all of this not to boast or brag, but to show you what “taking that leap” opened up room for in my own life. These accomplishments could not have entered my life if I didn’t create the space for them to inhabit by removing things that weren’t meant for me. I want you reading this to know that if I can do it so can you. I literally had a dream and not a thought in my mind on how exactly I was going to make it happen. BUT. I still went for it and I am still climbing. There is no better time than now to take a chance and make that choice. Just make sure to believe in your ability to figure it out, work hard, project positive thoughts and emotions and most importantly (in the words of Nipsey Hussle), keep going!

nip us.jpg



I Come Alive When I'm Close To The Madness: Living As An Artist With Depression And Anxiety. by Antoinette Cauley

I absolutely love to laugh and smile. I love to make people laugh, feel good and remind them how important they are and that they matter. Being a source of positivity comes so naturally to me because I am always myself and always prepared to give those around me all I have even when I feel exhausted. Despite doing my best to be a ray of light to the world as I know it, there is a darker side of me very few get to see in person.

Sometimes the waves of emotion feel too high and too frequent to function properly. It’s like they come crashing down all at once and it feels like you physically can’t go on. Medicine doesn’t help. I tried that but stopped taking it 3 years ago and decided to learn to work through it on my own. The pills just numb you and make you unsure if you even exist at all. That’s no way to live and I was determined to beat it naturally. I know my triggers and that keeps me a little ahead of the game. I also started seeing a counselor about a year ago. She helps me more that anything really. The depression and anxiety seem to just have a mind of their own. They bang and my front door until I open and they refuse to leave until they’ve done some real damage.

The emotional pain always starts in my heart and manifests into physical pain that moves from my chest down my arms and into my fingertips. When I feel it, it’s hard to hold my paintbrush. It makes if physically difficult to do the thing I love most. It’s quite poetic sounding to most. To be honest, I’ve noticed that the picture the world paints of the stereotypical depressed and lonely artist hidden away in their art studio making masterpieces seems to be revered as almost a thing of beauty; “The tortured soul who bares the pain in their heart for the world to see through their art.” People eat that shit up. But the reality is that it’s not beautiful when you are the one living it. It’s not poetic when you are the one forcing yourself to get out of bed, put on a smile and step out into the world to try and make somewhat of a difference.  

When I was fifteen years old, I knew what my purpose in life was. I knew that my destiny was to inspire and motivate those around me and I knew that I was supposed to do it through my art. I was always super advanced artistically for my age. I knew that wasn’t a coincidence and that my purpose was so much bigger than myself. I never thought that as an adult I would inspire as many people as I have. I have fans that stretch from the grey and rainy countryside’s of London to the gritty and fast moving streets of L.A. They all keep up with my comings and goings, they watch for new work and they listen to what I have to say with the utmost attention. I don’t take that lightly. It is an honor to have been put in such an inspiring and motivational position and I do my best to fulfill that roll each and every day.

Between you and I, the only thing that keeps me going at times is knowing how much of a positive influence I have on those watching my journey. The only thing that keeps me pushing is knowing that people are watching me and finding the strength they need through all that I am doing. It doesn’t make dealing with the depression and constant anxiety any easier, it just gives it purpose. It lets me know that my struggles are not in vain. It makes figuring out how to work through it worth it.

So, in my mind, I have no choice but to press forward, put on a smile and give love. After all, that’s what I was made to do- to give love through my art, through my words and through the work that I do with youth in my community. I will always do that because, my purpose is so much bigger than myself or any emotions I may feel. Despite feeling like I can’t push through it at times, I remind myself that I will. I always have and I always will. I have learned throughout the past year how to work through the downs, take time to rest, channel the emotions and create masterpieces full of colorful, vibrant and mesmerizing… pain.  

I am grateful for the highs that allow me to laugh, smile and see life clearly and it its most free and beautiful form.   I am also grateful for the lows that, while difficult to cope with, allow me to enter into the space I need to be to create the works of art that will ultimately be my legacy. I haven’t quite learned how to get rid of the lows all together so for now I am choosing to use them the best I can. The madness in my mind seems to breed life through my brush and so I allow it to deliver. I feel that’s what the world expects of artists anyways… To roam the earth as the tortured soul who bares their broken heart for the world to see through their art.



That Time I Almost Got A Deal With Motown: The Story I've Never Told. by Antoinette Cauley

So, I am pretty transparent about all things pertaining to my art. But, I typically don’t share the struggles or setbacks I experience as a working artist hustling each day to bring their goals into fruition. I, just like everyone else, experience disappointments and take losses here and there. So, all of that said, I am going to share a story with you that I have never told before.

It all started when I ran into my friend and independent artist Touré Masters at the First Friday Art walk in January 2016. I had recently designed and painted the artwork for his “King of the Chill” album which he had used to create some merchandise. He handed me some stickers that he created with my design and I remember thinking they were just so dope. SO dope in fact that I was like, “I need to repost this on my social media like right now!” So, I did. I had no idea the adventure that this picture would lead me to.

A day or so after I posted the photo on Instagram, I got a message on from a group of my favorite producers whom I had been following for a couple of years. They mentioned to me how much they loved my art and wanted to chat with me about doing some work together. These producers have done work with some of my absolute favorite artists so I was beyond excited!

The next day I chatted with one of the producers via phone to go over a few specifics. I will never forget that conversation. It was inspiring and so encouraging. I remember him asking how I was doing and I said “I am great! I am on my way to a meeting that right now, how are you doing?” He replied that he was doing well and that he was actually on his way to a meeting also…. with Nipsey Hussle. Anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE Nipsey Hussle! I seriously had to fight not to have a fangirl moment.

He then told me how much they love my work and that they really wanted to do several projects with me. He asked me about my work and my process when it comes to making album art because working with a painter was new to them. I told him a little about myself, how I work and my goals as an artist. At the time I was still working a full time job and feeling miserable. I told him how I was going to quit my job in a little over a month and take that leap. He then told me his story, about how he woke up one day and decided to leave his home city and move to L.A. where he knew no one. He told me how he ran into a new, up and coming Nipsey Hussle on the same day Nipsey had left a record label and become independent. He talked about how they partnered and built an empire with each other over the course of 8 years. How he is now signed to Motown records because… He didn’t give up on his dreams, he took that leap. “You have to take that leap.” He told me. “There’s no other way”.

The conversation continued and he told me about their group, what they do and that they were interested in having me create album art for two of their artists as well as their group. He proceeded to tell me that they had a budget set aside through Motown and all they needed to do was have me come to the studio out in L.A. to meet them as well as their artists and then we could get to work. “Be prepared,” he began to tell me. “You never know who will be in our studio on any given day.” I remember him saying “let me know when You’ll be in L.A. again and we’ll make it happen. We’re looking forward to working with you!”

When I got off of the phone with him, I immediately called my mom and I cried. I cried so hard. Tears of pure joy! I reflected on the previous year and how I would wake up everyday and go out and live a life I knew I wasn’t meant to, I would drive to a job that drained and stifled my true creative capabilities. It was EXHAUSTING. I was ready to be done and this opportunity seemed to be my way out.

I was absolutely elated. I mean this was it! This was that one thing that was going to push me from local Phoenician artist into the big leagues! This was my BIG break! This was what I had been searching for… that thing that would catapult me to the next level in my art career.

January 30th, 2016 was the day we scheduled to meet. January 2016 (coincidentally enough) was also the month that I had told myself I needed to quit my full time job no matter what and take that leap. So this was like the Universe sending me exactly what I was asking for. It seemed as if it was all starting to fall into place and I was so ready for it.

It was January 29th , the day before I was driving out to LA for a day trip to meet with the producers at Motown. I had been texting on of the producers (who was my main contact) and trying to get an address to the studio from him all week. I was having a hard time getting a hold of him. It was frustrating. Something felt off… So, I decided to book a tour with an art gallery out in LA for the same day I was scheduled to meet with the producers. I figured that if the meeting for whatever reason didn’t happen, at least I wouldn’t have wasted a full day away from my art studio by driving 6 hours to another state.

 That same day, January 29th, I kept texting back and forth trying to get an address. He was trying to figure it out. “I’m sorry. We have three albums in two months to finish up so it’s been hectic but I will figure it out.” He told me. I asked him if we should reschedule because they were busy and I was coming from another state. He said no, that he was going to make it happen!

I was feeling so uneasy and uncertain about the trip. But I wanted it sooooo bad. My friend Stephanie was going to be riding with me to L.A. for the day so I asked her how she felt about it. Was it worth the risk of driving to L.A. for a day? This was a busy time for me as I was preparing for my biggest art show of the year so any time away from my work was potentially detrimental to making sure I met my show deadlines. We went back and forth over the pros and cons and though we both felt extremely uncertain we decided to do it. No matter the outcome we felt that the reward was worth the risk.

We woke up at 4 a.m. on the 30th and headed to LA and to what I hoped was my big break. We get there  and I literally play phone tag all day with the producers. We would get ahold of each other and schedule a time to meet and then it would change. Finally around 3PM I told them that I had scheduled a 5PM meeting with an art gallery in L.A. to possibly show there and that we could meet after that at 630. They said that was perfect and to call when I was done.

Stephanie and I arrived at the gallery a little before 5P (after 7 hours of trying to kill time in LA) and walked inside. We were greeted by a worker there who told us we could wait in the lobby. We waited. 20 minutes passed. I tried calling the owners of the gallery with little luck. Finally at 6P Stephanie and I decided to leave. It was at that time I received a call from the owner who said he didn’t realize that the 30th was the day we were supposed to meet and he wasn’t going to make it but that he could still email me rates to rent the gallery… It was like a slap in the face! Despite knowing we were coming from out of state to view the gallery, they didn’t show. I was so disappointed.

Once we left the gallery I gave the producers another ring around 615… No answer. I then got a text that they couldn’t do 630 and that they would have to get back to me with a time. Keep in mind, Stephanie and I needed to leave in a few hours to head back to Phoenix because we didn’t have extra money for a hotel room and my family was out of town. So we had only planned a day trip.

It’s now around 8:30 p.m. and I still haven’t heard ANYTHING. At this point and we are both really tired. I felt like it was over. I was feeling so hopeless so naturally we did the one thing that makes me kind of feel better… we went and got ice cream! LOL! We stopped by this super hipster looking ice-cream shop somewhere in Hollywood. We sat and ate and talked about what we had gotten ourselves into. Both tired, we got in the truck to leave. I sent the producer a final text telling him that I was heading back to Phoenix and that we would just need to reschedule. He immediately called me and told me that he has been stuck in the studio all day and hasn’t been able to leave because they’re with a client. He asked me to wait while he checked if he could leave to come meet me. We got off of the phone and about 20 minutes later he sent a text to let me know that he wouldn’t be able to leave and meet me because they were in a paid session with a client. I let him know we could reschedule during a time they were less busy. I’ll never forget the last thing he said to me was “You need to just join our team!” I told him that was what I wanted. From the bottom of my heart that was what I truly wanted. That was what I expected to call my mom and tell her when I left LA. I was going to be an artist working with producers and musicians from Motown.

But that day would never come. I left feeling so defeated. I drove 6 hours to L.A. not knowing what was going to happen and I left feeling like “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” Two important and potentially life changing meetings, both didn’t happen.

On the drive home from L.A. I was so exhausted that I was seeing things. We had been up for almost 24hrs and I had very little to show for it. I remember getting home and walking into my apartment and just crying. I was devastated. I am willing to sacrifice so much for my dreams. I hustle SO hard. I go out and take what I want through hard work and dedication. I make things happen… but this was out of my control and that was tough for me to swallow. I didn’t want to speak to anyone for days. I avoided any questions about my trip to L.A. because I didn’t want to explain that the meeting never happened. I was embarrassed and a little depressed about the situation. Eventually I lost touch with the producers and we never ended up working together.

I felt like I had been defeated. It took me awhile to realize that in reality I hadn’t lost anything that day. I thought I came out on the losing end but I really didn’t. The big picture was this- some of my favorite producers who work with my favorite artists liked my art so much that they reached out to me to work together. How many painters can say that? That alone is a huge accomplishment. That is a testament to my reach and quite frankly validation to my hustle. I didn’t use that disappointment as an excuse to give up. I used it as fuel to do and be even better. I bounced back and did some major things last year including ending the year by winning Best Local Artist from AZ Foothills Magazine.

Antoinette being interviewed on Power 98.3 in February 2016 for her annual art exhibition. Photo by Malakai of Malakai Creative.

Antoinette being interviewed on Power 98.3 in February 2016 for her annual art exhibition. Photo by Malakai of Malakai Creative.

The moral of my story is this: Obstacles will come throughout the road to your dreams but you have to learn to climb over them and keep pressing forward. The life of the dream chaser is not an easy one. It gets lonely and confusing at times. You’ll spend days unsure of yourself and your goals. You’ll get tired and break down. At times you may even want to throw in the towel. But the thing is, your dreams depend on you never quitting. Your dreams die the day you give up. I once heard Russell Simmons say, “You can never lose if you never quit.” That statement has always stuck with me. Life is waiting for you to grab it and make it into exactly what you want. So, next time you face a setback or obstacle, remember to climb that wall of disappointment so you can get to the blessings on the other side!


I Can Never Make Him Love Me: What Really Happens When An Artist Falls In Love? by Antoinette Cauley

I remember texting him around one in the morning. “You feel like going on a random adventure?” I said. “Let’s go!” He replied without knowing what I had in mind. It didn’t matter to him. He was up for the spontaneous trip. We drove together towards South Mountain in the dark of the night and he explained how the road to the mountain reminded him so much of home, back in Cali. He said one day he would show me and he kept that promise.

We got to the South Mountain Park entrance around 2am only to find the gates closed and no real way to sneak in. So, we ended up at Kiwanis park instead. I remember we sat by the water and talked about everything. We laughed, joked, talked about our dreams, told childhood stories and just vibed until around 5:30 in the morning. He made me feel something so beautiful inside. It was something unique that no one had made me feel before. That night was perfect and after it we spent countless hours together, always as friends, always bonding, always holding our real feelings inside.

One week I accompanied him on a trip back home, Pasadena to be specific, where I got to meet his mother, his father, his family and all of his close friends. They were amazing. He was amazing. At the time there wasn’t anything I wanted more than his heart and to be able to give him mine but I had been holding my feelings in. After 3 days in California, our true feelings finally came out and man was it a huge sigh of relief.

I’ll never forget the night when he first told me how he really felt about me and when I was able to finally tell him that I felt the same way. I will never forget the first time he kissed me. I will never forget the way he made me feel. I will never forget when the thought of committing to a relationship with me started to scare him. I will never forget him telling me that I could find a man much better than him and that I deserved so much more. I will never forget when he told me we needed a break from one another. I will never forget the next twelve months that I didn’t see him and how angry and confused I felt. I will never forget seeing him again after those twelve months and how the feelings were even more intense than before. I’ll never forget when 3 days later he told me that he was seeing someone and that he was scared to tell me because… when he saw me he suddenly didn’t know where his heart was anymore, that he didn’t expect his feelings to be so strong. I will never forget the pain that caused and having to fight back the tears at my desk at work. I will never forget telling him that was the last time I would allow him to let me go and that I was done.

That experience changed me. It felt as though he had taken a hammer to my glass heart, shattered it to pieces and then handed me a broom before turning his back and walking away. No matter how well you sweep up the pieces of your heart, there will always be some that slip through the cracks and are lost forever. It will never be whole again.

We were young, around 22 when we met and the reality is neither of us were ready (even though I felt we were) and had we committed to one another, I would not have had the space I needed in the coming years to learn and grow. I honestly would not be the woman or the artist that I am today. I needed to learn a lot about life and myself and that required me being alone.

There is a saying that if an artist falls in love with you then you will live forever through their work. It’s so romantic when you really think about it; the fact that your love will inspire this artist to create a beauty like no other. But how true is that statement? I can only speak from my own perspective and my reality is when I am in “love” I don’t really have as strong of a desire to paint. Love to me, feels so much better than the feelings I experience when I paint. It’s this crazy high like nothing else in this world that you can’t help but chase.

It’s not falling in love that gives another soul immortality through my own work, it’s the opposite. Heartbreak is the catapult to the creation of some of my most dynamic and soul capturing artwork. It’s the pain of a love lost that gives me the inspiration to create.

Photograph by Antoinette Cauley

Photograph by Antoinette Cauley

Within the past couple of years, I have learned how to channel the hurt deeper into my art than ever before. I forced myself to learn how to truly feel it, paint through the disappointment and the sorrows and then release it through the completion of a piece. ­This has become such a necessary part of my journey as a full-time artist especially recently with having experienced some horribly painful heartbreak while I was preparing for my 4th annual solo art exhibition mid-2016. I couldn’t allow myself to stop painting and so I had to channel that pain into my collection of work and be more vulnerable than ever before. Though heartbreak gives me so much inspiration, I hope that one day when the right man enters my life and feeds my entire being with his love, that I will find a new type of inspiration that I never knew existed.

So, what happens when an artist falls in love? I can’t speak for every artist but I can say that falling in love is often a ride that will forever change and shift the creation process for better or for worse. That decision literally lies in the hands of the artist.