I Thought I Loved Him And It Nearly Broke Me: The Very Personal Story Behind My Latest Painting by Antoinette Cauley

I had driven out of town to see him, as I had done many times before knowing that I shouldn't have. But, I thought he was the man for me. He was always on tour doing what he loved with amazing celebrities and I was painting my way into the limelight. It felt like such a beautiful pairing of people and I saw a life with him. We had talked for years about what our family would look like; what marriage would look like. I dreamt of a creative home full of love and art. I loved him and I thought he loved me... at least that's what he told me. His actions however, said otherwise.

Everything came to a head during the summer of 2017 when I hit a breaking point. I couldn't do it anymore. I had invested so much time catering to his schedule and his needs while he ignored mine. After four years of confusion I finally decided to let go despite not wanting to. It left me feeling like a shell of a woman. I wasn't myself and I quickly started to emotionally spiral. I started partying and drinking more. I was making reckless decisions and just not caring for myself in the way that I should have. I didn't give AF anymore, to be real.  I was heartbroken and devastated and it almost consumed me. Fortunately, through the help of my counselor, some deep self reflection and internal work, I came out of it and was able to ground myself and move forward. I was able to cut emotional ties but there was still something that kept me holding onto him.

Fast forward to months later, I was on my way to see him despite knowing it wasn't the best idea. Lately he had just been so hot and cold- either stressed and asshole-ish or affectionate and loving. It was hella confusing so I went into the trip void of any solid expectations in order to keep from potentially having my feelings hurt. I had given up on “us” ever being a “thing” and decided a while ago that he wasn't the man for me. So, I thought nothing of the trip. I justified going to see him by viewing it as a great opportunity for a vacation, some much needed physical  affection and to escape the chaos of my everyday life for a few days.

When I arrived to see him that day, I honestly wasn't sure which version of him I was going to get. Surprisingly, it turned out that I got one of the best versions of him I could have asked for. All weekend he was so sweet and caring. He was attentive and kind. He was more mindful than usual and it really caught me off guard. He was, in that weekend, everything I had seen in him when we met five years ago. And, quite frankly, it confused the SHIT out of me.

When it was time for him to hop on the tour bus at 4 a.m. to leave town,  I kissed him goodbye and drifted back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later in complete tears. I mean I was crushed. At first I didn't know why I was crying or felt so hurt but I realized that I had seen a glimpse of the man I wanted to be with in the beginning of our relationship that weekend and emotionally I just couldn't handle it. I felt as if I had lost someone when he left. It was like the death of a dream that was never meant to be.

So, I packed my things up, hopped in my car and continued to let the tears roll. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a drug user and I don’t drink often but all I could think about on that ride home was how I could self medicate when I got back; how I could numb all of this pain that came with him.

As I prepared for the two hour drive, I just happened to be playing J. Coles new album K.O.D. His song “FRIENDS” came on and some of the lyrics instantly caught my attention. It was almost as if he was speaking directly to me and my situation. I put the song on repeat and for almost two hours I listened to his words over and over and over… The words “meditate don’t medicate” rang through my ears and by the end of my drive home, I didn’t feel the need to self medicate anymore. Instead, I drove straight to my aunt's grave (where I typically go when I am in turmoil) and I sat and cried and talked to her about what I was feeling. I left her grave, went home and fell straight to sleep. I was so mentally exhausted that my body just needed a reset.

Never in a million years did I think that listening to one song on repeat for two hours would impact me that much. I never thought that it would literally stop me from self destructing and push me into a space of finding a healthier way of coping with heart wrenching pain. Because of this moment, I felt it was important to tell my story in relation to this song through my painting “Life is Filled with Much Pain… Choose Wisely.” It was almost a tribute to J. Cole and a thank you for him fearlessly sharing his voice with us.

I found a girl who I felt resembled a young me and used her to help me speak to the world about my struggles. 7 year old Rosie was put up to the test of posing seven different times in what would be one of the most important photoshoots I have done to date. I chose to have images of her repeating under her as a King as representation of fighting your own demons and facing the tough road of finding inner peace and learning to cope with pain and trauma. Being that the series as a whole has been a part of my process of dealing with my childhood trauma, this piece fit so beautifully into my overall message.

I am sure if I could share this story with J. Cole that he would be proud. I want to thank him and I want him to know how much of an impact his music is making on people like me. That song helped me find strength, push past this specific obstacle and grow. I was able to take the inspiration he gave me and send it back out into the world in a new form. I conquered a demon that day that had been haunting me for years and I am not sure that I would have found that strength had it not been for that one song made by one man who just wanted to help people see that there is another way to deal with your pain.

I am eternally grateful to J. Cole for the lesson he taught me about coping with my own hurt. Although these moments are so painful, they continue to shape me into the woman that I am and she is someone who is changing lives one brushstroke at a time. So even though it has been a hard road, my pain has slowly transformed into a crown that I now wear with pride.

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!

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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.