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.
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!