Your Mistakes Are Your Signature

The first time I picked up a paintbrush was in a basement in Queens, NY. The class focused on copying master paintings fueled by pretzels and apple juice. At eight years old, it was easy to make a mess with paint that got everywhere. In high school I’d recruit my friends as models, dressing them up and photographing them in unique settings. I enjoyed the process of shoots, the way I could bring an idea to life. But for me, this medium had its limits. I wanted to abstract further.

I didn’t fully enjoy painting and drawing until well into college. It was painful for me due to a lack of understanding and technical skill. My hand felt felt clumsy, incapacitated. Friends would have to grab my sketchbook away from me to see the drawings. After graduating at Fashion Institute of Technology, I was invited to study at a studio under a master draftsman. This school of thought employed strategies to shed conditioning and preconceptions. Urging us to embrace imperfection, our mentor said "Your mistakes are your signature." I continued to return to the studio drawing alongside a community of peers. This had a profound effect on my technical ability and I started to develop my strengths.

Deepening my abilities was an accomplishment, but I didn’t have access to earning a living in my field of study. I went to LA, questioning my place in society. There I encountered love, poverty, heartbreak, upheaval. I had trouble finding work and resided in a group home with several friends. I payed for my groceries with ebt, making small paintings from pictures I’d take on my cell phone. One day in a fit of rage, my partner stuffed my paintings in a garbage bag and threw it out the window. I started using art as a coping mechanism to handle the environment of drugs and violence around me. I came back to New York on my last leg. Without distractions, I began working at some of the most famous clubs in New York City. Whenever I had time I was painting. I reflected on my life and tried to capture the beauty I’d seen, even as it was surrounded in pain. I painted everything from the woman on skid row with the flower in her hair to the mariachi bands and the kids in the laundromat. I wanted to call attention to people.

When covid hit I was quarantined in Manhattan. There was no work. Like a lot of people, I was forced to adjust my lifestyle. I had the chance to zero in on my craft in a way I hadn’t been able to most of my life. I decided to commit fully to being an artist and started my own business selling prints of my paintings. I painted murals, took commissions, and worked in sculpture restoration. I started to experiment with new techniques such as combining images in my work. In such an escalated political and social climate, my paintings seemed to inevitably reflect the times. I embraced the way I could comment on events and issues through my visual language. My art is a self exploration but I can’t separate the world from myself. At this point I feel like I’m dancing between the things that are mine and the things I observe. There is so much to speak about it’s hard to choose the topic. And sometimes I still struggle to articulate what a painting means. I would say a lot of my work deals with identity, perception, intimacy, emotion. But I also want to use my voice to advocate for people. Representation continues to be very important. I’m still figuring out how to tie all that together. After years of perseverance, I’m still learning. But I’m happy for what it's brought out of me. I have been able to give myself tools to communicate in infinite ways and to know myself. Being told that people’s lives are enriched by my work is so validating and better than any credential. I want people to be encouraged if they don’t feel good enough at something to follow their interest and be patient with themselves.

instagram: @storm_chaser

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