Back at the end of my undergrad experience at Tulane University, the prospect of entering “The Real World” was rather jarring. I had been living in a veritable collegiate wonderland and had an open schedule to a degree I would never again experience. But even then I had the wherewithal to know that life on the other side would not be quite the same… And I was both right and wrong about that. Things went on in a familiar pattern: there was time for getting shit done, time for leisure, and situations to adapt to. That’s why when I recently finished Miami Ad School, transitioning back into a more “real” version of life was much less daunting. I knew this time that “The real world” was just a construct that people build for themselves. It can be boiled down to a schedule, to habits and patterns that form over time and begin to define us. Once we understand its true nature, “The real world” can feel however we want it to.
I shot out of Miami Ad School and San Francisco like a cannon. Just like that, it was all over, and I was driving back east across the United States. I was feeling motivated, excited and had my gaze fixed firmly on the next step. My optimistic determination was entwined with feelings of premature nostalgia; I knew I would soon miss what I was leaving in the rear-view mirror… The travel, the long days of executing creative work cooked down from coffee-fueled brainstorms, the constant company of like-minded people and the ever-lingering feeling of not being able to remember the last time I was in my comfort zone. But I had come to terms with the ending of one chapter and the flurried start of another. I felt like I had been on a long adventure, and that partial normalcy would now feel like an aberrant treat. Besides, what is adventure without some kind of constant, a standard to compare to, depart from and eventually re-embrace… Only to immediately begin scheming the next big break.
My return to reality began with a visit home to Chicago, which at the time was enjoying the sweet embrace of its early summer months. I had two weddings to attend in the area, and had to stage my eventual departure back down to New Orleans to look for work. I was more than happy to partake in these welcomed necessities, as visits to Chicago always end up being very memorable and have genuinely become some of my favorite times in adult life. Every time I return to the place I was raised I am again confronted with one of my deepest wishes: The desire to know what it would have been like to base my life in this place; or any other for that matter. To understand the day-to-day sights, smells and circumstances – and to know the feeling of these special things as they change form and become assimilated into normal-ness. The inclination of wanting to be in more than one place is nothing new and far from uncommon… But I always have to remind myself that it’s the choosing of a place that makes it remarkable. If I could live everywhere, the result is that I wouldn’t actually live anywhere. All I can do is enjoy these fleeting moments in a city that has left my possession, and know that the future holds limitless possibilities.
During the month or so I spent in Chicago, I jumped to the adjacent states to pass time on the shores of Lake Michigan no less than 3 times. I’m glad I was able to make it out there so frequently, as summers on the lake are nothing short of divine. During these lakeside jaunts I was able to celebrate the termination of one of my oldest friend Ben’s bachelorhood, as well as the beginning of my other good friend Sean’s married life. I suppose the incidence of attending these kinds of celebrations will increase even more in the coming years, as my friends and I find ourselves on the wrong side of 25. Weird… But in the end these are joyous occasions. They’re the ending of certain chapters and the beginning of others (Begendings perhaps?). It is always a great pleasure to see a confirmation of love exploding in color and light against the backdrop of this big, dark universe.
During my stay-over I made sure to match these leisurely and celebratory times with a cold slice of productivity. Still concerned with the potency of my advertising portfolio, and still used to the grind I had subjected myself to in San Francisco, I began a personal project that became rather meaningful to me. I wanted to have some work in my book that communicated something about me personally to anyone that might see it, so I began illustrating short phrases I tell myself every day to try to keep things in perspective. This project became TITMED – Things I Tell Myself Everyday. It was met with favorable response, and I truly enjoyed the process of crafting each piece by hand. I’ve included the collection below.
Apart from work and play, a significant aspect of my personal life was returned to me in Chicago… My girlfriend Addie. She came up to meet me so we could attend Ben and Nicole’s wedding and then roadtrip back to New Orleans together when the time came. I cannot communicate with any earthen language how much it meant to me to have this person back in my life on a day to day basis. As cliche as it may sound, I felt restored to a completeness that had been missing for the better part of two years, when we would only see each other on hurried visits between travel and work. The better part of me was given back, and my attitude and mindset benefited greatly from that. I was ready to drive that familiar 1,000 mile stretch due south, and see what my old home, the sunken city, had to offer me.
When I got back to New Orleans, I put myself to work reestablishing myself in this place every way I could. I began the job search with a grave determination; bent on putting my shiny new eduction to use in a real life setting. I made spreadsheets (as if they would somehow help magically materialize my professional desires), sent emails, made calls and even hand-lettered notes to creative directors all around the city. Things began rolling slowly, which I have found is usually the case, so I had some interim free time that needed to be put to some kind of quasi-productive use. I continued working on handlettering projects like TITMED and an All Dogs Go To Heaven screen-print print for a gallery show that happened in August. I had the kind help of my friend Travis at Knowlaco for use of his shop and expertise to complete this project. This piece ended up requiring a good deal of time and effort, but the result was certainly satisfying.
In this in-between period I also went about scratching the more disobedient part of my insatiable creative itch. I started some experiments with new styles of wall art, inspired partly by the truly rare talents of my friend and fellow graffiti-enthusiast Uter. He and his crew, the Charles, have been taking New Orleans by storm in the past year, introducing new possibilities and truly pushing the boundaries of what graffiti can and should look like. I enjoyed my own personal explorations, and was very much happy with some of the resulting pieces.
In a similar thread, I began working on other methods of delivering messages in the public realm. As of late, I have become incredibly interested in the practice of ad-replacement, or ad-busting as it has been endearingly dubbed. This kind of street art involves liberating things like bus-stop ads, and replacing them with art. I immediately felt an affinity for this kind of activity due to my chosen profession and especially after meeting artists such as Ankles, who is well-known for his adbusts in his hometown in Australia. As someone in the advertising industry, I have become very sensitive to the kind of messages advertisements emit to the general public, as I know their influence can be subliminal and far-reaching. Although usually always commercial in nature, I applaud campaigns and brands that make a point to deliver positive messages to their audiences. What I would really love to see is more non-commercial, positive messaging in the public sphere, as I am confident that such pieces have the power to make the world a better place, even if no one consciously realizes they’re being affected by it. I believe supplementing traditional advertising with this kind of communication could enrich the urban environment, so I’ve taken it upon myself to make that happen, even just to a small degree.
All in all, my New Orleans homecoming has been better than I could have asked for. I feel I have met the slipstream back into a routine lifestyle head-on, and at this time in my life have the knowledge to successfully traverse its swift current. At the time of writing this post, I have secured meaningful work and still have some left-over drive to keep myself busy with any extracurriculars I can manage. It feels like most aspects of my life are aligned at the moment, which I know is blessing that only comes around a handful of times. For this I am endlessly grateful, and hope my readers are enjoying a similar vein of positive vibrations. As always, here is a gallery of some of my most recent sights, though it is indeed sparser than normal as I have been sleeping on taking the DSLR out. More to come I guess!