Nathaniel Russell

Recently I had the opportunity to photograph artist Nathaniel Russell in his home studio. His work is often humorous, sometimes political and always thoughtful. Nature and animals are frequent themes, along with humans in their odd beauty and beautiful oddness.

nathaniel-russell-artist-indiana
nathaniel-russell-artist-indiana

It’s great to see a native Hoosier making cool art around the world and still calling Indiana home. Give him a follow on Instagram to see all the rad murals, posters, woodcuts, skateboards, fake fliers, album covers, illustrations and more that he comes up with. You can also purchase editions of his work in his online shop.

The day of my visit, Nat made some prints from a woodcut and numbered some limited edition silk screens of a big blue bird (sorry folks, sold out).

nathaniel-russell-artist-indiana
nathaniel-russell-artist-indiana
nathaniel-russell-artist-indiana

The music is on constant and literal rotation and this day’s selections included indie band Little Wings and country & gospel music artists The Louvin Brothers. In addition to his visual pieces, Nat plays and records his own music.

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This last image is of cleanup, but I enjoyed the visual nature of it nonetheless. I didn’t notice until later that the splotches of black ink were covering the government pages in the phone book. I don’t know if this was coincidence, but I don’t care to ask.

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Related Posts

If you’re into art and artists, check out these other posts on the topic.

chocolate syrum art

A Delicious Medium

Today we present a photo story of a young artist discovering a delicious medium. One of the many benefits of working from home when you have four (and soon five) kids who homeschool is witnessing, and subsequently documenting, their shenanigans.

This is what happens when you leave a tempting item on the kitchen counter within reach of a toddler. A new photo story!

chocolate syrup art toddler carmel indiana
chocolate syrup art toddler carmel indiana
chocolate syrup art toddler carmel indiana

It’s All Good

Photo by Courtney McCracken

We believe that children are inherently good. They’re curious about the world around them and are naturally inclined to explore and experiment. When messes happen, we laugh, take some photos and then clean up together.

Related Content

If you like these slice-of-life photo stories, be sure to check us out on Instagram. We also have a new Facebook page.

Also, here are some more stories on family exploration.

Personal Legend Project: Lobyn Hamilton

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Lobyn Hamilton, Vinyl Artist

Lobyn is a local artist whose primary medium at the moment is vinyl.  He smashes and cuts vinyl albums and their sleeves into music-inspired art.  A couple of his pieces were recently featured on the set of the hit Fox drama Empire.

It turns out that Lobyn was already very familiar with The Alchemist. He showed me a tattered copy of the book upon my arrival.  Interestingly, Lobyn and I share a birthday (April 23rd). Perhaps because of that, if you believe in that sort of thing, we share some commonalities; particularly a love of music (with similar tastes) and an interest in finding something deeper in life.

Be sure to check out his site:  http://www.vinylrecordartist.com

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The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

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For me at times it changes so often.  From one day to the next.  As you go and get these new goals and perspectives, you need to reassess what you’re doing.

2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

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When I went full-time as an artist.  I never thought it was possible to be a full-time artist.  What I used to do as an escape, was now how I made a living, so I needed to find a new escape.  Getting what you want changes everything.

3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

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Now that this is my job, I’m not “milking the clock” anymore; looking to see when lunch is coming up so I can get away.  To me, “the zone” just happens.  Being in the moment.  I don’t hear anything.  I don’t have negative self-talk.  I don’t have anything but a forward motion of silence.  It’s not positivity or negativity, just “sublime emptiness”.

4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

It’s all on me.  There’s no one here for me to defer to.  I can’t cop out.  I can’t say, “Go see my manager.”  Every impediment you have now, you’re just slapping yourself in the face.  

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You’re always Michael Jordan at the end of the night…  You always have the ball.  You’re not Steve Kerr passing the ball and setting up the pick.  You have to make the bucket.  You’re the star player.  That’s the hardest part.

5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

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I don’t panic as much as I used to.  I still have my down days, but I think I have the confidence in myself to say, “I’m going to get this done.”

6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

It’s always there…  So, I love scissors.  Ever since I was little.  My mom says I made the first cordless phone.  I don’t use a knife.  I cut my steak yesterday with scissors.  I’ve been drawing since I can remember.  I have a love for music from my father.  It’s already there.  

It’s up to you to build this composition of what you already know that comes extremely naturally to you.   All I did was sling together the dopest shit that I like doing in life that was really basic.  I love scissors.  That’s really basic.  I love fucking up shit, so I was like, “Let’s smash some records up.”  I like breaking sacred rules.  I mean, you’re not supposed to scratch a record let alone beat it to shit.  It’s already there.  I think it’s so simple you almost overlook it.  

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You’re always looking for the billion-dollar idea, but the billionaire wasn’t looking for the billion dollar idea. It was based off a really simple idea.


Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.

 

Personal Legend Project: Chris Elam

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Chris Elam, Mosaic Artist

Chris Elam, a Bloomington artist, was introduced to me by Kirby Melick when I was in town photographing on Tuesday.  Watching Chris at work, and seeing the nature of his chosen medium, I was not surprised to learn that he had attended Seminary.  There’s something meditative and spiritual about the process of mosaic.

It was also interesting to me how he spoke reverently of the ancient practice of “classical mosaic”, using tools largely unchanged in thousands of years.  I enjoyed his great appreciation for the history of it.  The photos below depict a classical mosaic and tools, as opposed to “tile mosaic” for which he uses modern tools.

You can see more of Chris’s work online on the Sycamore Tile Works website.

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The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

I personally think we have lots of “callings” in life and are likely always being “called” to something if we are in tune with ourselves and the present moment. These “callings” are things that have drawn us into their orbit and things for which we’ve had the courage to enter, things that have gravity and significance for us personally. For me, doing mosaic work has become one of those “callings.” It’s something I used to call my ghost, that thing that just kept on haunting me, until I gave it notice.

After having given myself to it, now it’s something that I do that gives me challenge while allowing me enough freedom to play and perhaps allows me to fulfill some inner need or impulse that I may not fully understand. Mosaics are not my “True Calling”, though. I could have been just as likely to have been called to carpentry or painting or writing. It just so happened that my path brought me to mosaics and it stuck. 

There is another sense in which we have to recognize that however wonderful our calling is, it cannot be everything. If a “calling” becomes everything, then we risk our fire burning out or our work becoming mechanical or insincere. Our “True Calling” is important because it informs these smaller “callings.” It gives them a foundation and will help sustain us when the fire does go out, which it inevitably will. My “True Calling” is to become my “truest self,” or in other words, to become the best version of myself that I can realize in this lifetime. To do that requires cultivating mindfulness and practicing being present to yourself, so that you can be present to others. I have always found that the hardest work of an artist is not the techniques of production or creating beautiful pictures but the work inside myself.

2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

After graduating from Seminary back in Illinois and burning out on thinking too much, something within me was crying out to work with my hands. I managed to find a local carpenter whose work I admired and he took me on as an apprentice with really no experience at all.  It turned out that he also installed tile and I slowly became his head tile installer. During two challenging tile installations working with him, I realized that I could do this work full-time and be quite happy.

Not long after that, I attended a “Green Building” conference in Chicago and met a woman by the name of Francine Gourguechon who was doing mosaic installations in architectural settings and I was blown away by her portfolio. It really opened my mind to what possibilities there were in tile. I began looking a little deeper and discovered the Chicago Mosaic School, the only school of its kind in the States dedicated to the origins of the medium. After my first workshop there, I realized I had found my people and my life began taking a new course.

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3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

I am often quite engrossed in whatever project I am working on, although I think it was worse when I was purely a tile installer.  There were far more details to manage in doing a bathroom or kitchen, keeping the subs on track, making sure the materials were there on time, communicating well with the client, managing the money, and doing the work day-to-day.  It became hard for me be present to myself and my family at home and in our community. 

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Now that I’m working in the studio, I am still engrossed in what I do, but I feel like I can leave it there and return to it more seamlessly. Creating mosaics is very slow. One of my teachers would say that “mosaic pays homage to slowness!” I am naturally a contemplative type and I think mosaics have given me a tangible way to discern and express the thoughts and feelings and emotions that come when you are trying to be present to this life.  It’s a kind of working meditation.

4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

There are a number of challenges that come with trying to live as an artist.  I spend four days a week by myself working in my studio, so it can get lonesome sometimes. There is the challenge and stress of trying to make sure you will be able to pay the bills and sustain this thing you feel called to.

It can seem like nobody is really watching. I know a lot of artists say that you just have to do it for you and nobody else, and I think ultimately that is true or you won’t keep going. But for an artist, having an audience completes the act of making art. It doesn’t have to mean that I’m having ground breaking discussions about my work, but the occasional shout out from others helps me to know someone out there is getting what I’m doing.

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As I alluded to before, the greatest challenge of being an artist is cultivating an interior life that gives you something to say. The thin divide between art and craft is in what is being communicated.  Art usually is trying to say something while craft is trying to be something.

5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

I have learned that art is sacramental much in the same way that churches teach – “a visible sign of an inward grace.” In the case of art, Beauty arrives as a grace. I’ve discovered that my hands, at times, may create a physical something that when encountered impresses on the viewer some grace or some presence, some beauty.  For me, there is nothing greater than being able to participate in such an event.  But I am also aware that, as an artist, I do not have the power within me to make Beauty arrive whenever I want.  Sometimes it comes, sometimes it simply doesn’t. It is a mystery how all this works, but I think it is important to not think too highly of yourself and just keep giving yourself to each act of creation and see what may come.   

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6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

My best friend, who happens to be a therapist, recently shared a piece of wisdom that he had heard from one of his teachers in graduate school and I have been thinking recently how often it applies to “calling.” He said, “There are two kinds of people, fools and cowards.” It would be too simple to say that we are just one of these. At times we are fools and sometimes we are cowards. In my life, I have certainly been both, but I do think I’ve often lived the life of a fool, going for something when there wasn’t a clear path ahead or no guarantee that it would work. Following after a calling, in my experience, requires a leap. It may be a calculated leap, but it is a leap nonetheless.

For me, I spent a lot of time in my 20’s figuring out my identity. I think having a clear sense of self – who you are and where you came from – gives you the courage to leap when you need to leap and keeps you on course.  Mindfulness, introspection, practicing the present moment, whatever you want to call this awareness is invaluable in finding your identity, but ancestry, genetics, and a sense of place is important too.  Too many people are lost because they are distracted by all the bullshit around them – the demands of society, technology, the pace that we live life. That coupled with no sense of heritage or family origins is a medicine for disaster.  I really liked reading Parker Palmer’s book “Let Your Life Speak.” He makes the case that if we are present to ourselves our lives will speak back to us the thing we should do. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, has also been influential in my life making me aware of how interconnected we are with each other’s plight and how our ancestry affects what we have to work with in our own journey toward calling.

My advice is to get to know yourself and allow yourself to be the fool you were called to be. In doing so, you will inspire countless of other fools to do the same.

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Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.

 

Personal Legend Project: Kirby Melick

Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana

Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom, Inc.

Kirby Melick makes furniture and cabinetry on his 13-acre property in Bloomington, Indiana.  His business Kirby Custom, Inc features custom fine cabinetry and furniture including kitchens, vanities, bars, doors and more.

He begins his workday at 4 a.m.  I sauntered in at the leisurely time of 6:30 to start shooting before sunrise. As someone who occasionally buys pine and plywood to construct half-conceived, utilitarian pieces; I found it inspiring to watch a master craftsman work with large slabs of high-grade hardwoods.

Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana
Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana

The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.


1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

I believe my true calling is to use the Lord’s gift of life to create objects from the forest woods in order enhance daily living and contribute to the success and quality-of-life of others.


Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana
Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana

2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

Not until I was willing and able to accept that what I originally imagined my true calling to be, was in fact not.  I took many wrong turns before I realized I was heading in the wrong direction.  The hardest part in life can be accepting who you are.

Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana
Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana

4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

I have often found that I am my own worst enemy.  Living up to one’s expectations of themselves is challenging.  Confidence and courage to overcome is the focus of daily meditation.
 

Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana
Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana

5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

Life is beautiful, if you allow it to be.  My path was ahead of me all along, but only clear in hind-sight.  Faith is the key.

Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana

6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

Listen to the world around you, the strengths and values you have that ‘lift up’ those that surround you, and find a compromise between your ‘dreams’ and your calling.  Often times our ‘dreams’ vary greatly from our strengths. True happiness, for me, is not in fulfilling a dream, but in helping others to accomplish their greatest purpose, or their true calling.
 

Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana
Kirby Melick, Kirby Custom Woodwork, Bloomington, Indiana

Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.

 

Personal Legend Project: GK Rowe

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GK Rowe, Business Design Principal, Q7 Associates

GK has a uniquely creative mind, and I’ve regularly called him up over the years to discuss ideas over drinks or lunch.  It’s nice to talk with someone who gets it.  He’s also one of the best connectors I know, hosting regular gatherings for creatives of all types.  Logically, once I came up with the idea of this project, he was my first call.  In addition to being a great fit for this project himself, he referred me to at least three other subjects in this series.

I caught up with GK at one of his weekly creative meetings at Palomino, where as you’ll see, he’s earned himself a permanent spot at the bar.  Next I followed him over to Spoke & Steele, a sleek new spot in Le Meridien hotel for another meeting of minds.

Check out Q7 Associates online to learn about the awesomeness that is experienced-based design.

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The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

I always wanted to be an educator and initially went to school to be a teacher.  I was one of those kids who would put together a classroom in my bedroom.  I eventually changed my mind after getting my bachelors in art education and found a career in business that helped me to better refine other talents.  I really enjoyed the business culture when I first started and quickly moved up to various positions where I supervised several people, districts and had a company car most of my business life and a well paid salary position.  

Time went on and the business world left my soul feeling very dark. There was lots of travel and I practically lived out of a suitcase and on airlines for some time, the business world became cutthroat and manipulating.  What started out as being an ideal career turned sour.  I watched my coworkers get divorce, become alcoholics, and cheat on their spouses.  It became a manipulation game with our clients and I was wearing thin – physically and emotionally.  One day I quit my job.  I’d had enough and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do; however, I knew clearly what I was no longer going to do.  

I went to work as a security guard at an art museum making minimum wage and had time to write a business plan.  I wanted to do something creative and back to filling my soul.  While I very much enjoy painting and being an artist, the struggles seemed high and the pay seemed dim so I worked to combine my creative talents with my business background and education/teaching knowledge.  This helped me form Q7 Assocaiates.  

Today, I work with clients to provide them with honest services that I can proudly put my name on, I work with people and clients who I enjoy and challenge me so my work never gets stale.  I am in a position to help people and businesses grow and that is what excites me about my work.  I have helped start-ups move to large companies and I have had the opportunity to work with some very well named brands providing a wide variety of services.  I’ve done everything from picking out salt and pepper shakers for clients to naming their business to designing their corporate offices.

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2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

Once I left corporate culture I was sitting in my home office plugging away at whatever I could do to get work.  I received an email from the Arts Council of Indianapolis that was a call for artist.  The call was for the Conrad, a new hotel going in downtown Indianapolis.  I thought, dreamed, fantasized about what it would be like to have my artwork in a place as prestigious as the Conrad.  I submitted my portfolio .  

Three years passed and I didn’t hear any more about the call – no response to yes or no and I became so occupied on other projects that I simply forgot about the submission.  One of those distractions was putting together a magazine.  I had just launched the first issue of a magazine that highlighted creative projects, people in business in the Indiana area.  About a month after the magazine was out I got a call from one of the ladies that was interviewed that worked for Kite Reality.  She said that the VP for Marketing of the Conrad had picked up our magazine at a wine bar, contacted her to put him in touch with me.  

The next week I was in a board room with three Conrad executives.  I was eventually hired to do marketing and various design initiatives.  One day they called me and said the interior designer did not spec artwork for the space and they needed my help placing work.  I added that to my service list and found three original Picasso works to put behind the front desk.  The day they were being installed with security arriving to unload them I realized how whole I felt and that I had once dreamed of having my artwork in that hotel; however, ended up being the person that placed the artwork.  I love seeing projects that are “raw” come to a “polished” finish – it’s a lot like painting to me.

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3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

I typically reserve my home office space for creative thinking and my work office space for production and task oriented projects.  This sounds odd, but most of my creative thinking comes while driving and in the shower.  Some of the best problem solvers know how to get in to this zone – some do things like take a walk, do cross-stitch or a remedial task that has rhythm.   I sometimes will go to a symphony or rehearsal and simply meditate or think through a project.  I find that most of the time I come out of that space racing to find a bar napkin to capture ideas.  These normally become developed concepts.  At Q7, we now have creative meetings at Palomino so we can get out of our office space, relax with a glass of wine and casually discuss ideas.

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4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

My biggest challenge is staying relevant. I sell creative ideas and style and these two items are something everyone has to offer.  Even my clients come up with their own ideas.  I practice being a responsible creative where the ideas and concepts have to some way benefit the client’s organizational needs or their client’s needs so it isn’t always just about a creative idea, but it’s practical application and benefit.  

The other challenge is time.  Creativity takes time and the world we live in is very demanding and we sometimes have very limited time to create and this limits the production of what can be accomplished.  We also have to work within budgets so not every idea is affordable.

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5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

Perseverance, courage and strength.  For me, practicing my true calling did not come easy and required lots of emotional and physical strength.  I had to push myself when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, I had to focus on me and not allow people to pull me down.  It’s surprising the number of people that won’t mind watching you fail.  It also taught me to listen to my inner whisper, my inner voice.  I find that my intuition is very strong when I’m working and going that path seems to always be the right one.  

6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

Learn to listen with a critical ear.  I looked for a received lots of advice; however, at the end of the day, I was the one that had to do something about it and it is easy to get caught up in other peoples ideas when you are desperately looking for something to work.  Staying true to my own self was the strength that got me into my true calling.  And, I always embrace new challenges and look for the opportunity to learn from others and continue to grow in my work.  Make friends with fear.  It will be the fuel to motivation and growth.  If I was paralyzed by the fears I have encountered, I’m almost certain I would not have experienced my true calling.

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Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.

Personal Legend Project: Penelope Dullaghan

Penelope Dullaghan, Illustrator & Designer

Penelope’s work is primarily influenced by nature, and she takes daily walks along the river behind her home.  Frequently she paints or sketches what she finds.  Her work is used both commercially and editorially and credits include Crate & Barrel, The New York Times, Starbucks, O Magazine and Target.  Be sure to check out her work on her website: penelopeillustration.com or follow her on Instagram.

The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

Making art is my true calling. It’s been the thing that’s kept my attention since I was little. And it helps me look at the world more closely and possibly make some sort of sense of it. Several times I’ve tried to leave it to do something else (temporary insanity), but I always come back. It’s just part of me.

2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

I’ve been making art since I could hold a crayon, but I think I realized it was my calling when I was working as an art director in advertising. I was always drawn to the more creative aspects of that job and eventually left to make it my focus. I’ve been freelancing as an illustrator since then and feel like I’m in the right place.

3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

When I’m in my studio working on a new piece, I often lose track of time… forget to eat… realize hours later that I’ve been sitting in silence working for hours without looking up.

4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

My greatest challenge has been being ok with the natural, slow evolution of my work. I tend to be competitive and gung ho, and my work in tandem with my life circumstance has taught me to slow down and accept a more meditative pace.

5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

To be here and now.

6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

Find some way to pursue it. Whether that means just in your free time as a hobby, or something more dedicated. What matters is to listen to it and take a step.


Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.

Indy First Friday

Thought I’d get out and do some shooting yesterday evening.  I went to the Cole Noble Gallery at Artistry Apartments during First Friday festivities in downtown Indianapolis.  Well, apparently First Friday an extremely large event every month (48 galleries/venues), which I’m sure everyone already knows. Unfortunately, I only had time for one stop.  Honestly, I feel like an idiot for not setting aside enough time to shoot all evening!  Beautiful weather and great light!  I suppose sometimes you have to make a mistake to learn the right thing to do next time.  It was definitely interesting, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to head to another one this fall.

The artist here is Chad Hankins.  He’s the gentleman in the second photo.

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