I am a Mexican-American artist with an art studio located at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. By now, I have spent over half of my life on the US side of the border. Although I grew up in one of the most populated cities in the world, Mexico City, It was until I was a freshman in college that I met a living practicing artist for the first time. His name was Mario Castillo, a Chicago artist who came to speak to a small group of Latino artists about his life and work. For the first time, I realized that an art career was actually a possible option.
For the next ten years or so, I studied at Joliet Junior College, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Governors State University and Northern Illinois University. I concentrated on painting and drawing. I found school to be an amazing community of people. I had the opportunity to be guided by amazing professors who motivated me along the way. In 1995, I received the Lincoln Laurette Medallion Award by Illinois Governor Jim Edgar for my achievements as a student at Governors University. In 1999, I had the opportunity to deliver the commencement speech during my Masters of Arts degree graduation.
I remember clearly finishing up my MA degree in art and asking myself, what am I going to do with this degree now? At that time, my wife and I had just gotten married and were planning to eventually have a family. I knew I wanted to make art but we needed the money to make ends meet. So, I started working a 9 to 5 job in the advertising world. Although, I learned a lot about advertising, marketing and quickly polished my Photoshop skills, I ended up just living to maintain my 9 to 5 job and looking forward to the weekends.
My art? What art? The little I made in my garage, I hated it. However, I continued to make it because, in the back of my head, I knew making art was my primary passion. After a few years living like this (which really sucked!), I talked to my wife about it. We decided it was time for a change… time to move forward. There it was, my aha moment! I needed to take control of my career and take action by making the necessary changes to move it forward. I realized that I could not expect different results if I kept on doing the same thing over and over again. Something had to change. Frankly, many things needed to change.
To make a long story short, I enrolled in an MFA program in hopes to change my mindset. I worked full time in Indiana while commuting 80 miles to Illinois three times a week for 2.5 years to finish my degree. No weekends, family vacations, family activities or social life. I was determined and totally focused on this. I looked for mentors and joined others who like me were trying to advance in the art world. Eventually, I finished my MFA, opened my own gallery, got a great curatorial opportunity at the Zhou B Art Center, opened my Chicago studio and ended up working with two of the most accomplished artists in the world today.
Over the years, I have learned this big truth, don’t wait for an opportunity to change your current situation. Instead, convert each situation into an opportunity to move forward. Yes, it’s a matter of perspective or, as my wife would say, it’s a mindset. The most successful artists are those who capitalize opportunities that did not exist before. They’re not waiting for money or opportunities to fall from the sky. They look for opportunities to grow and act on them!
Looking back, it was the best thing I could’ve ever done. Frankly, organizing my life, focusing on my art practice and becoming smarter about how to run my art career have been a trial and error process. With the help of valuable mentors along the way, I have learned how to effectively strategize, plan and set realistic expectations while dreaming big for the future.
I now believe that a successful life in art begins with a clear perspective on what really matters to us individually. It is not about the expectations of others but our own. I no longer see my studio practice, curatorial, gallery, teaching and coaching as different things. They are all one thing, a life in art. There is a season to receive, to build, and to give back to the world. The latter is where I am right now through my coaching program The Artist NXT Level where we help working artists succeed in the difficult art journey.
When it comes to my studio work, my artwork is a personal investigation to understanding the cycles of life and our spiritual awareness throughout that journey. This has been my lifelong pursuit, to understand life’s intricate relationships with this world and the one above and after. If these ideas resonate with your own life pursuit, I believe you will connect with my work.
I invite you to visit the links on my website and discover my life in art. Would you like to be part of my journey by becoming one of my art collectors? Do not believe the myth that art is exclusively available for wealthy individuals. If you would like to learn more about my art and how you can become my collector, please CLICK HERE to receive information. Living with art is one of the most insightful and culturally enriching gifts to humanity.