Sunday, May 10, 2009

Revisiting Moments of Discovery

Every business is born of a vision. Someone somewhere had an idea that was meant to fill a void. During this global struggle, we have been forced to change the way we do business. We’ve had to shift our focus and “wise up.” Now is the time to create our own opportunities. We need to focus on developing new relationships and nurturing our old ones. Things are in flux, but one thing has not changed: that thing that drove us in the early days.

My parents were very supportive of my artistic abilities in the early days. During the ‘80s, my family lived in Orange County. The city held a “Fish Fry” where, for a fee, people could hawk their wares. My father always ponied up some cash so I could display my paintings. I’d sit there humbly with my artwork displayed for the world to see. People would pass, look at my work, look me over and continue to the next booth.

It was during one of these events that I was visited by a man who had stepped away from his booth to take a look around. He stopped at mine and looked at one of my paintings. I remember being intimidated. He was working at the POW booth and looked like a man who had seen quite a bit in his life. He stared at one of my large format acrylic paintings. The piece had been inspired by a Marlboro ad I had seen. Instead of depicting the cigarette-smoking cowboy, I had replaced him with a nondescript and rough sketch of a Native American riding a horse at full gallop through the desert at sundown.

He stood there just long enough for the moment to feel uncomfortable. Then he turned to me and asked me if I’d painted it. I noticed all his medals. Even at that young age I understood what a man had to go through to earn a purple heart. I said yes. With tears in his eyes he began to tell me about a man he had served with in Vietnam. He told me about their friendship and of the pride his friend felt about being Native American. He said his friend was killed during the war, and he hadn’t allowed himself the thought of him until this moment.

As a 15-year-old, I knew nothing about life – let alone death and war. Yet, a painting I created stirred something powerful in a man who had endured losses I couldn’t imagine. That was the moment I recognized the power of art as a tool to communicate and touch people. That was when I knew I wanted to become an artist. I often think of that when I work. It helps me realize how privileged we are to be contributing.

During these challenging times, it’s important to remember those moments of discovery. That’s where we get the drive to continue and succeed. My journey has brought me here. I’m able to draw from the inspiration of business owners all over our city, and if I’m lucky, remind them why they love what they do. I think that if we all realized the influence we had on the world as individuals, we would be ready to meet any challenge that comes before us.