01. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Oh boy, this is a list:
The 305 original paintings shown above, plus a few others I can’t share yet.
Exhibited and painted live at WrestleMania Axxess in New Orleans, SummerSlam in Los Angeles and Monday Night Raw right here in Kansas City.
Painted two jackets for The Ultimate Warrior.
Worked backstage at several WWE events.
Got my own branded page on WWE Shop.
Provided art and interviewed for a WWE DVD.
Had my work displayed in WWE’s headquarters.
Had WWE film a segment at my studio.
Visited New Orleans, San Francisco, and many other cities that I stopped in for a break from the road that I’m sure were very nice.
Painted a 7′ x 5′ mural.
Met Triple H, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Sting, Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin, along with the entire active WWE roster.
Watched Hulk Hogan deliver a promo while standing to the side of the camera backstage.
Watched WrestleMania from Warrior’s private box.
Presented with the Order of Merit by Jerry Brisco on behalf of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum.
Had my work appear on WWE programming like Raw and Total Divas.
Produced a weekly show for WWE’s YouTube channel.
Painted the image that is used for the Mother Teresa Global Peace and Leadership Prize.
Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels performed a couple Run DMC classics on stage immediately before I came on to do some live art at Planet Comicon (coincidence, not planned, but STILL).
02. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more?
Yup and yup!
03. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friends Tricia and Tony welcomed Elin into their family this year.
04. Did anyone close to you die?
We had only just become acquainted, but I was hurt deeply by the loss of The Ultimate Warrior and his friends and family remain in my thoughts.
My friend Bob Geigel passed on to the next world this year. A collegiate sports star, a soldier, a wrestler, a wrestling promoter, the president of the National Wrestling Alliance, a bar owner, a son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. We were better for having known you, Bob.
05. What countries did you visit?
The US of A. Besides my native Missouri and Kansas, I made it to Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Arizona, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida! I traveled as much this year as the rest of my life combined, pretty much.
06. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
The ability to do even more for those less fortunate than myself.
07. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
April 6, 2014, WrestleMania 30. After a grueling four days of very hard work and long days, getting to WWE’s hotel to then get on a bus to enjoy the show. We had a police escort to the SuperDome(!), ushered in through our own entrance, and then treated to a private club in the venue to watch the show. Had some drinks and food with Hornswoggle and his parents. Sitting there, my wife and I could see so many legendary performers sharing the room, from Bruno Sammartino to Ric Flair to my friend Jerry Brisco. Then we headed up to Warrior’s box to watch the show, and it was when Triple H entered for his match that it all finally sunk in: I was a part of this. I had reached this point through sheer hard work coupled with doing my best to treat others well. A memory I’ll treasure forever, reinforced by the need to not take anything for granted, as Warrior was gone just two days later.
08. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
At first I wanted to say WrestleMania 30 week, then having my work used for the Mother Teresa Global Peace Prize, but then I thought on it a bit more and it would be the painting I did of Connor ‘The Crusher’ Michalek for his father. The young man had passed away a few months earlier after battling cancer, and I did this to celebrate his life. His dad called me after receiving the painting to thank me, and to tell me that it was the first time he was able to look at a picture of his son from that time without being reminded of how sick he was. That really put into focus what I do and why it’s important.
09. What was your biggest failure?
A couple opportunities were missed, but that’s just part of life. I grew distant from people I was close to, but that’s part of life, too. I don’t know, I can’t think of anything, but that has more to do with focusing on positives, I feel.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Luckily no! I had a sinus infection that stuck around for a couple weeks, but that was it. Not bad!
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Paint. Second best was DDP Yoga.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My cats Monkey and Korma. They amaze every day.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Anyone who willingly hurts others. Too often we’re reminded that we only have a finite time together, and all of the petty bullshit just plain doesn’t matter. Love matters. Caring matters. Grudges? Inferred offenses? Jealousy? Greed? Those things don’t matter.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, food, travel, art supplies, books.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Waking up and having another day to conquer.
16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
“Luckenbach, Texas” by Waylon Jennings.
So baby, let’s sell your diamond ring
Buy some boots and faded jeans and go away
This coat and tie is choking me
In your high society you cry all day
We’ve been so busy keepin’ up with the Jones
Four car garage and we’re still building on
Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love
Katy and I worked hard this year. Damn hard. Sometimes we would each get lost in the work, losing sight of why we were working so hard and we would stop, take a breath, and instead get lost in each other’s eyes. This song helps me focus, in a meditative mantra kind of way, on why I’m doing all of this. Plus it’s damned pretty.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter?
A lot thinner.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The right thing.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about things beyond my control, or that haven’t even happened yet.
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
With people I love.
22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
Stayed in love.
23. How many one-night stands?
24. What was your favorite TV program?
Doctor Who. Rewatching Babylon 5. Raw. Parenthood. Newsroom Season 3.
But I think True Detective captivated me the most.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t hate. That’s a sign of weakness.
26. What was the best book you read?
Comic book/graphic novel? I read all of ‘Locke & Key’ this year by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, which was extremely good. G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s ‘Ms. Marvel’ is great, too. I finally read the first volume of Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, totally mind-altering stuff. Also finally read Garth Ennis’ Hellblazer (how great was Vertigo at that time, right? The end of Sandman, Ennis and Dillon on Hellblazer and later Preacher, Jenkins and Phillips on Hellblazer, Morrison’s Invisibles, and Ellis and Robertson’s Transmetropolitan). But I think I have to give it up to Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s ‘Sex Criminals’ for 2014. Unbelievably brilliant book on all levels and reminded me of the pure joy that comes from reading.
Book Book? ‘Bravo’ by Greg Rucka. I’ve been a Rucka fan going back to ‘Keeper’ and he’s never let me down.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
More of a rediscovery of 50’s rock and roll. ‘Runaround Sue’ by Dion and the Belmonts got a lot of play this year.
(That crowd SUCKS.)
28. What did you want and get?
To be in a place that I can make a good living off of doing what I love, and then use both the work and my income to help others.
29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Snowpiercer was good, but a little on the nose. I likely had the most fun watching Guardians of the Galaxy. But I saw ‘The Wolf of Wallstreet’ in 2014 and it’s head and shoulders above anything else.
As a tangent, what kind of fun-hating prudes counted the f-bombs in ‘Wolf’? Hang around me for three hours’ worth of beers and you’ll hear some real cussing, sailor.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Toured Savannah, GA with my lovely wife. Got some beers, some honey, and did a mead tasting. Had a fun home-cooked ‘taco night’ dinner with my in-laws.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I’d be a right asshole if I said anything about success, right? After this year? Doing more for others. I wish I had more time in my days to be able to help others.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Clothes mostly speckled with paint. A little more hip attire when doing appearances. Jackets. I’m a guy that does jackets now.
34. What kept you sane?
Katy and the cats. Painting. Reading comic books.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
That’s a hard one to answer when you get to know the people personally. So I’ll settle with a tie between Grumpy Cat and Lil’ Bub. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Mick Foley is even kinder and cooler in person.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
My dislike of how the general populace votes, and how politicians target that. People don’t typically vote based off of issues, but off of the perception of values. That’s dangerous. I’m still not a fan of political parties, either. As long as things are viewed as Republican versus Democrat, we’ll ‘always be at war with Eastasia’ (Google it, kids) and never be doing the work that needs to be done. Education is the magic bullet and not, you know, bullets.
37. Who did you miss?
You. We should have spent more time together, and made our time together matter more.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
This is the one I’ve been racking my brain on the most. So many people behind the scenes with WWE that I met for the first time like Corporate Kev, Lumpy, Pumpkinhead, Old Nasty, D Bag, Professional Pete and Lambchop were awesome to work with and get to know. Hopefully they can say the same about me! So many fans of my art that I got to meet for the first time, and that made a lasting impression on me. So many of the talented WWE performers that I stay in touch with. So many of my wife’s new coworkers who enrich her days at her job. My PR maestro Marc Kruskol and all of the members of the media he’s put me in touch with.
But at the end of the day? I think it was a gentleman named Hector that came and talked to Katy and I at SummerSlam while I was painting. His son was attending one of the panels and he was waiting outside. Hector enjoyed wrestling, but wasn’t an active fan. The son was about to go off to college, and this trip was a gift to him and they were hanging out and having fun. Hector is a UPS employee, and a very proud one. He was well-versed in the history of the company, growing from two brothers seeing the need for express deliveries to the global juggernaut it is today, and he was so glad to be a part of that legacy. His son is planning to become a chiropractor, and would ideally some day love to be the on-the-road trainer for WWE. We talked for quite a while about this, and he asked me a lot about my journey with WWE and my wife’s own journey from journalism school to the unprecedented success she’s now having. His son came down, we all said hello, and before he left Hector handed me a UPS pen, which I still carry in my pocket. I see it as a reminder that we all have dreams and goals, we see others we want to learn from to attain them, and that while I’ve come very far, I still have so much farther to go.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
No matter how good things are, you need to keep pushing to grow and make things better. But at the same time, occasionally stop to enjoy how much you’ve accomplished. For example, you’re on a path that starts at the edge of a forest and ends at the top of a mountain. At first you’re just walking through the forest and can’t even see your goal, but occasionally you can see the mountain through the dense trees. Then you get through the woods and begin your hike up the mountain. Sometimes it’s easy, other times exceptionally difficult, but you know if you work at it, you’ll get there. But here’s the other thing, when you’re walking through the woods, are you just focused on the path, or are you also enjoying everything around you as you proceed? How many beautiful things do you miss when you’re solely focused on getting to the mountain? And then when you get to the mountain, do you look back? As you climb up the mountain, do you look back to take in the full context of the beautiful woods you came through? If you’re solely goal-oriented, then your journey is only about the destination, and not the journey itself. Take a moment, look around you, take stock of how much you really have accomplished in the quest to attain your goals, and then realize how much richer the quality of your life will be as you continue to go after them. (Yes, I realize this lesson is directly lifted from Robert Pirsig’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, which I read ten years ago, but this year has put it even more in focus.)