01. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Oh boy, this is a list:
Appeared on Monday Night Raw
Involved in a backstage segment which saw Kevin Owens destroy a painting
Hand-delivered a painting to the Michaelek family of Connor the Crusher and The Ultimate Warrior backstage at the WWE Hall of Fame
Did an official movie poster for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which Pam Grier personally adored
Talked with Pam Grier about Andy Warhol
Hand-delivered a portrait of Curt Hennig to his parents Larry and Irene on stage at the 50th Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion
Painted a 12′ x 8′ mural for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum
Had my own section of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum set up featuring my art
Attended six comic book conventions and twelve WWE shows
Had Michael B Jordan reach out to me about the portrait I did of him as Adonis Creed
Had WWE launch a t-shirt line featuring my art
Went back to the high school I graduated from to talk to the art students there. Super humbling.
Had one of my Canvas 2 Canvas videos get viewed by over a quarter million people, and raised my viewership to over 100,000 a week
Moved into my own studio
Hanged out backstage with Mick Foley before he launched his latest tour, and he displayed my painting on stage during his performance
Profiled by Forbes
Had my art appear in the Wall Street Journal
Interviewed by Sports Illustrated
Had my five year wedding anniversary with Katy, the love of my life
Oh, and I painted this stuff:
02. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more?
Yup and yup!
03. Did anyone close to you give birth?
04. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend Chris passed away after a lifetime of battling a degenerative disease. I miss you every day.
05. What countries did you visit?
The US of A. Besides my native Missouri and Kansas, I made it to Iowa, Illinois, California, Oklahoma, Florida and Alabama.
06. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
The ability to do even more for those less fortunate than myself.
07. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 28, 2015. I had already been in San Jose for a few days for WrestleMania Axxess, working from dawn to dusk, pretty much napping instead of sleeping. This was a Saturday, so I’d been working my area at the show from around 7AM, encountering enormous crowds of people wanting my art. At one point there were hundreds in line. Then my wife Katy and I had to whisk away back to our room to change into formal attire, and made our way to the Hall of Fame, where we stood out of the way backstage while everyone was getting ready. It was a who’s who walking by. I was a few feet away from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Natalya came over and instantly bonded with Katy, putting my wife over the moon. Then we sat in the talent viewing area, waiting for something I had planned a month or two earlier. I had done a painting of Connor ‘The Crusher’ Michaelek and The Ultimate Warrior in honor of Connor being the first honoree of the Warrior Award. After Connor’s father Steve and brother Jackson gave their emotional acceptance speech, I surprised the family backstage with the painting. A hugely emotional moment, especially when Steve said, “Not only will this help me remember Connor, but now Jackson can remember his brother, too.” I urge you to make a contribution to Connor’s Cure to help fight pediatric cancer and to aid the families who are combating it now.
08. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
The amount of work I did will be what I remember from 2015. I legitimately worked nonstop from the beginning of the year to mid-September, with a maximum of one day off per week. All day all night. I think it helped me break through to new levels with my art, though. The work I’ve done in the months since I consider to be at another level than what I was doing at the beginning of the year.
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?
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Paint. Followed by books.
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 2015?
The El Michels Affair’s cover of the Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. It’s a wonderful instrumental piece and became a big part of the soundtrack for the year.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter?
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The right thing. Taking care of my body.
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 2015?
Stayed in love.
23. How many one-night stands?
None. I’m married, yo.
24. What was your favorite TV program?
Sense8, far and away. Amazing work by all involved.
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? ‘March’ volumes 1 and 2. John Lewis’ accounting of his work in the Civil Rights Movement moved me in ways that no book has done in decades. Powerful reading that should be experienced by all human beings. Runners-up include Sex Criminals vol 2, Invisible Republic vol 1 and The Private Eye.
Book Book? I did a bad job of reading prose this year. Oy, looking over it I don’t think I read a whole book this year. That’s unusual.
EDIT: I finished Dennis Lehane’s ‘World Gone By’ on 12/29, so it’s de facto the best novel I read this year. Even if I had read others, I feel this would still be the best. Lehane is maybe my favorite living author. This book, as all of his are, is full of complex characters driving the narrative, forcing the reader to confront difficult yet important themes.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Another thing I don’t do as well as I used to. I did start watching Austin City Limits again and really liked ‘Portugal. The Man’ a lot. Their song ‘Purple Yellow Red and Blue’ is strong.
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?
I debated a lot over this. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a beautiful experience. End of the Tour made me feel like a better and smarter person after I watched it, and brought out some wonderful conversations between my wife and I. But the one that inspired me, that brought out an eruption of emotion from me, is Creed. Everyone involved in that brought their A game.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Painted for a while, then had dinner with my wife and parents, followed by watching the new Terminator movie. Fun! 35 and growing!
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Seeing other people happier. I now get to live a privileged life and I wish others could get to move past the things holding them back to find the joy of being alive that seems to elude them. An old fable tells of the bug in the rug. Everywhere he looked there were obstacles stopping him from doing what he wanted. But what he didn’t know was that if he were lifted from this he would see that all of those obstacles and hindrances were the very things that made the oriental rug so beautiful. It’s all about context and changing our point of view.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
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. Beer.
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?
The general fear-mongering perpetrated by both political parties. The weekly social media outrage over one thing or another before all facts are present. Hating anyone you don’t even know. That our elected officials are either lifetime-rich or only deal with the super rich for fundraising and lobbying concerns, making them incapable or empathizing with the common man. This is what leads them to fear-mongering and hatred, appealing to the worst of the citizenry, creating a very nasty cycle which our population is currently caught in.
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?
Steve Michaelek. He’s a kind and genuine man that has had life throw everything at him, yet he stays strong and full of love. I’m honored to call him my friend and treasure every time we talk.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Grace. I’m not a religious person. If I had to define my standing on that, and I don’t really like to, I’d say I’m a Humanist with Agnostic leanings. My focus is on making the world better for my having been a part of it, whether that’s through my art, my charitable giving, or just how I interact with each person I meet. I’m very far from perfect and I have my bad days, but I’m working every day to be better than I was the day before in all aspects of my life. But back to grace. Grace is trying to understand the situation of those who hurt you instead of trying to hurt them back. The Christians put more supernatural elements around the concept, but at it’s essence that is the point of it. Through compassion and understanding on a person by person basis we make ourselves better by elevating the lives of even those who seek to do wrong by us. Because of where I’m at in life now and in a world that has social media, I get a lot of negative comments on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis. These are largely from others who are less fortunate than I have become, who are angry and project those negative feelings towards me. It’s a natural and easy thing to do, and I’ve grown to have no malice towards them. It still hurts, every time, because I put everything I have into each painting I do. But instead of lashing back, I’m trying hard to instead find out what I can do to help them move past this difficulty they’re facing. Together we can make the world better through grace, an open mind, and a warm heart.