Friday, December 31, 2010

Hey, they can't all be winners

Possible new year's resolution: Blog more?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summer Art Round-Up

I'm back in Austin and unfortunately don't hate it as much as expected. After crawling out of my forest home, I thought perhaps I'd find city life despicable, making my choice of returning to Oregon easy. No such luck. While in six short months Austin has grown and gained noticeably more boutique shops, traffic, and jerks from Los Angeles gentrifying the east side, I still really love this town.

Had a chance to flip though my summer sketchbook recently and wanted to purge some of my older favorites before the new work starts pouring in. Comparing these drawings to the previous year's (summer '09), I see a pretty huge difference. More confidence, greater personality, refinement of style. I'm excited to see where this is going.

(click for higher quality images)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Old Time Love Story

I've been visiting my Aunt in Palm Springs the last few days. We've been having a wonderful time going through letters my Grandmother and Grandfather exchanged prior to being married. Their correspondence reads like a novel - full of big dreams, loneliness, humor and yearning.

It was in a Arkansas melon patch that Alpha first laid eyes on Lloyd. She caught him eating the melons with his bare hands, and years later was fond of telling her grandchildren, "he was the ugliest man I'd ever laid eyes on!" At 17 years old, they parted when Lloyd's family moved to Oklahoma, and thus began the written correspondence. The first letter was from my Grandfather: 42 short poems. Check out these gems:

I love you little, I love you lots
my love for you would fill ten pots
nine tin buckets
eight tin cans
seven wash kettles
and six dishpans.

Long may you live
happy may you be
loved by all others
but mostly by me.

The sea is wide, the sea is deep
in your arms I long to sleep.

Long is the road with many a crook,
I hope someday to be your cook.

Grandpa, that is such false advertising! She always cooked for you!

Even though they loved each other from the beginning, they didn't drop everything to be together. He struggled to finish his (8th grade) education, then tried to join the Civilian Conservation Corps (there was a long wait list - this was during the great depression, mind you), and considered joining the army. She continued her education while working as a housekeeper and eventually became a schoolteacher. They rarely visited each other, relying on letters for communication. My Grandfather felt like he must make something of himself before he could be with Grandma, so he moved to California to make his fortune. The fortune wouldn't be made until much later, with the assistance of Alpha, but he made enough and experienced all sorts of difficult and interesting jobs and characters. Finally, in their letters, you can see how the "blues" of not being together became too great to bear, and they were married. The letters stop.

It strikes me how long they remained apart, despite their longings for each other. For 4 years they followed their difficult, separate paths. Of course the struggle didn't end with marriage. I think being apart actually prepared them to be together. They were married 61 years.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Learning to Live Again

It's been over 2 years since I've convened with my notebook in a meaningful way. I had forgot what a powerful tool it is; a place for self-examination, personal therapy, random thoughts, random-er doodles, incubating ideas, creative freedom, and non-judgement. It feels good to resume this relationship, notebook and I. Who knows what will come of it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

University of Life

Tomorrow, after nearly 5 months on the farm, I'm finally headed home. Yet as my departure nears, I find myself doubting: is Austin really home? After all, it's no accident I've spent almost half a year in rural Oregon. To me, popular culture has never seemed so foreign, and I suspect I'm in for a shock and something resembling depression upon returning to the city. We all learn to acclimate to the situations we find ourselves in, and it probably won't be long until I'm once again comfortable in the concrete jungle; content with movie theaters, art museums, and rock shows. But there's no denying: the farm beckons me. It's in my heart and it won't let go.

This summer, Farmer Steve was laid up with gout for a month, completely out of commission. The other day he apologized that he was unable to teach me skills during this time, to which I replied, "Don't worry about it. I've learned more here than in a hundred classrooms." And it's absolutely true. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, the farm skills I've learned are the least of it. The things I've learned most are less tangible, but perhaps more important. Things like: generosity, how to get along with others, patience, work ethic. When I see Steve pick up someone's slack without complaint, or offer to clean dishes that aren't his - I greatly admire him, and find myself emulating that behavior. Here, at a little farm in southern Oregon, I feel like I'm becoming the man I want to be, and that is very satisfying.

I find myself loving Deb and Steve like family, and the feeling must be mutual, because they've offered to contribute resources and expertise to help me build my very own cabin down by the goat barn. Fifty yard walk to the river. Spectacular view of Hope Mountain. The opportunity to become a self-sufficient human with a variety of skills, immersed in an amazing community of like-minded individuals. Hard to say no.

The other night, I camped down with the goats, in a golden grassy field adjacent their pen. Under the stars, warmed by fire, I made a long list of reasons to stay. Tomorrow they will become reasons to return.

The Goat Barn

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Late Harvest

Been working like a dog lately... 12 hour days are becoming the norm. I'm probably too tired to write a coherent blog post, but I'll give it a shot.

Work has been coming in two forms: unpaid community volunteer work and very well paid medical marijuana work. I guess the two achieve some kind of taoist, universal balance? The karma of selfless good deeds has wrought personal abundance? Beats me... all I know is I'm too exausted to draw comparisons, make decent metaphors, or spell.

Yeah. So on Sunday (the big 10-10-10), a woman in the community organized a very successful event (in collaboration with in which people came out and helped clear the hike & bike trail along Takilma Road. My day was spent reclaiming swaths of the trail from overgrown blackberry and ceanothus, throwing the cuttings into a large trailer, and taking it to the goats. Imagine if a big dumb baboon brought you your favorite food on a silver platter all day long. That's what it was like being a goat on Sunday.

On Monday, a bunch of us volunteers went gleaning at a local farm. We combed through a gigantic mono-cultured corn field, and left with a few truck-beds of very nice corn which we distributed to food banks, charities, and schools. It was neat driving around delivering corn we harvested. I felt like Santa Clause.

Gleaning: Hard on the back!

Then today (and for the forseeable future), I did extremely boring and monotonus work for ridiculous sums of money. Actually, it's not so ridiculous if you think about it... nobody is gonna do this type of work for less than $20/hr, really. Unless you live in another country or came here from another country. It's soul sucking work and no self respectin' American should have to do it! It's work that transforms you from a living, breathing, possibly interesting human being ---> into an automoton.

Yes, but most of us learn that survival is toil sooner or later. I keep reminding myself that I'm putting in my toil now, rather than later. If I work enough in the next few weeks, I'll have my rent covered in Austin for a long time. I may not even have to get a job when I get back. I keep thinking about how nice that'll be. Keep thinking how much time it'll allow me to work on my art. It's what keeps me going.

But man! I need a friend who's into massage! My neck and shoulders are like rocks! I would give anything for a 30 minute massage: cash, cooking, cleaning, foot rubs, sexual favors, whatever you want!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Strong Women

During my stay at the Frog Farm I've gained a tremendous amount of respect for its owner, Deb Lukas. She's a tough gal. As a single mother she lived in a single room in a cabin high in the mountains. Raising her child, she didn't even have a car. Imagine having to bicycle over 10 miles to the nearest grocery store - with your baby! Since then, she's bought her own land, acquired an education in Herbalism, opened her own medical practice and herbal pharmacy, and with the help of her partner, Steve, is transforming a rather arid & rocky piece of property into a thriving permaculture farm. As if that weren't enough, she's also founded a non-profit whose goal is education, community building, and creating sustainability within the Illinois Valley. While many find her strong personality not-to-their-taste, she doesn't seem to care. She's on a mission and won't be stopped.

Deb's not the only one. I've begun noticing that Takilma is full of strong women. Women who have started their own businesses - growing gourmet garlic, raising Alpacas, baking! Women who sit on the boards of the Spiral Living Center and the Dome School. Women who ensure the children get a quality education and who put their energy into bringing healthy and affordable food into the community via the local food Co-Op. Meanwhile the men do their men stuff - tilling the soil, cutting wood, growing medical marijuana - all while benefiting tremendously from the efforts of the amazing women in this community. What lucky guys we are!

The other day I played The Girl Stands Up To Me Now for farmer Steve. After, I asked him what the benefits are to having a strong woman. In his humble imparting-great-wisdom-to-you-in-so-few-words way, he said, "It's nice having someone to help row the boat." Indeed.

As long as you're going the same direction!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Man Carrying Sofa

By Tony Hoagland

Whatever happened to Cindy Morrison, that nice young lesbian?
I heard she moved to the city and got serious.
Traded in her work boots for high heels and a power suit.
Got a healthcare plan and an attorney girlfriend.

Myself, I don’t want to change.
It’s October and I’m still dating my checks July.
I don’t want to step through the doorway of the year.
I’m afraid of something falling off behind me.
I’m afraid my own past will start forgetting me.

Now the sunsets are like cranberry sauce
poured over the yellow hills, and yes,
that beauty is so strong it hurts –
it hurts because it isn’t personal.

But we look anyway, we sit upon our stoops
and stare, — fierce,
like we were tossing down a shot of vodka, straight,
and afterwards, we feel purified and sad and rather Russian.

When David was in town last week,
I made a big show to him of how unhappy I was
because I wanted him to go back and tell Susan
that I was suffering without her –

but then he left and I discovered
I really was miserable
– which made me feel better about myself –
because, after all, I don’t want to go through time untouched.

What a great journey this is,
this ordinary life of ants and sandwich wrappers,
of x-rated sunsets and drive-through funerals.

And this particular complex pain inside your chest;
this damaged longing
like a heavy piece of furniture inside you;
you carry it, it burdens you, it drags you down –
then you stop, and rest on top of it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Girl Stands Up To Me Now

I decided to illustrate a few lyrics from Jonathan Richman's brilliant song The Girl Stands Up To Me Now (I can't find the song on YouTube, but I suggest you check it out). It was a fun project. I enjoyed coming up with images that tried to push the humor of the song further. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think.

(click image to view)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Photo Journal (with art to come!)

Being on a farm will help you appreciate the natural cycle of life and death. A few weeks ago, with the upmost solemn respect, we slaughtered 13 chickens for meat. For me, having never killed more than an insect, it was a slightly jarring experience, and gruesome for sure. Though I chopped off a few heads myself, something in me rebelled at every step of the process. It certainly made me reconsider being an omnivore. In our society we're so disconnected from our food production I think many people can live their entire lives without questioning their diet. I wish more people had first hand experience. It would certainly lead to more conscious food choices (not just about meat, but about things like pesticides, animal treatment, genetically modified food, etc...).

John and Deb: Cold-blooded killers

But of course, with death comes life. We recently had 5 adorable chicks hatch. I feel especially happy for the mama hen. You see, most chickens (around here at least) lay their eggs and leave them unattended, off pursuing their own business. A few rare chickens become broody and sit on their eggs trying to get them to hatch. The mama of these chicks would sit on her eggs come hell or high water. For months I've had to grab her and lift her up in order to obtain her goods. Well we finally decided to let her sit on them, and her heartfelt desire for children has finally been realized.

She makes a great mama too. She follows them around and teaches them things like how to scratch for food. Very cute!

I think I've had poison oak on alternating parts of my body for the last 2 1/2 months straight. So with great delight I've been watching my arch-nemesis change color, its leaves slowly becoming impotent. You LOSE, poison oak!

But you sure have a beautiful way of surrendering.

With the growing season winding down, I've had time to pursue more pleasurable projects like sculpting artwork with mud plaster and working my stick:

AKA: Making curtain rods

All was going well until I went and stepped on a big, fat, rusty nail. Definitely one of the less enjoyable moments of my life.

Tetanus shots are for wimps.

And while it still hurts, at least I've had some down time to recover. I've used to opportunity to work on my art, creating a mini-project I'll be unveiling soon. It should be posted within the next few days, so stop on by again, ya hear!?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prelude to Cabin Fever

Autumn has arrived in Oregon -- with it the rain. After months of continuous sunshine, three consecutive days of cold, dreary showers has come as a shock. Isn't that how it is with life? You have something good and warm and nourishing, its presence secured, its face so familiar you begin to scorn its loyalty, then *poof* it's gone before you realized what you had? Perhaps you even begin to wish you had savored it longer, been more present, done something different. There's not much to be done now, however, so you decide to adapt because it's better than being bulldozed by sadness.

This weather reminds me of Vancouver. The way low hanging clouds engulf mountains and tendrils of smokey fog reach into valleys to caress their depths before curling again towards the sky. After painfully long periods of grey, I like how the sun will peek out for brief seconds, as if to say "hello" and "I'm still here." I like walking through wet, dripping forests. I like engorged rivers.

I don't know where my home is again. Sitting at the window overlooking Hope Mountain, I ponder staying here, huddled up for the winter, reading, writing, drawing, living the gospel of Thoreau: loneliness is good for the soul. Peeking back at Austin, it all seems like vanity and distraction, a repulsive thought for a self-righteous puritan who secretly delights in not having looked in the mirror for days, weeks even.

That reminds me, I should probably trim my nose hair.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy trails to you, until... we meet... again.

I arrived at Frog Farm a week ago, and it kinda felt like coming home. Returning to the farm is like returning to simplicity. Gone is the hectic routine of city life. Gone is it's complex obligations and varied pleasures. Instead it's straightforward work (taking care of animals, shoveling dirt, plastering walls) and simple pleasures (a homemade meal, fresh fruit, sitting around the campfire).

New interests replace old habits. Where once I spent upwards of 4 hours a day on the computer, now 1 hour seems indulgent. Farm-work is hard, and free time feels too precious to spend online. Wouldn't you rather go swim in the river? Or enjoy a hefeweizen and orange, while drawing in the shade?

This is a long-winded way of saying that I'm discontinuing the blog for a while. This doesn't mean that I'm putting illustration on the back-burner. It just means I'd rather spend time actually doing art, or reading a book, or making homemade ice-cream with farm-grown strawberries. Besides, I don't have a scanner to show y'all what I'm doodling anyway.

If the mood strikes, I may upload some farm photos or do a little creative writing over at my old blog. To my illustration buddies: keep doing what you do, and I'll return (with a lot more material and a few more chops) in Autumn!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On the Road, Day 1

I write this from a McDonald's, how exotic! (hey, YOU try finding a cafe, or anyplace with free internet in bumf*ck Texas!) Even worse, I just finished eating dinner here. Funny thing is I knew it would make me sick, but I did it anyway. Ugh.

Been driving all day, and I'm almost to outta Texas. A quick little jaunt through the panhandle of Oklahoma and I'll be in Colorado. A storm looks to be moving in from the west. Could hit rain. This photo taken minutes ago shows the scenic situation.

Rain sure would put a damper on things (sorry, couldn't help it :). I'm planning to sleep in the back of my truck which is protected by a camper shell. Unfortunately the truck bed is only 6 feet long, and I'm 6'3", so often I'll sleep with the tailgate down to accommodate my height. Not recommended if it's raining.

Today I got pulled over in Podunk, Texas for going 46 in a 35. If you know me you know I dislike authority and when confronted my first inclination is to rebel (or at least be rude), but luckily I've mastered these impulses and learned feign respect. Naturally, being where we were, the cop had a slow country drawl and macho swagger about him, but luckily since I'm white, relatively clean-cut, said "sir" and had all my papers in order, the cop let me off with a warning. Perhaps I'm stereotyping the officer, but as I drove away, I wondered if I would have been given the same leniency had I been black or hispanic.

Do you know that many gas stations don't offer water from the soda machines anymore? They make you buy the bottled stuff! Isn't that messed up!?

Ok, I'm rambling now. But consider how my only traveling companion is a dog and maybe you'll understand! The forced boredom does has its benefits though. Today I found myself daydreaming, visually journeying through a picture book I've been working on. It's fun. Kinda like working on a word & picture puzzle in your brain.

Til next time! (hopefully from a fancy french bakery!)

On the Road Again

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, my dog Brutus and I hit the road. We bid Texas farewell for the summer and head toward the cooler climes of Oregon, where we'll be earning our room and board on an organic farm. As I packed today and prepared my room to sublet, I snapped two photos I wanted to share. First, my collection of books.

And these are just the keepers -- the other half of my collection were sold to Half-Price Books for a mere $60. As I comb through my collection trying to anticipate which books I might want to have this summer (I can only take a few, after all), it makes me reconsider my aversion to ebooks. I like the feel of a real book in my hands, but wouldn't it be nice to have an entire library at my fingertips? And digital books sure are more environmentally friendly -- not only from conserving trees, but fuel from moving these heavy things around!

The next picture is the stack of sketchbooks I've gone through in the last 3 years (actually this isn't all of them... I found 5 or 6 more after I took this shot). My sparse style may lead some to believe that I just fell off the truck, but as this photo shows, my drawing technique has been hard won.

98% of the drawings on these pages are an embarrassment, but I think that's a good thing. It means progress, often rapid. While today I may be pleased with the images in my sketchbook, a year from now I might grimace at their amateurish quality. I sincerely hope so.

Well goodnight all! I'll try to do some blogging from the road. If not, certainly from the farm!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thoughtful Children's Books in the Internet Era

In a fascinating article for The Atlantic entitled, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", author Nicholas Carr, using anecdotes and neurobiology, argues that the Internet is remapping our brains, making us adept at skimming through vast quantities of information, but making it difficult to delve deeply into subjects and allow space for true insight. As he puts it:
"My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."
The premise of Carr's article (and recently released book) is compelling, and I find myself wanting to agree with him. When I was a (only)child I spent much time alone, climbing trees, daydreaming, and thinking a lot. I attribute these activities to making me the thoughtful (if not slightly neurotic) person I am today. But what about today's children? Is it possible to become a person of depth while being bedazzled by Tweets from such an early age? Is there any room for contemplation in the modern child's stimulus inundated life?

Since I first picked it up at 6 years old, The Giving Tree has been my favorite picture book. Among other things, The Giving Tree asks you to consider abstract ideas like time. It's a quiet book, yet beneath its subtly lay many complex issues and unanswered questions. Would a book like this sell anymore?

At the Austin SCBWI conference I attended this winter, a Bloomsbury editor came on stage and told us they're looking for "Funny, energetic picture books." Certainly The Giving Tree would not fit this category, not even perennial classics like Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, or Where the Wild Things Are. A large part of me is offended that nowadays books like these could be passed by publishers in favor of a loud, obnoxious pigeon -- but perhaps I'm just a grumpy old man, wrapped up in nostalgia and afraid of change. One thing for certain though: Our technology is affecting the way we see and relate to the world, and it's changing all fields, children's books included.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Photo Journal: Arizona is Contagious!

I saw this in the calendar section of the Austin Chronicle and thought it sounded fun. There's nothing like a good old fashioned protest to get the blood pumping.

When I arrived, the forces were gathering. The pro-SB1070 crowd, though colorfully dressed, were meager in number. There were almost as many "counter-protesters".

When the guardians of freedom, apple pie, and all things American began assaulting the air with country-western music, the counter-protesters knew it was time for business. Up the drive of the Capitol Building they marched.

Slurring racism and demanding justice, they pressed forward...

...undeterred by screaming harpies...

...or kindly old gentlemen shouting "GO HOME WETBACKS!"

Luckily, State Troopers we able to maintain the peace.

Noisy, noisy peace.

The officers didn't bother with riot gear. It was a warm day and besides, this is Texas.

Amazingly, I didn't see any signs bearing swastikas! When did protest signs become reasoned?

All in all, it was a good time had by everyone. They say Democracy is messy...

...but it's still the best we got.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Landlord,

For us, a 12 month lease is preferable - but I'm not sure how much we're willing to move on rent.

You must remember that the exact reason we stay here and tolerate the poor condition of the house is because of the affordable rent. The house is full of struggling artists and musicians who would prefer to pay less rent than live in nicer conditions. I think you'd have a hard time renting it to anyone else without doing some major renovations.

For one, not only is the foundation uneven (giving the floors a slight slant), but also there are literal holes in the floor (especially in the bathroom and kitchen) and cracks around the baseboards which allow all types of insects access to the house - especially cockroaches, which kinda freak me out. We're also visited from above by some kind of rodents living in the attic. It could be rats or even squirrels or possums that have found a hole in the roof. I don't know, but they sound big as they scurry around up there.

Also, the house is not energy efficient, and with 5 rooms needing 5 air conditioners and 5 furnaces, our utility bills are ridiculously high in the summer and winter.

Finally, I'd ask you to consider how despite the condition of the house, as long as I've lived here we haven't asked you for a single thing. We battle the pests as well as we can and we even do our own repairs, going as far as calling our own plumber and replacing a broken fridge.

All this said, I also understand that housing prices have risen in Austin, and don't expect that we should immune. If it means you'll sign another 12 month lease, I'll offer $1375/mo, up from $1250. If not, I'd prefer to rent on a month-to-month basis.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dan Piraro: Bizarro

Dan Piraro's work simultaneously inspires and makes me want to chuck all my pens into the garbage. It was comforting to learn that he's been syndicated (ie: 7 comics a week) for 25 YEARS! That's a lot of time to work on your craft. The good news, according to Dan: It get's easier over time.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Blog Header

I've changed the 'ol Kid At Art header, as you can see. Click the image below to see it in more detail.

It represents me at my day job (valet parking for a restaurant), drawing and day-dreaming while customers hemorrhage their brains. The concept came as I was free-form doodling and I like it a lot.

The execution I'm not so happy with. The drawing came out pretty good, and the watercolor is nice, but perhaps I should have put a street scene in the background for context. Also, a lot of tinkering in Photoshop was done, which makes it look very stiff compared with the draft versions.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Harlem: a success story

A little over two years ago, the band Harlem moved from their home in Tuscon and landed in our little house on Clara Street. One of their first shows in Austin was at the Broken Neck - an underground venue which has been home to local punk bands since the 80's. Calling the Broken Neck a venue is being generous. It's a warehouse in east Austin (far away from the glamor and popularity of 6th street), it's main attraction a large wooden skateboard ramp. The bands are treated like shit and aren't even given a stage -- they play on the concrete floor. Their function, I think, is to provide a soundtrack for the skaters.

I was at that show and watched the young and unknown Harlem play, wedged in between two other unknown bands. At the time I was strange and anti-social and hid behind my sketchbook. I still have naive drawings of that show somewhere.

Not long after that, a room opened up in our house and Harlem singer/guitarist/drummer Curtis O'Mara became our roommate. If our house wasn't a punk rock anarchist house before, it certainly became one. Every morning I'd wake up to find fresh wreckage:

Living with Curtis was an experience I'll never forget, but not for the wild parties. I valued the boring, languished nights: the Tuesdays where I would listen to Curtis tinker around on his electric guitar while I sat copying Van Goghs'. I felt a camaraderie with him; two young, determined artists working on their craft through the thick of Texas night. Sometimes I would join Curtis on the tambourine as he played, other times he would come to my room to watch me draw.

Soon Harlem decided to film their first music video in our kitchen - and they did. I wasn't in the video; perpetual observer I am, I was busy hiding in the hallway photographing the mayhem.

After a while Curtis moved out to live with band mate, Coomers, in a nicer part of town. After that, I saw less and less of Harlem, though I would still hear about them once in a while. Over the following two years they really honed their craft, and it didn't surprise me when I heard they had been signed by Matador Records, record label of big acts like Sonic Youth, Pavement, and Yo La Tengo.

Recently Harlem released their sophomore album Hippies, which is one of my favorite albums in a long, long time. It's catchy, energetic, and compliments warm summer weather wonderfully. By the second listen I had "the hits" hopelessly repeating themselves in my brain, and by the fourth listen, I loved just about every song (especially the less poppy back half of the album, which includes great songs like Cloud Pleaser, Prairie My Heart, Stripper Sunset, and Pissed). Of course, Harlem is heavily influenced by grunge, so I may be biased in their favor, but I can't be the only one: Pitchfork gave Hippies an awesome review.

Despite their aesthetic, Harlem has been called "one of the hardest working bands in rock." They have been on tour for 2 months now, playing shows almost every night. Currently they are touring Europe and will be back in North America playing the west coast soon. If you get a chance to see them, do it!

For me, Harlem is an inspiring story. Right in front of my eyes, in a very short period of time, they reached out from the masses of unknowns and became very successful. It wasn't easy, but goes to show how a little talent and a lot of hard work can go a long way. Dreams do come true.