An Update to My Artistic Journey
Welcome back everyone, thanks for joining in today! I’ve written some previous articles dealing with life, work, and the struggle to become a full-time artist (see Day 96, and #367), so I thought I would keep you updated. I’ve been back in Hawaii for about 1.5 years now and quite a bit has changed. Join in and get to know what I’ve been up to…I’ll even clue you in on the cost of living. You must know that living in paradise is totally doable with minimal money if you play it smart!
A Roof Over Our Heads
I moved back to the island with my girlfriend Mandy and her two birds, Daisy and Molly (yes, they have their own Instagram), in March of 2015. We are still in the same small, one bedroom apartment, but it’s working out for the most part. It is $1000 a month, and it’s nothing fancy. In Hawaii, $1000 basically gets you a sweat box with a fridge, sink, stove, and toilet. We could probably get a nice two bedroom apartment on the mainland for that much, but the beautiful weather is worth the cosmetic defects and confined space of the apartment. Plus, we are on the third floor of a three-story building, so it’s like a penthouse sweatbox. Nice!
Our apartment allows birds, so that’s a bonus because NO ONE accepts pets. We have a coin operated washer and dryer on site, a lanai with a glimpse of Diamond Head, and we are a 3-minute walk to Waikiki Beach. That’s the best part! We can walk with the girls (Daisy and Molly) and have sunset picnics, while we people watch. The girls love the beach but hate strollers, dogs, tubes, and Segways.
Our bills are pretty minimal. Electricity averages around $130 a month…mostly because we run our AC a lot during the summer. It gets pretty HOT in our apartment when the trade winds aren’t blowing. The internet is $50 a month, and groceries for both of us average about $500 a month. We found that shopping at Target is the least expensive of all the grocery stores, and it’s well worth the 20-minute drive.
So, we have a total of $1680 per month for a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and fast internet. When it’s split between both of us, it’s only $840. Completely doable for anyone if you are willing to accept a smaller apartment with minimal accommodations, with hard-to-find parking.
Minimal Complaints…Parking and Traffic
It’s so convenient living in the city if you are willing to put up with sirens and tour buses. The only major complaint is the lack of a parking spot, which makes Mandy pull her hair out on a daily basis. Parking is free if you can find a spot and don’t mind walking 10 minutes to your apartment. We’ve learned to never move our cars on the weekends because we’ll never find a spot. Too many parades, marathons, and events taking up the minimal spots available. We’ve learned to deal with it, for the most part. Walking is never a problem because the weather, and people watching, is always nice.
Rush hour SUCKS, and we plan everything around traffic. From 7am-10am and 3pm-7pm, I try to avoid driving anywhere. Traveling during these times always adds at least 30 minutes to an hour. For people that don’t drive, the bus is awesome and it goes everywhere on the island.
Finding Work to Fill the Gaps
Mandy found a job at a tour company that is always busy and pays great for Hawaii standards. The cost of living is more than the mainland, so most people have to work two jobs for their own apartment. If they only work one job, then they are stuck living with roommates, or large cockroaches….or both!
Note: That reminds me, cockroaches are inevitable in Hawaii, just like rust on your car. We live on the third floor, so we don’t have an issue with “B-52 bombers” (large roaches) like some people have on lower levels.
Once we were settled into the apartment, I started searching for nice wedding companies to work for. I was able to find one and have been getting maybe one or two gigs a month. I was also writing for Myron Barnstone’s blog, and am currently working with a small team to edit his upcoming book (exciting book by the way). I was also able to reconnect with the Military Event photographer I worked with last time I lived here, but I only average about one gig every couple of months. Some graphic design work came my way (logos), but nothing much.
The blog is happily my main source of income. With the awesome Master Pass members and the great supporters of the book and videos, I’m able to live as a working artist. Something that I never EVER thought would be a reality! I’m really grateful for how things worked out, and I remain very humble. No more unappreciative corporations sucking me dry of my limited time. One key to success, my success anyway, is to live debt free.
Living Debt Free is the Key
Living debt free will allow you to live minimally and without the ball and chain of credit card payments, car payments, mortgage payments, etc. In 2007, I was a victim of predatory lending in Las Vegas (along with 1000’s of others). I was a chauffeur at the time and making way too little money to have a 300K house. Sadly, I had to foreclose in 2009 when the economy took a dump. It was liberating in a way though, and it’s what started me on my new journey to travel Europe, land in Hawaii, move to the East Coast to study with Barnstone, then move back to Hawaii.
Since the foreclosure, I’ve been paying for things with cash or debit only. I recently got an Amazon credit card which I use all the time (to help rebuild credit), but I ALWAYS pay it off at the end of the month. ALWAYS! There’s no way I will EVER play the debt game again! So yes, paying off my debts allowed me to make enough money to survive off of my art. With no debts, comes freedom.
Family is Even Closer
In May of 2016, my sister (Spring) moved back to the island with her husband (Reed) and little baby boy (Eleiko). They live in a house about 45 minutes from Honolulu, on the North Shore. A quieter part of the island that is super laid back. It’s so great to have family on the island again, and my mom has already visited three times so far. Having my little nephew close is great because he’s a family magnet!
Speaking of family, I was able to reconnect with my Dad after 30 years of never hearing from him. My mom has been searching for him for 30 years, and never had any results. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my sister (Rainbow) was contacted by my Dad’s landlord because he was very ill at the time. The landlord wasn’t supposed to contact my sister, but thankfully she did. The landlord found my sister through Facebook because she remembered my Dad talking about her.
One thing led to another, and we were all able to reconnect with him. My sisters Rainbow and Justi flew down, with my half-sister Monique, to Florida to meet him in person (yes, I’m the only boy out of 6 children). I was able to talk to him over FaceTime, where he told me “you’re the apple of my eye.” I was even able to write him a letter and receive one from him after all this time. My mom was even able to write him a letter and send him gifts.
Probably about a month after we had all reconnected with him, he passed away. It was the true definition of bitter-sweet. The mystery of 30 years was solved! I had always been wondering what happened to him….why he left his family…why he wouldn’t contact us. I was happy to let him know that I forgave him and didn’t hold any grudges. The person I am today is a result of what happened in the past. I was able to see him after all these years, and say goodbye. Bitter-sweet, as is life (see #398).
Future Artistic Plans
Eventually, I want to give up the weddings, military events, and other side sources to work 100% on my own projects. It’s a slow process and sometimes very challenging, but I love what I do…writing articles, making photos and videos, dabbling in graphic design…it’s never a chore. I crack the whip pretty hard on myself to get things done, but still allow myself to get out about 3-5 times a week for street photography on the beach. It’s great exercise and gets me out of the office (the little corner where my computer is).
I’ve started taking an anatomy course, but have been slacking with drawing lately. I hope to have time to paint and draw more in the future. I envision myself applying composition techniques to a huge canvas, recording how I do it, then sharing it with all of you.
I’ve been fantasizing about a mobile office because our apartment is so small. Something that I can drive to a beautiful location, open up the back doors and write articles, paint, draw, create videos…breathe in the fresh ocean air with an inspiring view (like the picture below). So, I bought a used 2006, 15 passenger, Chevy Express 3500. I already yanked out the seats and the interior walls. I’m in the process of renovating it further to fit my artistic needs, and I’ll do a video about it sometime in the future.
Some of the plans that I had in store last time I wrote (#367) have changed. Hawaii is not a great place for workshops, so that’s not part of the equation anymore. Mostly everything I do will be web-based for the time being. I have been doing tons of street photography though, and am releasing a new book very soon!
New Book for Street Photography Composition
I’ve been slaving away to bring you all a new book that digs VERY deep into photography composition. It includes techniques that I’ve applied to my street photography, but can also be used with travel, fine art, photojournalism, or fashion photography. It’s been a year-long (fun) process collecting the photos…not too long, considering most street photography books have the very best photos of their lifetime.
I recently spent 8 hours a day, for three days straight to rescan over 200 film photos to be included. My eyes are bugging out! The quality was well worth it though. I’m using SilverFast 8 for the software and it does an outstanding job. I’ve also got tons of diagrams to show each composition and Gestalt psychology technique. I’m excited to release to you all, just hang tight. It’ll be done in a couple of weeks if everything goes smoothly!
That’s about it for now. I hope that gets you up to speed, and maybe even inspires you to grab your dreams by the cajones and move to paradise. Living debt free helped me reduce the hours I worked at a corporation, to eventually free me from its chains. Life is a journey, that’s for sure. Take care, everyone! Let me know if you have questions about anything mentioned above. See you next time!