Reggie Black: Artist and Thought Leader [TCL 12]
The Creative Life is a mini series where I sit with emerging creatives and seasoned professionals to know and share their stories. They show a side of the creative life that we don’t often see: vulnerability, mistakes made, questions about the way their industries work, and lessons they’ve learned, both the painful and the eureka moments.
Reggie Black is an artist on a mission to make a difference in the world. Traveling across the world and inspiring people to stand, speak, and live, he’s the mind behind the Sticky Inspiration project and exhibitions such as [Back], Are You Using Your Voice? and Remove the Fear Creative Experience.
Let’s begin with your journey. What moved you to become the artist that you are today?
Initially, I never wanted to identify myself as an artist.
I had self-confidence issues. I didn’t believe that what I was contributing to the world was “art.” I always viewed art as a painting or something more representational.
However, I’ve always been moved to inspire. That’s the guiding principle to my life. As I began to share my thoughts, inspire, and receive inspiration from others, art found me. It showed me how to truly express my art.
So I guess I can say impact and inspiration move me to become an artist. Transparency and vulnerability as well.
Who inspires you? Who do you look up to as a mentor or model in your work and life?
Everyone inspires me. It’s fascinating to learn about the various walks of life and see how each person can use their state of being for different purposes. That’s inspiring.
One of my mentors recently passed away, Ray Jones. He meant everything to me. He was there for me during the times I could’ve made some really poor choices and everything could have gone south.
Tabi Bonney is another great friend of mine that serves as a mentor to me. He’s the classic example of what it takes to merge entrepreneurship and creativity to design the life you want. I’m sincerely inspired by his moves and how calculated they are.
Jason Reynolds is another great friend of mine that inspires me. His persistent is unbelievable, and his ability to transcend through the process to the rise of a successful writer is something I study often.
Last but not least, there’s Seth Godin. I don’t have to add anything about him. He’s brilliant. A mastermind.
My work and life belong to me, so I try not to mimic anyone else’s.
Your travels around Bangkok, Thailand are equally inspiring to many. What was it about Thailand that drew you to the country and its community?
It was a bold decision that my wife Shantay led. She’s a wizard. Her ability to craft visions and manifest concepts from a macro viewpoint is phenomenal.
As a family, we wanted to explore something different. We wanted to try new markets to evolve in our respective careers. I didn’t want to come initially and delayed coming for several months. Fear knocks at the door all the time, right?
After reprogramming my thinking, I looked at the positive aspects of the move and took the leap. It’s been a great journey thus far, and has allowed me to amplify the inspiration that I want to share with others.
Was language or culture a barrier when you first stepped into Thailand?
Totally. It’s overwhelming, but like anything else you eventually find your way.
On your creative process: What goes into each piece of art you put out? More importantly, how do you combat or understand self and external criticism?
"The next time you want to create a distraction for yourself (I'm guilty of constantly scrolling through social media…www.instagram.com
Truth and vulnerability goes into each piece. If it’s not honest and it does not expose some component of the human condition that we all struggle with, I can’t write about it.
Essentially, I’m just writing a piece of who I am in each piece of art. My hope is that it will connect with someone, somewhere else. I understand the external criticism through the dialogue that’s generated from others that interact with the posts.
The Sticky Inspiration inspires thousands of people to think and rethink the way they live, love, work, and engage with themselves and with others. From who and/or where do you draw the wisdom and experience that you share in every post-it note?
From within. From life. From experiences.
Do you have a piece of work that you consider particularly significant, that you have an emotional connection with?
All of my work is significantly important to me. It’s really hard to write everyday, so I’m emotionally attached to everything. It’s like having a million kids. Ha!
Organizing an exhibition is an amazing feat that lots of visual artists hope to achieve for their own artwork. How were you able to successfully launch and manage your exhibition, Are You Using Your Voice?
Technically, Are You Using Your Voice? is my second exhibition. The “Remove the Fear Creative Experience” is the first. They both were executed through crowdsourcing the financial resources, and having support from others to do so. One was funded through Kickstarter, and the other was funded through a selective group of underwriters. I’m sincerely grateful for both experiences. I’m grateful to have the trust of people to invest in my ideas.
It started with an idea that I put into the universe, and the resources necessary to execute it found me.
The owners of Ink & Lion Café here in Bangkok believed in my vision to grant me the space to create. A team of videographers (Tommy Snapshot & Bathroom Productions) worked from start to finish with me to help me capture the entire process. The rest was hard work and persistence.
Once you gain the resources to produce, all of the excuses go out the window. You have to play every part of the team to see it through. You can’t back down to challenges. It’s much harder than having a gallery support you, and curate your experience. You have to do everything yourself. But what options do we have?
We as artists or anyone trying to see a dream through can’t wait to be picked (as Seth Godin would say) we have to step up. If our dreams are what we really want.
What contributes to the success of an exhibition?
The amount of people that are inspired by the art shown makes a successful exhibition.
If you can connect with 1 person and shift their thinking to go and build something for the audience of people that they have, you’ve done your job. That web of influence will continue to grow.
What is your biggest struggle or fear as an artist? What steps or strategies did you implement to manage it?
The voices in my head. My mental health. I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I have an addictive personality. I struggle with depression, as well as being bi-polar. Therefore, self-care and self-awareness is extremely important to my journey as an artist. If I’m not careful, I can instantly travel down a dark road. There’s a lot of work that goes into me maintaining positive vibes to be any good for those that have given me their permission to share my art with them.
Steps and strategies? Man…. I’m very expressive. Often times I’m called “super emotional.” I write a lot. I spend a lot time alone. Being constantly aware of how I feel keeps me in a great place. Whether it’s good or bad.
I stay away from my vices, and if music didn’t exist I’m not sure where I would be. I’m inspired by juxtapositions like listening to Les Brown give a motivational talk and then playing 2Chainz directly after the talk!
One of the biggest challenges creatives struggle with is spreading the word and getting their work out into the world. How were you able to get showcased/featured and eventually build an audience around your work?
"It begins that way, just a thought. After a few hours of work that thought becomes a tangible idea, something that you…www.instagram.com
One of the biggest challenges that creatives struggle with is consistency.
They want the success of 15 years, overnight. They want the Internet to do the work for them, and that’s not how it works. You have to be willing to do the work and allow the Internet to help spread the work. With social media and the Internet leading how we consume information now, it’s very easy to log on and see how others are doing things. As a result we compare, and want their story without knowing how much work goes into a particular path.
I vividly remember my art only having a few daily viewers, my youngest brother Isiah, and a few friends. I could only trust the process and continue to show up. That’s all I did. That was the formula. Consistency built the audience.
What is the most important thing people should know about you as a creative?
I am no different from anyone else walking this Earth.
My only goal is to push my work to push others to produce the work they want to live in the world. If I have to serve as the guinea pig of fear to help someone else avoid mistakes, that’s cool.
As both an artist and individual, what do you aspire for? What steps do you intend to take to get to that point?
Building global communities, creative experiences, and creating platforms that will allow anyone to feel safe in spite of their flaws or differences.
Step by step, and day by day I hope to make connections with people around the world. Eventually, experiences will be created for people everywhere to embrace and connect with others. My only obligation is to continue to show up.
What book would you recommend to fellow creatives?
Do I have to pick one? LOL!
What is your favorite tool to use when creating work?
The world. A coffee shop with no wi-fi connection. KRINK’s K-60. Sharpies. Precise V5 Pens. my iPhone6.
Pigma Graphite 1, Moleskine Notebooks, and Archymichael notebooks. I’m starting to love tangible products as well. Painting backpacks, sneakers, stuff like that.
Finally, what advice can you give to the young creative starting out?
Start. Make mistakes. Take risks. Lose money. Try. Show up everyday. Put yourself in a position to have people around you that you can ask questions. Trying to teach others all the time can be draining. You should always aspire to be in a room full of smart people from various backgrounds.
Most importantly, don’t wait for anyone to validate your ideas. If you believe, go for it. Use exactly what you have right now to start. The perfect moment does not exist.
Oh and I really love this quote from Jay-Z: “don’t listen to anyone, because everyone is scared.”