I’m going to be brutally honest here. Travel, for me, has become stale. Travel was always about the people and while it’s astounding to see new places and ancient sites – famous views and iconic landscapes and architecture – the truth is that we live in a world where that stuff is available to experience as photos, video, virtual-reality, or – for those who still read (not many) in the tales of many other travelers. Social media has opened the entire world up to everyone and in order to go somewhere and actually do something unique, you have to be more adventurous or wealthy than I am at this stage in my life.
Recently, I’ve been connecting with a fair number of amazing people. It’s not a big surprise to me that all of these people are – in one form or another – artists. These are original thinkers, outside the box people, multi-potentialities, artists, coders, rule breakers, and radicals. In some cases – these are round people who have fit themselves in square holes. The only term that really unites them is non-linear.
Over these past couple of years, with travel more or less shut down by the pandemic – we’ve all had a lot of time to think. As I’ve reflected on my own travels and adventures – it has become clear that what made them special wasn’t the places so much as the proximity to new people who think outside of the box. Artists is a term that needs to be used to describe them more broadly – from the guys who dressed up as monks and hitched across the USA to the girl who draws comics about menstruation to the person building a castle from found materials to the permaculturists, anarchists, and radicals who are using society as their canvas as they unleash their creativity on the world. It has always been art that has driven me – though, seeing the world was a benefit. More it was about seeing the world through the eyes of other artists. This was what made couch surfing so amazing – to meet new creative friends in Grenada, Quebec, Fez, Istanbul, Brussels, Busan – and then to have them share their world. The most memorable travel experiences were less adventures than ecstatic show and tells as creative people shared their favorite wonders. The statues, the street art, the murals, the off the beaten path galleries, the workshops, the kitchens, the studios of people who make art – most of them not making a living at it, but doing it anyway.
I’ve never considered myself a very good artist. In school, I took some classes but my inability to conform to the standards and guidelines set by the instructors led to low marks and that in turn led to a low sense of self-esteem in terms of what I produce. I’ve always tried to temper my creations with the boxes they told me I should be in and the result has rarely been wonderful. I’ve had some nice work emerge – work that I feel good about, but mostly, I’ve allowed my inhibitions to censor or edit my work before it even hits the canvas or wall. I’ve sold pieces of my art – which still astounds me when I think about it -so I try to tell myself that my art has some value – but there is a nagging voice that yells at me “No, people are just trying to be nice.” My mom has always been my biggest fan – which is both appreciated and embarrassing – Thanks Mom.
For the past decade, one of my annually listed goals has been to make more art. Largely, I’ve failed at that goal creating one or two pieces each year at best. Not spectacular pieces – just pieces. When I had the space – I really really enjoyed getting into oil paint – but man, you really need an artist studio to deal with the smells, the dry time, and more. I don’t have that kind of time or space. Oil pastels have always been a favorite medium. The truth is though – my favorite medium has almost always been abandoned pieces of wood and found paint of any kind. Again, a matter of space.
Earlier this year, like many people, I started digging into the NFT art space. For those unfamiliar, a NFT gives you the ability to create artificial scarcity with digital items. So, for example, you can create a unique piece of art that will then live on the blockchain and can be verified as authentic. Think of it as a way to create first edition/originals in a world that allows for infinite perfect copies. The draw to this space initially was as a writer – I loved the idea of being able to mint books as unique digital objects that would allow authors to earn royalties on secondary sales.
Then, I started to dig into the art. Digital art is something that I rather snootily never paid attention to. A voice in my brain stuck its nose in the air and said ‘it’s not real art’. I’m happy to say that the NFT space changed my mind about that. Also, I began to pay attention to the drawing and artwork my nine-year-old daughter was doing on her tablet. She was blowing my mind with her skill!
All of this led to now – first, I decided to use an old domain I had BaldJesus.com as a place to create a funny bunch of art. Using colored pencils, I drew four Bald Jesus characters. I took pictures of them and published them as NFTs on the Wax blockchain. Then, getting some good reaction on a few message boards – I decided it would be more fun to create a collective, a group of people who wanted to draw pictures of Bald Jesus. I invited a few interested people. It was fun. My daughter drew two of the first digital ones. I asked her to teach me how to draw on the apps she uses. She was a great teacher!
The little group of Bald Jesus friends grew. Our Bald Jesus Collective Discord group is now approaching 250 members! There are literally THOUSANDS of people who hold a Bald Jesus in their NFT wallet. I can’t believe this, but it’s true. This whole project only launched a month ago! We’ve done giveaways and people also buy them. There is a secondary market for Bald Jesus art. There are people offering our Bald Jesus art for tens of thousands of dollars. To be fair, the highest sale has been right around $5 – so don’t be too astounded. Still, the fact that they sell at all…it blows my mind.
There are a few different avenues for digital artists to make a living selling NFTs. I’m lucky in that at this point, I don’t have to make a living doing this. I can do this for fun and enjoyment. And…let me be clear – I am getting more fun and enjoyment out of this than anything I can remember with the exception of fatherhood. I’ve taken the photos of all the art that I liked enough to photograph it through the years and I’ve used it to create the Major Arcana of the Vagobond Bald Jesus Tarot. Tarot is another of those things that I’ve found great satisfaction and passion in through the years. Not because it tells the future, but because it gives you a way to read your brain and thoughts and emotions and figure out where you are going. The art of Tarot is as important as the mysticism.
So, let me circle back a bit. Travel has become stale. Art has brought light and joy into my life. I’m still going to be happy to engage in the Art of Travel by meeting with artists, seeing the world through their eyes, and hopefully collaborating. The bottom line though – is that while Vagobond has sort of functioned as a tour and tourism site in the past – those days are over. I’m grateful that I am no longer a tour guide. I hope that I am never in a position where I have to give a tourist tour again – although, I hope that I get to give some of the other kind from time to time to people like me – creative, non-linear, magical people.
I’ll share the Vagobond Major Arcana in another post. For now what you need to know is that moving forward – this site will have a much heavier focus on art and artists. I’m excited about what the future holds.