How do you trust your intuition + figure out your own path?
With a lot of perseverance I think your path will unfold for you. I think there’s a lot of people in life that say, Tell me what to do! They just want to be told a path and be given a direction. I think it’s really important to look internally rather than externally for your direction and everyone is going to be different.
I left Sweetgrass in 2014 and moved back to Alaska, but I was like, Oh man, am I going to be able to make it? You don’t really go to Alaska if you want to make it big, you know? You go here if you want to live in the woods and have a little apartment and make art and shit. And that’s what I’m doing. But I was worried when I came up here that I wouldn’t be able to survive or thrive. I thought, Am I still going to be relevant, are people going to contact me?
Some people I talk to say, How do you exist up there? But I’ve been able to. Work keeps coming in and I’m able to stay creative and I’m doing projects that I want to do. I feel really lucky to be able to live in the place that I want to live and to some degree I get to play by my own rules that I’ve created, which I think a lot of people don’t necessarily get to do. They think they have to follow some path or route.
I’m pretty pleased that my life is the way it is and that I can create my own little world. I put a lot of value on that, on the place that I call home and to be my own boss. That’s really important for me. I could be doing better off in L.A. or wherever, where many of my friends have gone, but I don’t put as much value on that.
At the age of 25 all of my friends were graduating college, getting their houses and all of this stuff and that started to put pressure on me like, What am I doing, still just painting and working in restaurants? Not that that’s bad but I felt like I didn’t have a future ahead of me.
So six years ago at the age of 25 I asked myself, What should I do — should I go to school to be an accountant or a nurse or should I chase my dream of being a successful living artist? And within a split second I answered myself. Or I asked myself another question — I asked, At the age of 60, would I regret not even trying to be a successful living artist? And immediately I said, Yes, I would regret it.
From that point on I gave up caring about what everybody else was doing and focused on my art. That’s my drive, to prove to myself that I can be a successful living artist.
I think that probably comes from making every mistake in the book first. Over time you begin zoning in on what is working and try to follow your gut instinct. You can feel it when you make a decision that is against your beliefs or someone else’s. I think it’s just tuning into what you know. You’re either doing something right or wrong and you just hope to stay on the right track.