Artist from birth


I was born poor. I only mention it because it’s likely I would have stayed poor for the rest of my life if I didn’t have a creative ability since birth. I can’t say things came easily to me because I worked hard, but I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate.

It also helps that I had supportive parents. I grew up in a single-parent household for most of my youth. Unlike a lot of parents, my mother never discouraged my desire to draw. I was incurably hyperactive yet could spend hours alone in my room, drawing and letting my imagination run wild. And I especially loved making flip books.

My mother married my stepdad in 1980 and we moved from Southern California to a neighborhood in the suburbs of Seattle. The change of scenery and elevation to the middle class was a welcomed life change. Our house had a big backyard, I had my own BMX bike and I made new friends.

Meanwhile, I kept drawing, painting and making up stories. I became a huge fan of movies and comic books, inspired by people like Stan Lee, George Lucas, and Stephen Spielberg. And there was also a Japanese influence. I was captivated by manga and anime, and I never missed an episode of Star Blazers. I dressed up like a ninja and practiced flips and summersaults in the basement. I sketched robots and aliens endlessly.

Fast-forward to 1986. I began spending a lot of time doing graphic design—logos, graphics, and typography—more than fantasy art. I loved it.

After graduating high school in 1988, with the encouragement of my stepfather, I pursued my dream of launching a t-shirt company. I was walking on air, but excitement swiftly turned to dread because I was hopelessly introverted, and the prospect of having to sell my artwork seemed terrifying. So I scuttled my plans and went to art school instead, in pursuit of a commercial art career.

While in art school, I became interested in advertising. I loved the blend of art and psychology. So I focused on training to be an art director.

A couple years later, I got a job at a start-up ad agency in Seattle. It was a volunteer job and they paid me zero dollars. But eventually, I added enough value and they started paying me.

In 1998, after three years working in Seattle, I moved with my girlfriend to San Francisco, where I was hired at Saatchi & Saatchi to work on HP. It was my first good paying job and my girlfriend and I finally got married. We exchanged vows overseas in Santorini, Greece. That was before everyone was doing it. Now it’s become cliché to get married there.

A little over one year later, I got an offer to work at Hal Riney and ended up staying there for six years, working on Saturn, HP, and Sprint. Before leaving I had been promoted to creative director, leading the Sprint Local business.

My wife and I moved again, further south, where I took a job at Media Arts Lab in LA. I worked there for a year and a half, exclusively on Apple, as an associate creative director. I learned a lot —especially from weekly interactions with ad guru, Lee Clow—and grew my portfolio of work.

I then moved to the nearby offices of TBWA\Chiat\Day in LA, where I worked on such accounts as Nissan, Infiniti, and Visa. I also lead the Pedigree account as creative director. After four years at the agency, I “got quit.” A victim of mass layoffs. It was the first time I’d ever been cut loose and it was humbling. But it turned out to be a blessing. I enjoyed doing freelance and the money was good.

I freelanced for a year and a half before being talked into a full-time job at RPA in Santa Monica, working exclusively on the Honda account as creative director. It was enjoyable, but it lasted for less than one year. I left to freelance again.

The next few years of freelancing were extremely rewarding. I stayed very busy making ads while using down time to travel, blog and dream up side projects.

That brings us to now.

I currently split my time doing freelance art direction, graphic design, blogging, photography, videography, video editing, volunteering at a dog rescue and running an e-commerce site (when I’m not traveling overseas).


1. Creativity has no boundaries.

Ideas are plentiful. We all have them. App ideas, recipe ideas, business ideas, whatever. If we let creativity flow, the ideas are endless. But ideas must be born. Too often, we stifle ourselves with fear and doubt, and our ideas die. This is a tragedy.

2. Why is more important than how.

We get excited about ideas and rush to how before we honestly ask ourselves why. How is solvable. How doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. The internet is full of hows. The big question is why. Every idea must pass the test of why. The things that are grounded in why endure the test of time.

3. Execution is 99% of the struggle.

A brilliant idea that is executed poorly has no value. This is where experience plays into the equation. When you’ve spent decades executing, you become good at it. The trick is to keep it fresh and resist formulas.

4. Aging isn’t fun, but it comes with benefits.

Society doesn’t value age the way it used to. Actually, that’s not true. We value it more than we realize. A fine wine, a vintage motorcycle, an antique chair. Time has improved them. They have depth and character, and a story to tell. It’s the same with people. Age makes them more human.

5. Jerks hurt the world.

Ego has a place. But conceit does not. There’s a difference. Ego is believing you have positive value to offer the world, and having the courage to prove it. Conceit is excessive pride and narcissism. The point is, humility—or meekness—is a key to true success. It means listening more than talking. It means understanding and empathizing. But meekness shouldn’t mean weakness.

6. Honesty is such a lonely word.

Fake is the new evil. Or the old evil when you think about it. Who values lies? Who values platitudes? Who values shallow relationships? Nobody really. So why do brands fictionalize so often? We all the smoke and mirrors? Maybe it’s to conceal that there’s no there there. When we find something or someone that’s honest—that’s real—we stop and take notice. Real is worth more than a one-night stand. It’s worth forever.

7. Cross-pollinate.

Nobody knows where ideas come from. But one thing is for sure: ideas come more frequently by exercising free association… through experience, collaboration, and communication… dotted by occasional moments of isolation and deep thought. Take these two methods, mix them together, and voila.

For more philosophies and musings, visit my blog here.

Thanks for reading. Download my CV/resumé here.