#HappyNewYear, and to New MAD Adventures in 2022! Lots of Traveling, Alaska and #VanLife Adventure! 2021 was a pivotal year for me. I decided it was time for a major change! For the previous three years I had become obsessed with mountain biking, racing, a team, my MAD Shredders kit line and my regular art. All of this gave me something to be constantly working towards, with lots of traveling and goals to be met.
But, I had been struggling with some really severe fatigue issues, that I would address off and on, but never really dealt with the problem, until it became almost debilitating. I had to finally stop racing, as I was unable to even train for more than a couple of hours a week, and even at that, it was still causing me issues. It was a very frustrating beginning of the year of 2021 because the fatigue had basically taken over my life.
I've never really spoken about this publicly, but sometimes I couldn't even muster the energy to get out of bed. It was very depressing and I was determined not to spiral down a dark hole of nothingness. So, I would make it a point to go for walks, or an easy road ride; mountain biking just took too much out of me so I rarely got out in the trails.
All of this was really hard to bear, but I knew my health was most important and I focused on doing what I needed to get better. I was dealing with almost non-existent testosterone, and out of control cortisol levels. All of which was exacerbated, and brought on to some extent, by intense endurance cycling, which I LOVE to do! But, alas, was not to be for most of 2021. So, I just focused on my art and came up with exciting new work and ideas, that I will be back to as soon as I hit the road in my van, The MAD Warrior!
Which leads me to the major life change I made in August. I was feeling kinda lost and searching for something, and one day it just hit me...I needed to #travel more, just get outside on long walks, #cycling and #hiking, to experience more of the outdoors I'd yet to see. And what better way to do it then in a converted, tiny home studio, van! I was instantly invigorated, inspired and felt full of life and excitement again...THIS was what I needed, a change, with new goals, dreams and adventures. And, I was ready to explore a new part of the country, and have always been fascinated by the #PNW and Southwest parts of the U.S., parts of the country that are meant to be spent outside exploring. I knew
I wanted to take on the challenge of converting the van myself and decided to drive it across the country last September to Washington state where I have lots of family. It just worked out so well to get to stay and visit with my family while having a place to work on the van. I've also started to recover from my fatigue issues and can finally go for longer, more intense rides without being incapacitated for days afterwards. I just needed to give my body time to fully recover, and to adjust the way I exercise and live my life. Also having something new to motivate and inspire has helped me to start feeling like my normal self again.
2022 looks to be an amazing, full of adventure year! Hoping all goes as planned, but prepared for any changes that may pop up. Planning to get on the road in the van by February 1st, even if it's not completely finished...as I REALLY need to get to some sunnier, warmer weather asap, haha!! Then, in the spring my daughter Aroon and I are going on a trip to Europe that she gifted to me for Christmas! Beyond excited for this adventure, as I've never been, and looking forward to enjoying the time spent with my favorite adventure partner 💖
Then I will be going to #Alaska in the summer to work on my MAD Island! Finally hoping to get even a small cabin completed so I can visit and stay more often. Have some really cool plans for the island that I cannot wait to implement!
Then spend time in Washington with my cousin traveling all over the state and even into Canada on Vancouver Island. And then head south again for the fall/winter months traveling in The MAD Warrior.
And all this time will also be spent focusing on getting back to work, creating new, exciting art! There will be a lot of new originals inspired by my travels, can't wait to get started on them! I hope all of you have some exciting new plans for 2022, and embrace any changes that may come your way with positivity and hope for a bright, shining future 💙🤍💚
My brother Robin, who splits his time between Ketchikan, AK and Meyers Chuck, AK, our two Alaskan hometowns, wanted me to paint a special painting of his boat the "Sultan". Hope I did it justice!
My brother who lives in Ketchikan, Alaska, and works at the local shipyard in the winter months, also has a Salmon troller that he fishes out of in the summers in our little hometown village of Meyers Chuck, AK called "Sultan". He is an avid San Francisco 49ers fan, so of course he had to give ode to them with his boat, haha!! Hence the colors and the flag proudly saluting fellow 49ers fans...or taunting their rival Seahawks fans, all who pass him by on the Alaskan fishing grounds.
The "Sultan" is the oldest troller in Ketchikan, and is being recognized by the Ketchikan Historical society for it's long standing history of fishing the Alaskan waters for almost a century. The wooden boat was built in 1926, in Seattle, WA. Some of the characteristics of the Sultan are: it is a double ended fir planked power troller, OAL 43'' long with a 10' beam and has a 6' draft. It is documented with the USCG, number: 226195, and more information on the boat can be found by entering the doc number on the Coast Guards website.
It's been my brothers dream to own his own fishing boat for as long as I can remember, and in May of 2019 he decided to make his dream come true. He first found a boat in Hoonah, AK that he was interested in, and so him, and our oldest brother James, traveled up there, only to find the boat was in horrible condition. So, back to square one and the hunt for the perfect troller. He then heard about a boat in Sitka, AK and they went to check that one out, hoping it was the perfect dream boat, there he met the "Sultan" and a couple days later she was on her way to Meyers Chuck, AK, her new home.
Of course with a boat that is almost a century old, and made of wood, living in the harsh climate of Alaska the boat requires continuous maintenance and costs to keep it seaworthy, but my brother is up for the task and regularly spends 300 hours, and $5,000 a year to keep her running. But, it is worth it to live out his dream and join the ranks of all the other Alaskan fishermen in our family.
Interesting side note, it is the 2nd red power troller boat in the family that is unmistakeable in Southeast Alaska. Our uncle and aunt, Rory and Marion, also fish the same grounds with their boat the "Isis". Maybe our brother James, and cousin JoDean and her jusband Joe, need to paint their trollers red now too, hmmmmm.
Looking forward to seeing the colorful Sultan pass by in front of MAD Island while I am working up there this summer, building my dream artist retreat and seeing his dream boat fish on by.
Click on the photo below to watch the making of the original painting on YouTube
I just posted a video on my YouTube channel of a recent visit to Alaska touring MAD Island with my sister Tara, check it out HERE.
Welcome to my Alaskan MAD Island! Take an Island Tour on this Future Alaskan Artist Retreat in my YouTube Channel, and be sure to subscribe for lots of new, upcoming Alaskan videos. I grew up in the remote wilds of Alaska in a little fishing village called Meyers Chuck, about 35 miles North of the first Alaskan City, Ketchikan. I currently live in Miami, FL as a full time artist, but Alaska will always have my heart, and now I own my own little piece of it! Starting this summer I will be building my own colorful artist retreat on the island, and can't wait!!
As you can see from my art I have a slight color obsession, haha! And MAD Island will be no exception, you may spot a few pink flamingos already inhabiting the island, gotta have a throwback to my Florida life too. As much as I possibly can the retreat will be built with beach combed items and whatever other recycled, upcycled materials I can find. It's important for me to live a sustainable lifestyle, and MAD Island will be an ode to just that. So, it may take a little while as I hunt down what I need, which won't be an easy feat as MAD Island is in one of the most remote places on the planet, the Tongass National Forest. Everything there is completely off grid, and the only way to get there is to know someone who has a boat or to find an available flight on a float plane, which most of them rarely fly into Meyers Chuck these day.
Luckily I still have a lot of family that live either in Meyers Chuck or Ketchikan and can help me with travel and also have supplies they've collected over the years just in case it is needed. Will be fun to see what all I can scrounge up to make my little retreat.
I have my tickets booked to go up there later this summer, and will be documenting the whole process of whatever I can get accomplished on my island and will post it all here on my Youtube channel once I get back to Miami civilization. The internet is spotty at best up there, and obviously no wi-fi, so impossible to do much video posting. In the meantime I will be sharing some videos from a recent visit I made up there while stay with my sister Tara, who lives on a floating house, ties up next to my parents floating house, about a 10-15 minute skiff (small boat) ride from where my island is located in The Chuck (how locals refer to Meyers Chuck). My sister even has a book out on us and our three brothers and parents growing up in a nearby old burned down cannery...check it out on Amazon, "Raised in Ruins: a Memoir" by Tara Neilson, lots of fun and amazing stories about real Alaskans living off grid.
Hope you enjoy this first look at MAD Island, will share more soon! In the Meantime, I will be uploading other videos of having fun in Alaska under my "Alaska" playlist, just my sister and I goofing off, haha!
This painting is from a sketch I created years ago while sitting at my old Alaskan cabin looking across at what we used to call Eagle Island, but now that it is actually my own little Island, I have appropriately dubbed it MAD Island! So crazy how I used to daydream about having a little artist studio out on that island, and I can finally start to make that dream a reality. If we dream it, we can make it happen.
I will be creating a beautifully eclectic artists haven with colorful little cabins and whale watching posts throughout the island with lots of little artistic details using reclaimed beach drift and whatever other little goodies I can find washed up on the neighboring shores. I'm going to try and create all of the structures with as much repurposed and upcycled products as I can find, get access too. Which isn't an easy feat as the only way to get to Meyers Chuck, AK is to get a floatplane to take me there or no someone with a boat. Luckily my brothers all have boats of some sort or another so I will have to pester them to help me out, haha!
I will be going up there this summer for a couple of weeks just to soak in the peace and quiet and get a few little out buildings up so that the next time I go I can get to work on the main cabin and have a place of my own to stay. Can't wait!
In Keeping with my efforts to minimize my carbon footstep and live a more environmentally/sustainable lifestyle I've started using Canson recyclyed Bristol Paper, which is what this painting was created on. And as always, A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this original painting will be donated to ReWild, a conservation organization I have collaborated with, and contribute to, to help “conserve the diversity of life on Earth".
I grew up off grid, in one of the most beautiful, wildest places on the planet, the Alaskan Wilderness. The Tongass National Forest to be precise, the largest remaining old growth temperate rainforest in the world. Tongass is home to not only my family, and myself when I visit every summer, but to so many species of beautiful creatures, from brown bears, wolves to bald eagles...and the glorious trees, sooooo many trees! I have a bit of an obsession with trees as you might be able to tell from all my art, haha :) One of my earliest memories was of sitting on my dads shop overlooking the bay where Humpbacks and Orcas frequented, and was struck by a lone black silhouette of a barren tree contrasted against all the lush greenery of the living trees around it. I sat and sketched that tree over and over again for hours, something about it captured my attention and I've been fascinated with trees in my art ever since.
When I heard the Trump administration opened up 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to development a few months ago, ie clear cutting, I was beyond upset. This forest is a national treasure and needs to be protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy, for the animals that inhabit it, and for the carbon cleaning resource it provides to not just the United States, but for the entire planet. I will personally be reaching out to President Biden to repeal this order and hope that the lawsuits that have been leveled against the order will also put an end to it and leave these old growth trees, some up to 800 years old, to continue to provide homes for wildlife, indigenous populations and help control climate change.
Only a few miles from where I grew up, and now have my own tiny Alaskan Island (MAD Island), they clear cut the mountains a few years back and it's just depressing to pass by it and see the total devastation. The photo below is just a glimpse of what it looks like, imagine this over 9 million acres...and it takes years and years for it to recover back to what it once was.
"The Tongass is the biggest national forest in the U.S. and arguably one of the biggest tools in our arsenal to confront climate change.
In keeping with my efforts to live a more eco friendly, sustainable lifestyle, I switched from using plastic plates as my paint palettes to a traditional artists palette. The old palettes would just get thrown away, a compilation of acrylic paint piled onto plastic, basically something that would never deteriorate and just add to the pile of plastics proliferating landfills. By using these new palettes I can avoid any kind of disposal issues at all by turning them into a two sided original work of art, that will basically last forever! A win-Win! One side is an abstract mosh up of the colors I used to paint with, this one even has some spots of glitter on it for a little extra sparkle :) The other side I paint an actual painting, so you have two options to display your art. It comes with a little easel to display, or you could hang the abstract side through the finger area, the other side would be kind of lop sided if hung up. It is also coated on both sides with art resin to add extra sheen, depth and make the colors just pop!!
A portion of the proceeds from my MAD wonderland collection sales, is donated to Re:wild (formerly know as Global Wildlife Conservation), an organization I have collaborated with, and continue to contribute to. "We believe that together, we can protect and restore those ecosystems critical to the health of our planet—from the Amazon to Australia and from Borneo to our own backyards. We are excited to embark on this journey, because we believe that, together, we can rewild our world.." (Co-founded by Leonardo Dicaprio.)