East Coast Living

Being back on the East Coast can only be described in one word, surreal. Between sub zero temperatures, waking up in the same place and having a somewhat consistent routine(when was the last time I could say that) being back in my art studio has been quite the adventure so far and I have only been home for about 2 weeks! Yet, even though it has taken a bit getting used to, to be quite honest it is refreshing (other than the frigid temps). So I have to say right off the bat no regrets coming back East (other than the arctic cold). Did I mention it's really cold in New York (okay okay I think I have made my point). Anyway, with the New Year officially behind me and work slowly trickling in, I am starting to feel at ease with myself. I will admit, the first few nights here, it was hard to sleep with so many ideas, thoughts, and worries running around in my head. However, now that I have had time to sit back, unpack, organize my schedule and look at the bigger picture, life and work are making more sense.

On the flip side I am struggling just a bit (as all us East Coasters are) to maintain a level of stoke about winter when I see it snowing outside yet, the temps are so cold that it is nearly impossible to enjoy it. However, this week is looking up. Forecasts are showing "normal" temps (aka above freezing) so I am maximizing my work load during the frigid days hoping to spend this week adventuring and exploring amongst my backyard. It has been 5 years since I have spent a winter on the East Coast, so to me it is like seeing the Adirondacks with fresh eyes. With that said, I have so many project ideas to incorporate with winter activities it's hard sometimes to control my excitement.

On a similar note to help with not going stir crazy, I decided to reincorporate the original reason I got into snowboarding in the first place back into my life; skateboarding! Unfortunately and fortunately this summer was so good for whitewater and kayaking it didn't leave much down time to skate. So my skating and skills have been on the back burner for some time. Thus, I scrounged in my basement for some spare wood and created my own DIY skate bench for my studio. Granted I am beyond blessed to be living and able to have/afford a studio the size I have (about 750 Square feet). What once was an old store front of my good friend/business partner's house is now you guessed it my home sweet home. So taking full advantage of the space has definitely been a main goal of mine, not just for this winter but in the past 6 yrs I have had it. I am happy to report that even taking some time off from skating it's slowly starting to all come back to me and I am beyond excited to make it a staple of my everyday life again.

Just last night I had a chat with a good snowboard/skate buddy of mine who I met my first season out at Copper Mountain. Looks like a skate/film trip to North Carolina is in the works for this coming March! I guess I better start working on my heel flips. Anyway, throughout all the family/holiday stuff, moving home to New York, climate extremes, and minor internal freak outs ( yup those happen sometimes). I am feeling very blessed and fortune going into 2018. No matter what is thrown my way, change is inevitable and I think I am finally starting to embrace it! Here's to studio life (for a few months) and enjoying each day's struggles and rewards. Let the adventure continue!

Moving Forward

I've never been much for New Years Resolutions however, I am always on the search for ways to motivate and improve my life personally and professionally. Thus, instead of writing out the old let's accomplish 10 things blah blah blah I am making myself accountable in a different more artys way; ergo projects. A main focus for most artists to keep on track or get back on track with their art is to give themselves (or in some cases have someone else) give them a project which will motivate, inspire and push ones creative boundaries. I would be lying if I said I didn't have a thousand project ideas running through my brain on a daily basis. However, ideas are just that moments in time of a passing thought until put to fruitation. Thus, every so often when I feel a bit stuck or burnt out from commercial work, one of these ideas plays on repeat so much so that I feel entitled to share it with the world and not just let it fester in my world wind of psychosis.
So in honor of a new year and the continued creation of my second book "Ashe's Rising" I have decided to take on a 52 week challenge. What is that you might ask? The 52 week challenge has many variations, yet I like to keep things simple. Basically for the year of 2018 once a week I will be posting an image to my social media and website based on a theme using limited materials. So I will be photographing my Nikon point and shoot camera (which was my talisman from my first book "Ashe in Wanderland") as my theme aka reference item. With this object I will be using only my GoPro Hero 5 camera to take the picture (my limited material). And really that's it. Each image can be taken anywhere at anytime or any day I choose as long as it is a picture of the Nikon camera photographed using my GoPro Hero 5 once a week for the whole year. Sounds simple enough right. Well, yes and no. The concept is straight forward however, the exciting and sometimes frustrating/challenging part is pushing your brain past the mundane and thinking outside the box. What I mean by that is where to photograph? How does it tie into my weeks adventures? When to take it? What are my cameras limits and capabilities? Who can I involve to be a part of it? In the end there are so many open questions it is an artist/photographer's nightmare and dream come true at the same time!
A few years ago I did a similar project using a coffee cup as my object and my iphone as the limit material and man was it a fun ride! Each image was unique yet as a whole made for an awesome body of work. I am hoping to have just as exciting and stimulating results with this project also. In addition, with the new year and a new body of work being created, I am hopeful that this will also help to further my commercial career in terms of thinking outside the box and pushing me to take chances to make me stronger and more confident as an artist and person.
All in all I am officially ready to say goodbye to the rollercoaster ride of 2017 and hello to new adventures, projects, artwork, friends and clients in 2018. Let the adventure continue!

Plan B

Sometimes things do not go as plan whether it be work, personal goals, or something as simple as an organized date night. And in the relative scheme of things that is okay as long as you can relax and just go with the flow. Sounds easy enough right, well sort of. For me personally, I have always been an individual who makes options more than plans. I like to look at situations and feel comfortable to be well uncomfortable. It's sort of a self defense mechanism in some ways. This way if my plans have a hiccup or issue I always have a "Plan B".
As of late I feel as if the last few months have been nothing but "Plan B". To be honest it has been amazing and frightening, to step out of many of my comfort zones and live each day fully embraced in all its glory good or bad. For example, living this summer in Colorado whitewater kayaking and photographing the GoPro Mountain Games was a dream come true and then the work started piling up. As much fun as I was having taking time off to be out West this summer exploring and photographing, my workflow, clients and personal matters were calling me home to the Adirondacks. So with a heavy heart and a tad bit of hesitation I decided to reroute my plans and follow my gut. Turns out spending July and August home in New York were some of the most lucrative and enjoyable moments I have had there in a long time. So with these turns of events in mind I have kept a very loose yet, professional schedule these days. Always keeping in the back of my mind that at any minute, hour or day what I think should be the right direction may indeed get flipped on its head.
As I sit here right now in a coffee shop in Colorado reviewing a week of shooting the Grand Prix of Snowboarding at Copper Mountain, I am riding an adrenaline high on life yet, also sad that my time here is limited and I must return home once again to New York for the duration of winter to work and create. Everyday is a constant reminder that what truly matters is not where I am, or how much I have, but in the end it is the time I have with friends, family and clients. And how I cherish that time to push myself to be the best person I can be personally and professionally.
Long ago when I was a kid and realized my true calling was to create art and photography, originally I was scared to death. Nobody wants to intentionally live a life of struggle, poverty and confusion, yet these were all things that many people sadly associate with artists and try to justify it's okay. Well, sadly I used think that these things were also true until I realized I make my own agenda; my own life and just because I am a living artist doesn't mean I need to fit a stereotype.
So going back to the theme of Plan B, recently I have tapped into what I see and feel is a healthier and happier mindset for my career as an artist. I am allowing time in my schedule not just for workflow but also personal relationships too, because without these roots I would not be the strong individual I am siting here today. I would probably be freaking out every time something went array when in fact all you need to do is step back reassess and begin again.

The Evolution of an Artist

Change is inevitable, how you deal with it though is anything but predictable. I ‘ll be the first to sit here and say 2017 has been one hell of a challenging year; not good nor bad just exciting. Each time I come across a new task, problem or adventure my first thought has been, how can I spin this to be a good experience or to say the least a learning one. And yes I have had my share of learning things the hard way recently. However, through it all, one important idea I have adopted to my life is that to think positive is to be positive. And if all else fails, it’s okay to say forget it and start over.
So in lieu of my new found ideology and faith in humanity, I have officially decided to set out on my next big adventure and begin the process of shooting a second photography book (sequel) to my first book “Ashe in Wanderland”. To many this may seem like a big undertaking considering I just published my first book back in 2015 and that took three years to make. And yes, originally in my mind I was going to take a breather and concentrate on other personal/professional projects but the universe had other ideas.
Recently I have been running around crazy with portrait contracts, traveling and finishing up editing/video work from Colorado yet, most nights when I fell into bed exhausted from the day I couldn’t shake the feeling that something in my life felt a little off. I wasn’t necessarily feeling stagnant ( trust me work has been anything but boring), it just felt like it was time to switch things up again. So without skipping a beat I began making a list of equipment upgrades I have been putting off (ie. buying a new computer), people I have sadly been neglecting to hang out with (either due to work overload or being in a different state living), and physical upgrades to make myself feel more confident.
What does any of this have to do with commercial work or photography, everything actually. Personal life and work need to sometimes go hand in hand. Thus, to put my best foot forward work wise, one must be content and confident personally (especially being an artist where my brand is me). Never the less my new journey has begun. As I sit here writing this on my new laptop with a few weights lifted off my shoulders (literally chopped/shaved a good portion of my hair off) slowly but surely I am starting to feel invigorated to take on the world. It’s amazing what a few minor changes in appearance and routine can do to push one’s creativity and inspiration.
Emotionally and mentally I am ready for whatever comes next. Sending out positive vibes, giving 110% with my current employers, and going with the flow. As an artist, the best way to take on the bad is to turn into art. Release the demons as they say. So with new found confidence, updated technology, and a whole lot of ambition, “Ashe’s Rising” (book 2) has begun! George Shaw said it best “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

Everyday I'm Hustling...

Truth be told these last few months have been a rollercoaster ride. Ups, downs and never ending excitement. After spending the last eight months out west in Colorado I am officially home to recollect myself and breathe. Yet, as comforting as waking up and working out of my art studio is, the hustle must continue. Yes, now that I am home in my familiar environment it does make things a bit easier in terms of doing/receiving contract work and having my studio and resources at my finger tips. But at the same time my heart does have a small ache in it for leaving behind Colorado. Thankfully I am fortunate to be able to survive and live bicoastally at the moment, thus I will be back "home" on the west coast come winter.
Anyway, just to clarify it feels good to sit down at my office desk and write this blog. It's been a long time coming and to be honest it has been a bit difficult for me ( I've only been home for a few weeks) to put into words what and how I want to express myself in regards to coming home. There is still a small part of me that feels like I caved and gave in by not trying hard enough to work things out financially, mentally and emotionally in Colorado. Yet, sitting here surrounded by work, deadlines and a strong group of supportive friends has made me realize the right decision was made and I am just being hard on myself.
Anyone can up and leave their comfort zone to explore, wander and pursue new places, ideas and passions. I do this on a regular basis. However, there is also a time and place when one should consider stepping back to look at the bigger picture and realize what is most important and best for that person's pursuit of happiness. For me, this involved saying goodbye to my best friend, new boating buddies and potential freelance work to come home to my art studio, old friends, family and a semi-established work network. Having felt like I have been neglecting my east coast family and work network for awhile now, it only felt best in my gut and heart to return home and reconnect those relationships so that I could carry that confidence and work structure back with me to Colorado.
Many people take a look at my life or hear my stories and think damn that sounds like an epic adventure, always moving always doing crazy stuff and getting paid for it. And yes I can't lie my life has been awesome and I wouldn't change a thing. However, with all the bells and whistles, intense Instagram pics, gorgeous sunsets and highlights shown on social media there is another side to every story. When I am not posting pictures of whitewater kayaking major rapids or snowboarding huge drops or even hyped up GoPro Mtn. Game contests I am sitting behind my office desk or better yet out and about hustling for that next gig, big break or client to impress. Yes, I get paid to do what most people pay others to do on a week long vacation, but it doesn't just fall into my lap. Tons of emails, random encounters, mass social marketing and definitively plenty of rejection finally gets me to beautiful mountains or raging rapids.
If there is one thing I have learned best in the past eight months it is that no matter how good you are at photographing, nor how long you have been doing it, always stay humble, it's okay to ask for help and never take for granted those who help support you and your passion. Passion will only take you so far, yet perseverance can take you to the finish line. Thus, as long as you are willing to put in the time, sweat and work it takes, the dream will continue. Here's to living the dream one moment at a time.

The Choices We Make...

To stray from a routine into utter disarray is not always a bad thing. However, it should come with a warning. I will be the first to admit I get antsy; I am not a creature of habit nor routine. Yet, there are still parts of my life which must be taken care of on a daily basis such as matters concerning my photography business. In addition, to personal hygiene, self-care and the most important (at least to me) having a place of sanctuary to unwind, breathe and collect my thoughts after a long day.

Since my semi-calculated plan to take off to the west coast and explore it's mountains and whitewater, I have come across a few different things. Some good, some not so good and others that well confuse me. But then again we all know that no matter how much planning goes into anything, life can still be as unpredictable as can be. Now back to what I was saying before my mind goes too astray. Since I have arrived back in Colorado for the summer, I have not had a moments rest. I went from living in Steamboat Springs in a large two bedroom apartment with my best friend, to living on my buddies couch, to now tenting it in the lovely town of Buena Vista. Amongst the many places to rest my head I have photographed my first GoPro Mountain Games, hiked in Canyon City and am about to photograph Fibark Paddling Festival in Salida Colorado this weekend.

For the most part, all of these adventures and undertakings have been received with upmost positivity and a smile on my face. However, just recently in the last 48 hours or so I have been feeling a bit exhausted and burnt out. Finding my stride and groove out west I knew is/was going to be a challenge and I am always up for a good fight. But lately even the little things have been becoming somewhat of a struggle. Self-Motivation being the biggest of them all. I have found that having the freedom to be completely mobile is liberating and exhausting at the same time. This has only made me more antsy and yearning for my art studio and some form of consistency in New York/East Coast.

On the flip side, me being my own worst critic and a stubborn Italian, it has made it that much more difficult to concentrate on my present when all I can think is that if I give in and go back to New York I feel like I failed. I know what you are all thinking, no it is not a failure to get up and leave. Time and place is what it is all about and yes that is true, but there is also a strong part of me that feels if I go home to my own bed, steady jobs, and a handful of friends I see sporadically on visits back east, that I am taking the easy way out. Thus, I will be missing out on opportunities to better myself, my company and be someone/something out here. At the same time my work flow and not having certain opportunities that I have in New York such as internet at all hours, a roof over my head and friends to paddle with, may be exactly what I need to be focused right now.

I have had my ups and downs before and have always found the best way to conquer them, learn from my mistakes, and benefit myself and others. Yet, I can't keep thinking that where I am sitting at this moment may not truly be where I need to be. Yes, the GoPro Mountain Games was an epic experience. And yes, I am stoked about photographing a ton more wicked cool paddlers this weekend. But I have other projects, ideas, and needs that also must be fulfilled for me to live to my upmost potential. And it is these personal/professional goals that are swirling around in the back of my head making me long for one place to have it all.
At one point in my career a few years ago I thought it was tough traveling from state to state on the east coast; always moving, doing, being. For the past 3 years I have been living bi-coastal and let me tell you it is a blessing and a curse. Ironically enough at this moment I am in the process of building material for a personal project called "What is home" taking on the notion and idea of different people's perceptions of comfort, peace, love and acceptance through their lifestyles and living quarters. The more I rework and think about this concept, the more I battle my own thoughts about my "home".
It is scary, exciting, heartbreaking and in some cases mind numbing to think about. Yet, in the end, all the pain, emotion, triumph and fear makes for some damn good artwork. If I have learned anything these past few months it's that without amazing friends and family I would never have survived.
So do I tough it out; try to find some form of functioning schedule with no remorse amongst the rivers and mountains of Buena Vista and Colorado? Or do I throw in the towel, make the road trip journey back home to my studio, regroup and try to gain some kind of focus with my scattered work flow? This is definitively one of those times where the answer is a double edged sword. In my heart and my gut I know the answer, but right now in my head all I know is that tomorrow is another sunrise.

Challenge Accepted; No Regrets.

I have been silent for too long. My mind and body have been through a wave of emotions lately. I am moving, shaking and digesting all the important information and happenings around me. Now, at this moment I am finally able to step back, and breathe. The last few months have been anything short of a rollercoaster ride. The ups and downs vigorous and sometimes violent yet, always ending in some form of conclusion or happiness. I am finally calm and at peace with myself, my surroundings and the people around me. Yet, now is the time to leave.
The word leaving most of the time gets a bad connotation and it shouldn't. To leave a place, job, person, home is not always a bad thing. For me, most of the time when I am leaving somewhere, someone or something it is to pursue better things and to push myself and my boundaries in a forward direction. This brings me back to what I was saying earlier. I have put the strain, stress and BS of these last few months in the past, learned from it, lived and am ready for my next journey.
In just a few short days I will be taking on yet another life changing situation and lifestyle choice. My roommate/best friend and I are moving out of our apartment to go spend the next few months living out of our backpacking tents in Buena Vista Colorado. I will be photographing paddling/kayaking festivals including the GoPro Games in Vail, as well as other outdoor adventure sports with the hopes of building a strong and successful client base and community out on the West Coast.
My heart and my body are over the moon happy about this decision. I am looking forward to beautiful sunrises and sunsets out my tent, eating healthier and growing as kayaker/paddler and adventure sport photographer. As well as taking some time off to myself to reevaluate my business and work on my side project "What is home?". At the same time, my brain is going a mile a minute trying to figure out how I will organize daily tasks for work with no "house" internet connection or studio to rely on. The best thing for me to do right now is to go with the flow and know that in the back of my mind things will work themselves out when balancing my work/business and a minimalist outdoor lifestyle.
This will definitively be a challenge, one I have not come across recently or to this level. But, I feel that by taking on something like this were I have to focus and gain control within how I run and operate my business and keep myself healthy, happy and whole is just another stepping stone in the right direction to living my life to the fullest. The way I see, it the more time I spend frolicking around in my comfort zone taking on mundane task/jobs the less likely I am to push myself as an artist/business owner and all around person. Thus, by throwing all the comforts of modern home life out the window, not only can I test my personal limits but also professional ones as well. Bertoldo said it best, " Talent is cheap; dedication is expensive. It will cost you your life." I am ready, challenge accepted. No regrets.