“Computers only work because of the principles of physics. Arguably, all computers are physical things. If I were to try to describe what I do for a living to a layman it would go something like: Imagine that you go into work and you play a game of chess or a game of Sudoku. The rules of this game always change and the game is always slightly different. Every time you win the game you are one step closer to the product or the feature that you're building. At the end of a series of puzzles, you have built the thing and achieved your goal.”
“Being weird is cool. And that’s important because so many kids who are not right for a conformist universe feel that there’s something wrong with them. I now realize that those are the most interesting people.”
To live an artist life is not for the faint of heart. Did you set out to live that kind of life?
I think that I did. My father was a farmer, my mother did catering, but both of them found artistry in their everyday life. There was artistry in the way that my mother arranged food or flowers, in the way my father sowed the fields. There was artistry in the care that my father put into growing berries and two kinds of cabbages, three kinds of beans. It's creating an environment that pleases the eye, that pleases the soul.
Have you ever watched the guy in Grand Central Station shine shoes? The way he slaps that cloth around and how he uses his fingers to get the polish on, the way he spits on his fingers and rubs it on the heels - there’s artistry in that. His fingers fly and every shoe is different.
"Someone asked me the other day about the connection between drumming and photography. I said I don’t know how artists start with nothing and create from there. As a photographer, I start with a 3x2 frame and the world and I can create something out of that. Drumming is like that too. I don't write songs but I can be creative within the frame that a songwriter has given me. "
"Authenticity can open the hearts of people who are sleeping - letting them know there are love and human connections that can still be made outside of the everyday surface-level life that they are living. Music can be an awakener. It's not only what you say as an artist, but also how you present the music and how you present yourself as an artist. I think that can also help open people's hearts up."
"I want to be like Matisse - cutting up paper when he was blind. He wasn't telling someone else to do it. You read about artists with such bad arthritis that they tape the brush to their hand so they can still paint. It's the act of it that's very important. It's ephemeral, what drives me. It's something that defies words. It just is.
I think that as humans we’re meant to be in strong tribe-like groups. Technology has led us towards isolation. I think in most people there is a desire and a need to be around people that accept us for who we are. I want to help build a community who creates together, dreams together and is able to make positive changes together.
"Becoming a chef is like being in the military. There are levels that you have to go through. You have to move up through the ranks. You actually have to work your ass off and grind it out, put in time, get burned, get cut, get yelled at, get beaten up."
"I want people to not take experience for granted. And realize it's a thing! People don't realize Experience is a thing! When you get up every day, ask what experience are you delivering, and to whom? Every day I deliver an experience to my employees, to my wife, to my children. I ask: 'what can I do this weekend?' Or 'what's the experience I'm planning for somebody' because that's my contribution to their lives. We all need to provide better experiences for each other, whatever it may be."
"I believe the spark that gets the artist moving is the same spark that gets the scientist moving. I want to discover. I want to know more. In improv, it's listening to the last thing that was just said. You step out onto an empty stage and you know nothing. You don't know how it's going to go. You get a suggestion from the audience and you make it up as you go, blindly. I feel like there's a lot of similarity with how scientists go about things: 'alright, I don't know, we're going to see what this is, I'm going to listen to the last thing that was said and we'll look at the last piece of data and I'm going to build on that to see what comes next.' In an improv scene - somebody makes a move and maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. If it works, great, we build on it. If it doesn't, we go sideways and make something else and build on it. They are kindred spirits. I'm fascinated by finding areas that science and comedy intersect."
"Act 1 for me was churning through some introspective and creative stuff with the opera singing. Act 2 for me has to be figuring out how to take my skill set and make it meaningful... Now I need to reflect the world. I need to figure out how to take my ability to find other people's art and heart. And figure out a way to turn that into something relevant. I'm not sure how to do that yet. But what would I really like to do? What are my hopes and dreams? Well, I'd like to change the world. It's important to start with the why of what you do and then you figure out the how."
"Everyone has their own view on what art is. For me, art is the concept of re-creation. The universe is the ultimate creation. We as humans have been gifted the power of creativity which is the power to re-create ourselves, to become creators. This is what I call art - to recreate the world through your work."
I believe that we all have a deeper muse inside of us; a deeper resource. When we get out of our normal mind frame and consciousness and relax we literally come from a different reference point. It's then that this other stream of data comes through, this other author, this co-author comes through. To me the co-author is a deeper part of ourselves that we don't access on a day-to-day basis necessarily, unless we're receptive to that. My sense is that we have our normal every day thinking in the way that we see the world, but there are moments when that pauses or relaxes and allows for a deeper intelligence to come through.
"I create art because I want to. I don't want to have a show. I don't see myself being the center of attention. I create art so I can let go. My canvas is my project - Makú, in Colombia. That's my art. That's what I have to put my intention and belief in. And that's what I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life doing. I picture myself helping others and helping myself to grow and be a better person."
"There’s no end to one’s evolution, and that’s the first lesson. There’s no end, so don’t look for it. Just enjoy the journey, because it’s just a journey."
"I think some of the best artists in the world are people who do not have the control button - the button that keeps us all as functioning members of society saying 'I shouldn’t do that.’ As a result many of them are self-destructive because they don’t have that button, but I think things free-flow out of them onto canvas, songs, fashion - but they are sometimes messes as people. Moving from the rational to the instinctual and this free-flow is often what makes a great artist. Some of the greatest performers and artists I know are pretty self-destructive, I wouldn’t want to be them. But I sure like the output of what they do."
"I create a way for people to take their fear and visualize it in their own way so they can defeat it. The mind can be the greatest creator of positivity but also can create negative representations as well. The ultimate goal is for people to turn their negativity into positivity.”
" Life is certainly changed by art, changed by music, it's changed by the depictions and the context of self-representation that we allow to happen. But at the same time we are normalized by the world, we are normalized by language, by family. Art is the interruption of the context of that normalization. So I don't really know what it would be like if everyone was an artist. I don't really know what art is for. I just know that the way it works, now, in my own experience and in the experience of my students with whom I share my doubts, is that it changes the world.”
"I get very worked up and eager to do something when I hear horrifying things on the news. I want to do something, I want to help. I want to bring attention to that subject, and to also give solutions. It's really important in my opinion - to not just highlight the horror but to present ideas of what we can do about it."
I'm a maker that's trying to make a difference. My medium isn't important. My message is cohesive. It's all about communication of human issues. I try to make my work shiny or beautiful - some element of beauty so that the observer walks in and stays with it for one extra second. It's about that extra beat that they're with it and all of a sudden I've snagged you. I'm infiltrating a little bit.
"Not all art is storytelling, and not all storytelling is art What I'm interested in is storytelling as an art form -- and a very democratic art form. It's something that everybody can do. No matter what your age is, or your intellectual ability is or your education or your race -- it makes no difference. Every human being has access to our birthright. It's our birthright to be storytellers."
"People think I must be really nervous when I paint a drop for Leibovitz. But it’s the exact opposite. I’m more nervous when I have to paint a drop for some 26 year-old from Des Moines who’s saved all his money for me to paint his backdrop so he can look like Leibovitz. I lay in bed at night worrying. I’m sweating the whole time I’m doing it. Or I do it a million times. But with Leibovitz I think, 'Oh let me just throw a gallon of paint on it and some water' and sometimes it looks amazing.
"Everybody needs to learn to sell -- whether you're actually in the business of performing a service or selling products or goods to people or trying to get them to perceive something. Even with artists, besides selling their product or their service, photographers for instance have to make people comfortable. They have to sell their own credibility and help bring people through a process."
(To) understand basic laws of the universe - drumming gets you pretty close - like in dancing - you can't lie. And you can't lie playing drums. If you are in search of truth-of-self drumming is probably one of the most beautiful and easy things to be able to channel the truth of life.
"I feel that I had to become an artist so that I could see, hear, taste, and smell what freedom really is, and to me that was art. And now I feel that my path is to be able to share art with kids who have not had those opportunities."