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WRDSMTH: Aspiring to Inspire – Every Day

February 12, 2016
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“Happy in London, UK” by WRDSMTH. Photo by @D7606. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

We continue our series on individuals making a difference in the world, with the skills they possess.  As a Valentine’s Day special, we feature LA based street artist WRDSMTH.

Each day, WRDSMTH touches hearts around the world with a new WRD – spray painted images of a vintage typewriter, topped with his messages of motivation, love and humour.  WRDSMTH mixes a sense of nostalgia with pop culture in his art and for a world lost in the complexity of the “extreme present,” his WRDs evoke a simpler time – perhaps imagined – when we were all a little kinder to ourselves and one another, and when love was a committment for life.

Every piece, in its own way, feels like a love letter, sent out to the world, from the artist.

"Hate Love" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

“Hate Love” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

WRDSMTH calls his WRDs “indelible messages” which he “tattoos on walls” in cities around the world. WRDs can be found in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego, West Palm Beach, London, Paris, Edinburgh, and Melbourne. His art is best experienced in its public context where its position in the surrounding environment adds another layer of meaning. However, for those unable to see it in situ, clever use of social media enables worldwide followers to participate in the daily experience, with photographs of his work appearing on his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

Hoping to achieve a modest following of 500-1,000 followers, WRDSMTH currently has over 75,000 followers on Instagram and the number continues to grow, daily.

"Instagram" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Instagram” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

We emailed WRDSMTH in LA, to ask him a little more about his work and his motivations for being a force for positive messaging in the world.

 

TTDOG: In a recent article you were quoted as saying: The aim of art is “to inspire, entertain, or woo other individuals” Are you trying to woo us, Mr. WRDSMTH? As my father would say: What are your intentions for us?

WRDSMTH: No and yes. I recently used the word woo mainly to refer to the romantic WRDs I put up all over the world, as opposed to the motivational ones which inspire and the funny ones which I hope entertain. However, yes, I am trying woo people with my words. My intention is to affect. Period.

"Shine" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Shine” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

I hope my work makes people ponder, smile, and maybe laugh. The notion that people turn a corner and see a piece of mine or are driving by one and my WRDs affect them in a positive manner, makes me happy and, in turn, adds fuel to the creative fire. If a percentage of those people notice the name attached to my pieces and at some juncture look me up, fall into the rabbit hole that is the my body of work, and possibly become followers/fans, then my wooing was successful.

 

TTDOG: Why do you think positive WRDs from an anonymous stranger are so important to people and why is that craving so universal?

WRDSMTH: When I began WRDSMTHing, I just felt that this city (L.A.) and the world needed some positivity. I think it’s easy in this day and age to feel negative toward current events, politics, and even most of what’s deemed entertainment these days. I shy away from those heavily debated topics and instead choose to focus on the individual – the person that happens upon my WRDs – and, again, I aim to affect them in a positive manner.

"struggle pays" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Struggle Pays” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

And even though my messages reach a wide audience, I think people find the words compelling because of that one-on-one experience. I often am told people feel like my WRDs are speaking directly to them, which is a huge compliment, in my book. And the mystery of who is putting all these WRDs all over the world definitely works in my favor, which is a big reason why I retain my anonymity.

"two believe" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Two Believe” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Born in Ohio, WRDSMTH moved to Chicago, where he crafted words into slogans designed to sell dreams through consumption. Realising that time waits for no one, he risked all to chase his own dream of being a writer and moved to Los Angeles. Following a very successful run, in 2013, he again turned his craft to selling a dream, with his WRDs. This time, it was the most cherished but often abandoned dream – fulfillment.

"Dream Bigge(r)" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Dream Bigge(r)” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Despite his startlingly rapid rise as an international street Artist, WRDSMTH remains dedicated to his first passion: writing. He writes, every day. For solitary people of letters, his WRDs offer not only a dose of motivation but a sense of community.

"Create Every Day" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesty of the artist.

“Create Every Day” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesty of the artist.

 

TTDOG: One of your most famous WRDs says: “Aspire to Inspire Others and the Universe Will Take Note.” In what way do you feel the universe has taken note – for yourself as well as for those who have been inspired by you?

WRDSMTH: ‘Aspire’ has definitely become a mantra for WRDSMTH, but that’s because those words are so in line with what I aim to do and aimed to do from the get-go. I began this endeavor speaking to all the creative individuals doing time in Hollywood. However, I quickly realized it wasn’t just about those doing time here, but those doing time everywhere. Everyone has a dream – whether it be a creative one, a productive one or a romantic one.

"Aspire To Inspire" by WRDSMTH. Photo by Playboy. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Aspire To Inspire” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Playboy. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

We all aim to inspire others and if that intent is truly altruistic, I firmly believe the universe will take note. And hopefully good karma ensues. My success has been unexpected. I actually started WRDSMTHing for me because I needed an active hobby. The fact that my WRDs are resonating with so many is thrilling on a daily basis, which is why ‘Aspire’ is a mantra. The messages I get from fans and followers are amazing and are always welcome. I love hearing how I have inspired and motivated others. I also love hearing how my romantic WRDs have helped bring people together.

In a city and in an era where ‘authenticity’ is simply an attribute for branding, the nostalgic warmth and sometimes gut wrenching honesty of his art hints at the character of the man behind the WRDs.

 

TTDOG: Is the open hearted, playful, and vulnerable quality of your WRDs an extension of your professional writing, or is the anonymous WRDSMTH an alter ego that doesn’t get space for expression in your other writing? Why put yourself at risk, in a renegade medium? What impact does the medium and your anonymity have on what you communicate?

WRDSMTH: Both. I think the most compelling stories in any medium are open-hearted, amusing, and vulnerable. At least my favorite novels, movies, TV shows, and music have those characteristics. My professional work includes novels and screenplays and I follow that path, along with a strong belief that “less is more” in all my writing. WRDSMTH is such a merger of worlds for me. I used to work as a copywriter in advertising, so I think I understand how to be effective and affect with as few words as possible. However, WRDSMTH is not like advertising in that I have the creative freedom to say what I want with no agenda or boundaries. That is refreshing and addictive. As far as the risk in a renegade medium . . . isn’t that a vital ingredient in most success stories?

"trump" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Trump” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

While affirmation is a great drug, I was not seeking it when I started WRDSMTHing and I always say I’d still be doing what I do even if I only had 500 followers. I will always say what I want to say and will always express myself in a myriad of personal and vulnerable ways because that’s what writers do. Hemingway once said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I love that. Another mantra of mine that I penned is, “Do it for yourself and hope that what you do resonates with others.” I guess where Hemingway and WRDSMTH intersect is where my WRDs are born. The medium of street art seems to add a level of cool to my words.

"f ck out of u" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“f ck out of u” Original artwork by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

The action of putting pieces up at all hours of the night while dancing a line of legality romanticizes the words to a great degree. There’s a difference between potentially reading “You got this. You know you do.” on a motivational poster or “You are amazing. You deserve amazing.” in a greeting card, versus seeing those words on a wall on the corner of Sunset and LaBrea. And the action of taking a picture of those pieces and Instagramming them or sending them to a loved one is more meaningful in this day and age of texting and social media. However, while I am aware of all this, it doesn’t change or alter what I put out there. My WRDs come from my life and my experiences, not from the expectation or hope that they will be Instagrammed or forwarded.

Specific laws, enforcement and penalties for street art vary from city to city and from country to country. In some cases, artwork is specifically commissioned or ‘permissioned.’  WRDSMTH’s installation at SYNDCTD creative agency in LA, and in Lululemon’s shop windows are recent examples of such work. Without such permissions, the question of legality is always a concern for artists painting in public spaces.

"Tell Stories" - photo courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Tell Stories” by WRDSMTH, on the wall of the SYNDCTD offices in LA. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

While second guessing what the law would consider ‘acceptable placement’ for his street art, WRDSMTH has stated that he never paints on private property in order to have his WRDs seen. Sensing what he terms a renaissance occurring in street art in Los Angeles, he points to promising changes on the horizon. Some city council members have begun to work with street artists to attempt to provision public spaces for art, as part of urban rejuvenation and beautification.

"Face The Facts" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Face The Facts” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Not to detract from the LA cool of WRDSMTH, the street artist, his midwestern kindness goes beyond messages of love, humour and inspiration.  A proponent of the Pay it Forward philosophy, WRDSMTH gives of his time and notes that most of his sales have some component of charitable giving attached to them.  In 2015, he gave time and artwork to several causes including after school programs for LA children, local youth centres, the city’s homeless and for breast cancer research.

 

TTDOG: You help and inspire many people. Who has helped and inspired you, along the way? Who helps you these days, and what inspires you to stay positive and keep going, even on those days when things look bleak?

WRDSMTH: I am inspired by a lot of things: Friends. Family. Love. Music. Sunsets. Sunrises. Wanderlust. A really great burger. Cookies and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Honesty. Laughter. Great conversation. Really good wine. Art in all its forms.

"Wanderlust" by WRDSMTH. Photo by Dean Sunshine, provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Wanderlust” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Dean Sunshine. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

Someone once said, “Life is a struggle. But every now and then, we stumble upon something magical and it just makes everything all right.” My list includes things I often stumble upon – and they just make everything all right for me. Maybe for some, my art is something stumbled upon. At least I hope it is. And I stay positive by immersing myself in the things I love, by surrounding myself with people who challenge me, and by finding the good hidden in all the bleak on this big blue marble we are spinning on.

 

TTDOG: Many people want to make the world a better place but feel that they alone can’t make a difference or that they don’t have the skills, talent or opportunity. What would you say to them?

WRDSMTH: Find a way. There’s always a way.

"give take DTLA" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Give Take DTLA” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

 

TTDOG: What do you wish people would ask you about yourself or your work, but never do?

WRDSMTH: I like when people ask me my name instead of calling me Word or Mister Smith. I enjoy when fans inquire about my other writing. I like when they ask about my muse(s). I love when they ask if they can buy me a drink. I’d like more single girls to ask if I am single. I also wish people would ask me what my favorite palindrome is. The answer: racecar.

Heads up, ladies: WRDSMTH is single!

As is our practice at TTDOG, there is one final question for the artist:

TTDOG:
For what are you most grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?
"joy of life" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Joy of Life in New Orleans, LA” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Scott Allen Perry. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

WRDSMTH: 
I am most grateful for my life – the amazing and baffling opportunity to spend some decades living and making a mark in the world. And my greatest joy is knowing that my work, words, and WRDs are reaching and affecting people all over the world.

WRDSMTH’s original artworks  have been sold at Julien’s Auctions, Art Share-LA, In Heroes We Trust, Q Art Gallery, The Gabba Gallery, Stone Malone Gallery, and LabArt. He currently has prints, photos and wearable art for sale at Paper and Fabric.

To learn more about WRDSMTH and be inspired by his daily artwork, follow him at:
WRDSMTH on Instagram
WRDSMTH on Facebook
WRDSMTH on Tumblr
WRDSMTH on Twitter
Email WRDSMTH at: WRDSMTHinLA@gmail.com
Articles, Joy, Music

The Joy of Jesse Cook

September 30, 2015
Photo: Marcin Nowak

Photo: Marcin Nowak

 

Widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Nuevo Flamenco guitarists, Jesse Cook wrapped up the West Coast leg of his Canadian tour on Monday night at Chilliwack’s Hub Theatre And Cultural Centre.  With a seating capacity of 550, this intimate venue was filled with an ephemeral upsurge of joyous energy as Jesse Cook and his band threw a rollicking rumba party.

Arriving in Canada from France and Barcelona as a youth, Cook was recognized as a guitar prodigy, and trained as a classical, flamenco and jazz guitarist.  Cook has always sought to work with the world’s finest jazz, flamenco and world-beat musicians.  His newest album, “One World” includes a worldwide mix of such talent and achieves a blend of world music, flamenco and gypsy sounds, weaving new and ancient rhythms from east and west into what has been hailed, in the Whole Note Magazine as “a joyous celebration of alpha wave stimulation and artistic globalism.”

Cook’s band are equally some of the world’s finest musicians in the genre, and many have played with him for over 15 years.  Cook generously featured them throughout the performance and opened the show with each member layering note upon note until Cook took the stage. Violinist Chris Church opened the evening with rapid and crisp string fingering virtuosity.  Church was soon accompanied by one of the other finest flamenco guitarists Nic Hernandez and  shortly Dennis Mohammed took the stage on bass, until the band was completed with Alberto Suarez on percussion.  When Cook took the stage, the audience erupted in adoration for one of the world’s finest musicians that Canada has been quick to claim as their own.

Cook moved the audience with his melancholy Three Days and held them spellbound with Baghdad, following tales by Cook of the impact of 6th century persian music on all music in the world today. Cook lured the audience to their feet with an up-tempo rumba jam in the second set, and built to a joyous crescendo with such favourites as Shake. The  highlight of the performance, however, came in the second encore when the band performed an acoustic version of their 15 year old and greatest hit,  – a cover of the Crowded House ballad, Fall at Your Feet.  Without urging, 550 voices softly sang the chorus back to the band members.  It was a moment of Oneness as if the audience was expressing gratitude to the band for all the years of wonderful world music.

 

A quick survey following the show confirmed that this was, for those interviewed, the best performance they could remember, from any band.  Some claimed it to be the best concert of their lives. Smiles on all the faces were testament to the joyous celebration that only a Jesse Cook rumba party can bring.

Cook and his band now head south of the border for a USA west coast tour and return to the east coast of North America in late autumn/early winter.

In a world where joy is sometimes hard to find, “One World” delivers.  Tour dates and further information are available on Jesse Cook’s website.

Gratitude, Joy, The Daily Practice, The Practices

“Practicing” Joy

August 8, 2015

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I have often been asked how one can “practice” Joy. It is either something you feel, or you don’t.

Joy is not always an easy practice. 
As Brene Brown puts it, Joy is the emotion that requires us to be the most vulnerable. Life’s knocks can make it difficult for us to experience joy because we would rather numb our emotions or beat bad fortune to the punch by rehearsing tragedy. But as she reminds us – we cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb the pain of life, we also numb our joy. And, so it is only by going into our pain and being vulnerable enough to experience our anguish are we able to access joy.
 
As we practice and build that emotional muscle, I can promise you that it will be much easier to find and stay in those moments of joy.

Of course, emotions are transitory experiences that result from our thoughts and our circumstances,  but once we are willing to be vulnerable enough to stay present to our sorrows, it is possible to train ourselves to experience more of the positive emotions, including Joy.

Training the emotions:

Eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Yoga tend to view emotions as transitory states, attachment to which destroys our peace of mind.  A mindful approach to emotions would involve observing emotions as they arise, without judgement and then returning the attention to the present moment.  Emotions arise from the mind and are a distraction from being in the moment.

The ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali addresses negative emotions and thoughts with the technique of Pratipaksha Bhavana. Pratitpaksha (“opposite/rival”) Bhavana (“thoughts/imaginations) is the technique of replacing negative thoughts with a focus on positive ones. Our thoughts result from deep habits, or what the yogis call “samskaras” and these habits of thought can be changed through this practice of training the mind. By training the mind to focus on positive thought, neurosis can be transcended.

Psychologists would also agree that emotions and thoughts are inter related. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy encourages individuals to track emotions back to the originating thoughts. When emotions are negative, we often find that it is negative catastrophizing, judgemental and pessimistic thinking that has contributed to the emotional state in which we find ourselves. Questioning the validity of our thoughts, looking for evidence, and reframing our thoughts helps to turn our negative, self effacing thoughts into more positive and compassionate thoughts. A change in mood is often the result.

Neither practice is intended to suppress negative emotions. Life happens and sometimes we grieve, sometimes we are angry, sometimes we hurt. In neither practice are we intended to deny or judge the experience. Sometimes a situation warrants sadness or other negative emotions. These practices, however, help us to identify and experience our emotions without becoming awash in them.

On Cultivating Joy

For many people, joy is an emotion that is foreign to us. For whatever reason, in Western society, cynicism and negativity are easier to achieve than joy and bliss. Look at a joyful person and your first thought may be a judgement: “nutter!” With thoughts like this, it is difficult to allow ourselves to experience joy.

So how do we cultivate joy? We begin by practicing gratitude.  And after noticing all the abundance in the world around us, it is easier to progress by being mindful of moments in the day when we experience joy. As I said, in the beginning, there may be none. That’s okay. Start with moments of positive emotions like calm, lightheartedness, or contentment. As we begin to notice and direct our thoughts to the positive, the positive will grow. We may begin with noticing the relief of the first sip of tea when we arrive home after a long day of work. Or, perhaps we delight in the smile of a baby on the tube.

So, rather than practicing joy, we practice training our mind to notice joy. It does not matter how transitory these moments are – all emotions are transitory – but as we focus on the positive, it grows.   If we can increase our ability to be vulnerable and sit in those moments of joy, by practicing gratitude rather than as Brown puts it “rehearsing tragedy”, life will become joyful.

Give it a try. Let us know how you get on.

 

 

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy”

– Rumi