John P.—Drawing On His Inner Strength
John says that art has saved his life. He was an alcoholic living on the streets and sometimes used other drugs.
Always artistic, John discovered the healing components of his art while seeking treatment for his addictions. "Drinking and drugging had taken over my life, my identity; my art therapist showed me that art could restore it."
John has learned to use creativity as an outlet to help him cope with his struggles. "My art is a powerful way for me to express myself, its good personal therapy. I wasted my youth on drugs and trouble. I started lots of things, schools, jobs, programs, but never finished them. I never knew how good it felt to finish something until I finished my first piece of art."
John refers to his art style as unplugged—which is hard to believe, since his work is so precise and intricate. Surprisingly, he uses minimal tools. A protractor, fine point markers and poster board. John spends weeks hunched over his kitchen table listening to an eclectic collection of music. "My art is tedious and mind consuming and requires lots of patience—it's organized chaos. I have no idea what I'm going to do until I start it. I try to make them all unique." When asked if he ever makes a mistake, John laughed and quickly quipped "Lots! I make the mistakes a part of the work. I never ever start over or throw anything away. I have tossed away a lot of beautiful things in my past. Life is messy and full of mistakes. Now I know how to live with mistakes and make them work for me."
John's artwork at the CCRI Talent Show immediately drew a crowd and a meeting was arranged with Dayna Del Val from the Arts Partnership who encouraged John to apply for a grant. "When I showed Dayna my work I felt like an artist for the first time. Just knowing that she believes in me means so much and it is so worth being alive and sober." With the help of CCRI, a grant was written. John received funding to frame his work.
With the support of CCRI, John attended an artist curator event sponsored by the Arts Partnership. "I was so nervous and was unsure if I belonged there, but then people started to gather around my work and they kept giving me their business cards—I have had a fear of public speaking but found that I enjoy talking about my pieces; it feels good to be heard. Through art, people see me, the real me and I feel accepted."
John, a charming and rather eccentric man, is still shaped by his past, but that past no longer defines him. "When people believed in me, I started to believe in myself."
John is slowly learning to navigate the next steps in this new chapter of his life. He is living proof that one should never underestimate the power of art and the importance of having someone believe in you.