Written by Guest Contributor, Chris Loveless, a kindred spirit pursuing his talents on a small Thai isle:
Hello my name is Loveless. I was recently asked to write this article about how I became a fly by the seat of my pants, free-thinking, free-living, magic manifesting, world traveling, broke ass, yet happy, full time artist.
When I was a kid I wanted to be the greatest artist of all time. As I got older I realized there was no such thing as the greatest artist of all time. So that leaves the position wide open for claim, or it’s just something that is undefinable.
I was 16 when I discovered LSD and Salvador Dali at the same time. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I knew I could produce these kinds of images. I had the same kind of shit in my head, and I was a really good artist my entire life. So this is what I was going to do. I followed my art, I believed in it, and I believed in myself. I pushed hard, and I started getting really good. I dropped out of art school. I worked at T-shirt shops, Museum display companies, and Offset Print shops, but this wasn’t really what I want… I want to be a painter.
This proclamation was met with parental and societal disappointment. “You can’t make a living being an painter,” they said. Reluctantly, I followed a typical career path into graphics art and print design.
In the mid 90’s I was living in Seattle. There was this dot com boom going on, and I found myself as a web developer and automation specialist, mostly automating Photoshop to process Microsoft product box shots. The bubble was bursting at the seams. Fake money and fake stock was everywhere. I was working for a dot com, but just didn’t see it paying off. I had a friend working at Adobe Systems – Photoshop, Acrobat, Postscript – yeah those guys. My friend called me one day, “Loveless, you need to come work here. All the engineers are leaving to work for dot coms. They are desperate for help. They have 1 billion dollars cash in the bank and I get a 5000 dollar bonus if you get hired. I can get you hired. Just apply.” So I did. This is where things started getting interesting and magical.
I got hired. As soon as I accepted the job, the dot com bubble burst into billions of shattered dreams. The stock market crashed. This is January 2001. I was awarded piles of stock options, because they were desperate. All of my options locked in on that lowest day in decades. Then immediately the market rebounded. Almost overnight, I went from a poor man to a wealthy man. The entire time I was there, the money train just kept rolling in. What the fuck was I doing? I was supposed to an artist. But I continued to ride the money train for 7 years. I bought a house the month that the real estate market crashed. It doubled in value the first year. All of a sudden that was worth 100’s of thousands of dollars. I was by any measure rich. I drove a BMW, and had my own ultralight airplane that I would fly on weekends. I could afford anything. But I wasn’t happy. I was filling my life with all these things. I became a slave to them. Once a month I spent an entire Sunday evening writing checks to all my things. It was exhausting.
I did this all with the plans of starting a family. Then the bomb. My partner/wife of 17 years fell in love with another man, and had no intention of having kids. She was a career woman. Two master’s degrees, and currently an executive level manager at Boeing, the airplane company. I snapped. I had a nervous break down. I was lost. I thought we’d be together forever. The Universe had different plans. I started drinking heavily, and tried cocaine for the first time. Never do this. I gave up on life. I gave away all of my belongings, and decided to backpack across Europe as an artist. Mostly I just got drunk and did blow. It was really taking over my life. I wanted to kill myself. The pain in my chest was so intense. Every morning I woke up and this broken heart was still there. I started deteriorating as my life started to crumble around me. It was then I decided to drink and drug myself to death, and basically just go fucking nuts like a rockstar with my half of the money. $400,000 cash. I promised myself to not work again until that money got to zero. And I held true to that. It took me 8 years to get to zero. This includes drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels and at least 1 gram of blow a day. Wow, it’s crazy for me even to write such a thing these days. I was out of control.
But I did a ton of cool stuff while I was fucked up too. Traveled all over the place. Looped Costa Rica by myself on an Enduro motorcycle. Rode a motorcycle from Key West to Seattle. Then a Harley from Seattle to Panama, all the way through Central America, without a driver’s license. I didn’t much give a fuck about rules. I flew ultralight airplane tours with tourists over the jungles and beaches of Costa Rica. Not to worry…I had a license for that one, and I stayed sober during the week that I’d be flying. Then I’d let loose hard on the off days. I opened a free recording studio on the beach at a popular youth Hostel called Rocking J’s in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. I was making art, and I was making music.
But, I’d become a serious coke head and alcoholic. After the pain of my broken heart had dissipated I was still on a raging path of self destruction. The cocaine had made me it’s bitch. I could afford it, because I lived in a hammock and really didn’t have a home. I got really good at slumming it. Although I had this fun life, there is this dark side to the beach. Wherever there is Heaven, you will also find Hell. I found mine in paradise on that beach. I still hadn’t figured out what was going to happen. Was I going to die or was I going to go broke?
Then I met Tini, an East German girl who was into motorcycles, animals, and adventure. I told her one day, “If you get me out of here, I will pay your flight to Canada, and we can go trim weed together in California. I think I’m probably going to over-dose on drugs and die if you leave me here.” So she agreed.
She was denied entry into the United States, so we went on to Central American motorcycle trip together. She met me in Mexico. When we reached the Darian Gap and could no longer cross into South America because of the most dangerous jungle in the world, we decide to move to Germany. There was this booming tech scene in Berlin. I was pretty thin on cash and in Berlin blow was 150/gram. Luckily I was priced right out of the market.
I landed a job with decent pay, 9-5, as a “Tech Writer”. The company was obviously some kind of money laundering front. They didn’t give a fuck about what we did, just look busy and be there. It was a joke. But, I would go there on my motorcycle, hauling ass down the auto-bahn, in the freezing cold, thinking, “Why did I come here? This sucks. Working in a cubicle? You know you’d rather be dead than this shit. What happened to your hammock and the beach dude? This place will destroy you if you stay here too long. You’ll just become one of them again.”
The entire time that I’m working, my girlfriend has a grow room in our grey, communist apartment. I eventually quit the job because they were flakes and paid 2 months late. I expected more from a Germany company I guess. It was awful. So what are we going to do? We were both running out of money. At least she had this grow room. Maybe we could make some money like that. We’d never done it before so we had no idea what the results would be.
We had our first crop. It was fair European weed, nothing special, but it turned out well. We were pleased. Now how do we sell this stuff? This in Berlin. So we make some little baggies and go out on the streets. We’re like two pre-teens at a middle school dance. We just stand or sit there quietly. Afraid to talk to anyone. We’d mutter “Need weed” after they walked by as to avoid eye contact. We were pathetic drug pushers. We sold zero that first night out. So we needed a plan. How could I get people to come to me? Well, I had all this cool art I’d made in my spare time since I was a child. I still had high resolution images of them on my computer. I gave away every single piece of art I made up until that point. “Well”, I said, “How about we print my surrealistic paintings and drawings on postcards? They look kind of like Dali and Escher stuff. Any one who likes them probably smokes weed. Then I ask if they want to buy any weed? That way folks just approach me. I don’t have to invade their space.”
It was a great idea. I get eight of my favorite images printed on postcards, and I start street hustling. I started selling so many postcards for 1 euro, that I forgot I was there to sell weed. I would make 50-90 euros a day, for 4 hours of work plus motorcycle commute time to wherever in the city. Some days I made nothing. But still, all of a sudden, I had grown accustomed to surviving at bare minimum living costs, just selling postcards on the street corners. I was blown away. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I don’t need a boss ever again to survive. This was wonderful. It re-ignited my passion for painting, it made hustling fun. People love artists. Then I started live painting on the streets as well, which drew even more people. I just put a donation bucket behind me and a sign that read, “Free postcard with donation.” I cleared even more money. The first day out doing this, I landed an 800 dollar commission. Some cool guy wanted me to paint an image from one of my own postcards two meters wide. It just seemed like this art thing was pulling me along. Every time that I stepped toward it, it rewarded me. And it was increasing. Now my friends on Facebook were also commissioning logos and things from me. Well, it became clear. I was side tracked by society’s luxurious trappings. I was born to be a painter, and the Universe kept hitting me in the face with it. The Universe kept telling me, “You can do this man. You were good at so many things you have no talent for, imagine how good you can be at art, which you do have talent for.” The decision was final. I am a painter. Always was, always will be. So let’s do this. Time to bust ass and see how far I could push myself. The Universe has already made it clear that it will support me. Time to go for it.
We ended up selling off all the weed to friends, and decided to move to Thailand. We gave away all the stuff we accumulated in Germany. Sold our motorcycles. I always wanted to go there, but never did. It was the last item on a list of ten things I made when I was 30, of things to do before I was 40. I made it there at 41. Eh, a year off, but still pretty good. These lists I make are a totally different story. Magic lists. They have all come true. The list for 50 includes a helicopter and a billion dollars. You guys will know if it works in 8 years or so. Lol. But seriously they have all come true so far. The most important thing is: to place it over or in front of your toilet where you see it everyday. Shit will come true. Try it. Promise. Life changing Jedi shit right there. Just write a list. Don’t put it over your toilet, it will not come completely true.
We get to Koh Phangan, Thailand. A beautiful picturesque tropical island. I’m totally stressed about money, and how it’s all gone. My friend buys me a mushroom shake at a bar near a waterfall. I went out there, tripped balls, and saw a giant Buddha in the sky. He kissed my forehead and said, “Everything is going to be okay. But always keep your guard up.”
After that moment I completely stopped worrying about money. For the past 5 months here in Thailand, I sell almost every painting I make. I can’t even get a collection together because they all pretty much sell. I sell pretty cheap – 100, 200, 300 bucks. 200 dollars covers all of my rent and basic expenses of living here. If I sell two or three in a month, I can either buy myself a nice meal, or not do anything for two months. That’s crazy! I love it! I could never have it so easy in the States. My paintings would have to be 2000 dollars for me to even consider that. So this is what I do now.
I rent a 2 acre property and small shack in a paradise jungle for 120 dollars a month. It’s covered in coconut trees and various fruits and vegetables.
Giant Bamboo to build an art studio out of “FOR FREE” Even all my furniture is coming right off the land. I am truly a free man. We have three dogs and five cats. No boss. No office. No schedule. Just painting what I want to paint. Making a living in paradise. One kilometer in every direction are world class beaches.
Every Full Moon there is a mushroom, LSD, XTC fueled party that happens. Then the island goes empty until the next full moon, when it’s three or four days of madness again. It’s truly a wonderful place to be as an artist and free thinker. The entire world passes through here once a month. The exposure alone is priceless. I am truly blessed and I am truly free. I’ve been off of blow for 2+ years now, and rarely drink. But occasionally that demon does still rear it’s head. I’m financially the poorest I’ve ever been, but I’m somehow magically the happiest I’ve ever been. Fuck money. I don’t need much. Much can be fun, but it’s also a curse. Everyone wanted it from me. I was kind of happy when it was gone. When you get happy with life, drugs, alcohol, and fancy shit, life just seems so pointless. Plus, I gotta take over the world with this art project now.
Time is a wasting. Follow your heart. My passion is art. It has never lead me wrong. Follow your dreams. Life is short, do some cool shit. Don’t just waste your time dreaming about it as your credit card bills just keep going up. The time is now. Do it. The whole world is out here to explore, it’s not something to just watch on TV. And there is an entire culture of nomadic artists, musicians, craftspeople, fire dancers, … already out here doing it. Many with small children in tow. Just jump and they will show you the way. Peace. If you read this far… thank you. I hope you got something out of it.
Listen to an interview with Loveless on Tink Tink Club
SoundCloud interview with Loveless