We recently lost someone that did not know of my existence. I never contacted her and I am troubled by the fact that I never will.
In business one major objective is to oust your competitors, you have to be on top of anyone providing a similar service to yours. I stick by that in business. In the art world, it works in almost the same way. If person X is doing work that is strikingly similar to mine, there are a couple of things that go through my head immediately, “Is this person better than me? What makes that difference? Can I learn something from this? Can I be better than this?” If you’re not improving, which is the basis for asking such a set of questions, then you’re not doing yourself any favors.
I have never regretted this methodology until today. I found TFAIL, or it may have been Crooked Teeth at that time, back in my “cool-dude” Tumblr phase and immediately then I knew. She was where I wanted to be. She was so good, I hated it. She was so good, I grabbed all my work understanding I’m nowhere near the level she was and started over. I was wrought with envy and I hated even feeling that way. Our styles similar, our subjects similar, she was just so much better.
TFAIL was one of the convincing factors that led me to run back to college. She had a talent and a sense of sophistication that I couldn’t fathom I could obtain in any other way. I saw what I could be in her work. That’s dangerous to an artist, if you spend your time thinking about someone else’s style you will absorb it like a sponge–and I can’t build a reputation like that. I never forgot TFAIL, yet I never followed her work again either.
I have never regretted that methodology until today. If I had known that such a talent was at risk to never put out work again…I promise I would’ve changed my tune. I always believed that artists like TFAIL were benchmark tests for my own work. I’ll walk away and come back like a creep every year or so–“What you up to? Fuck man, she’s still nice. She’s still really good. She got even better.” Every time. So rarely do these visits occur, but you have to. On the surface it was a friendly competition she had no idea existed. She was an inspiration. Rarely do I ever call out who my inspirations are, and this one I feel wrong for not acknowledging earlier.
Marvin and I began CUTS as a service. I don’t eat more than bowls of soup off this website, yet we do it. I still count dimes and nickels, yet here I am just spilling my heart on the matters I feel should be addressed. We are trying to be a home of work that should be respected. If you have not heard of this person, you should. Since our launch I believe that it’s worked flawlessly. We have connected some amazing people together, and that’s just the partnerships that we have noticed. My point is TFAIL belonged here. If anyone else, she should have. If I had known what I know today, I would have done it first.
See, this past holiday I suffered two losses to the fight with mortality. I lost a grandmother before but that was when I was young. The only hurt I felt then was my own but as an adult you see the bigger amount of damage in everyone they loved. This was the first time I experienced ground zero and realized, “my grandmother’s gone.” I’ll never be able to take back, redo, undo–fucking nothing. Everything that’s happened, it’s in stone now next to the flowers on her grave. The regrets, they’ll change me. Though I didn’t know TFAIL, I saw her work with enough admiration to see the bigger impact to her loved ones and the artistic community in whole. I’m a stranger. I’m an outsider. She had no idea I even held these emotions over her art. What a loss. What a sorrow that I couldn’t have expressed what was the truth over what…pride? Is that what kept me at bay? Why couldn’t I just fly her a message and say, “hey..big fan, I wish you the skies.” Takes about a minute out of my day. Am I so proud that I couldn’t be an admirer? That I couldn’t look at her work without fear for my own?
Such a shame I behaved this way. These losses. They hurt. They hurt more because I had years to be a better person. I had years to show them what they deserved–show them how much they really mean as kindred souls. I am beyond grateful for every person that comes across me and says, “dudes a savage, check him out.” I drive on that. Why couldn’t I be that person too? As much as I was driven by competition, I should have acknowledged it.
Fuck my work. Good god, steal it if you want to. I never saw a year where I rose above TFAIL’s growth. Now I never will. I imagine I never would have. She put in work. I barely pump out shit these days. You’ve ultimately been the winner TFAIL, and I’m ultimately your biggest fan.
What can we do different? Solving this is the only way I can respect her spirit. This article, more like a 6AM brain dump, is an effort to not make this mistake again. TFAIL should have been here sooner…but my yearly check-in came too late. News of her passing found me before I found her. I don’t want to say that twice in one lifetime.
So my pledge is, to myself and to anyone reading this. Fuck pride. Fuck all that ego shit. Fuck the stupid shit that keeps you from showing love. I’m only maturing now and I know it’s hard to take heed of someone else’s advice, but don’t make that fuck up. Time seems infinite. I sat around barely busting my ass for growth envious of someone working harder than me and for what reason? I did nothing that should have made me envious, I didn’t put the time in like she did…but I always said I would.
I always say, “yo I know it’s been a minute but I’ll get up with you soon…money is a little tight right now.” I did that for the last four years. I got nowhere. I proved nothing. My family hasn’t seen me in years and same goes for a lot of friends. My grandmother’s gone now, did I ever revisit her and show her I’m all okay? Did I even give her someone to be proud of? I can’t fix that now, but I won’t do that again. Time won’t stop for anyone and things will occur as they do, such is life. You don’t always get the chance to correct things or plan it in such a way that you won’t bruise your egotistical soul. Just show it–you feel some way, then you say it.
So why are you wasting your time being a hater? Why did I? Had we worked together, had TFAIL been on CUTS…at least she would have known I cared. A stranger. It may have meant nothing or it could have been empowering, all we know now is I won’t know. TFAIL deserved your attention, and I hope she gets it because this is about community. This about showing you love. It’s about showing you what we love, and why we love it so you could love it too. Tina deserved that. She really did. This place was built for ingenious minds like hers.
Here’s another place your work can call home. Rest in peace, I wish you the skies.