If someone would have told me years ago that I would be designing t-shirts for Reba McEntire, Lady Antebellum, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, etc. I would have laughed at you and told you, yeah right, there's no way that that would ever happen haha!
In a world that is set on the straightforward path of... you go to school, graduate with some sort of degree and then get a successful job (which is not a bad thing), my story is to share that if the Lord calls you to something else, don't be scared to step out and do it just because it’s different than what the world thinks. We, with our lives, are only held accountable to the Lord and whether or not we are going to be obedient to His calling, no matter what it looks like and where it brings you.
Everywhere that I have been and all of the opportunities that I have had in the past 12 years have been simply for one reason, being available to go when the Lord said to go.
My life when it's laid out and I look back seems like some crazy tale of randomness that I could never have planned in a million years. I graduated from high school in 2004 with no ambition to go to college and no direction in life as to what I wanted to do as a "career" and so I went to bible college for a year and a half with my non-girlfriend at the time who is now my wife of 11+ years. We got married when I was 18yrs old and started our journey of life together, just two kids trying to figure things out haha!! By the time I turned 20 we had our first son and I was called to step into full-time youth ministry at Calvary Chapel Vero Beach. My season doing full-time ministry was full of ups and downs, learning and unlearning, chaos and peace but everything that that season brought me, was the perfect recipe for everything that I am doing with my life currently. I will always be forever grateful for that time of being in the ministry and learning over those years. One of the most important things that I learned being in full-time ministry might be a little different than you would expect, but it was when my time at the church was coming to an end and I was called to step down from full-time ministry into a world of art and music, but also into a world of, ok how am I supposed to pay the bills now? That was the time for me to put rubber to the pavement and actually step out and do what I said I believed in, show that I actually trusted God and not just say that I did. Even in the midst of those closest around Abby and I telling us that we were crazy for stepping down. How are you going to support your family they said? How this, how that? My reply, I don't know, but I know a God who is bigger than all of that, so who am I to say no I won't be obedient?
In 2011 I stepped down from doing full time youth ministry into a journey of entering into an industry that I could never have applied for, that I was never qualified enough for, that I had no experience in and that I am now doing full-time in a position that daily blows my mind with the clients I design for and the opportunities I get, all because of saying one simple word, YES. Music and art have always been my passion for as long as I can remember. Growing up playing music in the church and drawing nonstop. But little did I know that these 2 passions that I was ingrained with from birth would eventually lead to a place of influence and to a place of being able to have an impact in an industry that I was never qualified enough to get into in the first place.
I learned graphic design work while doing youth ministry at Calvary Chapel Vero Beach. The church was a smaller church and so the staff members had multiple tasks to take care of so that everything was covered and able to get done. So along with youth came learning how to design the announcement slides, flyers, and any other print work for the church which came with hours upon hours of reading photoshop tutorials and spending hours creating and uncreating haha. Looking back at some of my first designs is a crack up, something that my 9yr old could probably do better than with his design skills haha. 2008 is when I first started to dabble in t-shirt designs and to start to explore a new world of creating. My main reason and motivation to start designing t-shirts might seem a little selfish but it was simply because I was tired of seeing cheesy "Christian t-shirts". I just didn't get it, I knew that Christian artists weren't cheesy, but what were we missing? Being those that are closest to our "Creator", how are we missing the mark with being updated and relevant with our designs to the world around us? How could we reach the world around us with art in a way that wouldn't be turning them away as soon as they saw our bold cheesy Christian t-shirt that we are wearing? Don't get me wrong, I know that there is a place for making those types of designs and I'm not knocking having verses on shirts one bit, but my motivation was to figure out how we can break out of that box into a lost and dying world that wouldn't come within 10ft. of you or I wearing a bold cheesy Christian t-shirt. Did I think I could do better? Did I think that I was going to revolutionize the industry? Honestly no, but I wanted to try and honestly the only thing I could think of was, why not?
From 2008-2012ish I did an ongoing t-shirt design contest called Canvas Threads (no longer exists) which was a contest that C28/NOTW had created. Going into this with no concept of what I was doing or if I was even designing these shirts that I was submitting the correct way was quite nerve-wracking, to say the least. But all of that started to disappear when my first design that I ever submitted to the contest ended up winning!! SAY WHAT?! That right there was the fuel to my growing fire. Over those years of designing and submitting to the contest, I was able to have 14 winning t-shirt designs. 2010 my interest in continuing to submit designs to Canvas Threads faded and that was when my interest started to perk up about another avenue with t-shirts, designing my own shirts and selling them... What?! Meaning start my own company?! Hold on, I can't do that, I'm not qualified enough to do that! And that was my mindset over the next few years. Tragic Hope Apparel was the name that I settled on after the mind battle of trying to figure out a name that would perk interest, questions and rightly represent who we are. Tragic Hope speaks of the tragic event of Jesus dying on the cross and the hope that it brings to every person that places their faith in him. Over the years Tragic Hope was just a hobby for fear of moving past that into something that I wasn't qualified for, a company. During those years, is when I focused my attention on drumming and designing for other people/artist/bands which lead to me drumming with a local band for a little over a year until I reached the point of when I felt like the Lord was moving me on to something else, but just like last time, I had no clue into what. Again?! But just like last time, who am I to say no?
Towards the end of August of 2012 (1 month after I stopped drumming for the band I was in) I received a phone call out of the blue (which I ignored because I'm really good at doing that if I don't recognize the number haha) from a guy named Chris who was part of a team for a solo artist named Holly Starr based in Washington State who just happened to be looking for a drummer to fill in for an upcoming CD release tour from Oct-Dec. Ummmmm what?! My first reaction after listening to the message was, are you sure you have the correct number and yeah I'm definitely not qualified for that haha! Come to find out that a mutual friend through music (Brandon Bee) had passed my name and number along to them because he knew that I was in a position to do whatever the Lord wanted me to do and so they figured they would give me a call to see if I would be interested. If my wife and I were to decide to move forward with this and see if I was what they were looking for, this would be the craziest decision we would have to make in our (at that time) 7 years of marriage. This would require me to pack my bags and fly out from FL to WA for a little over 2 1/2 months, leaving behind my wife and 2 sons to drum with someone who I had never met and didn't know! After talking about it with my wife and praying about it, we decided, why not? So began the process of learning one of Holly's songs and doing a rough cover recording to it and submitting everything and then just waiting. The time of waiting to hear back was one of the most sickening feelings in the world for me for one simple reason, I can't do this! I'm not qualified enough at all to do this! But God knowing me better than I know myself had a plan for all of this. I ended up getting a call back and getting the position which left about 2 1/2 weeks for me to pack my bags before flying out 3000 miles away into a world of learning a bunch of new songs in a short time period, living with people I didn't know, touring around the states drumming and saying goodbye to my family for 2 1/2 months. This time proved to be one of the toughest yet craziest foundational decisions that my wife and I had ever made which ultimately lead to where we are at now because of one simple word, YES. I know I can't do this, but I know God can through me. After the tour ended the Lord ended up leading us in different directions to no longer be drumming with Holly. Back to the world of making ends meet, working at a t-shirt printing shop wondering what our next step in life was going to be until I received a text message from Holly's mom a few months later saying to be expecting an email from a guy from Provident Label Group. Here we go again... What?!
June of 2013, after drumming with Holly, I started a trial run doing t-shirt designs for Essential Artist Services, which is a merchandise fulfillment company branched off of Provident Label Group and Sony Entertainment and by October, I was fully on board as one of their freelance graphic designers. A job that I could have never in a million years applied for because I didn't go to school for graphic design and I didn't have a degree in any sort of art anything! Plus I know there are people out there that can do a way better job than I can! From June 2013 to present, I have been designing t-shirts for people/bands/artist that would be classified as the "untouchables." People that you would most likely never have any sort of chance in the world to get your artwork in front of them. People that graphic designers would dream to have a chance to design something for them, a position that people (with some serious credentials) are constantly competing and fighting for, a position that in the world's eyes, I had no business being in. Over the years, I have learned a CRAZY amount of graphic design knowledge from doing designs for these artists. Lots of hours again spending looking up tutorials to figure out how to constantly be improving in what I do. The learning process for graphic designing and t-shirt designing is a road that doesn't have a stopping point. There's always more to learn.
To give you an idea of my constant mind being blown by being in the position that I am in, here is a list of different clients that I have designed for...
Duran Duran - Reba McEntire – So You Think You Can Dance – Lady Antebellum – Colbie Caillat – Eric Church – American Idol – Darius Rucker – 1964 Ears – Rachel Taylor – Winter Jam – Fireflight – Holly Williams – Colton Dixon – The City Harmonic – Rock and Worship Roadshow – Michael W Smith – Building 429 – KLove Fan Awards – Newsong – 30Hr Famine – 1 Girl Nation – Carbon Leaf – Jon Pardi – Lauderdale Live – Alive Festival – The Griswolds – Crobot – Matt Maher – Green River Ordinance – Moody Bible Institute – Jason Crabb – Holly Starr – Hope Smiles – Ernie Haase – Rush of Fools – StompTown Revival – The Neverclaim – The Taylors – Tim Timmons – 7th Time Down – Citizen Way – The Grahams – I Am They – Planet Wisdom – The Owl Parliament – Word of Life Camps – The Story Tour – Josh Lavender – Beyond The Ashes – SmileFM – PhotoGenX – Rio Coco Cafe – Viva Kids – Underground Youth – Safe Refuge International – Anchored Generation – Ride Nature – Redeem The Shadows – Brandon Bee – The Responding – Canvas Threads – Calvary Chapel Vero Beach – Jesus Freak Hideout – Tragic Hope Apparel – Crossroads Community Church – Crossroads Productions – The Responding – Crazy Hot Matrix.
Again, I don't put this list of names up here in order to build some sort of pedestal to stand on and say "look at me!" I do it so that you can understand that, when you make yourself available and allow yourself to be used by the Lord, He can use your inabilities in crazy ways! He can turn your "I can't's" into "He can." No matter how unqualified you are for something, if the Lord say's to go or to do something that absolutely terrifies you, why say no? Why hold back? Don't let fear grip and control your life and make your decisions for you.
Freelance designing is something that I didn't want to do full time for fear of my "creative bucket" not being deep enough and I would eventually run dry haha! But that was the door that the Lord kept opening up for me and so I said, why not? And ultimately, doing freelance designing has allowed my family and I to move from FL to WA in the Summer of 2014 all because of one simple word, YES. Moving to the Pacific Northwest was another one of the craziest decisions we ever had to make as a family but time and time again just like all the other crazy decisions we've gone through, we knew that the Lord had a purpose and a plan for it and so we did it! February of 2014 we had a friend (Brandon Bee again) throw it out to us to pray about moving out here to get involved with Crossroads Community Church and so we did and then we visited in March and then 3 months later we drove out. My wife and I with our 2 boys and our dog in our truck towing our 6'x12' trailer with all our belongings driving 3000 miles to a place we visited once, to a place where we didn't even have a place to live yet, just a hotel booked for 3 days and to a place where we knew one family haha!!
Towards the end of 2014, I really felt like the Lord was leading me and challenging me to actually do something with my own t-shirts and to just trust Him with it and so March of 2015 we officially decided to launch Tragic Hope Apparel as a company and move in the direction that fear has held me back from for 4 years! I have no clue where this is going to end up going, but looking back at all the other situations from our lives, I know that God knows, so I'm going to continue to trust in Him through it all. I know I'm not a business guy, I know I'm not a marketing guru, I know my inabilities far out way my abilities to do something like this but I also know that through God, all things are possible. Art is my passion that God ingrained into every fiber of my being from before I was born, so I'm going to continue to use that to give all the glory back to Him in any way that I can.
Make yourself willing and available every day and see where the Lord leads you and how crazy He will use you no matter how qualified or gifted you are.
For me to sit and write out everything that I wrote out, is not me boasting or me saying look what I can do or any of that nonsense. To write all of this out goes waaaaay out of my comfort zone because for me to talk about what I do is by far anything easy, simply because I don't want to be put on any sort of pedestal or for you to have any preconceived ideas of who you think I am just because of the work that I do or the clients I get to design for. My life is nothing to boast about other than to say look what the Lord did and is doing. God is the one who blessed me with these talents and giftings and all it took from me was simply just saying yes, yes I will go, or yes I will do. Yes I know I'm unqualified, I know I'm not good enough, I know there are people out there that are far better than me, I know, I know, I know... But God isn't looking for the most qualified people, He isn't looking for the best of the best. God is simply just looking for people who are available.