It’s All A Game (A Theory of Mine)

Someone took this picture of me at an 8Bit Cubist art show several years ago. It was at a time when I was working hard on my dreams and LITERALLY losing my hair over it. I had to tell myself that although I can be serious, I was just developing games and making interesting images. That line of thought turned into me telling myself that it’s just a job, it’s just a phase, IT’S JUST A GAME, and so on. This wasn’t to dismiss anything, but to put it in proper context. Over time, the logic morphed into a way of looking at life. I wanted (and needed) to channel my personally serious energies in more beneficial ways to me. That’s why I’m so adamant when I say that my art is not about games… but life. 
So while this year has brought us elections, environmental concerns, economic challenges, riots, health concerns, social challenges, and whatever else gets thrown on that pile, you still have the choice on how you play the game. So even IF this year is fucked, the question is: WHAT DOES THAT MATTER TO YOU? There are still positive moves that you have left to make. Start a podcast, connect with family, learn some new technologies, read a book, learn how to cook, do a pushup, or whatever.
Things will be okay as long as you are okay. That’s how perceptions work. And when I say “Be Okay”, I do not mean be complacent, accept weakness, deny reality, or co-sign bullshit. I am saying that most of what you are actually stressing over is a product of your own creation. The game is going to play out however it plays out. You make the choices you can and never underestimate that power.
Well. I hope this helps someone.  I’ve studied this for much of my life and have just now started to really put it into words. Along with my journaling and social media, writing these things has helped me to communicate and focus my feelings into tangible output. It’s the least I can do.
Let me know what you’re up to.

– Mr Benja –

LinkedIn Wasn’t That Fun For Me. I’ll Try Again.

Alright. Because I clearly need one more social media outlet to concern myself with, I’m getting back into LinkedIn. I didn’t like it a while back, but supposedly, it’s where you can get good networking going on.  I think it was all of the random people contacting me about a “job”. 
But now with all the splintering of social media (which is fine), I think I’ll jump back in over there and start making headway. Maybe I can spice it up over there.

– Mr Benja –

BenjaCon: A Way Of Getting My Comic Convention Vibes Back During A Pandemic

BenjaCon is happening this year for the first time. Be a part of this inaugural experience. I’m not even sure what will happen because I’m making it up as I go along. The best way I can describe BenjaCon is as a way to get my comic convention vibes back. 
Yeah…I don’t know how to explain something I’m doing as I’m in the process of doing it, but I’m creating it anyway. It’s a feeling and a flow. An art + performance + social + development + design project. Basically, I have gotten A LOT of my creative spirit from the con experience over the years, and I want to channel that energy.
It’s a strange time, but I’ve been learning to corral energy for growth instead of fighting dumb shit. (If you’ve been paying attention, that’s the idea behind Transcendent Press.)
Artists and creatives will be doing stuff.
Follow along with the nonsense by following me on social or checking out https://benjacon.com.

– Mr Benja –

Have You Made Your Mid 2020 Resolutions Yet?

As you may recall, I’m pretty big on New Years’ Resolutions. It’s serious business for me. I break out the legal pad, the calendar, the pens, the highlighters and clear the whiteboards. It’s a multi-week process that starts well before the New Year.
Well…2020 is a little different. This year, I had to stop and reconsider everything. I couldn’t rely on the people around me behaving the same, and *I* certainly wasn’t going to behave the same. While my overall goal is still in place, the landscape has changed drastically. So now is the time to adapt. It’s not feasible for me to just struggle through the year as if everything was going to be the same.
So I’m pulling out the half-used legal pad, the 6 month calendar, the dirty highlighter, and using the remaining space on the whiteboard. It’s time to get to working out the next steps. Because I’ll be damned if I don’t make the most of the situation.
It’s like the wise Mike Tyson said about planning…

– Mr Benja –

This Is A New Normal: Allow The Good Energy To Flow

The New Normal
Had a good talk earlier with John Barney, an artist that got me really thinking about the business side of things since I jumped on the Long Beach scene. We spoke quite a bit about art in these crazy times and what the future holds. Good information was exchanged.
I had a realization though…
There may be a miscommunication in what I was putting out there.
While I believe that this is a great time to do new things with numerous possibilities for good returns, there are a lot of people that seem to have thought that I was standing around acting like everything is going to be okay.
So I think I should clarify…
The world is WILDLY different now.
Things are ROUGH.
I get that.
I do not believe that things are peachy, that things will just return to normal, that things will magically work out, or that people will just give artists/developers money because we’re nice people. The business of life just doesn’t give a damn.
That being said…I had to ask myself:
What do I want?
Who am I going to be?
Well, to me, there are two, non-mutually exclusive options: 
  1. Allow good energy flow in familiar directions 
  2. Allow good energy flow in new directions
(Implicit in the flow mandate is that one will need to let go of resistance that’s holding back the flow.)
Because you can always make choices to adjust yourself into a better direction. 
Recently, I realized that Instagram was causing me low levels of anxiety. I had to change how I utilized the platform. I can’t browse it the same way I used to and have removed a lot of the content that I posted before. There are other strategies that I have employed for it and other outlets (like this newsletter). These strategies are geared towards a better tomorrow.
The environment has undeniably changed on a global scale. Continued activity will likely require tapping into unfamiliar energies (aka thinking outside of the box). There are some cases where you might luck out — maybe you happen to own a hand sanitizer business. But more likely, you won’t be able to coast on this new energy paradigm. That means you will have to realign yourself, maybe in radical ways.
What adjustments make sense in your slice of the universe? That’s something you will have to answer for yourself. Will you play the violin while the Titanic is sinking? Maybe that’s not the best strategy for you. But maybe that does work for you for some reason. (Note: I just learned from Wikipedia that “712 people survived the sinking of the Titanic out of 2,207”.)
In any situation, it is on you to adjust.
Everything is not going to magically be okay.
That’s not realistic. 
BUT. 
Things can work out well for any of us. 
I absolutely believe this.
In times of change, there are new opportunities that may not have made sense before. You have to adapt yourself to the situation. For example, who would have thought that sewing, cooking, or being able to exist indoors would be as beneficial as it is right now?
As a creator, it is my job to continue to create. Accepting that statement yields more complex questions, though: What to create? What to enact? Where to go? Who to call? What to let go of? Things are uncertain, so there aren’t clear answers. Our visible options may not seem ideal, but they are options, nonetheless. Options allow us to keep energy flowing. 
Somewhere in-between the visible extremes that probably aren’t a good fit, there are options that will work for you. Right now, it’s your job to access those options. 
This goes for me as well. I’m currently finding my way through things and have decided to start a podcast that has no clear-cut path to prosperity. I have a strategy, but I’m still finding my way though it all. Will this time around help me to actually move the needle in my direction? I think it could, so I’m doing it. 
Since I don’t own a hand sanitizer company, I’m not able to kick back and relax. But that’s okay. Things are what they are and life transpires. I plan to . I don’t expect you to either. So keep doing positive work, and we can synergize with each other’s creativity.
Let me know how you are feeling.
We can do this.

– Mr Benja –

Relieve Quarantine Anxiety with… Will Smith?

Last week, I was trying to get some work done and was getting a little anxious about life. Suddenly, a voice spoke to me softly and said, “Just chill, maaaaan.” I leaned back at my computer and decided to take the advice of the strange voice. I browsed YouTube in search of anything to set my mind at ease. (It’s not just procrastination, it’s therapy!) In a few minutes, I ran across this playlist of lo-fi beats to chill to from Will Smith. It’s not a new concept, but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. I loaded it up and pressed Play.

It should help you relax and remove some anxiety from all the news and the quarantine. It did for me.

BUT, if you want a 24 hour mix, you’re going to have to check for the original badass lofi hip hop radio that Smith was paying homage to. Listen to this one if you need to be zoned out for hours at a time.

Link: Lo-Fi Hip Hop Radio

Finally, another favorite chill playlist was sent to me by Stephen Russo.
Link: Coffee Shop Radio

Hope you enjoy these. You can also find these and ones like them on Spotify, iTunes, and other places.

– Mr Benja –

Branding for Artists

** UPDATE: This is no longer a quick note. It became a full on blog post. Enjoy. 🙂 **

A quick note on “brand”.
Brand is what helps people understand and connect with you.
In these Internet streets, that’s essential.

I define brand in two ways:

Definition #1:  “Perceived Value” – When people think about your personal brand, your art brand, your friend brand, your employee brand, etc. they have a perceived value rating for you. The higher that perceived value, the greater your ability to move minds…or…influence.

Definition #2: “The story that’s going on in others’ heads when you’re not around.” –  When people think about you what do they think about? Think about Disney, Netflix, the NFL, your cousin, Mr Benja, Andy Warhol, Dr Phil, The Avengers, In-N-Out, etc.

And…other definitions: You can also check Merriam-Webster or some other smart people for their definitions. It’s worth noting that the name comes from livestock branding, which is how people literally marked the ownership of their products. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brand>

As artists, we’re in a weird position to craft a combined personal and professional brand. I need to figure this type of branding out for myself. 

So what do I know about branding? Well, for much of my life, I’ve worked to design brand for games, products, movements, technologies, etc. Rockstar Games Table Tennis is an example of a team project where I was the lead game designer. (Much of the visual styling was all from corporate though. They do great work.) The entire campaign relied heavily on multiple levels of branding.  <https://www.rockstargames.com/tabletennis/>

Now that I’m out of the corporate scene, I’ve realized that I NEED a personal brand to communicate my ideas effectively. Unfortunately, personal branding doesn’t come naturally to me. My unregulated thoughts are far too weird to simply “say what’s on my mind”. (Damn that computer science background.) Even if you’ve never thought about it, you may be a personal branding natural, or maybe not.

But shouldn’t success be all about the product? Well…it CAN be, but you’re leaving a lot of opportunity untapped as well as wading in dangerous territory, especially for an artist. First of all, a small amount of brand consideration can make your product/service/idea go a lot farther. Secondly, in this era we’re in, I guarantee that I can acquire a better image than you would create — and likely for cheaper. Your brand is what will set your work apart from being a mere commodity.

Over the past couple years I’ve FINALLY starting working on my personal brand because I’m seeing how much it can get me. I’d rather just be a hermit and hoard my creations outside of the public eye. The whole personal branding thing really doesn’t come naturally to me, I’m actually envious of people that just live life as a natural brand. I mean…I’ll never be fake, but following the unqualified “Be Yourself” mantra has gotten me into a lot of trouble. In 2020, I’m working on avoiding those troubles.

A simple example is my regular Facebook posts. (See attached image.) Most of my posts all follow a basic format, background, and style. It gets people to understand my message faster. They get FAR more traction than my other post types. But I actually took the time to work out how I should communicate consistently on my main feed. It worked, and I had time to figure it out in a safe place. Now, they’re flow pretty easily, and I can create variations.

I’m still a work in progress and would never call myself an “expert”, but I can’t stress the importance of the brand enough in this attention age.

Anyway, this was just an observation and a sharing of what I’m thinking about. I’m going to revisit my Instagram right now and will keep stumbling along horribly until I get it right.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on brand for artists.

– Mr Benja –

Mr Benja Art Auctions Starting This Week

At an art show in San Diego’s Graffiti Beach, I noticed my friend, Edgar, looking at a piece of art with a slight bit of frustration on his face. He was looking at a piece of mine that had already sold. He was there first, but someone else had put dibs on the art by talking to me and effectively purchasing the piece. This didn’t sit well with him. It wasn’t fair. But the art world isn’t fair, and things like this happen all the time. But was Edgar ever going to forgive me?

Well…he got me thinking of ways to be a little more democratic and less elitist with my art.

The solution?
I will use auctions.
The art world loves auctions.
Now you can love auctions too.

I’m not sure if Edgar ever forgave me.
Maybe he’ll read this one day.

See any current auctions HERE.

– Mr Benja –

How Monday Became My Favorite Day Of The Week

All my life, I’ve heard people talk about how bad Mondays were:
“Bad case of the Monnnndays?”
“Must be Monday!”
“I hate Mondays”
“Welp…it’s Monday. Back to work.”
And expressed as an emoji, “😒”.

So…I think we’ve habitually developed a national day of negativity.
That’s kinda lame.

So in the past few years, I’ve switched my thinking on the day.
I did it by celebrating New Years more and more.
After I started taking New Years seriously*, things began getting better for the year.
I was having so much fun with New Years optimism, that I started working towards monthly goals.
It was like I had twelve mini-New Years celebrations every month.
After that…you guessed it, weekly.
And the final switch was when I got a calendar that started the week with Monday.
That cinched it for me.
With a mindset that was all about embracing about new beginnings, I just didn’t see Monday as a bad day anymore.

Now, every seven days, starting with Monday, I look at my calendar and expect better things to happen in the week.

The only bad part about it is…eh…nevermind. It’s Monday right now. I have a good week ahead of me.

Read More:
When I proclaimed New Years as my favorite holiday.

– Mr Benja –