No human endeavor is without evidence of creativity. Whether a business concept, a marketing strategy, a musical composition or a screenplay, the lure to create is as primitive to humans as are the body’s natural inclinations to inhale and exhale.
But, if we forge only from the well of ourselves, we never contribute to the human progression. Rather, we will only recycle, reclip and redesign the puzzle pieces already existing within us. So, instead, we must surrender to the possibility that we – the commissioned creators inhabiting this earth – are instruments. We are the vessels by which the wonders of life flow through.
Greg Mankis – internet-viral artist and widely sought after Artrepreneur based in Cleveland, Ohio, is convinced of this. In fact, he has recently published a body of work – available for purchase as either an e-book or coffee table book – delivering captivating evidence of adhering to such concept.
Nearly 20 years after completing his first piece of art at 23 years old, Mankis reflects fondly on the experience: “From the first line, I immediately knew that the curvature and direction of it came from something beyond me – similar to how an athlete gets into a ‘zone’ where everything flows perfectly.”
Eleven years would pass before he would grasp the magnitude of tapping into such artistic “zone,” however.
An Encounter of a Divine Nature
The year was 2007. On a day most ordinary, Mankis was taken hostage by an encounter of a divine nature – forever altering his perspective as an artist.
On this day, he was approached by Laura, a friend of a friend. Laura’s son Ian, a bright and kind-spirited teen, had recently committed suicide after an exhaustive struggle of trying to keep his head above the dark waters of emotional and mental distress.
Laura was grieving and, thus, sought comfort in Mankis’ artistic services. “She initially showed me a hundred pictures of Ian, but I didn’t feel a pull to any of them,” said Mankis.
Until the hands of fate revealed their almighty agenda.
Among Laura’s stash was a handwritten card Ian had given to his mother on her birthday. For Mankis, the card began to take on a life of its own.
“Without me consciously trying, that card was glowing at me – yelling my name. Suddenly, the handwritten letters in his card began rearranging themselves in my head. They changed from ‘Happy Birthday Mom, Ian’ to ‘I’m Happy Now Mom, Ian.’ There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.”
Mankis retreated home that evening, unable to rest until he fulfilled the task for which he was sure he had been assigned. He projected Ian’s words onto his canvas and proceeded to deliver – in the boy’s own handwriting – the message he was shown. The finished product was something even he – its creator – gazed and gasped in awe of.
Not only did Laura now have a beautiful painting of her son, but she had been given an even more beautiful sentiment, perhaps from beyond. And, for free.
Rather than gloat in his own generosity and greatness, Mankis felt he owed her for giving him this once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I’m the lucky one here. I’m so blessed to be in this position of using my gift to do nice things for people.”
This event marked a new era in Mankis’ life. “That is when the lightbulb went off for me. I knew there was something to this – this tapping into inspiration, creating art from it and giving it away to people.”
What If the Pursuit of Inspiration Is No Pursuit at All?
In the years that followed, the artist learned that his best work flowed from him only when he allowed each painting “to reveal itself.”
In our hour-long discussion, Mankis and I exchanged stories about exploring the wonders and vagaries of creativity through our individual endeavors.
Like Mankis, I am well-acquainted with the difference between straining to create a piece of work versus gliding along weightlessly in the arms of something far more fruitful, magical and powerful than I am. I’ve come to wonder if there isn’t so much ‘talent’ as there is the reality that some of us are more finely-tuned and willing ‘receptors.’
What if life is a dance of creativity, and humans are never meant to take the lead? Perhaps we most thrive when we quiet the chatter of our own ideas – when we put ourselves into a state of receiving so that we can hear when inspiration asks: Would you like to dance?
Upon presenting my thoughts to Mankis, he responded by articulating most eloquently, “The best part of the work is the blank canvas – when I sit and wait for the ‘zone.’ And, when that miracle comes, I often look at my finished work as though I’m seeing it for the first time – the way a stranger would.”
And, his art has proven to teach him valuable lessons about living a richer life in general.
“Through my art, I’ve learned that the key to a successful life is not about working oneself to death; It’s working inspired. It’s about pausing and listening. This is when life-changing inspiration comes.”
The Rewards of Listening to Inspiration Will Come; Trust the Process
When music icon Prince died in April 2016, fans immersed themselves in celebration of his life. Mankis, although never an impassioned fan, felt inspired to participate by putting paint to canvas.
“I had watched my friend Ricky Smith, who started the RAKE movement, perform random acts of kindness for people – anything from free lunches to hugs. Ricky’s work was very instrumental in my next move, which was to make a painting of Prince for a fan who would appreciate it.”
Once the final stroke was complete, Mankis snapped a picture of the work and shared it on his Facebook page, captioned with the announcement that he planned to give it away to a person of his spontaneous choosing.
“Within one day, the post had over 10 million views and I was receiving tens of thousands of messages. It completely changed my life.”
Prior to this unexpected frenzy of exposure, Mankis had approximately 1,000 Facebook followers. But, at the time of this writing, he has an impressive 37,000. “It was funny because, not only did that experience invite interest in the Prince painting; I was suddenly receiving recognition for work that had gone unnoticed for years.”
But, the artist soon learned that things were only beginning to get interesting.
Following the Prince whirlwind, Mankis launched a dog project. He painted a dog, then posted an image of such painting, along with an invitation for Facebook users to pitch their dog for him to paint.
“I received about 10,000 emails of some of the most beautiful dogs imaginable,” said Mankis. “But, I was waiting for ‘the one’ which would call to me. I shuffled through many messages, but wasn’t getting anything.”
Until, lo and behold, a message from Kelley landed in his inbox.
“When Kelley reached out, she only told me that her dog, Charlie, had passed away recently, and that her son, Evan – a boy of elementary school age, had considered the dog his best friend. I immediately knew this project was the one I had been waiting for.”
When Mankis responded to Kelley, informing her that she had been chosen, he was gifted with a backstory which put even the most arresting Hollywood storylines to shame.
“Charlie was a dog that Kelley and her husband rescued after struggling with infertility for years. Almost immediately after rescuing Charlie, the dog wouldn’t leave Kelley’s stomach area.”
The couple was astonished to learn that, after years of unsuccessful attempts, Kelley was pregnant. But, this story took an even more poignant turn.
“After Evan was born, she and her husband realized he had minor developmental problems which affected his social interactions. Charlie was a godsend because their bond was so primal and unique. I could actually feel it through the images of them together.”
With the emotional impact from the experience still evident in his voice, Mankis shared with me what happened next: “I mailed the painting to Kelley, and soon realized how life-changing it was for her family. She responded with a picture Evan had drawn for me, along with a tear-jerking letter.”
Playing a role in the tale of Evan and Charlie has gone down in history as one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences of Mankis’ artistic life. But, again, his perspective is even more awe-inspiring than his talent is extraordinary.
“Again, I’m the lucky one here. I don’t care what your race, religion, beliefs or dreams are. There is nothing more rewarding than using your gifts to spread kindness.”
When We Light the Way for Others, We Are Illuminated by It, Too
As our interview concluded, I asked what was next for this generous and talented human being.
“I’ve just released my E-book and hardcover coffee table photo book, which are the same in terms of content. I see this as being a powerful tool for years to come.”
The books contain Mankis’ most compelling stories, various methods he uses to channel creativity as weIl as the sources of inspiration which have most impacted his artistry.
“All of the proceeds will go directly to my mission, which is to continue listening to inspiration so that I can use my gift for the purpose of blessing others.”
To learn more about Mankis’ noble mission, go to http://gregmankis.design/