It’s not magic! But Kevin-John‘s smile and charisma certainly makes it feel so. This Disney Master Artist oozes achievement, but not just the obvious variety. Yes, he is typically flanked by his famous handiwork; the Walt Disney Company commissioned his first Disney theme park inspired piece- The Infamous Hatbox Ghost- to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion in 2013. Since that time, he has created multiple “mouseterpieces” that are sold exclusively in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the Art of Disney Galleries. Now, apparently the Hatbox Ghost is not alone in his cult following. It seems there was indeed room for one more. But for this Disney Master Artist, his secrets for success lie beyond these canvases.
Though his career as an artist began in 1987, his artistry for life began much earlier. What we might today classify as a different learner, he may have struggled with the regimented educational system in place in the 70s and 80s, but shone with his special abilities in pen and ink. He was young, he didn’t always have the support of his teachers and elders, but he built a belief in self. It is this inner strength, despite challenges, that he called upon to further a career in the arts; a path not suited for the weak of ego.
Let Passion be your Guide.
Writers are told to write about what they know. Evidently artists do as well. For Kevin-John, his early work depicted his surroundings in Eerie, Pennsylvania. In time, he explored his love of sports, which led him to the NFL and on-air event art for ESPN. Do what you know and do what you love. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Jungle Cruise are all current sources of inspiration for his Disney-commissioned work. He loves the Disney Parks!
Find a Mentor.
Early on, a high school art teacher sprinkled pixie dust in this artist’s life; both identifying his true talent and unlocking his future success. Kevin-John freely acknowledges this and advises every young artist to seek out their mentor. (See Paint It Forward for how he does the same.) Later in life, it would be Walt himself who would lead him the “everything starts with a story” mantra. See the above video for exactly how Walt Disney inspired the artist’s latest venture, Legend Cove Trading Company, and his work for the company in general.
Paint it Forward.
I was so impressed by Kevin-John that I had to visit him at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. (I can’t help but wonder- was this festival created with him in mind?? After all, his Figment artwork for Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival was a sensation!) Plus, I needed a piece of his brand for my walls. And my son. I knew his words of encouragement would ring true with him. Not only does the artist give to charity events whenever possible, he freely gives of himself at every turn. I personally waited 20 MINUTES while he tutored a young college artist on her next professional steps. He cared not for what was being sold, or who was waiting in line. At that moment, he was fully present to that one youngster. He mentors as he was mentored. And then some.
Have a Killer Smile.
In short, be approachable!
There’s still time to meet this Disney legend in-the-making at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts on February 13, 14, 17, 18, and 19. Go for his stylized realism of the Disney Parks. Or to soak up passion, inspiration, and some really smart secrets for success. Or just for a smile.
Top PT Tip:
Education has changed greatly since the 1970s and 1980s, but in some ways, not at all. Best practice now indicates that finding your child’s strengths and passions early in life, and then enhancing those experiences, are the secret to a healthy sense of self worth. In the Special Olympics athletes that I work with, clearly sports is that tool; to say those individuals thrive with the accompanying socialization, achievement, and sense of belonging would be underselling its benefits. Likewise, as an Autism Advocacy Ambassador and mother to a son diagnosed with special needs, that “unlocking”, finding that one thing that connects with their special abilities (or hyperabilities) can lead to successes beyond those forecast. The Art of Autism, Autism Theater Project, Autocraft (the first Minecraft server for children with autism), and various national STEM programs are examples of honing in on what makes a child special, and then developing appropriate superpowers. Your child may never make Disney Master Artist status, but then again, they might. Do your research and advocate in every possible way for your child. In short, make your own brand of magic!
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