Lockdown Day 5: I’m a Robot


I’d like to say no one saw this coming, but the signs were all right there in front of us. And I’d like to say it’ll all be over soon, but reality is a little more grim than that. We’re most likely still in the early phases of this, and things get worse before they get better. Buckle up.

Now let’s get a few things out of the way that will be very important in the coming months.

  • Practice acceptance. You can’t change the situation, and even though we don’t like it, it’s the reality we are currently in.
  • Stay flexible. The situation has been changing from day to day, so you need to be ready to change with it.
  • Care for your mental health. Be kind and forgiving to yourself. Take time for actual self care, and not just binging Netflix.
  • Stay productive. Continue to get things done, whether it’s just around the house, or working on hobbies or anything job related that can be done from home.

But let’s move on to the meat and potatoes! What are you doing? How are you staying productive? What are you doing now to place yourself to come out of this in the best position possible? If you’re not working, you have nothing but time, so put some plans in place.

I have dozens of projects in the pipeline that I’ve been brainstorming or that are actually started. Basically endless art to work on. That can get tiring because there’s so much to do, I freeze. So I make sure there’s things I need to do around the house. If that’s too much, I’ll write or shoot video. The point is, I stay busy.

One thing I’ve been doing is posting a lot of my smaller drawings for discounted rates. Having zero income is going to be brutal if it drags out too long, so anything I can get is extremely helpful. I’ve put together an album on Facebook, I’ll be updating the website shop with more work, and I’ve put together a sale list in my Instagram story highlights. Even though a lot of people aren’t working, some are, and many are supporting small business and artists by buying from them during this time of need.

A sample of discounted artwork (plugplugplug)

If you’re having trouble setting plans, I wrote a post not too long ago that addresses goal setting and planning. The first half of that post is mostly about having ADD, but the rest of it is productivity and goals. Hopefully that’s helpful.

Why the hell did I subtitle this “I’m a robot?” Well, because my picture edit came out funny, but also because I’m trying to emotionally detach as much as possible from this situation. With all that’s happening, we can’t afford to get lost in sadness, anger, or panic. We have to remain as clear headed and rational as possible. I also chose it because I’m trying to remain as functional as possible and continue to adapt and do my job in whatever way it presents itself.

That’s really what this boils down to. Remaining calm and still getting shit done. It’s funny how we somehow co-opted “keep calm and carry on” yet people are running around like maniacs. We actually have something to learn from that statement now, and that’s to do exactly what the fuck it says. Just stay calm and carry on in whatever way you can. We may not be getting bombed like WWII Great Britain, but we’re in as much danger.

So do what you can with what you have where you are. No, this won’t be over tomorrow, but it will be eventually. Don’t let it break you. Come out stronger on the other side.

Closure Announcement

Everyone’s lives are being affected by the coronavirus. Between school closures, shutdowns, and possible curfews, we’re all limited in our actions at this time. In order to stay responsible and follow safe practices, we will be closing Art Machine Productions until at least March 27th, as per governor’s order.

If you currently have an appointment with me, I will contact you with information about rescheduling. All deposits are still valid and will be applied to your reschedule date. I will be opening my books for late April/early May and scheduling new clients for those times. These will primarily be done through messaging in one place or another. I will continue to use my email, Facebook, Instagram, and text line during the shutdown.

I know the next several weeks will be difficult for everyone, but I also know that this is the only way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Limiting personal contact and attention to hygiene are vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19. I appreciate your patience and cooperation during difficult times, and I look forward to welcoming you back to the studio when this is over.

Staying Focused While…wait, what was I saying?

The eternal frustration in my life is lack of organization. Stacks of books and stacks of papers, boxes of knickknacks and broken typewriter keys. A thousand projects and no semblance of order to accomplish them. A brain that pushes out information almost as fast as it attains it.

It’s not like I’m dumb, or the information is actually gone. I mean, I can tell you how many times they shoot Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leg with tranquilizers during the memory implantation in Total Recall. (It was 7.)

The problem is I draw a blank when I need the information. I try to take notes and make lists; set reminders in my phone. I tried putting everything in my calendar, putting nothing in my calendar, making comprehensive to do lists, making no to do lists. I’ve used a dozen apps and daily planners, but I still forget what I’m doing after walking 15 feet. I was hypercritical of my inability to focus and complete tasks, and would beat myself down for those perceived failures.

I have problems paying attention to anything that’s not in my forefront of thought, which is only occupied by the last thing to have caught my attention. When you’re talking to me and it seems I’m not listening or paying attention, well, I’m probably not. But I swear it’s not deliberate. It’s just that Midnight Oil is on the radio, and I remembered their singer looking scary when I was little, so I had to look him up, and I found out he became an Australian politician and civil rights activist for aboriginal peoples.

Is any of this making sense? I started writing it last night, but now I’m cooking pancakes and not sure if I’m staying on subject.

Every time I recognize that I’m off track, I try to correct course. I’ll go back to the last system that gave me some results, or the one before that. Sometimes it will work again, sometimes it won’t. Lists usually work to some degree, especially checklists. Sometimes scheduling tasks works well.

The important thing is that I don’t completely quit with my efforts to be somewhat organized, even if they look like disasters from afar. It’s sort of like I have to bring all of my thoughts and ideas into one mass and pick through them. Regrouping, refocusing. I’ll make a mini plan of action and set off.

Who knows how long before that plan of action is derailed. I constantly have new ideas and plans, and they start pushing the other ones out. I’m hoping my somewhat convoluted system of note taking will actually create order from the chaos. Or at minimum, keep me in check enough to not be completely flitting about like a drunk pixie.

I’ve read some books on organization and productivity that have helped me immensely. One of them is 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse. Another that I’m pretty sure was good is Delivered From Distraction by Dr. Edward Hallowell. I say I’m pretty sure, because ironically enough, I made it partway into the book, got sidetracked, and proceeded to lose it. I actually did that two or three times.

Today, I’ve combined strategies from everything I’ve done in the past. Just as with coping strategies, there’s the right tool for the job, and the more diverse knowledge you have, the better chance of handling a situation properly. You don’t cut wood with a hammer, you know what I’m saying? Fill your toolbox.

I still use reminders on my phone sometimes. I still put items in my calendar sometimes. I still make lists. But above all else, the easiest and most effective thing I’ve been able to do is simple, basic goal setting.

The idea with basic goal setting is to build an outline of how to achieve the goal. No matter how big or small, goals have steps to achieve them. If you break it down into those steps, you’ll be able to progress. Some steps will themselves have steps, especially for larger goals. In addition, there’s often tasks that aren’t part of any step in particular, but can still be done to aid in the process.

Working on outlines

I know diagnoses overlap heavily and often, and life itself creates distraction, so blaming this on ADD isn’t 100% fair. But to counter that fairness, I’ll be fair to myself by saying I can’t take ADD medication because it’s all habit forming and can be abused. So yeah, let’s blame it on ADD.

How long will this work? Who knows! Will I even finish this outline now that I’ve done enough to include a picture in a blog post? Maybe! I literally closed the book after I got enough for a pic. See how my head goes?

Like I said in the beginning, the important thing is that I keep trying, and don’t beat myself up when I fall off track. If you have problems with organization and attention, you have to do the same thing. don’t quit. And for Christ sake, don’t ever compare yourself to people who are tidy and organized and can keep track of their lives. Their brains don’t work the same as ours, and you need to accept that fact to make progress. Like a ten and a half foot, fittin in a seven shoe.

So that’s it. Stay aware and don’t beat yourself up. Or in the words of Corporal Hicks,

“Hey, I know we’re all in strung out shape but stay frosty and alert

It’s official! I’m bipolar!

I’ll tell you what, sentience is a bitch. There’s days I’d rather have no knowledge of self and just be a slave to instinct, like an animal. Then I watch a video of a wild dog eating a gazelle alive and change my mind.

It’s funny how such brutal and aggressive behavior is just natural, and not considered cruel, yet if a human did it, it would be barbaric and evil. It’s funny the standard we hold ourselves to. I’m not sure at what point the conscience evolved, but the shifting moral standards we’ve applied are sort of self righteous.

That isn’t to say that’s bad, I just think it’s interesting. I mean, it’s obviously GOOD that we don’t eat the babies of other males to stop their bloodline from being dominant to ours. It’s good that we kill our food before we eat it.

What does this have to do with my bipolar diagnosis? Probably less than I’m going to say it does. In my mind, there’s a lot of observation of mankind as animals. There’s very often a disconnect from whatever people say it is to be “human.” At times, I go through the motions, but feel very little solidarity with the human race.

I remember the first time I felt that way and could actually form a cohesive thought around the feeling. I was 17, and my friends and I were on a pretty heavy acid trip. It was late, maybe midnight/1am, and I was walking down Broadway in Pennsville, my hometown. My jeans were wet almost up to my knees, as they always seemed to be when we took acid. My teeth would grind. My throat clinched and tingled when I swallowed.

As I walked, arms folded across my chest, I could feel every bend of the hinge joints of my knees. Every bend forcefully back, then kicking forward, almost as if there were spring tension backing it up. Then I started to think about how bizarre it is, to fold the arms over the chest and walk. Their natural position was just too uncomfortable to maintain. But even if it were comfortable, it’s still awkward, as limbs flail back and forth with the momentum of locomotion. And as they flailed, five tiny fingers at the end of each awkward limb.

I thought about how strange we would look to an alien species. Why don’t our knees bend backwards? Why don’t we have two knee joints? None of it really makes sense, other than natural selection millions of years ago that dictated those decisions. And I’m sure plenty of it was the LSD talking, but I felt a disconnect from humanity. I could see that we were awkward animals scurrying about the earth, applying meaning to everything for fear of meaninglessness.

That stuck with me. I always assumed it was the acid, but it stuck. It took more than a decade for that thought to develop into what I feel today. Or at least what I feel when I’m in a down cycle. It also showed me that not matter what I’m feeling, it doesn’t matter and really doesn’t make much sense.

That’s simultaneously terrifying and comforting. This idea that our natural thoughts often don’t make logical sense, and then the follow up idea that it doesn’t matter anyway. None of it really does, and oddly enough, that’s what gives me comfort. The idea that all of this is inconsequential, and over time it is all lost. Even the greatest of mankind becomes bones and dust, and all they did will be undone. It relieves the weight of all the trivial things we claim as important. And you should be terrified of that, and then you should feel freedom to do as you please.

I’m not sure where I’m taking this. I’m fucking ranting, as I always do. There’s too much to express and not enough words. Not enough time. If I wrote all day every day, I still couldn’t express these things the way I want. This obviously isn’t a discussion on bipolar from a manic stance. Look, I’m just working through things as they pop up.

So it’s official! I’m bipolar. And nothing is different.

Uncertainty and Doubt During Periods of Growth

I’m pretty sure I don’t give enough to others. The greatest value I can be is through sharing my experiences. Not as an entrepreneur, or a recovering alcoholic, or artist, but as a human.

When I struggle with my mental health, I draw parallels between myself and others. When I’m face to face with my drinking and I’m trying to silence my ego, I see that the emotions and stages of working it out are the same as any other person’s problems, and that it’s only the circumstances that are different. It’s in that recognition that I can understand we all are dealing with the same exact bullshit.

That’s the reason I feel I don’t do enough. If I’m dealing with the same bullshit you are, and I’m finding my way through, why aren’t I sharing it? I’m not some Buddha or enlightened master, I’m just another guy on his path. But I’m older now, and I’ve faced a lot of challenges, and I’ve had a lot of wise guidance. That puts me in a position to assist you. It’s time I start taking that responsibility seriously.

So many things circle around to uncertainty and doubt. You’d think I’d move past it by now, after all the obstacles I’ve had to overcome. But no, it’s still there, and it still jumps up like a rabid squirrel to startle and scare me away from my goals.

What kind of shit brain would create an entire system meant to hold you down and keep you from accomplishing the things that matter to you? My shit brain. Your shit brain, too, for that matter. Everyone’s shit brain is out to get them.

We can’t get mad at self doubt. We CAN, but there’s no reason to. That’ll just stress you out more. Self doubt is just a safety precaution. It’s when your brain is playing out scenarios and sees something in the possible future that could cause you pain and discomfort. When it sees that, it wants to dissuade you from trying, as a means of protecting you.

Don’t be mad at your brain. Instead, just stop doing what the brain says, and start listening to the mind. Oh, is that confusing? It’s simple, really. The brain is a thing, a physical object with a series of complex chemical processes, guiding you through existence. But it’s autopilot. When you only listen to feelings, instinct, gut reaction, knee jerk impulse, you’re acting out the suggestions your brain is making through those complex chemical processes. You can’t control what the brain is doing.

Mind, on the other hand, is less tangible. It’s decision making. It’s reason /6 weed auu7 Zaw and logic. It’s calculating and measuring. It’s deeper awareness of self, and an understanding of how we have a relationship with the brain, even though the mind is housed within it.

I know, it’s fucking weird. The idea of two people, two entities existing within you. That’s really what it’s like, though, once you learn that emotional response doesn’t need to dictate actions. Our emotions have little to do with reason. In fact, they process in completely different areas of the brain and barely communicate.

Sometimes emotions disguise themselves as reason and logic. It can make it really hard to distinguish if you’re making the right decisions, or if you’re just reacting out of fear. It’s an ongoing struggle that we have to learn to recognize when we decide our course of action.

I know I’ve been dealing with it a lot lately. Check out the video below where I talk about it a little more in depth.

If you want to add to the conversation, follow me on Twitter or join my Facebook group, Unstoppable.


It doesn’t matter how hard I work, I always think I should work harder. I know I shouldn’t have to prove anything to anyone, but I still try my damnedest, all the time.

Or am I just writing that to sound cool? Like some sort of badass terminator motherfucker that never sleeps and stays on the hunt. I fuck off on my phone all the time. I take naps. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking up 80’s bands that come on the radio to see where they are now. Did you know the singer from Midnight Oil became a politician who fought for the environment and aboriginal rights in Australia?

ADD as a motherfuck.

You measure and weigh. You review and calculate. Am I being productive or wasting time? Can wasting time become productive? I constantly try to turn hobbies into money. Is that entrepreneurial? Is that greed?

What are those little monsters in Dungeons & Dragons that are just big brains with legs? Intellect devourers? I think that’s me. I’m feeding on what I do and converting it to knowledge, and disseminating it into my life; creating a system where each skill set I hone improves the others.

Intellect devourer

Is that just what people are supposed to do? Am I obsessed with being the best? At what point is complacency an acceptable thing? I feel like that answer is never. Never settle for less than my ability. And if my ability isn’t capable of achieving my goal, then get better.

Take tattooing as an example. I’m in the process of ripping myself apart because I am not at the top. I am not the best in my region or even my style, and I can’t accept that. If you tattoo and you’re not at least subconsciously trying to slaughter your competition, you’re not going to win. That’s me competing with myself.

A few 2020 tattoos

Since I can’t accept not being the best at tattooing (whatever the fuck that means) I’m always trying to do my best, and constantly making other art to help improve my skills. Last year, I counted over 200 pieces of art. That might be fuckin crazy, but I look at it as not enough. Again, I’m in competition with myself.

Did you know Pablo Picasso made nearly 150,000 pieces of art? That’s an insane number, even for a master like Picasso. I want to be that prolific. Maybe it goes back to my own issues with perfectionism, and my underlying desire to be loved and accepted for who I am. I try to stay conscious of that shit.

Just a little art from 2019

I try to view things from every angle I can. everything is a learning opportunity, and a chance to make some money. My life is situated around a keystone goal; the one goal that holds the others together. Everything I do needs to point toward the keystone. For me, that’s safety and comfort for myself and my family. Everything I do has to point in that direction, and reflect those values.

When I started buying and selling things, it was fun, and sort of a side hobby kind of thing. Since then, it’s taken on its own life, guiding my actions and how they can create growth and success in this endeavor. I haven’t stepped back or calmed down with it because it has the ability to push me toward my keystone. I’m gaining knowledge, I’m gaining income, and I’m gaining diverse avenues to care for my family.

I work hard because it’s what I have to do. It steadies me. It makes me feel like I’m serving a purpose. It helps keep me sober. Hard work saves me from my worst instincts, which underlie my positive actions. I do these things because if I don’t, I will do other things that are much more dangerous and damaging to myself and those around me.

It’s good to stay aware.

Derailing my train of thought

I really feel like I should be able to better express more of my thoughts. Maybe it’s delusional to think that I have something important to say, or maybe it’s actually true, but I don’t think I can be the one to judge that. All I can really do is spill it out and let what happens happen.

There’s something intangible that bounces around inside my head every day. Something that feels like if I could actually grasp it completely, express it properly, transmit it, that it would change things. I don’t know what it would change, but it would be better. Better than the monotony of floating in place, unable to move forward or progress, but just strafe side to side, dodging bullets and dodging tragedies; taking shrapnel when I misstep. Strafe was a good strategy in Medal of Honor Frontline, but in life it really doesn’t help.

The only thing I can think to do is to just dump my thoughts like a landfill and sift through it later. Like any dump, there’ll be lots of dirty diapers and old Chinese food, but there’ll be the occasional end table you can clean up and put in the basement next to that beat up leather sofa. Will today be an end table day? Will today be more shitty diapers? I have no idea. I don’t expect to ever know.

All I expect is that my mind continues to evacuate in the hopes that there’s something to set me apart from the other trash. Could it be wishful thinking that I’m not like every other piece of refuse in the landfill? Could I really be the prince of the trash pile? I think that’s the best most of us will do. Not because we aren’t capable of anything, but because at best this life is full of waste and garbage, and no matter how much we work, we die and rot like the old Chinese food at the base of the pile.

I don’t mean it in a bad way, I just mean it in a “nobody is above the rules” kind of way. Like, none of us will ever escape the grip of aging and dying, of sickness and disease. We will all do things we are ashamed and embarrassed of, things we regret, things that will hound us with guilt as long as we live. So even if you do your damnedest, you’re still in that trash heap with the rest of us.

So maybe prince of the pile isn’t so bad. It’s like yelling “look at me! I’m fucked up too!” while you perch on a discarded mannequin leg, wearing your crown of old, blackened coffee filters. Tissue box shoes. Christmas ribbon bow tie.

But fuck, can you see far from the top of the heap.

Did you know the story of lemmings jumping from cliffs in mass suicide is bullshit? It had been a myth for a long time, but you know what solidified it in the hearts of man? A 1958 Disney movie where they forced a fake lemming death plunge, killing hundreds of lemmings in the process to get a shot for the nature film.

Trash is trash. People are trash. We shit and piss and expel nasty fluids and die and rot. You can’t be more than human, because that’s all you really are in the end. So at best, you build your throne from the battered igloo cooler with no lid, and some beat up fabric you found (not the fabric with the oil on it, the fabric with the tomato stains. Red is regal) and you promenade on high, where your excrement rolls downhill and doesn’t interfere with your pomp and circumstance.

Endless hills of refuse. Endless princes and princesses, kings and queens, dukes and duchesses.

This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing. It’s only bad if you can’t accept that your an animal like all the other mongooses and muskrats. But just like those mongooses and muskrats, you can allow yourself to frolic and play. They don’t care that they piss and shit and expel nasty fluids, because they’re animals. Just like you.

Maybe not just like you, because you seem to have a problem accepting it. But once you stop bullshitting yourself and just own up to the ridiculousness of trying to rise above the laws of nature, and stop hiding your shame, then maybe you can frolic with the bunnies and baby kittens. Well, before the kittens become cats and eat the bunnies.

The world isn’t nice and friendly, it just is. The world is. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s not out to get you or reward you, it’s just carrying on as if you don’t exist.

With no one watching you or caring about your actions, you are free to do whatever makes you happy. So climb atop your personal trash heap and claim your throne! Proclaim law over the land! Just don’t try to convince yourself that your crown is made of gold and not cherry picked bits of refuse.

Now booking 2020 clients

I’m opening my books for 2020, and I want to tattoo YOU! I’ll be focusing on abstract, neotraditional, and traditional work, with a healthy heap of new school and illustrative cover up work. The more freedom I’m given, the happier I’ll be, and everyone wants a happy artist, right?

Email, text, DM, however you want to get in touch. Let me know what you want, where you want it, and how big. Let’s make 2020 fucking awesome.


So Tired: the endless social media game

I’m not gonna lie. I’m fuckin tired. I don’t mean physically tired, although I’m absolutely that as well; no, I mean I’m mentally exhausted.

I despise social media. I always have, even back when I was really good at using it for customer acquisition. Fuck, I built my entire career on social media. That doesn’t mean I hold any love for it.

You don’t have to love a system to be reliant on it. Basically every government in history is proof of that. The same thing goes for the seedy worlds of Instagram and Facebook. When I first downloaded Instagram in 2011, I thought it was the answer for every tattooer out there. Instant access to countless portfolios AND clients.

Over time it got watered down, and then the algorithm, and then fanboys for garbage tattooers, and then complex ad campaigns. Now your options have become severely limited for exposure, and you either need to learn the system and dish out the cash, or you need to understand how to create viral content, which is a complex art in itself. Real, hard working artists get buried by over edited portraits and trash “blackwork” bullshit outline tattoos with shitty one liners in basic sans serif print.

The third option is to carefully ingrain yourself within communities online, and through repetition of appearance and thoughtful insight, you gain trust. This is actually the best way to do things, even though it’s by far the most time consuming. This is how I built an audience back on MySpace and InkedNation.

But god damn it’s tiring. I don’t want to spend my time doing that bullshit, because I’m an artist, and I want to create. The problem is, why create for no one to see?

It’s a dilemma that’s simultaneously fueling my hatred for social media and my desire to master it. It’s both feeding my creativity and sapping it. I lose fucking sleep over this.

I mean, why would I lose sleep? Why should it bother me? I maintain a strong client base. The relationships I’ve built are strong enough to completely bypass social media and still keep me working. So why does it bother me?

Because I’m insecure and want validation. Because I want some visual sign showing me that what I’m doing is reaching someone. Because I work my ass off, and I’m not going to be overtaken by dumb fucks who can’t hold a tattoo machine just because I’m an old man and can’t keep up with the pace of technology. Because I’m real fucking stubborn.

I’ll continue to grow myself and my businesses in the most grassroots, organic way possible. Sure, I will spend ad dollars and try my damnedest to create shareable content, but my strength lies in actually talking to people one on one. So Instagram can go ahead and change the algorithm again, and further restrict my already restricted reach. It’s totally their right, and after all, it IS free, and I’m not required to use it. It really does suck when people who actually want to see my posts don’t see them for days, but I can’t argue the reach of a free post.

Look, I’ve talked in length about me being on the outside of every group of cool kids for my entire life. It continued into tattooing, and I’ve never been able to sync with any clique. I came to terms with that shit a long time ago. That black sheep syndrome created the man I am. A man who will claw his way over everything thrown at him in a bitter refusal to take second place, even if he’s never actually been in first.

Fuck Instagram. Fuck Facebook, fuck Twitter, fuck TikTok, fuck whatever pops up after that as the app du jour. I’ll be there because in todays business landscape, you don’t have much of a choice. That doesn’t mean I have any love for it.

This post is my attempt at bitching about social media in a graceful way. The truth is, I’m bummed my engagement tanked and I’m not looking forward to basically starting from square one again.

If you want to follow real deal Instagram accounts, follow me, Art Machine Productions, Justin Rakowski, Kevin Jacob Roy, Steve Martin, Kylie Beyer, Raylo, and Bobby Trefz.

Now Hiring

I’ve been sitting with an open booth for months, but I’m ready to take the plunge and hire somebody. But this is what I’m going to need from you.

Art Machine Productions is hiring a new artist for our growing family! Applicants must have a diverse portfolio, some established local clientele, and an active social media presence. We’re looking for a goal setter and high achiever.

The premise behind Art Machine is to harbor an environment that promotes artistic freedom and client service, while allowing artists to create a thorough body of work. We encourage each other to push our boundaries, whether it’s in tattooing, drawing, or any other medium.

A desire for growth and a monster work ethic are ABSOLUTE requirements. It’s not called Art Machine for no reason.


Email the following to artmachineproductions@gmail.com

•work history
•links to all relevant social media
•4 tattoos that best represent your work
•4 pieces of art in other mediums
•your favorite animal and why (seriously).

Let’s do some tattoos, make some art, and generally be awesome.