Agradecido / Grateful

At around 5:30am my son’s cries woke me up from a dream that I was having of him. The dream was that of watching him shaving, maybe he was getting ready for work or perhaps a date. Miles was all grown and the thought of my own childhood seeped into my dream, the vision of my Dad shaving was the thought. So when I heard Miles crying, I woke up with such a smile and picked him up, changed his diaper and placed him between his mommy and I to sleep. It has been an old advise not to place your children to sleep between the parents but then again our babies won’t stay forever young, so we will break that rule here and there.

Today is Thanksgiving Day and I really don’t believe in this calendar holiday, but I do believe in being grateful everyday of my life for all the blessings that I have been given. Becoming a parent truly sets life in a whole other perspective, maybe not to everyone, but surely it has changed my life and my priorities towards every breathing moment of my life. I have always pride myself of being a free spirited person and never have I given my decisions way too much thought. My sense of parenthood was not recently changed with the birth of my beloved Miles, but it has been solidified with him. The change kicked in at the birth and passing of my loving Sonia back in 1995, to have experienced such a moment is life changing without a doubt. It is such a drastic and unpredictable experience that it could’ve led me anywhere in life. What it did for me was question my sense of belief in a Higher Spiritual Source of Love. I cannot forget that an integral part of this experience was doubly felt with the ever present love from another child which is my loving Erika. This beloved child simply took over my soul & mind. At the tender age of 4 years Erika taught me a form of unconditional love that has lived in me ever since she claimed me her Dad. Today our relationship is not as stable as I would like it to be but I am to blame for this as well. At the same time when we do hang out, I simply live for that moment. Either way my undying love for her is at all times present and now with the presence of Miles I make it a point to have them present in each other’s life via text messages filled with photos and comments. At times she responds and at other times she remains quiet but I feel her smile in my heart.

So each day of my life I am genuinely grateful to God and reminded of all the bendiciones in my life. I am humbled for every chance that I receive to express my love to those around me. For both of my daughters and my son, the song that lives in my heart is the sound of your cries and laughters. I am deeply in love with you.

Why Photography?

In one way shape or form a camera has always been a presence in my life. Dad had these non working 35mm film cameras around with the hopes of fixing them one day and he had one that worked but dad just didn’t know how to exactly use it outside of it being on an automatic setting. The point is that the cameras were a constant and a mystery at the same time. The day I was able to afford a simple point and shoot digital camera I had no second thoughts and went to purchase it. At that point I let a year pass by shooting everyday. Towards the end of the year I printed out a few photos in 8″x10″ and I was captivated with the amazement of seeing how beautiful I was able to capture these moments. The subjects of my photography were many but my preference was always geared towards nature. With nature I always felt like I was entering a whole other world, a world which  society simply was not paying enough attention. A genuine awareness is key for these types of photos. One must have sense of respect and awe in order to see further than what your eye sees on the mere surface. In order to capture nature I had to use the macro setting on my point and shoot camera and be ready to be amazed by nature and its wonders. I have a long way towards mastering Macro Photography but I’ll take it one day at a time and enjoy the journey.  Here’s a photo of one of my nature photos and little video I found that breaks down macro nature photography, it’s a very simple video yet effective.



Lost In Digital Transition

I’m not that old to be considered ol’ school, but today I’m not that young to be considered, the new school. I was born in 1970, you can do the math in regards to my age. I was 13 years old when in 8th grade I was exposed to a computer for the first time in my life. That same year I flew out to Ecuador with my family and I remember telling my maternal grandmother (abuelita Victoria) that I was gonna grow up to be a COMPUTER TECHNICIAN. I was so hyped by being exposed to such a thing but during that time the computer didn’t have the strength and capacities that it has today. The graphics were crude but the imaginative possibilities were all present. During that same time I remember that our parents got us an Atari game console, but the only games we received were those that came with it and nothing more. Side note, the Atari came into our lives after it had been introduced into the market 10 years before. After the 8th grade that computer exposure was non-existent. Computers made a brief re-appearance during a college orientation class back in 1988 and during this time the CD-ROM had already been introduced since 1985 and I still had no idea of what that was and at that point no longer cared (perhaps it was the fear of not knowing.)

At some point our parents had given us a Brother’s word processor and that was some advance crap for us. But my need for a word processor and my interest in the arts did not match, so my focus on forming and sharpening my artistic skills took over any need of computer knowledge. After many years like this, the computer re-appears in the year 2000, where my knowledge of the computer was limited to the ON/OFF button. As you notice, my exposure and learning process with the computer has been at such a SLOW pace and it seems to show up after long periods of absence. Today with social media, blogging, smart phones, wiki this and google that I still feel like the 8th grader being exposed to such a great playground but perplexed like the new college student that feared not knowing the CD-ROM.

As I mentioned on my first post, this blog has been in my thought process for over two years and only now have I gathered the courage and some type of knowledge in how to go about this, and although I have a personal Facebook page, I as of yet do not have a business FB page of which I am busy preparing for my photography business, GDS Arts. This blog is to serve multiple needs such as my photography business, my development as an artist, entrepreneur and family man. This digital transition has been painstakingly slow but it has taken place and will continue to evolve at it’s own pace.  I might not get there as quick as the rest, but I’ll arrive and my presence will be felt.


What do you write about when you feel you have nothing to say?

I free write until something does come out, but most of the time it’s just blah, blah, blah… The other day Oklahoma suffered that devastating tornado and my immediate thought was to the parents and their children in school. Being a new Dad, the thought of not knowing the condition of my son within such a situation is mind boggling. I honestly cannot sit here and write of whether I would be disturbed but in control or going hysterical looking for my son. All of a sudden my writer’s block has become so miniscule and insignificant, but I also know what to write … my heart and sincere prayers go out to the families of all who are suffering through this natural disaster.

Having experienced the loss of my own child in the past, I can certainly relate to some parents at this moment.  Throughout that loss, my faith was challenged with such severity.  No religion, icon or words ever helped or gave me answers.  Only time, self reflection, plenty of free writing of the soul and on-going questioning is what kept me sane, accompanied by plenty of yelling and uncontrollable crying.  With way over a year of time and slow meditative breathing I came to realize the point of my loss and acceptance of it.  But in all honesty it is never fully healed, till this day the mention of my daughter, Sonia, is still experienced.  A sense of nostalgia and loss is inevitable, but a smile appears with the acknowledgement that I have an angel looking over me and my family.

How I went about my loss is not for everyone, so figure out your own path and do not be afraid to walk at your own pace.

Keep the faith strong, believe, breathe and come to your own terms.  God bless!!!

To Be Young

I woke up thinking of my 23 year ol’ daughter who I have not seen in many years and I terribly miss.  Since this blog is being dedicated to my evolution then it is only right that I choose to write about what is vital in my life and that is a sense of familia and unity.  I miss you Erika. Hopefully you might read this and if you do, enjoy!

For some odd reason I decided to revisit my old myspace page and in it I found some writing that I took from one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books on Intention.

The active side of infinity fosters a sense of humility. To quote the Talmud, “even if you be otherwise perfect, you fail without humility.” When you embrace the active side of infinity, you’re looking at something so enormous that your little ego is dwarfed in the process. You’re looking out at forever, and your little life is but a tiny parenthesis in eternity.

One of the reasons for so much contemporary depression and envy is the inability to see ourselves connected to something greater and more important than our own puny egos. Young people whose primary focus is on their possessions, their appearance, their reputations with their peers in short, their own egos – have very little sense of humility.

Your purpose will only be found in service to others, and in being connected to something far greater than your body, mind and ego.

People who receive the most approval are unconcerned about it. So, if you really want approval, stop thinking about yourself, and focus on reaching out and helping others. The active side of infinity keeps you humble.

Wilhelm Stekel wrote: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live for one.”

Each one, reach one – Each one, teach one – Each one lead one into the sun

I first heard this quote during a brief internship over at the CityKids Foundation, this was back in 1991 when actor, Malik Yoba used to work there and he would go auditioning at the TriBeCa Film Center, way before New York Undercover … As a matter of fact he was the first person I heard using this quote. I found out about CityKids while working at The Biograph theater, which was a revival house theater screening great classic films. While on my dinner break I walked around the neighborhood on 57th Street and passed by Carnegie Hall, I saw a line of limos and approached one of the many drivers and asked him who was he driving. Although he couldn’t tell me, he did mention that there would be an after party at a restaurant down the block called, Le Bar Bat. Long story short, after work I ran down the block, waited around and was able to sneak in with a group of kids that had just finished performing at Carnegie Hall. These kids were all part of the CityKids and they had just performed for their annual gala. Inside Le Bar Bat I met this guy who must have been about 2-3 years older than myself and we struck up a conversation. He told me about CityKids and I genuinely became interested in learning more about it. He said I should consider volunteering and this way learn first hand what they are all about. As a volunteer I really learned what this amazing safe place for teens was all about and my love for teaching the arts began to awaken. I never taught at CityKids but I took mental notes of how they went about nurturing teens via the arts. Ever since that revealing day I have worked as a teaching artist with Blackout Arts Collective, East Harlem Tutorial Program, PS 163, and Art Start.

I genuinely believe in being part of a solution and so I always look to take part of this responsibility as much as possible and not avoid it. Ever since the birth of my niece Sammy I made it a stronger focus towards the quote, … Each one, teach one … Throughout this journey there have been many times where I have lost focus and became overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of this rat race. But then Life happens and I receive yet another chance to re-focus. Just the other day my friend told me about a teaching artist gig with an organization of which I applied for, later in the week while researching some art books at my neighborhood library I was approached by a young man in his early 20’s, he introduced himself as an artist. He admitted that he is not formally trained and my response to that was, neither was I. He went on to tell me about his tattoo of which he designed in graffiti style and so on many other stories around graffiti. I gave him some artist names to look into such as Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel. I also suggested that he should venture into researching alternate art forms, which will in turn nurture his imagination and he would be able to create something else that has not been seen in graffiti. To say that it was a pleasure to have talked with this young man named, Jonathan, is an understatement. I walked out of that library so inspired and eager to listen to more stories from him and other kids who are eager to grow in their chosen art form.

My last gig as a teaching artist was given to me by another dear friend of mine, Johanna de los Santos, who has been the Executive Director of Art Start since 2007. The program that I created at Art Start was titled, Graffiti is …, the focus was to work with graffiti but to use it as a tool for personal development. So much thought went into creating this program and I am grateful to Jo for giving me the platform and freedom to create in a holistic way this program that truly helped teens as well as myself. There is healing through the arts that simply cannot be measured but it can be experienced.

I write this blog with the thought that it can serve to remind us that regardless of the training or lack of training any human being might have, the hunger to learn is ever so present, so if it shows up in your life, do not dismiss it but embrace and nurture it, for that child or adult is most definitely looking to learn and grow.

Each one, reach one – Each one, teach one – Each one lead one into the sun

Photos 1-5 taken by Edwin Supo

Photos 6-9 taken by Vané Russo

Defying the odds / Fear of failure

What are the odds that by challenging yourself you do come out ahead and triumphant?
Challenge yourself right now with something that has been lingering in your life.  A pending project that has been shelved.  A recurring thought, concept, idea that has been long awaiting to be placed into action.  Regardless of those external or internal voices inside your head telling you about the risk and failure, instilling the fear day by day – FLIP IT!!!!  Simply go for it!  What’s the worst possible outcome?  What if the outcome doesn’t end up being exactly as you had imagined it? Does it ever?  So what!!!  You get it done and that is all that matters.  It takes great courage to get things done.  God only knows how long I have been procrastinating to create this blog and regardless of the outcome I am happy to get it done and out there.  This blog has been a pending project for over 2-3 years and the sensation of getting this blog in motion is life enhancing.  The fear factor most definitely plays a daily part in my life, whether I appear calm, cool and collective … inside my head a variety of scenarios are playing out and it is up to me to set it all straight as I arrange my true priorities in life.  These priorities are closely linked to my goals, family responsibilities, and a deep sense of spirituality.  When I mention spirituality I am not referring to any specific religion but more of a greater sense of existence with myself and life as it exists in the present time.  Focusing on my goals as an artist and cultural event producer is an on-going journey as is having become a husband and now a father.  The challenges and rewards are daily and ever so present even in the most minute detail.  So let us pay close attention to our daily lives at every minute and defy the odds, define our lives and live out our dreams.
  • What are your goals?
  • What do you fear the most? Why?
  • What are your genuine priorities?
Keep in mind that fear can be used either as fuel to dare you to do what you fear the most or it can be used to keep you away from it all.  Whatever the case keep in mind that fear does not ever go away, it stays around to keep us on our toes.  This challenge is done on a step by step process, but what are those specific steps? The approach all depends on you and your lifestyle.  I tend to reflect on what I have done and the results that it has led me to, along with my present life situation and I let those factors be a part of my mapping out a better sense of priorities and actions.  I read books based around self-help and and entrepreneurial themes as well as autobiographies of leaders.  Now when my time is limited then I choose to repeatedly listen to some audio books instead of reading.  Something about repetitive listening really does help as a learning tool, so many of my audio books have been played again and again good thing they aren’t vinyl records 🙂
Excellence and Failure relies on repeating the same action again and again.  Choose wisely which practice you want to repeat.  Have a good journey.

Seedlings of an Artist

As a visual artist I am self trained and have a love for cartoons, graffiti, typography, and abstract paintings which have geared me towards the avant-garde taste in performance art.  I have trained as an actor and have been involved in the audition circle.  I also trained in improv comedy and tried stand-up comedy back in 1991, I went as far as to work with a comedy troupe called El Barrio USA with the well-known comic, Angel Salazar (Chi Chi from Scarface.) The experience with El Barrio USA lasted for two glorious years that were filled with plenty of growth within production and creative work which re-affirmed my belief that my work belonged on stage.  I went on to produce my own work and that was a few more years of trial and tribulations, culminating to co-producing, “Spotlight,” a one time cabaret show in September 2000 over at the Como Coco space in the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.  Immediately following that show I produced my first group art exhibition/AIDS fundraiser,  “Alchemist.”  In both of these shows I created spontaneous performance art pieces. The Alchemist exhibit was my first experience with acquiring an in-kind sponsor with Urban Latino Magazine. After this experience I came across the New York International Latino Film Festival and that has been 13 phenomenal years of growth in the Entertainment business.  After all this I still hold on to my first love which is drawing and painting.  Throughout this journey in changing from one discipline of art to another, the fear of the unknown was ever present and it served me as fuel to continue to venture and grow.  What’s your artist seedling?
Here’s a short film based on the great art of sign painters, 
Later on I will post an interview that I had with a musician and his take on the artistic process.

Intro to Gary Douglas Santana (GDS)

Gary D. Santana as a lil' boy
Sometime ago I briefly started a tumblr blog as an attempt to write about my growth experience as an artist and cultural event producer.  I published a few photos via instagram and that was that.  It has been a somewhat trying period to seek out my true & genuine voice in this competitive field of arts & entertainment especially within this digital social media world.  I have been side tracked to other ventures which have pulled and stretched me from one thing to another and onto another, resulting with spreading myself thin and not giving any project my full energy and dedication.  Then again, I have had some of my most precious gems take place at certain times throughout this journey.  I am an artist who happens to produce work for the need of my mental & spiritual growth and to somewhat control the fear that can work as a creative fuel or a mental block.  I  love to create and share with my immediate community of which is vastly growing within this digital world.  I am an artist, son, brother, husband and recently became a Dad to my beautiful baby boy, Miles Octavio Santana. My name is Gary Douglas Santana, and I genuinely hope that my experiences can shed some light throughout your own journey, I am here to be of service. Oh yeah, I love, love, love music!!!