Ty, the Rambling Artist
The art of making drawing smiles and making connections, anywhere in the world.
“My name is Ty and I draw smiles.” This has become a mantra of sorts or as it’s officially known, my Best Self Statement. I do a good deal of work with a company called CoreClarity. CoreClarity works with businesses, schools and even individuals to help people discover their unique set of strengths and then understand them in a way that can facilitate teamwork, minimize conflict and enable them to use those strengths to find their best lives. Part of the CoreClarity curriculum involves looking at how your strengths show up in you and then developing a short, Best Self Statement that pitches who you are. After a great deal of soul searching, I developed my Best Self Statement and I love what it says… and doesn’t say. It doesn’t say I’m a caricaturist - because I do so much more than that. I interact with people, I create moments, whether it be at the easel or when creating a graphic novel recap for a major corporation, I develop relationships and make people smile. Sometimes drawing that smile is the literal act of putting it on paper and at other times, it’s just bringing out happiness in others. Drawing out those smiles that are all-to-often inhibited in this world. This is what gives me energy. This is what I do and it is who I am.
Several years ago, my wife, Crystal, who was in culinary school at the time, secured an internship at Walt Disney World. She had worked for them in the past and loved being a part of that experience. The internship was to last 14 weeks and then she’d be home. At this point we had lived in Texas for our entire lives, had two teenage boys and had never given any real consideration to making a major change. But the idea of a 14-week internship evolved, as ideas so often do. By the time she headed off to Orlando, we had made a decision to uproot and replant ourselves in Central Florida so she could pursue her dream of working for The Mouse. We were jumping off a cliff, so to speak. We sold our house, sold or gave away all but the most valuable of stuff and moved ourselves, our dog and our possessions to Orlando in a Honda Fit.
The act of being willing to take a risk for your dreams is an important one but not an easy one. Fear of the unknown is very real but things are rarely as dire as you imagine they could become. My wife and I had become somewhat stagnant in Texas. The recession had hit us hard and we were struggling. That very discomfort that we thought we hated was exactly what freed us up to be able to jump off that cliff. We had each other, we had our kids and our dog. That was all that mattered. There was nothing else to lose. Discomfort led us to “Let’s GO” - and a valuable lesson of pursuing dreams that I hope we never forget.
Soon after we arrived in Orlando, I secured a spot working with a company that provides caricature artists around Walt Disney World. It was, at first, simply a way to begin generating some income quickly while I got my caricature business back on it’s feet. I had no idea the impact that meeting and drawing these people from all over the world would have on my life and my work. In those early days, I would work at one of the resorts or parks almost every night. Crystal was only working part time (as is normal for brand new Cast Members) while she waited for a full-time position to open up so taking every shift I could was necessary. Some nights were busy and the priority was to get as many people drawn as I could but many nights were slower and there was time to listen and share stories and draw smiles. Those are the moments I relished and the moments that help to teach me about passion and happiness. There have been many lessons learned from behind the easel but there have also been many lessons learned from others I’ve encountered on this journey. If you pay attention, you’ll find great wisdom in strangers who may only cross your path for a moment - but that moment can impact you for a lifetime. One of the most valuable lessons in finding my true passion came from an unexpected moment with a stranger.
One night in those early days of drawing at Walt Disney World, I was headed home. The parks had all closed and the guests were settling into their rooms and beds, anxious to grab some much-needed rest and fuel up for their next busy day. The wash-down crews and other third shift workers were starting their days but for most of us, we were headed home. Cast Members from all walks of life, including myself, were making their routine stops for gas or snacks before starting their commutes. As I was waiting in line to pay for my milk, cookies and a tank of gas, there was an older man in front of me in his formal server attire. He looked to be in his sixties and I noticed on his name tag that he has been certified at Walt Disney World as being fluent in five different languages. “Luisao” as his name tag read, was from France and was lightheartedly joking with the cashier. They both shared a laugh, he paid and left. After I paid, I headed out to pump 14 to fill up my tank and finish my day. Luisao was just in front of me, on pump 13, and we were both pumping gas while listening to the pop music being piped through the gas station speakers. Suddenly, Luisao looked at me and said, “This music, it’s pathetic. It has nothing.” I smiled and agreed with him, nodding my head. “There seems to be no real thought given to the lyrics. There used to be real meaning in the lyrics” I added. Luisao stared at me and gave me the universal shrug of agreement. “In my car, I have Pavarotti” he said. I grinned and told him that I had jazz on my radio. He chuckled and replaced the pump handle. “Are you a Cast Member?” Luisao asked me. “No, I’m just a caricature artist at some of the resorts” but, I added with pride, “My wife is a Chef at Epcot!” “Excellent!” Luisao beamed. “I’m a server at Epcot. I’ve been serving happiness for 30 years! It sounds like you and your wife get to serve happiness too.” I then told him that I call it, “drawing smiles.” Luisao grinned from ear to ear, walked over to me and held out his hand for me to shake. “We are lucky people, you, your wife and I, yes?” “Yes, Luisao. Yes, we most certainly are.” I agreed. “Travel home safely, my friend” Luisao said with a wink. “There is much more happiness to serve tomorrow.”
From Ty Walls:
After four decades drawing smiles I often encounter remarkable people. I've learned to create little special moments for people from all around the world with my simple smile-drawing skills. But sometimes, life creates little magical moments for me. This blog is my attempt to share them with you.