"1505 of them so far and still going. I take requests…" Phoenix, Arizona

"1505 of them so far and still going. I take requests…" Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, AZ USA

COS: Hey man, sorry to interrupt you, but those are amazing. You do great work!

“Thanks, that’s really kind of you…pick one you like and take it with you”.

COS: What? Really? How much do you sell them for?

“I don’t sell them”. I’d love for you to choose one and take it with you.”

COS: Why do you do this?

“I spend a lot of my down time making these…I like to spread the love and see people smile.”

COS: I’ll take this one. Thanks man, you just made my day.

“Peace, thanks for saying hello”.

COS: Thank you man…I have to ask…what’s your story?

I met Justin, AKA "Cardoza Kidd" in a coffee shop. For the sake of a little melodrama, I was a bit foggy after a couple glasses of wine the night before and wasn’t feeling incredibly inspired toward much more than my soon to arrive, hot, large Americano with lite room, cinnamon, and a dash of milk. I was waiting for my coffee and looked over to a smallish table near the window. There was this big dude that looked like he did something like…football for a living. He was just drawing away on small cards with all of these colored pens with a big smile on his face. There were several of these pieces of art on the table and his colored pens were neatly tucked away on the left side of him, a briefcase on the floor next to him, and a cup of coffee steaming away in the corner of the table.

It was this cool “street art” almost “graffiti” looking work that had a vibe I couldn’t quite figure out. It was just cool, fun, light, and felt groovy. Why was this big cat drawing on 3x5 cards at 8 AM in a coffee shop? I looked a little closer and thought, “these are just cool.”

So, of course, hangover and all, I walked over to the table and told him I really liked his work. He looked up with a big smile on his face, said thanks, and asked me to take one. I was a bit confused as I was reaching for my wallet to give him a couple bucks. I couldn’t figure out if he was a starving artist promoting his work or what was going on. Who sits around meticulously drawing and then just giving it all to complete strangers? So, I asked him. He told me he does this to “unwind and share the love. There isn’t enough love sometimes, so, I like to do these for people and see them smile.”

I was curious and I knew there were things to learn from this guy. I had to ask, "what is your story man"?

I’ll say this, even though I’ve been doing this a while, I’m blown away by this guys story. What a neat dude.

Justin is a single father of 3. He works in IT (I never would have guessed that…in fact…I thought he was kidding when he told me what he did for work. He looks like an ex football player turned street artist at face value. Then again, that's one thing I've learned, never think you have something or someone figured out by their appearance!). In addition, he’s an avid cyclist, spends a lot of time with his mom, grandmother, family, and his kids. Justin loves to dance and knows the locals in many neighborhoods in the city. In his downtime, he sits in cafe's and coffee shops and makes his "pocket art" for people.

He started this project in 2009 while at one of his kids gymnastics meets. Between events, he just started drawing on a card. He said “I just felt there wasn’t enough love in the world and I wanted to give some back…put some out there…I figured this is a way I could do it. I’m not even sure why it was that day that it started.” To date, Justin has given more than 1500 of these one of a kind, personalized, hand drawn and colored pocket art pieces to random people, aquaintences, and friends.

He has this uncanny vibe of pure happiness all around him. He's smiling at everyone and radiates this great positive energy. It's just all around him. He's been through a lot. Some of what he shared with me made me wonder how on this earth the guy could be so positive and happy. After a divorce, having to rebuild, and recently losing his father, he's still sitting here smiling, making other peoples days brighter and doing his thing to share the love. Perhaps of all the pieces of his story, the part that struck the deepest chord with me was his recent loss of his father. It wasn't from natural causes. His father returned home to find some punk criminals robbing the family home. They beat him up and left him there. Justin's grandmother came to the house and found his dad unconscious and called 911. His father died days later from the injuries. Justin said, "I had to be the rock for my kids, my mom, and the rest of the family. I couldn't get angry, I couldn't let this break me. If I did, I couldn't help my family get through it. So, I left the anger behind and helped my family."

Inspiration comes in many forms. By the time I was done talking with Justin, AKA Cardoza Kidd, I realized there's some pretty crappy things going on around us. There is always someone that's been put to the test, and they're choosing to smile and "share the love" with others. Cardoza Kidd is quite well known around these parts. He continues to single handedly change peoples days for the better with his kindness and positive, inspirational energy. I'm happy to call him a great friend.

I asked him, "what is success to you? What does that mean?"

His reply: "Finding your happiness, no matter what that is. It doesn't have to be your job, it doesn't have to be any 1 thing on it's own. Maybe it's a combination of everything that makes up your life as it is now. That's success, finding your happiness. Being able to be close to family, friends, spreading love and living life."

I couldn't agree more. Thank you Justin for your inspiration and kind soul.

You can find Justin in coffee shops and on his Facebook page or email him at: CardozaKidd@caravanofsouls.com.

Caravansary: Burning Man, 2014. The (almost) Full Story. Part 1

Caravansary: Burning Man, 2014. The (almost) Full Story. Part 1

Caravansary: Burning Man, 2014. Black Rock City, Nevada USA

Caravansary: Burning Man, 2014. Black Rock City, Nevada USA