We had the good fortune of connecting with David Puck and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Balance is the most important concept for me in life at the moment. I’ve lived with extremes and intensities and it is hard. It leads to living a life that is more satisfying watching from the outside than how it feels to you living it. People mistake balance for boring or safe. But balance in my opinion isn’t about being neutral, passive or stationary. Balance is about recognizing that in life, everything is in duality, everything is inter-connected. So when you force too much intensity into one factor and ignore its counterpart, it will inevitably show negative consequences on the other side. Once you live and investigate it this is the case for absolutely everything. The environment, mental health, physical therapy, politics, everything. When I was studied History it became apparent that societies, events, ideas all moved in waves, up and down, acting and reacting. If we focus too small, we can remain blind to it. When you zoom out, distant from your own ego, it becomes clearer. We don’t have to be perfectionist about it – of course we will prefer certain things and not want to do others. But a healthy balance has leeway, it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be enough. Work life balance is the same. I’ve always pushed myself very, very hard, and yes I get a lot of things done, but it ultimately always leads to burnout,. When people desire something with such intensity, that it causes them to intensely disrupt their work-life balance, I believe they are trying to avoid a fear in themselves, that they might not even be aware is there.. The fear is driving that intensity. This has definitely been the case for me. And its a common story amongst successful people – the actor who finally wins the Oscar and then thinks ‘now what’. The multi-millionaire who still thinks they need more and more money. So even if you manage to not burn out, and you achieve your intense work goals, the fear is still there, the fear that was covered up by productivity, achievement, external validation, illusions of security. Of course this varies depending on who you are and your life situation, whether the fear is practical like poverty, or if its more of a perception, like inferiority or loneliness. But at least for situations similar to mine, the goals wouldn’t end, the work would never be done, and the cycle continues. The fear is healed through finding a way to acknowledge it with compassion and understanding. For me it was through IFS Therapy. And when the fear is healed, work-life balance becomes the norm. Because there is no need to push yourself so hard, there is no fear to cover up. So you don’t have to just work. You can work, live, play. You can do everything. You have freedom.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m @DavidPuckArtist – a visual artist specializing in abstract-figurative paintings, murals and more recently digital. My work has been focused on queer culture and mental health, particularly through abstracted portraits of Drag artists and queer figures. (I also play with drag and makeup myself @DavidPuckMakeup, usually dressed as inanimate objects). I’ve worked with [queer] figures like Faith Evans, Mayim Bialik, Alaska, Willam, Peppermint, The Boulet Brothers and Hey Qween. I’ve been featured in leading new contemporary art publications like Juxtapoz, Beautiful Bizarre and Hi-Fructose. I’ve painted murals in 8 countries so far, including with festivals like London Mural Festival, Wide Open Walls, NYC World Pride and Art Basel Miami. My work’s been on the networks HBO (‘Euphoria’,), ABC, NBC, BBC, and Amazon Prime. I exhibit internationally including in galleries like Thinkspace LA. I believe in following your passions, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time So I follow what calls me – painting, queer culture, mental health, and world exploration and engagement through murals. It often felt incongruent, but the story is starting to make sense to me and come together. It has to, I’m writing it myself. I’ve always been interested in human perception and connection, how people see and experience the world differently, how stories shape understanding, and especially how this might be explored and applied to improve life experience. I started with a childhood escape into art, which led to a BA in History from The University of Oxford, UK, specialising in Queer History (academic stories), then to my traveling art practice above (art stories), and now I am studying and volunteering in Mental Health Counselling/Therapy (psychological stories). (Mental Health has been a hugely influential factor in my life, and I believe that therapeutic knowledge is capable of healing so much unnecessary suffering in the world, and has unlimited positive ripple effects). Of course there were a lot of stumbling tangents, which were fun and/or painful, but I’ll save those for the novel. Recently I’ve integrated these various strands through my visual podcast ‘Painterview’. Live painting portraits whilst talking to the subject about their life, creativity and mental health. Guests so far have included Drag icons Laganja Estranja and Mayhem Miller, with many more lined up. It was important for me to create a space in which the portrait subjects could express themselves in their own words and perception, to offset my visual representation of them. My biggest lesson at this point in life is to find a way to be kind to yourself, to lead with compassion and curiosity, to have the patience and courage to explore your fears, not avoid them or project onto an external. (Whether that’s blaming an external negative or living in an external future fantasy). Self-security is the greatest gift anyone can receive, it completely transforms life perception, and if you weren’t given it by life, you can create it and give it to yourself through Mental Health science. No matter how dark things seem, don’t give up. Life is change, there will always be change, and even if its taking a step back to take two steps forward, eventually the change will be for the better. You are love. You’ve got this <3
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
(Assuming we are out of the pandemic) My go to thing to do with friends is to watch improv comedy at theatres like UCB, affordable and always so imaginative and funny. The level of creative talent in LA is unbelievable at every level, a random karaoke bar here can be like a concert in other towns. You can find drop-in improv groups to have a go – I used to do it at a free improv group in NoHo at the Avery-Schrieber theatre (where I have a mural in the lobby, so I can show off). Art galleries are a good daytime go-to. There’s loads of high quality smaller independent galleries showing local living artists. The Hive, In Heroes We Trust, Art Share LA, Thinkspace, Gabba Gallery, Cory Helford, Art Bar LA, A Love Bizarre (the last is also great for queer witchy magic). I love hiking and nature, so go up to places like the National Forest. I hike for a lot of my dates cus I’m like well if we don’t get along at least we’ve been on a nice walk. And out to Joshua Tree for desert camping parties and to see the stars. And of course to the beaches. Its amazing to be able to go from mountain forests, to city, to beach in one place (ok it may take you all day with traffic but hey you’d get there eventually). Nighttime of course go and see drag shows. First my favorite nights at the edgier creative spots in DTLA like Precinct and Redline DTLA (where I also have murals, trend alert). And in the more classic WeHo you can see Ru queens at nearly every bar, my favorite is Rocco’s (where, yes you guessed it, I have a mural. Are you seeing the pattern? I just paint at the places I like to go to). If my friends coming from out of town, you can see the queens in smaller shows for a fraction of the price they’d be in other cities and especially other countries. I’ve loved seeing more and more gender diverse drag nights too, like Them Fatale. I don’t really have any eating suggestions cus I rarely eat out. (I’m British we’re not known for our palettes). So probably a picnic during the hike, and then cus I’ve mostly lived in Boyle Heights a mad dash to the taco trucks in my neighborhood before they drive off. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shout Out to queer drag communities – who turned my shame into laughter, confidence and creativity. Shout Out to all the friends around the world who have hosted me and welcomed me into their cultures, whilst I bumbled around painting murals, trying to learn how to want to live. Shout Out to my therapists and the mental health community – who help me find understanding, direction and peace. Who reconcile me with my deepest pains and help me transform from victim to carer. Shout Out to my parents and family, who kept loving me no matter how much weirder I kept getting. Shout Out to all the people who lead with compassion, understanding and a sense of humour – its not easy, and we all need it.
Other: Podcast: search ‘Painterview’
Dusty Rebel (signature in photo)