We had the good fortune of connecting with Ted Meyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ted, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I had been a graphic designer since college. That was along time ago. I got to the point that although I was making good money, I hated it. Each time I got a new job or client it made me depressed and angry. I was living in opposite worlds. My success was killing me. I knew I had an interesting life story and unique experiences that others told me were worth sharing. I spent about a year figuring out how to market my life and my experiences. How did I get the word out about this interesting life? How could I become an expert in a field that I was developing, based solely on my experiences as a patient and artist? I made a plan. I was 54 and had never made a plan before. Things had just happened and the money came. I owned several successful businesses but never planned any of them. This time I planned and plotted. I created a position that would give me a good title, “Artist-in-Residence” at UCLA Medical School. I combined all my life’s events, health and artistic stories into one narrative and presented it in a way that no one else had. My goal was to be a public speaker. I aimed for a TEDtalk in five years. For almost two years nothing happened, so I kept doing design work. Then, slowly things came to me: a newspaper story here, a talk at a collage or museum there. Eventually I began traveling the world as an expert speaker. So, as silly as it sounds, I think actually having goal was the most important thing for me, and telling everyone about my goal, so if they had connections they might pass my information along. The TEDtalk took six years to happen–pretty much on schedule!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is all personal. I don’t do landscapes, I don’t do abstracts. They are all narrative images that in one way or another tell my story. When I was sick I painted about being sick. When I was healthy I made work about other people’s health stories, because I had been sick and related to those people. That series, “Scarred for Life,” has been going on now for 20 years and has been shown all over the world. Now, along with my medical art and scar narrative work, I do big and expansive paintings about freedom as a way to counteract the increasing fascist state we are living in.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If in Los Angeles, I would bring visitors to the pre-covid art opens that used to happen all over town almost every night. LA has a most amazing art scene populated by really interesting people. I might also bring them to the high desert where I also own a home. There is something about the expanse of sky, sand, and mountains that seems to put people in a state of awe.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My partner Anna sat on the phone with me while I bitched about how I was stuck, and she helped me make that first plan. That was a really important event. I think she was mostly just sick of me saying I hated doing design, but she helped me focus what I wanted in the long term. Now that I moved my project from UCLA to the Keck School of Medicine at USC, I have developed not only a gallery series but an entire lecture series tied to the medical school curriculum. I was lucky to be noticed by administrators at Keck who share my vision that patient narratives can be helpful to future doctors. The goal is to humanize medical education.