There is no doubt that AJ Brockman is passionate about his work. As a graphic designer, AJ enjoys creating beautiful works of art using a unique approach called digital painting. You can view some of his work at Single Handed Studio. AJ’s art is truly beautiful and amazing.
What’s also incredible is that he was born with a progressive neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). AJ has been wheelchair bound since the age of two. However, his awesome attitude and outlook on life has enabled him to see past his “disability” to pursue his passion. In fact, he considers himself “differently abled” instead, never letting SMA define who he is or limit his creativity.
AJ has always been passionate about art. When he began to lose strength in his hands as a result of his disease, he thought about pursuing a different career path in television production or radio broadcasting. When he took a Commercial Art Technology class in high school, everything changed.
Although AJ had lost the use of much of his hand, he was still able to manipulate a mouse using two fingers on his left hand. He graduated with a BFA from Digital Media Arts College and currently enjoys a successful career using his artistic talents to create beautiful works of art.
We recently caught up with AJ to learn more about his positive outlook and his career. He also offers some great advice about pursuing your dreams:
How do you maintain such a positive attitude?
I have to! Nothing constructive ever comes from being negative, so why bother. I have my bad days, but I always try to find a positive in things. It’s not like a “lala land” or “ignorance is bliss” type attitude. I definitely have a sense of reality. It’s just more along the lines of, what can I do today to make it work. For me, every day is a bonus, so I try to live life to the fullest. I also feel it’s very important to surround yourself with positive people…There’s nothing worse than a Debbie Downer. Eliminate those sort of things, and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. I also owe a lot to my family and friends for not letting me have a “poor me” type attitude, and I was brought up as if I didn’t even have a disability.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
Wow! That’s a loaded question… everything! If I had to narrow it down it would be the fact that I am able to be creative and seeing my “visions” come to life… I enjoy communicating, making new friends, and interacting with others and I am able to do all of this visually. I think it reaches a wider audience that way, and I love that. With my particular situation, it has also allowed me to inspire others, and that is best of all! I do not see myself as an “inspiration”, and I am merely doing what I love and trying to make a name and successful living for myself. So ,if I can give someone the kick in the rear they need, so be it, no matter what career they are in!
What advice could you give to others about following their dreams?
Just do it (Nike, Please don’t sue me)! Seriously, there should be no excuses in your way to accomplish your dreams. Whatever it is in life, set your mind to it, and spend every single day doing whatever possible to get closer and closer to that goal. I would definitely classify myself as a workaholic but my work is something I love, and I spend every day trying to become a better artist and person. There will be tough times, but you have to push through and stay at it… persistence is key. Finally, you have to envision it. For me, I have always had a feeling that I am meant to be doing big things! I set goals, and try to accomplish them one at a time, leading to ultimate success. It takes a lot of work, but it is 100% possible for anyone to accomplish their dreams.
Who has been a positive influence on your life?
My friends and family for sure! My mom especially, she has never let me feel sorry for myself and has always been a “success enabler”. Every time I have come up with some idea or goal, her response is always “okay, how do we make it happen” even if it takes a lot of convincing to start with. I am also very influenced by other creators, whether it be art, movies, music, writing or anything of that nature. Artists like The great Claude Monet, as well as new age artists such as Hydro 74, David Uhl, Malcolm Farley, Jeff Finley, Dan LuVisi, and Jared Moraitis push me to be the best that I can be! I am also listening to music constantly. From Indie Rock, to Faulk, to Techno, it all helps me be creative.
How did you get involved with digital painting? (Your work is amazing and beautiful!)
Thank you! I never get tired of people complimenting my work, and it is truly humbling… I started in digital painting because I was forced to! I lost the use of my hands due to my disease progressing and I had to find a way to still be able to paint and create. I started in graphic design because it was a better market and commercial art could sustain my bills… LOL. As I grew tired of corporate design, I focused more and more on my fine art and digital painting and was able to carve out a market for that. I took the computer software I had learned and applied all of my traditional experience with acrylics and watercolor and voilà…It takes a lot of work, and it is extremely time-consuming but it is so rewarding! And I am creating artwork I like instead of listening to a client or art director. I am just thankful others enjoy it too!
You can learn more about AJ through his recent documentary Painting With One Finger – The Story of AJ Brockman:
AJ gives a video tutorial here: