Repurpose Yourself After The Military

Drive On Podcast
Drive On Podcast
Repurpose Yourself After The Military
Gerardo Cazares is an Army combat veteran who is now a full-time artist in San Antonio, TX. After a few setbacks in his transition, he discovered painting and joins us to spread his message of finding a new mission.

Links & Resources


Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:00    Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show. Today my guest is Gerardo Cazares. Gerardo is an Army combat veteran who is now a full-time artist in San Antonio, Texas. After a few setbacks in his transition out of the military, he discovered painting and he's here today to spread his message of finding a new mission. So welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your time in the Army?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:00:46    Hey, how's it going? Yeah, you almost got it out there.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:50    I came close. I knew, as soon as it came out of my mouth, I knew it wasn't perfect, but  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:00:57    That's how everybody pronounced it,  all my leadership on, CEO's, all my commanders so on and so forth. Everybody. I was in the Army and pronounced it exactly that way. So it's kind of familiar but anyway, so I joined in ‘08 September of 2008. I was 20 years old. I joined as a 12 Bravo as a combat engineer. I did OSIT out in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. And after that, I got stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, which is funny because I joined the Army to travel the world and to go see the world and stuff. And the Army stations me in Fort Hood, Texas, which is about two and a half hours north of San Antonio, Texas. So I didn't go very far in my first unit.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:01:43    That's the Army's sense of humor right there. So yeah, that was really hilarious. I was stationed out there with the third ACR. It's a cab unit. So they put a bunch of combat engineers in a cab unit. That was interesting. That was fun. So I was on a Bradley my first two years out there, I did all the Bradley stuff, did the gun, the driver's training and did all the gunners training. I went out to gunnery and shot with the Bradleys out at Hood. And when I went to NTC with that unit deployed, where did we go? We went to Al-Kut. We went to Al-Kut Iraq, in August of 2010. We did that for 12 months. We did rock clearance out there. We did rock clearance along with just, what do you call them PSD, not PSD;  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:02:35    one step below that we had majors and colonels and just big wigs riding around with us and they would want to go talk to the locals, like the police forces and the military and we would basically provide security for them. I forgot what they call these missions. Anyway, we did those, we set up security for those guys. In between those missions, we did mostly 90% of our missions were clearance missions. So freedom of maneuver throughout the province and all that kind of stuff. I mean, it was kind of interesting, I guess there were a couple of things that happened in Iraq that were, I don't know, it disrupted the monotony of the deployment. And then, I was going to get out. I was going to get out right after I got back from Iraq.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:03:23   So my reenlistment window, along with a bunch of other guys in my unit, their reenlistment window was coming up. So our first Sergeant held a formation for us, like a little informal, kind of like a huddle thing for me and some of the other guys that were about to get out. And he said guys we're gonna listen. It's not that bad. You know, the Army's not that bad. Don't let your first see if you're getting out because your first unit's shitty, don't let that contaminate your idea of what the Army is and dah, dah, dah, so on and so forth. And he said I was going to get out after four years and I ended up staying in and it's 20 years for me now.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:04:05    So like, just think about that guys. And that it got me thinking, and I said, you know what, I'm going to reenlist. So I reenlisted while I was in Iraq so we had the career counselor out there doing his thing and I wanted to sign up for Germany. I said, Hey, if you can get me an assignment to Germany, because I hear all kinds of awesome shit about that place. I said, I'll do it. And he said, okay, cool. Let me see what I can get you. And yeah, sure as shit. I think about a week later, he called me back in his office and he said, yeah, we'll get you up for Vilseck Germany, it's by Grafenwohr. It's this unit so-and-so and sign right here.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:04:47    Boom. So I re-enlisted in Iraq. After we got back from that deployment at PCSd out there to Vilseck Germany.  It’s Southeast Germany, it's in Bavaria. It's near Grafenwoehr, the GTA. And that's like, I don't know, two hours from the Czech border and it was awesome. It was another cab unit to CR this time it was strikers. It wasn't Bradleys anymore. It was strikers. And, same thing again, driver, gunner, dismount the whole thing. It was really cold out there and then did a lot of training, 45 day training rotations in Hogansville and the GTA deployed with that unit out to Kandahar Afghanistan in 2013. And we did nine months out there. So we actually came back in March of 2014 back to Grafenwoehr and then I got out and then I PCSd nine months later, nine months after Afghanistan. So it was like November, 2014. And as I came back, I came back to San Antonio, came back home on terminal leave and now it was a new beginning, a new chapter in my life.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:06:01    Yeah. And so how did that transition go for you? Were there any setbacks that you encountered after getting out of the military? Or what was that all like when you got out?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:06:13    Oh gosh, it was rough, man. I didn't expect it. I had heard horror stories. I had heard stories about guys struggling after they got out and I just didn't understand it. I didn't understand. I was like, wow, what's so bad about it. You know, what's so bad about civilian life. You don't have to put up with all this anymore. So, that was my mentality. And I think what it was, it was a combination of things with a comedy of errors. I didn't use my time in the military to set myself up for success for the civilian world. Okay. I thought I had a piss-poor plan. My plan was to get out and go back to school, move in with this significant other that I had at the time and figure it out from there.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:06:57    And life's going to be just dandy, right? Hell No, absolutely not. That's the opposite of what happened? I mean, everything went wrong. As soon as I got home, everything just started going wrong. Everything just started declining and just like falling apart and falling apart and falling apart slowly. I mean, I was a wreck. I was drinking a lot. I was drinking myself to sleep. I was having nightmares and those are dataless. I was driving everybody away. Kind of separating myself from everybody. I didn't feel comfortable out in public. I didn't feel comfortable interacting with my own family at family gatherings and stuff like that. I would just feel really disconnected, feel really separated from the whole world, from everybody. And I just kind of imploded and shit went wrong, man.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:07:46    Then one thing after another, I wasn't doing too well in school. Oh yeah. I went back to school. So I started using my GI bill. I kind of felt like Billy Madison in those classes. You know, everybody else is 12 years old and I look like a 45 year old in class with these kids. Right. So what else? Oh yeah. So that relationship kind of fell apart. And I got kicked out of that apartment and I moved out into another apartment, with a friend of mine. And I think things got worse after that breakup. I didn't really deal with it. And I didn't tell my family. And I didn’t tell a lot of friends that I had at the time, I didn't deal with it. I just kept on doing the same thing.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:08:32    I just kept on with the drinking and with the self-destructive patterns and the self-destructive behavior. And I just didn't really know what else to do because I was out of my comfort zone. I was out of my shell because I was in a certain culture and a certain world in this universe for a while. Six years of my adult life, it was just active duty, full of having to do stuff as a single soldier. You know what I mean? And then I'm back here now you kind of have to grow up and be an adult and do all that kind of normal stuff. And, it was difficult. It's difficult because you don't have your chain of command anymore. You don't have your NCO support channel anymore.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:09:13    You don't have your squad leader or your first Sergeant or your Sergeant major to go ask, Hey, what do we do now? Hey, I don't have any idea what to do. Can you give me some guidance here? Like, what am I supposed to do? There's none of that. You're just supposed to figure it out all on your own. So I wasn't used to that. It wasn't working for me. So anyway, long story short, I can go on forever and ever, but long story short, I was pretty much at the end of my rope. I was really in a deep dark hole. I really was. I was contemplating, before I got out of the Army, I'll put it this way before I got out of the Army, I was still on active duty.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:09:55    And I was hearing about all this epidemic going on in the outside world about veteran suicide. And again, I didn't understand it. I was like, what the hell is going on with these guys out there? Like what is so bad about the outside world? What are these guys facing or what are they doing? What am I thinking? And then I found myself in a position where I completely understood. I said, man, I get it now. This is horrible. You know, I was at a point where I didn't really want to wake up in the morning anymore. I wanted to fall asleep and I didn't want to wake up anymore. And I was thinking about different ways to do it in different ways to just kind of get out of here already.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:10:43    And I said I've always wanted to try painting. I've always wanted to try painting a picture and just try my skills at that because my whole entire life I've drawn. I've had a sketchbook with me and I've done my little doodles and everything like that. And, I was the designated graphic designer throughout the Army. So I did platoon t-shirts and company logos. And I did a couple of the T walls out there in Afghanistan and I did T Walls in Iraq and stuff. So I was that guy. I was the graphic designer, the artist of all my units. It was always a hobby. Never took it seriously. I just kinda got my sketchbook. It's cool. Whatever. Not thinking about being an artist for my career for my life.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:11:28    So, fast forward again to 2015, this is 2015 now. And I say, you know what, I'm going to try it. You know, because I got nothing left. I have no other plan. I got nothing left that is really fueled, happy about what I'm passionate for. And I'm completely miserable. So I don't know, it's worth a shot. I have nothing to lose. So I went over to, I think it was like Michael's and Hobby Lobby and Walmart and stuff like that. And I bought a bunch of cheap supplies and canvases and brushes and paints and stuff like that for a budget. I think my budget was like 40 bucks. I bought just real simple stuff just to kind of get me started. And I took it home, went to my apartment and I started sketching, sketching stuff out and drawing randomness out on these canvases.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:12:19    And I started to feel a little bit better, starting to feel something. Some kind of a positive emotion, like a little light spark kind of turned on in my brain. And I said, okay, well, let me keep doing this. Let me keep trying it. Let me try another one. Let me do another. Okay, cool. So I would draw a cavalar. Okay. That looks kind of cool. All right, cool. Put that one away, let me do something else. Let me draw an M4 with some magazine pouches and right next to it, or a battle rattle or something. Because you know, that's all I was thinking about for six years, right? So I get done with these little sketches and these little quick random drawings and stuff. And man, I start to feel pretty, pretty good.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:13:04    Starts to feel good. Oh shit. They look pretty cool. So before you know it, I had like 30 of these damn things next to each other. And so I had a bunch of them next to each other, lying next to each. And my friend would walk in, my roommate. She would walk in every now and then and be like, man, those are really good. You just did those. You just knocked those out. And I go, yeah. You know, I'm just kind of bullshitting here in my room. These aren't, this is nothing. Don't think anything of this and she goes, man, dude, you really ought to enter those into shows and start selling those. And people really liked that kind of stuff. I said, all right. I was very skeptical. You know, again, not doing it for profit, not doing it for money.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:13:46   I'm just kind of winging this stuff. So I know nothing about selling paintings. I know nothing about making money off of art. I know nothing about that stuff. I was just painting, just to paint. And so that's how it started. It started with just the few people around me that I had at that time, encouraging me. They were noticing it. They were taking notice that I was doing this new thing. They really enjoyed it more than I even did more than I enjoyed it. They cared about it more than I cared about it because I didn't care about it at all at that time. And I was encouraged by many people to just enter these shows and enter these little small things called first, Friday, and then their second Saturday, on Alamo Street.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:14:29    And there's just a bunch of artists that line up with their tables and they're selling you their handmade stuff and handmade paintings and things like that. So I started doing those little shows and was very skeptical about the first couple of ones. I said, man, nobody's going to like any of this shit. Nobody even knows what any of this stuff is. Nobody's going to care. I was very negative, had a very negative mindset about it, right. Negative mentality towards it. So I get out there for shits and giggles. I get out there, I set up my table, I've got my paintings out there and what do you know, man, people come up and they start asking me, well, man, what is that like? How much is this stuff? Or dude, that's bad ass. Like, fuck, that's awesome. How much are you charging for that?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:15:14    And you know, at the time it's like, I don't know, 20 bucks, 30 bucks, man. Just give me whatever you want, man. I don't really know the price of this shit. I have no idea what I'm doing. So people started buying this stuff. First show, second show, third show ever that I'm ever doing people are buying it. People are digging it and buying it. And that really that's a huge confidence booster for me. That's the first time I really felt like I was accomplishing something or that I was needing some kind of higher purpose for myself. I hadn't felt like that in a long time. And so I was hooked. I was hooked. It was more, it was like I was obsessed. I said, okay, what am I going to paint next? What am I going to paint next?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:15:56    And the next one, the next one and then every time I painted something, I wanted to get better. I wanted to just build that skill and get better and better and better and better. And I did. And so I started doing live art and I started painting in front of people live at bars and stuff. You know, bars, concerts, weekend events, gun shows. The sacks at gun shows were really like, they were awesome. Those are fantastic. That's a good crowd out there. I really liked the gun shows. So, yeah, and basically I started doing murals not too long ago. Maybe about two years ago. I really started getting into the mural game. And I'm up to a point now where I'm doing it. I've been doing it for about six years now. How long has it been?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:16:42    Yeah, about six years now. And now I'm doing a lot of work from home, a lot of commissioned pieces from home. And then every now and then I get summoned by some company or some kind of a nonprofit organization to do a mural or something like that, a ton of wall. So it's grown into a full-time job and it's not very lucrative, but I'm making money. I'm paying my bills and I'm making a living out of it. And I am a lot further along now than I ever would have imagined back in 2014, 2015 when I barely got out of the Army. I mean, I wasn't, I didn't plan for this at all. My life just kind of went on in that direction.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:17:26    And it's interesting how your life just kind of follows a certain path. It’s like you weren't expecting this and it was just something that you tried on a whim and then here you are all these years later and you're doing pretty well you're selling the art and it's probably changed your perspective on life and things too.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:17:50    I dunno if you've done 25 hour podcasts or 25 hour interviews or anything like that, but I could probably talk to you about 25, 30 hours about all the lessons learned and all the attitude changes and changes in perspective and changes in the way I talk and my demeanor, the way I present myself to the world, all that kind of stuff. It's all lessons that I've learned along the way. And these last six years, just on my own, just from experience, just from getting out, take yourself outside of this little box, your bedroom is your box, right? That you hide away from the world. You need to get out of that thing. You need to go down to these damn shows and present your work or present yourself to the world out there.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:18:38    You know, you never know what you're going to get into. And, man, it's a lot of that. I have changed a lot personally, inside, mentally to just from the last six years just from doing that. Basically, I have been humbled a lot. I've been humbled a lot. I've learned humility. I've learned how to really accept my mistakes, learn from my mistakes. And failure sucks, right? Failure sucks. It feels terrible to fail, but you know, when you fail really badly and make a really huge mistake, that's a really good opportunity to learn. And when I didn't really have anybody telling me that I didn't have anybody coaching me or anything to say that to me, I just had to experience that myself. I just had to experience these really horrific failures and these devastating setbacks, these devastating, what am I going to do now? Like now what do I do now? Like that panic sets in like, oh shit, but you know, you kind of just learn how to just roll with it, I guess.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:19:54    And I look at failures like what you're talking about here, I look at failures and think about when you're a kid. And you're learning to tie your shoes, ride a bike, or any of the things that we take for granted now that we're older. At one point, those things kicked your ass. Like those were not easy things to do for a little kid, you know? And then you struggled through it and you did it, and you're proud of yourself after you did it. I remember my son, when he first started riding a bike with no training wheels, he was screaming his head off. He was so excited and so happy. But the amount of times that he fell off that bike before he got there was crazy.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:20:42    You know, knees were all skinned up, his elbows, all that kind of shit. And he did it and he was so happy. He didn't care about all the failures that he had before that. And I know it's not apples and apples that we're comparing here with what you're talking about, but it's a similar idea where you have these setbacks. And once when you figure out your way to overcome those setbacks, you sort of just like, okay, whatever, forget about the failures we got here, we accomplish. 

Gerardo Cazares:    00:21:20    You start to spend less time being pissed off about that stuff. Because when you're not used to it yet, we're not used to blowing $500 on marketing, that just doesn't work. Right. Something like that. T-shirts, I've forgotten, like t-shirts printed, right. I've spent like 300 bucks getting t-shirts printed. They don't sell now, you gotta eat it, stuff like that. Just shit like that, where you're just like, whoa, man, I'm pissed off. I lost all this money. Like, what do I do now? You know? And like I said, that anger and that panic and that frustration, but then the more that happens, the more you get used to it. And then you're just like, you know what, screw it, man. You learn how to learn from it rather than be pissed off about it. Does that make sense? You can't really do much about it. It's already happened. You already did it. It's already done. It's useless to be angry about it. Just, Hey, learn from it. It sucks. It feels terrible right now, but just learn from it, turn it into something good. So all you can do is learn from it, turn it into something positive and just take it with you for the future.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:22:39    That's it. I love that turning that in, trying to find the good, even in a bad situation, now, there's a lot of times vets get hung up on the negatives. You know, they have trouble finding the positives in a situation, even in shitty situations. Right. Maybe take a step back. So we talked a little bit about your journey to find your way into this artwork and how all of that has helped you. Let's talk about how other people who might not necessarily be an artist they may not have the artistic bone in them, but how do they find a way to, let's just say repurpose themselves after they get out of the military to find that new meaning  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:23:29    Well, that's just, it, that's just it. I think I've had a lot of time to think about it. And what you just said, you just used a word that I was going to use. You have to find a way to repurpose yourself. I don't want to compare a human being to maybe an inanimate object. I'll just compare myself. I'll use myself for example. Okay. So let's say, you ever go to a garage sale or something like that, and you've got an old table or an old cabinet that looks really, really cool, but it's old. It's kind of crusty and needs a lot of work and you need to retouch it and refurbish it. Or maybe you want to repurpose an old rusty ammo can, that is no longer serviceable. You can't put 50 Cal ammo in there anymore.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:24:13    It's going to fall apart. So do something else with it. It's still useful, but not useful for the thing that it was meant to do. So, okay. So like the military, all right. Military personnel, think of an infantry Marine or an infantry Army guy, right? What are you trained to do? You're trained to go to combat and survive in combat, find the enemy, neutralize the enemy, and accomplish your missions right. In downrange, in a combat situation. That's what you're trained to do. And now you're back in the civilian world. Is that going on? Are you doing that? Are you finding an enemy? Are you attacking objectives? Are you surviving in combat? No, you're not doing that. It's a civilian world. You're working at a normal civilian job. So a lot of vets, a lot of guys, especially myself for example, you feel like you don't have that use anymore.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:25:09    Like, you're no longer any use to society. You're here. You don't have a purpose anymore. You feel very lost, right. Without guidance or direction. So for me, it was a sort of, you have to repurpose yourself. Yeah. You're still a warrior at heart. You're always going to be that, but the mission has changed. Okay. The mission has changed. You're in a new theater and the mission is a new mission. Okay. You're not out in Afghanistan looking for the Taliban in the mountains anymore. You're not in Iraq and an urban landscape trying to go door to door. You know what I mean, clearing rooms anymore. That's not what you're doing anymore. You're in the civilian world. Now your mission is to, one assimilate, kind of culturally assimilate back into civilian life, which is hard as hell.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:26:04    There's a lot of barriers to that. But then overall you can still have that warrior mindset or that soldier mindset that says, I need to have a mission to accomplish. I need to dedicate myself to that mission so that I can do my best to charge towards it and accomplish it and do my best at doing that. And part of it is kind of asking yourself like a self-assessment I guess, what is it that makes you happy? What is that thing that really no one has to pay you for it? I think that was a question that I had for a buddy of mine, awhile back he said, how did you know that the whole art thing is yours, how did you know that?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:26:51    How did you, how can you pinpoint that other people don't have any idea what they want to do with their lives? And I said for me, it was painting for other people, music, for other people it's metal artwork or woodworking or whatever. Right. And I said, I think it's something that you have to be willing to do, and you're not going to get paid for it. And you're not ever going to get any credit for it, or any recognition or nothing. You're going to get nothing for it. Except that feeling of happiness and fulfillment and purpose. What is that thing? Ask yourself. What is that thing that is, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's a passion. Okay. What are you passionate about? What would you do even if you never got credit for it and never got paid to do something, just do it for the sake of doing it because you love it and you enjoy the hell out of doing it, you know? And for me, it's the art thing.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:27:52    Yeah. And I think you hit on a good point. It doesn't have to be painting necessarily. It could be other forms of expressing yourself. There's like you said, woodwork or metal, or even pottery and other things like that, even writing, writing a book or poetry or something like that. I mean, all those things are different ways that you can express yourself. And I think anyone who knows anything about art, you're not necessarily going to sell every single thing that you put out there. You know what I mean?   

Scott DeLuzio:    00:28:30    So it has to be something that you just enjoy doing. And so, I think it's worth it, just like we were talking about failure before, it's worth trying things, seeing whether or not this works and if it doesn't work, so what, maybe you spent a little bit of money on some beginner paint set or whatever and Michael's or Walmart or whatever. And you ended up not liking it. Okay. So move on, find something else to try. Try that next thing.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:29:04   I think a lot of it, what had to contribute to that was I was in a really bad spot mentally spiritually, emotionally at that time. And I was at a point where I just didn't have any walls up. I didn't have any barriers up anymore. I just said I had nothing to lose; before that I had sort of a barrier up. I had, like I said, I was sort of disconnecting. I was sort of guarding myself off from things, from the world, from people, from everything. And then that helped me out a lot to try something new, put those barriers down, put those walls down, all that guard, just let it down and just kind of let yourself be vulnerable. That way you can absorb new information and let some of that new knowledge and experience into your mind and into your soul or whatever. However you want to say it. But yeah, that's how I look at it. And I think for people to understand when you want to try something new, or when you want to gain some new knowledge or new experience. Is that a picture of some jujitsu back there, something on your wall?

Scott DeLuzio:    00:30:22    No, it’s not.

Gerardo Cazares:    00:30:25    I'm going to use jujitsu for example. Because a lot of guys like MMA and jiu jitsu. I'll use that. For example, you always want to try it and you're in your thirties. And you're just like, man, I've never gotten into it. I want to get into it. One thing you have to remember is you can't really expect instant results. You're gonna suck at it in the beginning a lot. You're going to suck horribly at it. You're not gonna be freaking, grace, Gracie, what's his name? You know what I mean? The first time he tried, it's not going to happen, dude. It's going to take awhile for you to develop that skill and for you to get good at it and stuff like that.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:31:11    But let yourself be sort of unguarded and a little bit vulnerable. That way you can absorb what people are telling you. Some knowledge, some experience, listen to somebody who's been doing it for 15 years or 20 years. Listen to that guy that's only been doing it for three more years. And he's still building his skill, but he has a little bit more experience than you. So listen to him. You might learn a little bit here and there from all these people, you know what I mean? And a bunch of different sources. So you have to open yourself up to that kind of stuff. And always remember that's how it is. You're building yourself up to something. It's like getting abs too. It's like losing weight and getting cut and getting all that and getting ripped and shit. That's not an instant thing, that doesn't take two weeks, that takes a year or two years to get to a level to where you're freaking cut. And we got like that six pack that you really want. Don't expect that shit to happen overnight, man, it's gonna take awhile. So, be willing to work for it, be willing to put that time and the commitment into it, you know?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:32:17    And if you haven't done any sort of exercise at all, since getting out of the military, it's been 10 or 15 years since you've been in the military, it may even take a little bit longer than that. You know, you might have some serious catching up to do to get to that point. But there's going to be some work there, but the effort that you put in it'll pay off when you start seeing those results, you're going to look at it. And you're going to forget all those early mornings that you got up to go exercise. And you're gonna forget about all the pain when you first start running after 10 years, you're probably going to be in a world of hurt, but you're going to forget about all that stuff. And you're going to look in the mirror. You're gonna say, damn, I look good. I can be proud of this. You know, I did this, this was my hard work and my dedication to my diet and my exercise and all that shit, you know? And without that, all that hard stuff, you wouldn't be able to enjoy the outcome.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:33:17    There you go. So that ties back into the whole arts thing or learning to play an instrument or learning something new, basically, whatever that thing is, that's a new skill and some new thing that you want to explore. That's exactly what it is. It's time, it's commitment and it's discomfort overall. It really is. It's discomfort, it's pain. I mean, whether it's physical pain, if it's some guy getting into jiu jitsu or it's emotional, spiritual pain, like me, my first few paintings were dreadful, it looked terrible. They looked nothing like I wanted them to look, and it's very discouraging at first, you're like, shit. But then more time goes by that consistency, you stay with that routine. You stay with that consistency. You stay with that hard work and those hours and put that time into it. And time passes by and keep on doing it over and over and over and over and over. And then you just get better. You slowly see those results. I could see something that I've done now, right? August, 2021, I can compare it to August, 2018 or 2017 or 2016. And it looks way better. It looks, oh my God, like tons, tons of difference. Tons of difference.   

Scott DeLuzio:    00:34:40    How has getting into the artwork helped you change your mindset and see more of the positive side of things? I mean, we talked a little bit about how you choose to see the positives and things, but how has that helped you in getting more positive.

Gerardo Cazares:    00:34:56    So you touched a little bit of a lot of veterans, they see the negative, they have a very negative attitude or mindset about different things. And I used to be like that. I used to be one of those guys, everything's negative. All it sucks dealing with the VA and civilian side. They don't understand military people. I can't be myself around civilians, blah, blah, blah. There's a lot of negative shit that you can get stuck on all the negative stuff. You can be that kind of person that only focuses on negative shit. And you can be one of those guys that's absolutely freaking miserable, right? If you do choose to, if that's all you choose to look at, and that's all you choose to focus on, you're going to be miserable and you're going to be negative, and you're going to be pissed off all the time.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:35:49    Or you can do something else and look a different way and look at things a different way. Hey, look at the positive. Art has really helped me do that a lot. There's a lot of negative things that I can touch on that I can say that frustrate me or that pissed me off. But then a lot of the times, the negativity derives from stuff that you don't have. Okay. I don't have a high enough disability rating, so I'm not getting that much money every month. That sucks. I'm pissed off about that. Nobody understands the issues of a combat veteran out in society. You know, we can't get jobs sometimes because of PTSD and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That sucks. That's deriving from something that you don't have in that you have very little control over, right? You have very little control over all that shit. I think the things that you can control and the things that you can kind of influence are the things that are gonna make you feel a little bit better. I don't know. Is that making sense?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:37:24    Another way I can say it is you can focus on what you do have, what do I have? Oh man, I have this skill. That's very, I don't want to say it's rare, but I want to say it's unique. It's a unique skill. And I'm fortunate enough to have been able to turn it into something that supports myself and my family. And it helps me and it helps others. So it helps me by letting me express my inner thoughts and all the negative stuff and all the dark feelings and all the dark thoughts that I have. Art allows me to do that in a safe, productive, positive way. Without hurting people, without hurting myself. And it helps other people too, because I put my art out into the world.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:38:20    You know, you can see my art on Instagram and stuff like that. And other combat veterans they'll look at it and they'll see it and say, Hey man, I deployed to Iraq and OIF one, or I deployed to Afghanistan and OEF back in 04 or 20 or whatever. And they tell me this is some really good shit because I can relate to it a lot. And you were telling our story in a very unique and very awesome freaking way. And some I've heard thank you for what you do. Thank you for your gift. I don't know, that really means a lot to me that I really appreciate that kind of stuff. Other, not just regular civilians, but other combat veterans are actually telling me this kind of stuff over messages or whatever.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:39:12    Hey man, I really like what you do. I like your work. You're expressing it in a way that I can never express it. Because like you said, not everybody's super artistic, not everybody knows how to communicate their thoughts in a visual way, the way I do. And I just, I don't know, a lot of guys relate to it and I feel like a lot of other guys like me are out there noticing, and they're giving a shit that's awesome, man. I think I'm doing something good here.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:39:45    No, you are. And I think that that's definitely a good thing because you know, it lets the story be told in a way that maybe somebody else can't tell it and they feel like okay, someone's out there, they're listening, they're there. Or they're there watching this story. And they're seeing how I feel, even though I'm not the one who's necessarily creating this message in this artwork; but they're able to see what I'm feeling by checking out this artwork and seeing what you've put out there, you know? And so that helps them, almost giving a voice where they feel like maybe they don't have a voice and that lets them communicate that way too and given the current situation that is going on in Afghanistan.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:40:32    And like you said, it's August 2021, earlier this week Taliban kind of basically took over the country. A lot of vets are feeling a little hopeless at the sacrifices of their friends or themselves who were either wounded or killed, things like that, it was all for nothing. I feel like going back to what you were just saying, how you could focus on all that negative and all the bad stuff that's going on now. Or you could also just take a look at the stuff that you do have, what were some of the takeaways from Afghanistan that hopefully will leave us in a better spot. You know, maybe we look at some of the positives being the kids who got to go to school while we were there, or the villages that had running water or electricity while we were there; those places did improve while we were there and yes, situation sucks, but it wasn't all for nothing, you know?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:41:37    No, I mean, the situation is absolutely terrible right now. It's absolutely atrocious what's going on in Afghanistan right now. But yeah, I do think that there's those people that will always remember that time while we were there while we were actually doing something and actually helping and actually contributing to the future of their country. They'll look at it and they'll see us in a positive way. And those young kids or those young adults or whatever, they're gonna grow up, they're going to grow up and they're going to do something good and something positive is going to happen in the future. I still think that there's a lot of hope left in Afghanistan. It's just with guys like the Taliban in charge of an entire country. 

Scott DeLuzio:  For sure. 

Gerardo Cazares:    00:42:25    It's a little bit trickier to express your ideas. You know what I mean? For sure. I can understand that. I can understand it's not so easy to go out and organize some kind of protest against a group of individuals like we can in this country.  We can vote you out of your office or take you out with our voice, with our first amendment, with our constitution, you know what I mean? We have that backing us, but over there, those people don't get anything backing them. And, I think, in time, maybe not next month, maybe not next year, maybe not in the next five years, but someday it'll be all right. Again, the situation right now is, there's a lot of feelings going around, with myself included and with a lot of other guys that I was out there with, there's a lot to be said right now. Definitely, definitely a lot to be said. And I don't know, I guess if you want to say anything about that, I can say something about that.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:43:43    Yeah. I mean, I think we could probably have a whole other episode just on that topic. And, so I think we could probably leave it at that. I just want to get back, real quick to the artwork. I know you've turned this into your career basically, you're making a living off of selling your artwork and other people might be out there, thinking if I'm going to do this,I  want to get that kind of validation too. I want to get that good feeling of someone saying, Hey, you know what, this is worth something to me and they're telling them this is all right. You know? I know you started going to some of the shows, but what have you found that works to get your name out there and your artwork out there to help you in your business?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:44:38    Okay. That's a fun one. All right. I think the first and foremost thing that I always do is I stay true to myself. I stay true to what I believe and what I want to do. If I want to paint something, I don't really, if I have an idea about something that I really want to paint, I don't really listen to what the naysayers have to say. Cause there's going to be, there's always going to be critics out there. Everybody's a damn art critic. Everybody's a keyboard warrior nowadays. And you might get some shit for something that you paint. I don't let that shit affect me. I don't let those people get to me. I mean, if  I need to say something, through some artwork, I'm going to say it. And of course you're always going to have naysayers, but honestly, most of the time, the more intense I feel that something is, and the more scared I am about releasing it out into the world, man. Those are the paintings that get really good responses.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:45:46    That's good. So take a risk, and put it out there.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:45:51    Just do it, do what you want to do. Don't listen to all these negative people out there talking all this smack over the internet, or just people telling me, oh, are you sure you want to do something like that? Are you sure you want to paint this kind of stuff? I mean, this is kind of dark, or this is kind of weird, or this is kind of crazy, creepy, weird. I wanna, I'm gonna do it. This is my artwork. This is me. I'm presenting this to the world. I'm going to do it anyway. I don't really care what people say.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:46:29    That's good.   

Gerardo Cazares:    00:46:31    That's number one for me right there, man. Don't don't listen to anybody. Just do it,  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:46:39    Put it out there, just do it,  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:46:40    And then the second part is, if anybody's trying to start a business with it or go full time. Is that what you're saying?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:46:50    Yeah. Well, I mean, whether it's full-time or if it's even just part-time.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:46:58    Give yourself a little bit of patience, man. Give some patience so they don't get frustrated with it. I've tried to teach some people how to do it because they are interested in, Hey, I want to learn how to paint. Okay, cool, come over and I'll teach you how to do some stuff, right? We're there for an hour or two or whatever on a Sunday afternoon, teaching him some stuff. And then a month later they'll give up, right? The guy that I showed how to do something and that has happened repeatedly. That's happened a few times over the last few years and I'm always saying, okay, man, you're not going to be DaVinci on the first try, dude. I'm sorry. I'm still not Davinci.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:47:48    I'm never going to be DaVinci. Garavagio is my favorite painter of all time. And I will spend my entire life trying to paint like him and it's probably never going to happen. That guy was a frickin prodigy. That guy's a master. Right? So, the point is you're always going to be learning. You're not gonna learn everything in the first two hours on a Sunday afternoon. I am not going to teach you everything that you need to know about a painting. But if you are trying to take it to your sleep and start something with it and maybe go full-time someday with it, give yourself a little bit of patience, give yourself some time to really hone in on that craft and to learn all the little techniques that you get to learn and to learn what works for you.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:48:31    Because what works for me, the techniques and the strategies that work for me may not work for everybody else and may not work for you. If you ever tried to do it, you might like different brushes. You like different paints. Everybody's got their own comfort zones when it comes to that. So first you gotta learn the fundamentals and then after you learn the fundamentals, then you can break off and sort of do your own thing or whatever, and find your own thing that makes you comfortable. So that's not going to happen in two hours or two painting sessions or whatever. It's going to take a while, man. So just give yourself some time. And then the other one I would say is learn from your failures, learn from your mistakes. Okay. Don't be afraid to fail.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:49:16    Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Those are going to teach you a lot. And then I think lastly, and I think this is probably the most important one out of everything that I've learned during my journey is no matter what the hell is going on in your life, no matter if your whole life is freaking falling apart. And you're just at the end of your pitiful rope already, There'll be an asshole to other people. You always want to try to help other people out if you can. And if you're in a position to help others out and lend a hand and get a hand up to somebody else, help that person help other people because you might be depressed about you're calm, you're having nightmares about combat and all this bullshit and your medication's not working and the VA's fucking with you again. And you're a mess, right? You might just be this depressive black hole of a mess that doesn't matter because some guy, some other person out there is having a worse freaking situation than you. So you need to always remember to just be kind to people and help people out. Because honestly, ever since I started thinking that way and helping other people out and giving my time to others a lot more good shit has been coming back my way. It's kind of like a karma thing, you know?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:50:40    So, that's something really good to remember. I mean, that's really changed my life big time.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:50:51    Right. Absolutely. And I think that that's a great way to kind of wrap all of this up is what you just said there, helping out others where you can, being kind to others, and looking at the positive sides of things just to kind of wrap up everything that we were talking about. I mean, you could probably just say that in a nutshell and that plus learning from your failures is really paramount right there. I mean, all there is to it.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:51:24    Make a lot of mistakes. You're going to fail. You're going to make a lot. I mean, you're going to feel like a real big idiot and a loser, but yeah. You know, just keep going, learn from it and keep going.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:51:34    And that's with everything too. I mean, no matter what you try, if it's something new, that's why in the Army, I don't know other branches, but the Army had the crawl walk, run phase where we learn something new. They don't start you off running on something, they start you off crawling and crawl phase and then walk and then they get you to that run phase, where you go through all the steps and practice and practice and practice until you get it. Right. If you look at other things in life, it's the same thing; you can't expect yourself to get it right off the bat. So, really great message there. I really think you had a lot of good stuff there. So, where can people go to get in touch with you, find out more about your artwork and everything that you're up to?  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:52:22    It's really simple. I've got Instagram, I've got Facebook and then I recently started the Google page, but it's all the same thing. It's Ghost Custom Art for every single one of them; go to Facebook and search Ghost Custom Art. That's my business page. That's the page you can see on my paintings. You can see what I'm up to up there. I got the videos, I got the timeline videos on. Oh yeah. YouTube, YouTube channel as well. I've got a few of the time-lapse videos up there of me painting some stuff.   

Scott DeLuzio:    00:52:56    Awesome. And I'll link to all of that in the show notes. So anyone who wants to check out your art, they can go check it out there. And, thank you again for joining me today, and giving us all this great information. I think it certainly can help a lot of people; it certainly helped me talking to you and hearing your perspective and your side of things. So, I'm sure it's going to help a lot of people who listen to this episode. So thank you again,  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:53:22    And I can only hope so, man. I mean, I hope so. Thank you very, very much for having me on, man. I really appreciate it.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:53:31    Awesome. Any time. Thank you.  

Gerardo Cazares:    00:53:33    All right. Take it easy, brother.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:53:36    Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at DriveOnPodcast. 

Leave a Comment