Experiencing the loss of a loved one often leads to profound moments of self-reflection and a reassessment of one’s life journey. On this episode of FOX 13’s TRUE NORTHWEST, photojournalist Michael Driver sits down with a local artist who transformed the heartache from losing his mother into a fervent passion for life. Through dedication and talent, this remarkable individual has risen to become one of the most sought-after hyperrealism artists of our generation, collaborating with renowned athletes and celebrities from around the world.
There, I lived with my parents and disabled sister, Joanna, who has cerebral palsy.
I soon learned that there were not many kids like me. I enjoyed a wide variety of activities – from playing sports to creating art. I also had an interest in business and I’d sell my artwork at the local bowling alley.
In addition to playing sports, I also loved skateboarding, video games, collecting sports cards and comics and, of course drawing. As I grew older, I observed that each of these activities had their own separate social groups, and many of them did not overlap. As a result, I felt like I fit in everywhere and nowhere, at the same time.
In high school, I was the captain of the basketball team and was also selected to exhibit at the State Art Show. I was a “skater kid” but also volunteered at the Special Olympics.
After high school, I was accepted to the University of Washington’s School of Art, and was the youngest student to be selected to their prestigious Studio Art program in Rome, Italy.
As I approach college graduation, I had many people telling me “art isn’t a real career… you’re not that good…. you’ll be poor your whole life…” etc. Ultimately, those seeds of negativity began to sprout, and I made the difficult decision decided to give up art and follow my passion for sports and business… and joined the Seattle Sonics.
I spent five amazing years with the team doing sales and marketing, and ultimately became the top salesperson for the organization.
Unfortunately, the team was sold and then moved to Oklahoma City and I didn’t want to uproot my family and relocate.
So, I returned to the University of Washington to pursue an MBA, and then joined a tech startup after graduation. At this time, my plan was to continue building my career in the business world.
I got involved in startups and we raised nearly $4M to build a company, which was later acquired.
Things were going well, but that quickly changed. Two years earlier my mom “beat” cancer, but now the cancer was back and worse than before. I still remember receiving the phone call… it was Friday and I was told that my mom wasn’t feeling well. So, on Saturday, she went to the hospital to get checked out. On Sunday, she passed away. I was with her.
Everything happened so fast. I was shocked. Stunned. In disbelief. Numb.
My mom was always my biggest fan and best friend, but now she’s gone. I was absolutely devastated.
A few months later, on a drive home, I was thinking about my mom. I thought back to my childhood, and how much that my mom always enjoyed my artwork – even when it was absolutely terrible.
Although I hadn’t drawn in nearly 10 years, on that day, I felt compelled to do just that. So, I sat down and drew a picture of my favorite basketball player, Michael Jordan.
I posted that drawing on social media and, for most of my friends, this was their first time seeing any of my artwork. Many offered positive words of encouragement, and one friend asked me to create a drawing of Seahawks player Kam Chancellor.
After creating the drawing of Kam, I posted the artwork on Twitter where Kam Chancellor saw it, shared it to his followers, and then asked me to create a piece for him!
Whenever I create a piece of artwork, I like to invite people into the creation process. As such, I post in-progress videos and images nearly every day so people can follow along as the art is being created. While creating the drawing for Kam, he was re-sharing all of these posts.
Suddenly, there were lots of eyes on my art!
Then, an unexpected letter arrived in the mail. It was from the mother of one of my best friends, and she has known me and my family since I was a kid.
Needless to say, the letter touched me in a deep and profounding way, and let me know that I was on the right track.
As the attention grew, I always knew that I wanted to use my art to help others.
I had an idea to team up with athletes and use my artwork to raise money for charity – but with a twist.
I would create a drawing, get 200 limited-edition prints created, both the athlete and I would to sign them, sell them for $200 each, and then the best part: donate 100% of the proceeds to charity. Although I felt it was a good idea, I knew the hard part would be getting a popular athlete to team up on a project with an “unknown” artist.
One day, while on Twitter, I saw Seahawks Richard Sherman post about his upcoming charity event. I decided to shoot my shot, and replied to Richard and mentioned that I have a charity idea for him. Much to my surprise, Richard replied back, and asked me to send him a DM. After sending him my idea, I was even more surprised when Richard loved the idea and wanted to do it!
Thus, the “#KEEGAN200” project was born (200 prints for $200).
That first project with Richard was announced on a Monday and the on-sale date was the following Friday. That week was absolutely crazy as the project went viral and was featured in the media both nationally and internationally! The media told the story of my childhood, his mom, and my desire to give back to his community. Once Friday arrived, the prints sold out and $40k was raised and donated to charity.
Since that first project, I have been fortunate to work closely with some of the biggest names in sports and music including Eddie Vedder, Russell Wilson, Dave Grohl, Ciara, Macklemore, and many others and also created an original drawing for Barack Obama. Additionally, I’ve been featured in a variety of media outlets including the Kelly Clarkson Show among many others.
I’m so grateful to the many people who have supported my charity projects. Together, we have raised over $625,000 for a variety of organizations.
And we’re just getting started…