When Mark Hafeman was sixteen, he was shot in a hunting accident. The incident left him with over a dozen bb’s embedded in his heart and lungs, as well as blinded him in one of his eyes. In critical condition, and out in the woods over 130 miles from the nearest hospital, death was imminent. But as Mark lie there on the ground surrounded by nature, struggling to breathe, a kind of calm came over him. A voice came through crystal clear. It told him, “You’re going to live, and there is something you must do.”
Hafeman survived, and live he did. He’s had a wide-spanning dream career and traveled to over 120 countries. Nearly every single moment of his life after that accident has been devoted to finding out exactly what the purpose is. “I’ve tried to leave no stone unturned,” he explains. Passion has been his guide in this journey, and it has taken him into the fields of teaching, spirituality, real estate, law, and now, working as a full-time painter. And through it all, he’s worked as hard as possible to give back to his community and improve the world and its people around him, founding an organization called Tuesday Los Angeles River Art (TULARIVA), which mentors young artists while rebuilding the Los Angeles River, as well as working with Buenaventura Art Association.
Buenaventura Art Association enriches and promotes Ventura County’s cultural identity by supporting, developing and exhibiting a diverse community of emerging and established local artists.
We had a chance to talk with Mark about his amazing work.
Unite4:Good: What inspired you to pursue art full time?
Mark Hafeman: I love to create art and paint every day. Since I do landscape paintings, I usually go to nature to do my work. This has a profound spiritual effect on me and I think it creates art that reflects that. I’m inspired by beauty and believe that art allows people to see the world in new ways that they would not otherwise see. This reprograms and expands people’s points of view and awareness and allows for a greater perception of the interconnection of people and ideas. I also teach art and this allows students to experience an expanded state of consciousness, strengthen the right brain, increase the ability to solve problems in unique ways and create a wider perspective.
U4G: Tell us about all the work you do.
MH: I create original watercolors, acrylic and oil paintings. In addition, I lead groups of artists to paint beautiful locations in Los Angeles with my group TULARIVA (Tuesday Los Angeles River Art). This cadre of artists are changing people’s perceptions of the Los Angeles River through artistic representations. In addition, I am the Treasurer of the Buenaventura Art Association, one of the oldest art associations in Ventura, Ca. This group provides community benefits including teaching art to children, offering art scholarships to university artists, teaching artists to display their work in a gallery and offering a space for the display of art work. All of this activity is fueled by my work in meditation using Divine Light that allows me to see the world with a unique perspective.
U4G: Tell us about this meditation and how it’s impacted your work.
MH: My fourteen years of meditation using Divine Light has allowed me to see light as a living vibrant energy that is a conduit of consciousness. This light-hearted and warm emotional state shows up in my paintings with vibrant colors that seem to exude from the subject matter. This has lead to some unique and innovative compositions. My methods are unique because I often use an acrylic undercoat in my paintings that I later highlight in oil. The dry acrylic allows the oil to provide a layering effect that was previously only possible in studio paintings where multiple layers were applied and reapplied in a lengthy process. My unique technique allows water, atmosphere and trees to have a layered look while I paint on location “en plein air.”
U4G: What would you say your mission as an artist has been?
MH: My mission is to communicate as clearly as possible my passion for painting. This is accomplished by painting with other artists, by teaching and creating art organizations that nurture artists at every stage of development. In addition to the art trips I organize with TULARIVA, I curate art shows at venues in Los Angeles and Ventura where artists can share their work, display their artwork and connect with other members of the community. I also wanted to continue to grow as an artist and learn as much as I could about social media so that I could share my art with others.
U4G: So you have a very, very strong community focus in your work. Has it always been like that or has this developed over time?
MH: It has definitely evolved. I have taken on greater responsibilities as Treasurer of the Buenaventura Art Association. This allows me to utilize my expertise in finances gained by my MBA education to safeguard the social good done by the organization. In addition, I lead groups of artists through TULARIVA. Our paintings have allowed the larger community to transform their view of the Los Angeles River. This has had a profound effect on restoring the Los Angeles River as a destination for people to jog, kayak, swim, paint and bicycle—which gets people out in nature and connected with spirit. It has increased the level of environmental activity in protecting the Los Angeles River. I was able to communicate this in a Public Service Announcement about the work our arts community has done in transforming the public perception of the LA River.
U4G: But you haven’t just played a role in changing the perception of the LA River. I understand you’ve directly contributed to its cleanup.
MH: In addition to the environmental work with the Los Angeles River, that includes picking up trash, a percentage of the sales of my paintings goes to charity, benefitting projects for improving the LA River and more. I’ve also started donating paintings for charitable causes. Last year I donated paintings for the Methodist Hospital Foundation that brought them more than $10,000. One thing that’s been really life changing was building houses through Habitat for Humanity. This spring, I’m going to Malawi to build houses there as well.
U4G: How has social responsibility served to strengthen your mission?
MH: Social responsibility, if I really think about it, is my mission. I am passionate in my vision for a better world that is less polluted, with health care and housing for all. Much of my work as an artist is to create a vision of a better world. The meditation work that I do allows for an insight into the nature of reality. Through my fourteen years with Spiritual Arts Institute I have learned to do healing work with others and have begun teaching some of the meditation techniques to transform the world. There are tangible results of this. The charities that I support with my art, financial resources and time improve my community. The real payoff in doing things intentionally is that an improvement to my community improves myself, the art I create and my relationships with others.
Social responsibility is part of the core of who I am as a person. I spent over thirty years teaching in inner city schools. I have spent a lifetime traveling, creating art, and seeking to improve the lives of others. This takes a comprehensive approach that is linked to education, health care, housing, self-expression, and growth in spiritual awakening.
U4G: Why would you say social responsibility so important in this economy?
MH: All boats float higher in a high tide. Social responsibility elevates humanity and all beings on the planet. Vision allows the creation of a new reality. We must envision it first prior to making it. The fundamental values of fairness, equality and respect allow for new perspectives. These new perspectives and ways of thinking have tremendous power to improve the lives of others by creating new and different opportunities. Who would have guessed the power of the internet to revolutionize people’s lives just ten years ago? With the internet and social media there is a new ability for communication, interaction, understanding and sales of new products. The process of social responsibility is ongoing and a natural consequence of social media and the internet.
U4G: How do you define success for yourself?
MH: I have been successful because I have passion. This passion allowed me to accomplish everything I set my mind to doing. This involved getting several advanced graduate degrees in law, business and management. It allowed me to be successful as a teacher, real estate broker and artist. Passion and curiosity allow me to continually redefine myself, to love my life and to excel.
One of my biggest passions is service to others. If I can be of greater service to others, then I will be successful financially, socially and artistically and spiritually.
U4G: What have been your four biggest successes?
MH: Increasing graduation rates of inner-city students is my greatest accomplishment. Building a successful real estate portfolio is my second. Traveling to over 120 countries is my third. Having a lifetime of study and learning is my fourth.
U4G: What have been the four biggest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur and business owner?
MH: First, I attempt to do what I think is right even if it doesn’t make me popular or well-liked. Second, I try to look at things from another person’s perspective before taking action. Third, I follow my passion and do what I enjoy doing. Fourth, I generate benefits for others so they can improve their lives.
U4G: How do you maintain your work-life balance? Balance in general?
MH: As the saying goes, “What gets scheduled gets done, what gets measured gets improved, everything else goes in the valley of broken dreams.” I schedule everything including two workouts with friends a week. Several days of painting with groups of artists. Preparing meals at home with my family where everyone takes part. Reading a lot about whatever interests me. There is a time under heaven for sowing, for reaping and for everything—especially if you schedule a time for everything.
U4G: If you could start over again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently with your company from the beginning?
MH: I limited my view of what was possible in the early years by trying to do too much myself. As time went on I realized that I couldn’t do everything myself and began to rely on others more. This allowed me to be more efficient and effective. In turn this allowed me to see a bigger picture and to attempt to do bigger things that I had previously thought weren’t possible.
U4G: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and business owners just starting out?
MH: Dream big and get lots of help from others. Find a way to have enough cash income so that you can grow. Try to not limit what you think is possible. Some people see things as they are and ask “why?” Try to see things that aren’t and ask “why not?”
U4G: What’s next for you?
MH: I see a greater presence in galleries in wider areas of the world. I would like to create an artist mastermind to enable more artists to be successful. I would like to have a greater presence on the web and monetize this better. I look forward to creating more and bolder impacts in social causes in the areas of education, health, housing and spirituality.