One thing I love about art is being able to get lost in making something from nothing. It’s the creative process.
Brian Poli-Dixon + Brian Poli-Dixon Art
Creator: Brian Poli-Dixon
Company: Brian Poli-Dixon Art (Instagram: @BrianPoliDixonArt)
Location: Miami, Florida
Words of Wisdom – Don’t let anyone else define you or what it means to express yourself. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll organically create things and enjoy the process through any type of medium that makes sense.”
Miami, a city known for its vibrant cultural mix, art deco, sandy beaches, warm waters, food, style, fashion, architecture and more. The people are friendly, the weather is beautiful and there’s tons of inspiration all around. In short, it’s Miami.
It’s also home to a childhood friend of mine, Brian Poli-Dixon, a former pro athlete turned fitness entrepreneur and an impressive emerging artist.
And while Brian has always been creative, it wasn’t until a series of unexpected experiences and life lessons that he started to bring his passion forward and make a life of it. In essence, his identity emerged.
We recently caught up about the past 18 years of our lives and I took away two things from that conversation:
- It’s amazing how you can reconnect with someone at a later stage in life over completely different subject matter, yet be even more connected by the way two people handled their respective journeys, and
- I wanted to feature him for Hustle & Deal Flow™.
Brian Poli-Dixon (Left)
See, what I knew of Brian was his extreme athleticism, uncompromising tenacity and his passion to compete. I knew of the places he went and the activities he took part in.
However, what I did not know were all those finer details of his journey.
I did not know his first passion was art dating back to the age of 5. I did not know he was most interested in majoring in art at UCLA, the same school that gave him a full ride scholarship as a wide receiver to the Bruins’ football team, which ultimately landed him into the NFL. And I did not know that he constantly created art in between football trainings, practices and games.
Talented in sports, but in love with art. I had no idea!
With that being said, doing this feature means a lot to me.
So, what did the past 18 years look like for him?
From football to fitness and eventually art, Brian has brought his tenacity through all of it.
At UCLA he was an All Pac-10 Honorable Mention, ranked 8th on UCLA’s career reception list making 115 receptions for 1,712 yards, and only the 2nd in school history to record at least 712 receiving yards in two different seasons.
After College, Brian experienced a life changing moment to his football career when he tore his hamstring from the bone, but he still landed in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, the San Francisco 49er’s and the New Orleans Saints.
After his career with the NFL was shortened, Brian took a well-needed step back.
As he puts it,
“When you put all your eggs in one basket and then you’re suddenly out of a career, it’s life changing. When football was done, I was still trying to put myself where the money was at, so I didn’t see the bigger picture until I did some soul searching. That’s when I went into personal training and then I picked my art back up.”
So, Brian continued his journey encapsulating his sports training and turning it into high-end personal training for an elite community in Miami. That same community has also embraced his art, commissioning pieces upwards of $12,000+.
Brian’s next phase is really just beginning as he continues to climb the ranks in the art world, but I’m glad we found some time to catch up.
We talked about the football industry, finding your childhood identity, the reality show Big Brother’s role in re-establishing art back into a major part of his life, his love for Miami, Salvador Dali and more. Here’s what Brian Poli-Dixon had to say:
HDF: Brian, it’s awesome to be able to do this because I’ve known you for so long and I’ve seen you embrace several talents. While I know where you’re from and where you’re currently living, can you tell me a little bit more about your experiences along the way?
Brian: Thanks! This is cool. I’m excited to do this with you.
So, I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. My mom is an Italian from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and my dad is Black from Orangeburg, South Carolina. They were both complete opposites and I respect that.
I also really see how I get my personality from both of them. My mom got me into caring about my mannerisms and taught me a lot about aesthetics (how things look) – All the details. My dad was always a big people person, so I get my love of people from him. However, my art is definitely a byproduct from my mom’s influence.
Tucson was excellent! It was all I knew and I always had a great group of friends. I feel like as a child everyone is always trying to find their own identity, including me, which was a bit tougher being bi-racial.
I’d either be too black for some friends or too white for others. However, I made an easier transition with that stuff as I got older because of sports. In sports, everyone comes from all kinds of backgrounds.
Either way, I always knew I wanted to experience more than Tucson so I was ready to leave by the time I did. I didn’t know how I was going to get to where I wanted to go, but I just knew.
As for Miami, I love Miami!
Miami Beach – Photo Coutesy of MiamiandBeaches.com
It’s just a melting pot of so many different things – Art, culture, the beach, food, nightlife. It’s one of those cities where you don’t feel like you’re in the U.S. Nowhere else in the U.S. looks and feels like Miami.
I’ve also made a lot of great friends out here. I feel like this city will inspire you.
Fishing in the Florida Keys with Friends
And of course, it’s a very sexy city. From how people look and dress, to the architecture, art deco and beaches. Not to mention you have a lot of little pockets where you feel like you’re somewhere else. This city is very unique that way.
Ocean Drive – Miami – Photo Courtesy of TheCultureTrip.com
HDF: I love Miami too! There’s something about the vibe going on there.
So, I do want to learn more about what’s going on with you and your art, but before we get into that, can you tell me a little bit more about your backstory and what you were doing before your emergence on to the art scene?
Brian: How far back can I go?
HDF: Back (laughter)
Brian: Cool. (laughter)
So as you probably remember, I got into football really late – my Sophomore year of high school. At the time I didn’t know it, but that was my ticket out of Tucson. I went on to earn a scholarship to anywhere I wanted to go and that’s how I ended up going to UCLA.
One of the primary reasons I wanted to go to UCLA is because I was always into art, design, marketing, etc. and I knew they had a great media and art program.
l just always loved doing art without ever really knowing I was doing it, and it wasn’t until I had to make a decision to go to school that I realized these things were important to follow.
And while I wanted to major in art, it didn’t quite work out that way.
HDF: How so?
Brian: The school sold me heavy on the art program, but later when it was time to declare my major, they said I couldn’t do it because it conflicted with the football schedule. So, that put my desired career path on hold.
That’s okay. I believe everything happens for a reason and a lot of times people want to say that when it’s convenient for them, but I feel that always. When I look back and see that I could’ve majored in art, I wondered where I would be today, but again, everything happens in the time that it’s supposed to
Brian Poli-Dixon #82 – UCLA Bruins
HDF: I’m a firm believer in that. We never really know the timing of things, but they always seem to happen as they should, and in their proper time.
So you didn’t give up your art completely?
Brian: (Smile) No, not at all. I was always drawing and exploring. Always! Even while playing sports.
I did end up being a history major, but at that point, I was just trying to figure out something to do.
HDF: And then you went into the NFL?
Brian: Then I signed with an agent based out of Del Ray Beach, Florida in 2002, and moved to train for 2.5 months in preparation for the NFL combine. I got in the best shape of my life.
I thought everything was going in the right direction, but then I tore my left hamstring off the bone running the 40 at the combine. That changed everything.
HDF: Damn Brian! That’s serious!
Brian: Yep. There are defining moments in your life and that would definitely be one of them.
From then on, it was an uphill battle. I bounced around to different teams over a span of 5 years, but my leg was never the same since that day.
See, the NFL is a business. They don’t really care about you. I was supposed to be a draft pick, but understandably because of my leg, I fell right out of the draft, but still signed to the San Diego Chargers.
HDF: Rough, and very life changing.
Brian: Yeah, I mean, when it came time to signing with other teams, I had to start signing the rights to my leg away.
Brian: Meaning, I’m coming in with a pre-existing injury, but I’m good enough to be there. However, if anything happens to me with my leg, they do not have to be liable for any of it. That puts things into perspective real quick.
So, I did that with the 49ers and with the Saints. I had some spurts, but I never really got where I wanted to be with that. It was kind of bitter sweet in that way.
HDF: I can imagine. You probably had a lot of ideas and goals for playing in the pros.
Brian: I had all these aspirations that I had hoped to achieve, and while so many people say how awesome I did, I still thought that I had failed. That’s just the drive in me, though.
I am also optimistic in nature, so I had to take the approach that everything happens for a reason. The way I look at it is that everyone has their time to be down for a moment as long as they don’t count themselves out.
I never count myself out. It’s just a matter of time before I get my groove back.
HDF: And that’s when your transition really started to take place?
Brian: Well, I had to regroup, get grounded and find myself. I had become real money hungry with Football. I was thirsty for the lifestyle and it was then all taken away from me. That got me thinking about what’s really important.
With professional sports, you have to be all in and fully committed. When you’re suddenly out of a career, it’s life changing.
When football was done, I was still chasing the money because I thought that was important. I didn’t see the bigger picture until I did some soul searching. That’s when I went into personal training and establishing bootcamps, while also picking my art back up.
Brian’s Bootcamp Run
HDF: Let’s get into that. Why Art? I know it’s always been there, but how did it really work its way into your life and become a very big and sustaining part of it? And how long have you been doing it?
Brian: It started when I was about 5 years old and has never left me.
I didn’t choose art. Art simply chose me. It’s not something I have ever had to ask myself to do. It’s something I just do, have always done and will always do.
HDF: When did you start seeing art as a business?
Brian: Well, I always had an eye for taking photographs. I have thousands upon thousands of pictures downloaded and archived.
I couldn’t look at a photo without seeing art, nor go anywhere without looking at everything as a series of pictures. I just started taking my camera everywhere.
For me, I feel like I got into the artistic part of my business from photography first.
So, I started there.
The Florida Keys at Sunset by Brian Poli-Dixon
HDF: Over the years I’ve seen you take some amazing photos! What were some of your favorite places?
Brian: Let’s see. Morocco was like nothing else. That’s a whole other way of life – the culture, scenery, attention to detail – everything from the outside looking in looks like nothing special.
It’s covered up. It’s metaphorically like a veil on the outside and then on the inside it’s something very special. I really appreciate that they’re not trying to throw that material wealth and money into people’s faces that don’t have it.
Picture of the Morocco Coast Line by Brian Poli-Dixon
Brian in Morocco
Spain was great! I got to really get into the mix of the culture. When I travel somewhere, I might do a couple touristy things, but I want to be about the culture. I want to get off the beaten path as fast as possible.
Buenos Aires I liked for it’s mix of South America and European influence.
Living in South Florida, I’m fortunate to live so close to the Islands – Jamaica, St. Barts, Bahamas – All of those places are beautiful.
HDF: So when did you transition from photography into painting?
Brian: You know the show Big Brother?
Brian: Well, I made it to the final 30 to get on that show.
During the finals, they sequestered people to their rooms for a little over a week. Sometimes I was in my room for 20 hours at a time.
Knowing this ahead of time, I decided to bring my art supplies. All that time alone, I just started knocking down all these drawings. There was just so much pouring out, that I just couldn’t stop.
That’s what got me to go back into painting.
HDF: What’s your favorite part about painting?
Brian: The development of a piece coming together. I like the idea that sometimes I have no idea where it’s going to end up, but I enjoy the trial and error of getting there.
Over time you start to see it take shape. I think that’s very cognizant of real life, right?
And I do paintings with lots of layers so seeing the development of all those layers come together for the final is really rewarding. It’s an amazing feeling to look at that end result and be like,
“Wow, I made that. I made something really cool and different.”
“The Connection” – Mixed Media on Canvas – Resin (Double Framed)
“US” – Mixed Media on Canvas
HDF: And you’re starting to become a little more popular. Do you have a favorite piece you’ve done? Either because someone commissioned you or because you just wanted to create it?
Brian: Well, first, thanks for the compliment. I feel like becoming more known is really just a process of steadily working on my craft.
Second, it’s tough to have just one favorite piece because I like different pieces for different reasons.
It’s like saying, “What’s your favorite food?” – Especially with my style. My style is so wide range right now.
However, one of my favorites is my Lincoln piece.
“Lincoln” – Mixed Media on Canvas – Acrylic, Resin, Pennies, Stickers, Doubled Framed
It has so many unique items attached to it that represent personal thought, my own life’s experiences, history, art, you name it.
It’s my largest painting I’ve done, and with me being a history major, there’s also a story behind it. It’s represents where this country has been and it’s progression.
I knew I wanted to make a Lincoln out of pennies, so there are 4,500 pennies attached to it. There’s paint, fragile stickers, on-sale stickers, resin, paint on top of the resin. So there are a lot of layers to this painting.
In total that painting is probably 150 pounds
8 out of 10 paintings I have no idea what they will be before I start them. This was one of those paintings that I knew exactly what it was going to be before I started it.
HDF: That piece is crazy good Brian!!! You said 8 out of 10 paintings you have no idea what they will be before you start them? Has it always been that way?
Brian: Yeah, pretty much. When I first started, my motivation was to use a lot of metaphors, hidden meanings, angles and messages in a pop-art fashion.
“Always Winning” – Mixed Media on Canvas – Acrylic, Resin
Therefore, I would start working on a piece and wait to see what happens organically. As the painting started to take on it’s own character, I’d find meaning and direction in it.
Today, I still use that same tactic, but my focus has shifted a bit. I wanted to refine my pieces enough that they could compliment an upscale environment, yet still remain true to my style.
This happened because my first commissioned piece came from an interior designer. Working with her opened my eyes to the fact that people want different art for different reasons, so I became more conscious of the environment I wanted the painting to be in.
HDF: If you had to describe your style, what would it be?
Brian: Mixed media. I like using various mediums such as acrylic, oil, resin, objects, you name it.
It has to be meaningful and tell a story. Essentially, they’re journey pieces.
Other pieces are just fun to look at. They make you feel good and there’s no real story to them.
For me, it’s just an incredible feeling to create a piece that someone finds value in and can bring into their home environment as a part of their lives.
HDF: What’s one of the hardest parts about being an artist, especially one that’s becoming more well-known?
Brian: As an artist you’re sensitive to people’s opinions, even though we know we’re not for everyone. Everyone likes something different so I try not to let it affect my creative direction.
However, that also doesn’t stop me from sharing my early stages to people I respect. That’s actually very hard to do because they do not have the same vision as I do, nor understand where the painting is going yet.
For example my girlfriend Lynda is my biggest fan and my biggest critic. I truly respect her opinion. She’s honest and represents some of the target audience I paint for. If she likes something of mine enough to put it up in her house, then I know I’m on to something.
Of course, I can’t tailor my paintings to her style because I have to stay true to what moves me.
But she must be a fan.
HDF: Why is that?
Brian: Cause she asked me to design some original artwork to be turned into fabric for her swimwear lines (ldswimwear.com by Lynda Diaz).
Brian Poli-Dixon Art on Lynda Diaz Swimwear (ldswimwear.com)
HDF: I like it! So, if I wanted to buy a painting, what they go for?
Brian: Why? You want to buy one? (laughter)
HDF: Maybe. (laughter)
Brian: All my paintings range in price – anywhere from $1,000, all the way up to some of my bigger pieces at $15,000+.
HDF: So, you’re definitely turning heads for sure.
I always like to ask this next question about obstacles. We talked about a few already. Can you tell me any other obstacles that have taught you valuable lessons that you’d like to share?
“Life is all about overcoming obstacles. If you haven’t had one yet, just wait. They’re coming. How you deal with them is what makes you. It’s what gives you character.”
HDF: What’s the best advice you can give someone just staring to express themselves through art? What about entrepreneurship in general?
Brian: Number one.
“Don’t let anyone else define you or what it means to express yourself. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll organically create things and enjoy the process through any type of medium that makes sense.”
“Always be open minded to new influences.”
Who’s to say what art is anyways. A lot of the big names in the game were not accepted in the art world at the time they were first creating, so just create.
Anything you do, if you’re not passionate then you’ll never maximize your full potential or enjoy the process.
HDF: If you could meet any artist throughout all of history, present or current, who would it be and why?
Brian: I would say Salvador Dalí. I even have Dalí tattooed on my arm.
His work is mind blowing and he was so complex. He was the mastermind of many controversial, creative and weird things happening outside his life and he was amazing at encapsulated them into his work.
He seemed like such an interesting person, and to be able to paint such large pieces with that attention to detail is unbelievable.
I like the artists who were/are pioneers. The ones who are well known for carving out period in time and push the social boundaries of what people have become a custom to.
HDF: Brian, this was awesome man! I got to catch up with you, as well as learn some new things. I’m also glad I got to connect with you on your art – It’s really good, man. I like seeing your progression and I’m glad you’re coming up in the art world.
Brian: Thanks man! It means a lot to do this! Definitely stay tuned. There’s a lot more coming. I’ve got the big art season coming up and I’m looking forward to being even more involved in it.