I rounded the corner of Thae Pae Rd Soi 3 onto Loi Kroh Rd in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it was there that it happened. I was drawn into The John Gallery, and I suddenly became Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I found myself in a wonderland of trippy colors, rock lyrics, meteor showers, temples, sunsets and quotes that seemed especially meant for me.
For the first ten minutes, I was bizarrely alone in the shop, and I couldn’t help but be entranced. I have always loved quotes. I had a history teacher who instilled that love in me. Every day, that teacher would write a new quote on the board. He told us to memorize them, and that one day we would be able to use the ones we memorized as bonus points on a test. When that day came, I skipped the test and turned in almost 200 quotes that I had managed to memorize.
But it wasn’t just the quotes in John’s art that drew me in. Everything about his pieces spoke to me in a way that good art does. His shop was a magical, whimsical portal into my own self-reflection and joy.
Every square inch of John’s shop was covered in art. One room was completely filled with bells. I just stood there taking it all in. That’s when John appeared, a huge smile on his face.
John told me that he has created over 100,000 pieces in the thirty years he has painted. He makes paintings, postcards, and T-shirts. He has never had professional training, but he taught himself his art. He was covered in his own artwork, and he just radiated that sense of glowing joy one does when they are following their heart. I really think he must be the coolest artist in Chiang Mai.
He gave me a tour of his workshop, a simple space where all the magic happens. He said his first years of following his dream were hard ones, but he never let go of his dream. This successful artist in Chiang Mai is now living the life of creativity and purpose that he envisioned so many years ago.
I met John on the weekend of my first anniversary of traveling, and in my search for Paradise, it seems John knows the thing that I have come to learn myself.
Paradise really isn’t a place. It really is just a moment in time. Paradise is now.
The John Gallery can be found on the corner of Thae Pae Rd Soi 3 and Loi Kroh Rd. You can also email him at Johngallery1980@hotmail.com.