People who live on the High Plains are resilient, taking negative events and turning them into positive ones.
There is perhaps no greater example of this than 33-year-old artist Jacob Morin of Amarillo, who in 2002, was shot in the neck following a drug deal gone bad.
“The bullet traveled through my neck,” Morin said, in a phone interview with High Plains Public Radio. “It changed my life completely.”
Morin’s story, unfortunately, isn’t an uncommon one. His childhood was less than ideal. His mom and dad split up when he was eight years old and even though he had his grandparents, Jacob spent a lot of time alone. Morin describes himself as a runaway.
“I was very defiant, very, very bad, very disrespectful – a very bad kid,” he said.
At a young age, Jacob fell in with the wrong crowd
“I hung out with the popular kids that were well off … they liked to drink for some reason,” Morin said, adding that they begin drinking in sixth grade, at which point he also got hooked on meth.
While under the custody of Child Protective Services, Morin said he volunteered to attend Gulf Coast Trades Center, a state school for offenders. While attending the school, Morin learned how to be a bricklayer.
“It gave me a little bit of manhood I didn’t have, stability I didn’t have,” Morin said.
But soon after he got out of school, he once again fell in with the wrong crowd.
“I started making $20 an hour on a bricklaying crew,” he said. “One or two of them were on meth and I started hanging out with them instead of staying at home and it just triggered it all over again.”
Morin said he was on meth, cocaine, alcohol, Xanax and marijuana. Getting involved with drugs again ultimately led to what could have been a tragic end for Morin, who after being awake for several days while on a drug high, was shot.
“On my fourth day awake, I robbed a drug dealer in the middle of the daytime. It was that bad. It was the worst decision,” Morin said. “It got me immediately shot in the neck the next day.”
The gunshot almost killed Morin but the very next day, he went back for more.
“A tube coming out of my head, I went to the drug house the next day. That’s how bad I was,” Morin said. “That stuff took me over when I was a young man and I had to get shot in the neck to stop.”
The shooting was a turning point in his life.
“Whenever you look down a gun, and you get shot and it was your own fault, you’re going to look at what you’ve done,” he said.
Tragedy didn’t leave Morin alone, however. Two years ago, shortly after his daughter was born, her mother was killed in a car accident in Amarillo.
“That’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through,” he said.
Through it all, art has helped Jacob heal, or as he puts it, to rise.
“I have just loved art. Art’s been there,” he said.
Nothing is off limits in terms of the type of art – religious, sports or graffiti - or the type of tools he uses to create it.
“I used peacock feathers to make crosses with stencils, with spray paint, and pencils and my fingerprints,” Morin said. “I’ll draw a hand – I went and bought an ink pad – and I’ll use my own skin to do the details on the hand.”
Now, Jacob is on a mission – one inspired by a mass shooting.
“If someone can do this, I will do a Mass Giving with my art, with some prints,” he told his family one day.
Jacob started giving prints of his artwork away and would then take a picture of the person who received it, recording the person’s name and the circumstances surrounding it.
“I’ve gone two months straight on two different occasions, giving a different piece to a person and taking a picture,” he said. “Every day, finding a random person if I could give them a print.”
Morin has met several prominent Amarillo figures through his Mass Givings, including teachers from West Texas A&M University, a senator candidate and Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong fame.
Morin has kept a book outlining his interactions with the people who receive his prints. He says he doesn’t expect anything in return.
“The biggest smiles, gosh the smiles these people have,” he said.
Morin would like to take his Mass Givings all the way to the White House, but for now, he is satisfied with simply making people smile … and the hope that they will pay it forward.
“If someone will see that I did a Mass Giving, maybe they’ll want to give more,” he said.
To see more of his artwork, visit Morin's Facebook page.