Inside the Robert Bell testing lab, young Travis Abels sat mesmerized by Jay Z’s newly-released “99 Problems” music video. As the bass of the music mimicked the energy of the rapper and the scratch of the record played in sync with a break dancer’s spin, Abels pressed play over and over again, feeling an unbearable spark of interest.
In that moment, he felt inspired to create his own “marriages of sight and sound.”
“When you look back on your life, you can identify that pivotal point,” Abels said. “Seldom do we realize why it’s a pivotal point in the moment that it’s happening, but it was in that moment that I felt it.”
After his breakthrough, Abels spent hours creating his own work, staying up long nights, restarting projects and then starting over again.
Once he began working on more in-depth projects, Abels realized that he felt confined by the complexities of his newfound art because he felt he had to finish his art in one sitting.
After gaining a fresh perspective, he eventually began to break out of the “concrete walls” and chisel his way out into a new world of hope.
“It’s really challenging when [your project] isn’t working because it just feels flat, like a blob of slime,” Abels said. “Then, all of a sudden it has teeth, and it has legs, and it’s moving again.”
After graduating from Ball State in spring 2006, Abels packed his car, saluted Ashland Avenue and embarked on a journey to Los Angeles.
Not long after arriving in Texas, Abels ran out of gas. As he stared into the distance, every single voice in his head told him that this was a mistake.
Despite his situation, he trudged up the highway and found a ride to the nearest gas station. Abels soon saw the Los Angeles mountain range and the beginning of his new life.
“It was the mecca of film,” Abels said. “I remember being out of control and excited of this real world looming ahead.”
After working as an intern at Open Road Trailer House and an editor for Mark Woolen & Associates, Abels went on to become a freelancer, where he focuses on creating art that transcends the big screen.
After transforming a piano into a puppet and creating a 7-foot tall ear and mouth sculpture that connects citizens throughout a city, Abels has continued to make a career out of his creativity.
“The biggest compliment you can ever receive as an editor is when someone wants to watch [your video] again," Abels said. "If they play your song, it’s them turning it up. If you make a painting, it’s them leaning in. That, to me, is it. That’s what makes it all worthwhile for me.”
On Jan. 17 in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Ballroom, Abels returned to Ball State to speak to students about his work.
After watching the presentation, junior advertising major Will Lami said he plans to pursue his older interests that inspired him to be more creative.
“Sometimes I feel like I just can’t get back into the habit of writing, but after hearing Travis speak about how much of a reward it is for him has definitely encouraged me to continue making my own stories,” Lami said.
More than halfway finished with his college career, Lami said the steady flow of internships, rigorous courses and planning for the future has made it hard to juggle the things he enjoys most. With Abels being a multi-talented artist, Lami said that hearing that Abels still cuts up finished products and restarts the process brings him comfort for his future.
“Leonardo da Vinci only has 14 finished paintings to his name, just because he was vastly curious in all these other things,” Abels said. “A lot of people would discourage being ADD with your passions, but I would highly encourage spending almost as much time, if not more so, on things outside of that.”
You can hear Travis sum up his talk with his philosophy on life below.