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Aaron Maybin has gone from “Mayhem” to more tranquil life as an artist

By Lisa Zimmerman | Engagement Insider

On the football field, former NFL linebacker Aaron Maybin went by the nickname, “Mayhem.” Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft Maybin had a reputation for being fast and loud. However his five-year career in professional football, which included a two-year stint with the New York Jets and one year with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, showcased only a small part of Maybin’s persona.  Off the field, he was an artist. Now, two years after retiring from professional football, Maybin is pursuing his art full time.

At the age of eight Maybin, who grew up in the Baltimore, Maryland area, told his father that he was going to play in the NFL and nothing would stand in the way of that dream. However, throughout the years, he devoted just as much time and energy to his love for art. He balanced those two worlds at Penn State University where he was a standout member of the Nittany Lions football team who happened to be an art major.

His two different passions were somewhat of a curiosity for people, which he understands, but wants them to see the bigger picture.

“Society likes being able to categorize people,” Maybin said. “We play such a dynamic sport and the expectation is that you act and behave a certain way [so if you do something different] you don’t fit in the box. People don’t really understand it.”

In fact, while most people now know Maybin almost entirely for his football career, it wasn’t always that way.

“I was actually more known for being an artist until I was in my third year of college,” Maybin said. “I did a commission project for the state when I was 11. I did two murals for Habitat for Humanity. Because I played football I went to public schools, but in the summer I went to art schools on scholarship. I was taking college level art courses in middle school at the Maryland Institute College of Art.”

While in the NFL, Maybin was singularly devoted to his playing career, but art always provided a respite for him.

“It’s relaxing,” he said. “I’m a real artist. A lot of people do this for fun. But, I paint when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m frustrated. It’s who I am, I create. I just want to get an idea out before I lose it. I carry a sketch book or a notebook everywhere I go.”

Now Maybin is a full-time artist. He works in many forms, but painting has always been front and center. He is also unconcerned whether people’s reactions to his art are positive or negative. His satisfaction in his work comes from within. But he does hope that the pieces convey the emotion and thought that were present while he was creating each piece.

“I have a very nonchalant perception about people’s opinions of my work,” he said. “When it’s my versions of perfect it’s done.  Taking the blank canvas, creating texture, layers, depth, emotion - I don’t really care if you have a positive opinion on the work, that doesn’t matter to me. I just don’t want you to be able to walk by it. I want you to figure out what was going through my head.”

He has also made a commitment to mentoring young artists and has launched a foundation called Project Mayhem, which helps underprivileged and at-risk youth and also provides an introduction to some to the world of art. Project Mayhem offers a variety of events including art seminars and workshops to expose and inspire those who might not otherwise have access to that type of instruction and information. While Maybin funds the bulk of foundation costs himself, he holds events that are designed to raise money to support school art programs that have been removed as the result of reduced funding.

“For art to have a future, people have to have an interest in it,” Maybin said. “To take it out of the schools isn’t right. That’s why we do the programs and workshops. “

Maybin also tries to impress upon these young people that successful art careers can be had. His workshops and seminars focus not only on encouraging and honing talent, but on teaching children ways in which their talent can be monetized.

Maybin has already turned his art into a money-making venture. His artwork is for sale on his website, and he provides the ability for people to use his images for various items such as t-shirts. In addition, to help others get a start in reaping rewards from their own work, he has created a plug-and-play program that will allow those who use it to turn their artwork into saleable items just as he does. He is providing that program free of charge so that the users receive all of the profits from their work. 

Most important for Maybin is to show others that they can achieve their dreams the same way he has achieved his. Through Project Mayhem, he is finding success with that goal as well.


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