DETROIT, Mich. (WXYZ) — Austin Fabinski of White Lake, Michigan has always been a creator — but before he took the leap to take art full time, he was working as a teacher, unable to create for himself and struggling to make ends meet.
"I was like, I don't know if I can pay all my bills," he said.
In 2019, he made the decision to leave the classroom to make more working as a server at a local restaurant.
"After I quit and families found out, I was getting, 'Hey, where are you at? My kids started loving art when you started at school.' I remember crying when I got a couple of those emails, like how can I inspire these kids when I'm not happy," said Austin.
But it was the break he says he needed for him, sharing his artistic talent from watercolor to acrylic with others and finding a mentor in Missouri muralist Andrea Ehrhardt.
"She's the one that told me to get on TikTok. I was like, 'what is TikTok?'" he said.
His following started to grow, but it really took off when he started experimenting with wood-burning art.
"I had a wood burner because I bought it during quarantine ... it's so therapeutic, just watch it, and the smell's great, campfire," said Austin.
Social media gave him a platform where his creativity could flourish. And the pandemic gave him another gift: the time to achieve his dreams of becoming an author, something he said he was told he’d never be able to do because of his learning disability.
"I connected to the special ed kids because I was special ed ... when you are told that you have disabilities, you are in a mindset ... you think, 'OK, I can't do this just because I know I have a disability.' No, you can do whatever you want to do," he said.
Now, with more than 400,000 followers on TikTok, teaching private art lessons and a home school group, Austin realized he never really stopped inspiring others.
"I'm inspiring, talking and teaching people all ages all around the world, because these usernames you don't know; I can be talking to like Brad Pitt, we don't even know it," he joked. "I'm already giving the message ... inspire every day"
Austin says art is therapeutic — and he encourages people to create every day and to just do it without reservations or putting pressure on themselves.
"Just do what you love to do and like. I'm a 31-year-old that loves drawing Pokemon because that makes me happy. I can love what I want to love, and it makes me happy, and that's all that matters," he said.
This story was originally reported by Alexandra Bahou on wxyz.com.