Artists: The Creative Entrepreneurs

“Artists want money so they can make more art; entrepreneurs want money so they can make more money.” – Andrew Horwitz

Spring Green 2012 Prize

Receiving my “Best of” Ribbon at Spring Green, WI Art Show. (Summer 2012).

I’m not sure I completely agree with the entire article but it raises some good issues.

Tragically, I do think we live in a culture that believes, “because artists don’t hold the making of money as their highest value, [artists] must therefore be simple and naive.”

Talk about stereotyping!

The truth is, I do everything any other self-employed small business entrepreneur does. I manage my cash-flow, I create a brand, I promote my business and search for the right market that allows me to sell my work for a profit.

And I work hard.

And, like any other good business owner, I reinvest my profits back into my business so that I can continue to grow.

Ford makes and sells cars, Nucor makes and sells steel and I make and sell vintage and Americana themed oil paintings and murals.

I see little difference in our goals, just our Visions.

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Love is a Rose and Life is a Canvas

Love is a Rose Neil Young - 1My first three passions in life, after my kids, are genealogical history, vintage Americana, and what I feel is great music. All of those passions come together in my paintings.

I spent most of the 90s following the grunge and punk scene in the Twin Cities. Essentially, going to see original bands every night throughout the Minneapolis and St. Paul region. My girlfriends and I spent hundreds of hours going from music bar to music bar following the best acts in the upper Midwest. On any night you could find us at the Turf Club, Uptown Bar (now gone), Cabooze, 400 Bar (also gone), and of course, First Ave.

Plus dozens and dozens of now lost and forgotten dives and corner music clubs. Live original music? We were there.

We were like postmen, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” kept us from following Soul Asylum, Jayhawks, Honeydogs, Trip Shakespeare, The Suburbs, The Phones, Blue Up and dozens of other bands from location to location across the Twin Cities.

And, like the clubs, dozens and dozens of great, but now lost and forgotten, musicians and bands.

Sidebar: Because of the lyrics this is mostly a NSFW video

In our free time we shopped at thrift stores and that is when I started picking up vintage leather jackets. I thought “I could paint these up and use them as my canvases.”  I researched paints and dyes and found a great dye that I could brush on and they would be highly wearable and not crack.  This was long before YouTube and the internet so the research was done old school.

As such, for several years I painted original themed surrealism and abstracts on a broad range of canvases including on my vintage leather coats and boots. At one time I had 30 or 40 coats I gave away or sold.  I even had one stolen when I was a student in Germany.

A few weeks ago my Partner was digging through the garage when he stumbled upon the last five of these jackets. He brought them into the house and he took pictures of me wearing them. He then uploaded them to Facebook, Google+ and a few other of my Vintage Painter social media sites.

It was interesting to see people’s reactions.

Sidebar: Yes, I know there is only four of the five here. My Partner wants me to keep the fifth one for a while. He has some plans for it.

 

Most people who have met me over the last 10 years assume I only paint vintage and Americana themes. They never thought about what else I paint or have painted. I generally only show my Vintage Painter work publicly and am very protective of my brand and my Vision. Right now that is how I want to be known but I have a large collection of other work that is in my basement and in my studio.

The hand-dyed and painted vintage leather coats were amongst them.

As an artist I am very Vision oriented. When you look at the jackets, each one is very original.  I let the jackets speak to me and they would tell me what they wanted painted.  I’m not sure non-creatives can completely understand what that means, and I’m not sure how else to explain it, but that is how it works.Love is a Rose Neil Young - 2

When I found a beautiful tan fringed leather jacket, I instantly knew it would become my “Love is a Rose,” Neil Young jacket.

This jacket features three of my loves – surrealism, dogs and Mr. Neil Young and his song Love is a Rose.

I guess that is four things.

Sidebar: This video is completely safe for work.

Nevertheless, a few weeks after my Partner posted the pictures online, the Neil Young Fan Club contacted me and they wanted to write a little post about the coat.

I was honored.

After some thought, I’ve decided to sell the coats – no reason to hang onto them – and try to do some good at the same time. The first coat looking for a new home will be the “Love is a Rose” coat.

I’m selling it through my eBay store with a starting minimum bid of $75. Of that, 25% will be going to Neil Young’s personal charity, The Bridge School. The school offers an innovative program for educating children with severe speech and physical impairments.

Depending on the response, over the next several months I will be selling the other coats too. Hopefully, they will find a good home. Please help me spread the word. Below are some pictures of the other coats.

My Partner has already started to dig though some of my other art relics. It will be interesting to see what else pops up.

“Love is a Rose”

Click to visit the auction on eBay

The Other Coats

Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong

My family. The 80's were a a strange time for hair.

My family. The 80’s were a strange time for hair.

On my way home from a little art show at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Madison, WI last month my van quit on the interstate. Between the hotel, towing and new fuel pump it basically wiped out my show earnings. Which was also my Christmas money for the boys.

When we arrived home a day late and more than a few dollars short, the van quit again.

Apparently it wasn’t the fuel pump.

It would have been simple to have a melt down over the whole event. In reality that is life. Things happen. Then something else happens, and then something else. And over and over. What would a meltdown have achieved?

But we made a move and made the best of it.

Christmas was very lean (my partner and I didn’t exchange gifts) and we found a garage to work on it close to home. They let us leave the van there until we were able to get the money together.

One of my favorite clients at the 2013 Deep Ellum Art Fair.

One of my favorite clients at the 2013 Deep Ellum Art Fair.

However, in the last few days I started to feel a bit overwhelmed by some of the fallout. I’m going to miss one of my favorite art shows in Deep Ellum, TX because of finances. We had to buy a starter for the van, the boys had a birthday and some little nickel and dime expenses cropped up. Plus, I’m actively working to buy the house my mom left us from my siblings; the appraisal, probable home inspection and other costs are wearing out the clasp on my purse.

So as I meditated on it this article came to my attention. It really helped.

Since reading it I have tried to focus on the positive – no more shows until April, we made it home safely, we have the money to fix it – again. The van has been fantastic and this is the first money we have had to put into it. The closing is moving forward and the boys had a nice birthday (whether they know it or not). Plus we have wonderful families.

The other bit of reality, is that regardless if I had a “traditional” job, every business has the occasional cash-flow issue.

This isn’t an issue of whether or not my business is viable but whether I am willing to make the adjustments to my business to better fit the situation. We have been challenged to make some changes to my market approach in order to turn this problem into an opportunity. It is different and scary but as my partner has worked on these changes it has become obvious that there is something new and exciting happening to my business.

Most importantly, I finally have a Partner that doesn’t try to shame, humiliate or ridicule me. He stands-up for me and doesn’t believe in “his” team and “my” team. He doesn’t try to put me in the box or judge me for my beliefs or experiences. He has my back.

Plus, one of the reasons he loves me is because of my Vision. He is not jealous or afraid of me having a Vision and a life.

I’m very lucky he found me. And in truth, he tells me he is lucky I found him.

Life isn’t perfect but it is as good as we make it. 

First day with my van two years and over 20K miles ago.

First day with my van two years and over 20K miles ago.

The brain is amazing

The kids were delivered to a new home on Monday. Thank you B & C for the love and support.

I wonder who became the mover, perceiver, stimulator and adapter?

Not everyone understands the choices I make everyday as a painter and entrepreneur.

In school we would take tests based on the Briggs-Myers tests and find out if we are introverts or extroverts, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling and judging or perceiving. Often time it would be as simple as saying, “Well you’re creative so you must be left brained and he is good at math so he is right brained,” or some equally useless classification system.

What I’ve discovered at 40ish is the label doesn’t matter.

Sidebar: Is my age a label?

The bottom line is I do what I do because it is who I am. Which is why I like this article in the WSJ. It isn’t left or right brained but top or bottom brained. Depending on our brain activity we are movers, perceivers, stimulators or adapters?  

Based on the book “Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights Into How You Think,” by Dr. Stephen Kosslyn and writer G. Wayne Miller, it talks about their exciting research into how we really see the world. It highlights the new view of the brain and offers insight into our role within our families, teams, organizations and in relation to the world. 

We only have one life so why do we spend it in a manner dictated by parents, teachers, ministers, spouses and coaches? All too often we find ourselves in situations with people who would have us be something we are not. Happiness in life is found by conforming to our nature instead of conforming to what other people would have us be. I get along best with the people who understand who I am and compliment who I am intrinsically. I get along best with people who know who they are.

Isn’t our obligation to ourselves and our Vision? Why is choosing our lives selfishness if it is honest about who we are and our proper place in the world?

Maybe it is time to make a move based on who we are and not on who other people would have us be.

Click here to take the test.

What would you take? An essay on perspective and values.

shipAs an entrepreneur and artist I am always trading off one thing against another to make way for my Vision.

As such, I enjoyed this excellent article on The Art of Manliness website about the Ernest Shackleton expedition to cross Antarctica in 1914.

It was a disaster.

The Endeavor was eventually caught in an ice flow and chewed open by the grinding of the ice against her hull. They were forced to abandon ship and make their way nearly 650 miles across the frozen landscape.

Remember, they did this before Gore-Tex, GPS, cell phones, radios and a host of other modern “conveniences”.

To aid survival Shackleton allowed his crew to take only two pounds of personal belongings on their treacherous journey.

shack2

The essay highlights what they kept and what they left behind and then draws some parallels to the modern issues of American life.

I thought it was interesting essay and wanted to share it with you.

To read The Art of Manliness article click here.

Three Suggestions for Success

HIghSCArt

Me. A long time ago…

Recently I was drawn to a conversation on Linkedin about the proper etiquette for using photography as a source material for other creative work.

The exact question was:

As a painter, is it OK to create a new work on the basis of a photograph that’s not mine? And should I request permission to acknowledge, even if the painting looks different?”

If you are a member of the Art Business group on Linkedin you can find the complete conversation here.

After some thought I decided to respond – since I actually have experience on the topic and not just an opinion. I think it bears repeating here because I know as a creative person sometimes I get the sense I am on an island doing this alone.

Below is my response:

As someone who makes a good living utilizing vintage and Americana photos as source material for my paintings, I will make three suggestions based on my actual experience.

1. Ignore the critics.

My partner describes it as the 10/10/80 Rule. 10% of the people are haters and will hate it regardless of what you do or how you do it. 10% are going to love it (sometimes even if it is slop). 80% won’t even remember it. Focus on the 10% that matter. Paint what you like. Snobs are snobs. Ignore them.

2. Do what you love.

I have a good friend that only paints plein air. He can’t understand why I would paint “dead things”. I on the other hand doubt the world needs another painting of a birch tree, cardinal or a barn – let alone another photo. We are good friends because we both appreciate the work and lifelong dedication to our own vision…but we certainly don’t critique each others art either. LOL – at least not face to face! lol

3. Listen to your Vision.

If your Vision tells you to paint something you see in a vintage photo, paint it. Stop worrying about what other people think. I like vintage, Americana, history, genealogy and portraiture. What I choose to paint touches all of those themes.

Sometimes I use photos I have taken as source material as in Bill’s Garage and the Magic of Junk

Sometimes I use old photos from my family The Regular Dinner.  

Often I use images that were donated to me by supporters and collectors of my work such as Seriv-car and Billboards.  

On VERY rare occasions I use found materials but always ask for permission and check on the rights. I NEVER thrift shop for images as I want to know the history and stories behind my paintings.

So there.

In a nutshell. Ignore the critics. Do what you love. Listen to your Vision.

If you do those three things then you won’t have to worry about copyrights and infringing on other people’s work. Actually, as I’ve discovered, you will end up being the one copied.

Happy Trails.

If you are a member of the Art Business group on Linkedin you can find he complete conversation here.

I Cried Today

Wausau Art Festival, 2012

I cried today. Twice.

Let me explain.

When I woke up this morning I saw my partner had posted a long forgotten interview he found stuffed in a virtual folder somewhere is cyberspace. He posted the article and picture of me on my business’ Facebook and Google Plus pages – straight hair and all.

I found myself reflecting on how overwhelmingly significant the moment was for me as a woman, as a mother and as a painter. The tears startled me as they burst out.

That was the first set of tears.

It had nothing to do with the straight hair.

I cried as I though of how significant this moment was for me as a creative child making my way through an often indifferent Universe. That moment in time, captured on such a temporary medium, was a reminder of what the Universe expected – demanded – of me: Be a woman. Be a mother. Be a painter.

They were tears of gratitude at the moment.

In truth, the Universe doesn’t care about much. It only cares about the path it wants for itself and for us. We either conform or it beats us about like a tiny pea pod in a summer storm. All the while it is pelting us with regrets, lost moments and overlooked opportunities.

“Learn the lesson! Learn the lesson! Learn the lesson! Oh, and don’t make that mistake again,” being the Universal mantra. The ability for life’s bountiful harvest to come to fruition depends on our own ability to learn and live forward and not backwards.

The photo was taken in 2007 at the ArtStreet event by Green Bay Press-Gazette writer and photographer Warren Gerds and was attached to a wonderful article. The picture shows Tina Quigley, the Executive Director of Arts Events Inc, presenting the “Best of Show” award to me.

My wonderfully supportive, and beautiful niece, Betsy Bemmer enthusiastically jumps alongside and shares in my surprise and joy.

That summer had been difficult.

I had two very young twin boys at home, it was my second year on the show circuit and the weather had been wet all season. Two weeks prior to ArtStreet I was working the Festival of Arts in Oconomowoc, WI and they allowed the artists to evacuate early due to heavy rains and flooding.

As any art carnie will tell you – that never happens. Needless to say I didn’t make any sales at that show.

Me at the Bike Art Gallery.

At home there was no sincere support for me as an artist and except for a few diehard cheerleaders I was very much emotionally and spiritually alone.I was feeling knocked down and defeated. Really, I had gone to this show just wanting to get it over with and just go home.

I was finished.

When it happened, I was as surprised as anyone.

Tina showed up in my booth with an award. A Best of Show award!

Yes, the look on my face in that picture is surprise, joy and relief.  It was the validation that I so desperately needed at that time.  That award meant more to me than the $500 prize that came with it.  It was encouragement and validation for what I had put all my passion into. Someone else recognized that my work stood out and had value. I wasn’t a hobbyist or a failure or living a pipe dream.

Germany, 1990.

The Universe knew what I needed and gave it to me. I’m grateful. Thinking of it makes me tear up again.

It was a reminder of where I have been and where I am going to.  A reminder of how blessed my life has been because I am willing to make sacrifices to do what I love and to follow my Vision.

It was a reminder of how important it is to have a partner in your life that believes in you and supports you. As I was telling my partner all this, I cried again. He patiently, quietly waited for me to explain through haltingly happy breaths.

Now that hair made me cry.

So the day ended the same way it started – with tears.

Tears of joy, happiness and strength that the Universe has allowed – encouraged, forced – me to embrace my Vision and gave me a partner to remind me that what I need and wants matters.

Like the article, my partner helped me find the truth again. Be a woman. Be a mother. Be a painter.

I had forgotten that too.

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