Its all I can remember ever wanting to do was to make pictures. I worked for many years as a medical artist and as a animator in the film industry but it was all in an effort to make art for myself. The possible eventuality of fulfilling that dream was always on my mind. No matter what I have done in life I had to work out the business side of making that dream a possibility even if it meant working at things I didn't like very much. Working at the hospital was a very hard experience but now I realize it was so important to the work I make now.
2. What steps did you take to make this passion into a successful business?
I live a simple life ...I don't drive a car, I worked so so very hard to pay off our mortgage and make sure we lived within our means to achieve that goal. My wife and I worked and saved for 25 years before I felt ready to show my work in a gallery.
I basically made sure that when I started showing work that no financial concern could stop me. I also found that it took that long just to live life and find the nature of the kind of work I wanted to show.
3. Did you ever dabble in other forms of art or have you always done your work on the computer?
I have worked in all kinds of media and still do. I don't think of myself as a Computer artist ...I don't even think of myself as an artist ...I just wake up each morning and make what I want to see ...I make what I love and in doing that I hope someone else will love it too.
4. I know that you used to work as an animator and graphic artist for a children's hospital, why did you decide to leave?
It was time to change. It was a difficult job at the Hospital and I thought I had seen everything but one day I had to deal with some sensitive photographs of a murdered child. I remember it crushed me in a way I cant explain and I decided to pursue my dream of living my life doing what I loved. I felt it was the best way to honor those children who didn't get a chance at their lives. So, now I do this for me and for them and live my life doing what I love to do.
5. I imagine working at a hospital brought up many different emotions, did these emotions help to fuel the beginning of your “new adventure” after the hospital work? How did this experience effect you?
I had a difficult childhood of abuse and neglect and although I originally studied architecture I ended up working in a photographic dept in the hospital that documented child abuse...this was a really strange twist of fate. Something broken in me began to wake up in that job and I started making pictures as a way to cope with what I saw. If i saw something that overwhelmed me I drew it and painted a version of it over and over as that way I could let my mind rest from the difficulty of having such images in my mind. I found a way to place the memory safely in a picture. Those years taught me to deal with the emotions from my own past and taught me to handle difficult emotions through making art. I found those years to be a perfect balance of creativity and healing.
6. How many hours do you typically work on a specific piece before you see it as “finished”?
6. How many hours do you typically work on a specific piece before you see it as “finished”?
It could be days or weeks and quite often many things don't get finished. Sometimes one piece becomes two and its an elusive thing that I just feel is best left to each piece of work. I don't time it out and say it must be done at such a time. You have to be able to step back from the work and re-evaluate it and work intuitively and then the the work tells me when its done.
7. How much of your annual income comes from your art, and how much comes from other sources?
I began making art for a living about 10 years ago and it has always been very financially rewarding. That isn't the case for everyone but my work has allowed me a great deal of financial freedom in that my wife was able to retire at 55 and we never have to worry about money again. I make about 25 print editions a year and each edition is a run of 20 prints and artists proofs. Prints range in cost from $3,000 to $18,000 and a great majority of them are sold. In an average year I sell about $8,000,000 worth of art since I sell world wide. I couldn't have attained that level of financial return by just doing single works and I may not have been able to create that much using traditional methods. When I began doing prints 10 years ago they were about $500 each so many of the investors and collectors have done well with my work as I never lower the price and in this way I protect their investment. I have never actually raised the price of my work myself ...the market has always done that as if I don’t sell at a higher price dealers buy the work and sell it at a higher price...in many ways making art is like printing currency ...the market decides its value. Not all artists are this lucky and luck does have a lot to do with it just as it does with any business...never let anyone tell you differently. It helps if you keep good business practice and work at it carefully and gradually and most successful business people will brag about their business ability ...but I never discount luck and good fortune as its just the nature of how things sometimes work. I do believe a bit in the law of attraction ...have a dream and work towards that dream and follow your gut instinct to make that dream a reality ...after all that's how each piece of art is made from nothing but an idea into a piece of reality. Keep good books and pay your debts and be very careful with other people having your money. If someone takes advantage of you then be aware of that the next time you get in a similar situation. Take into account that sometimes galleries cant pay everything all at once ...create an atmosphere of trust but just be aware and learn from mistakes. I used to sell everything through galleries but didn't like the fact that I had to wait to be paid by the Gallery. Now I sell a percentage of my work directly and sometimes we sell during shows with galleries to our own collector list and then pay the gallery a percentage....sort of turning the tables on the long established gallery system.
8. What percentage of your time do you actually spend working in your studio? And what do you spend the rest of your life doing to support that time?
I can work much of the time sketching in Starbucks and I am working walking around a museum but i do put a lot of hours into what I do ...but then I love what i do so its doesn't seem that long. I have to make sure I get exercise and keep healthy and live a life with those I love. Its all balance and its very much like juggling...Ha! If I had the time I would learn to juggle. I work and when it feels right ....I stop ...I rest and read a book, meditate and wake up in the morning ready to go.
9. Who is your audience? Who buys your work? Does your audience consist of one consistent demographic, or different demographics? How have you expanded your audience over time?
I always had this funny thought that of all the people in the world only 1% of 1% would be interested in my work ...and that's still a lot of people. I have found many different kinds of people are my market and its just an unknowable thing ...sometimes they are rich and sometimes my work is the first thing they buy after being unemployed and getting a job with the first paycheck. People from all walks of life and different ages and cultures. I have shipped work to almost every country on Earth ...well a lot of countries. The demographic changes and is in constant flux. Some people buy my work as an investment and others to put on a wall and others buy it as a tax shelter or because they want to build a collection and sometimes its the first piece of art they have ever bought. Everyday someone who has never seen my work sees it for the first time. My demographic is the Planet Earth ....but I am looking to expand.
10. How do you market your work?
First I make what I love and hope someone else loves it too ...then by making editions this allows me to work with many galleries rather than just one...I try and choose galleries by region and visibility and online presence....I try to choose galleries that are in nice cities and areas that people actually like to visit. I choose galleries based on whether they go to Art Fairs and if they take my work to art fairs as these fairs like the "Affordable Art Fair" are great places to garner new collectors and fast becoming a better model for selling art than traditional galleries or online galleries. I push myself to work with social media and that can be just as good as having a physical gallery. I work at other forms of getting my work out by working with magazines and online magazines and doing interviews whether its with Vogue or a student... just like this one. Every opportunity is a opportunity so I do as much as I can in that way. There are benefit shows and group shows and keeping contact with other artists and even galleries I don’t show with.
A few years ago I started working with a manager Belinda Chun of Gallery House in Toronto http://galleryhouse.ca/ and that enabled me to increase my ability to make work and leave much of the management to her and also have a permanent space for my work. This is a new system of selling art as now I can work with my manager to work with multiple galleries and even change to the flow of payment as I spoke of earlier and has worked out so well we that I believe this will become a growing business model for many artists once they realize the potential ...not just for artists working with managers but for artists and others becoming managers of other artists in a form of collective.. For many years galleries sold artists work and paid the artist 50% when they chose to pay them ...sometimes it took years. Now with a full time manager I can bargain with galleries to pay for the managerial service from their 50% and also sell work directly myself with carefully worked out contracts and work out regions for each gallery to sell too. If I have a solo show with a gallery I keep my own collector list and my manager handles many of the sales and then pays a % to the gallery rather than us waiting to be paid by the gallery. With my manager Belinda Chun we changed the nature of how artists work with galleries. Many galleries wont agree to this but since some still stand to make a generous profit from the editions I make then we are in bargaining position to not have to follow the gallery rules but make rules ourselves.
11. What sort of education and/or training have you pursued in your career as an artist? Was it worth it? What were the most valuable things you've taken away from your education or training?
I went to school for Architecture that taught me the basics of design ...instead of designing buildings I designed a life I wanted to live and created a model of how I was going to spend my life working towards the goal of making art as a full time occupation.