Visual Artist Entrepreneur Seizing Opportunity

Keep your own mind open to opportunity. You might just find a great blog topic. Or if you are really lucky and truly paying attention, you might just find a fun lucrative side business of your own that will help take the pressure off having your art sales carrying your entire overhead.

1926_Michigan_vs_IllinoisDo you blog? Do you post frequently? If so, where do you get your ideas for topics? I don't have a method for finding topics,most of them find me.

I always try to stay open to opportunity. To do that, I read lots of things completely unrelated to the art business. My previous post about using the Ferrari model of selling limited editions of its $600,000 Enzo model is an example. It provided a spark of an idea that could just as easily be applied to the art print market despite the obvious price differences.

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Besides finding inspiration in odd places, I usually have a few ideas for posts cogitating and rumbling around my brain and my other brain all of the time. Sometimes they are just waiting for the right stimulus to provoke the post. Such is the case today. My friend Mike Geraghty was one of the first to purchase my book. It was through the book and my newsletter that our friendship evolved into mutual admiration. Enough to survive agreeing to disagree about politics.

I have had the idea to write about Mike's intrepid adventure into another facet of the print market for some time. Alyson Stanfield's recent post, which mentioned a NYTimes.com story, Lucrative Art Careers, on her Art Biz Blog lit the fire for today's post. Alyson is having a BIG SALE on her I'd Rather Be In the Studio book with a whole bunch of freebies good only until December 21. Check out the image on the right sidebar for more details.

Mike is an extraordinarily gifted painter. He is an avid sportsman as well. Hailing from the Baltimore area, site of the Triple Crown's famous Preakness, he gravitated to painting thoroughbreds. You can see his work at his www.ipaintchampions.com Web site. Some say faces or hands are the hardest to draw and paint. But, there is plenty of argument for the degree of difficulty in painting horses as being the hardest. Put them in motion if you want to up the ante. However you come down on that debate, there is no denying Mike's obvious talent.

To say Mike is a smart guy is a given. He did after all jump on my book early on. In the book, I talk about unsung artists who have managed to carve out a successful career selling a steady stream of art prints, but outside of the spotlight that shines on such artists as Thomas Kinkade, Wyland, Robert Bateman, et cetera. Mike is that quintessential artist. Turning out the work, finding his own markets and managing nearly every aspect of his business singlehandedly. My hat is off to him for his success and perseverance.

Mike is an artist entrepreneur who keeps an open mind and looks to seize opportunity when he sees it. A few years ago, he encountered Andy Moursund, who owned a bookstore in a nearby Washington DC suburb. As a hobby, Andy had built up a collection of vintage college football posters. He had a developed a sideline business of inexpensively reproducing them for his customers. When the two met, Mike knew what he was looking at…OPPORTUNITY.

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These posters are works of art just as vintage posters are. They may not be of the same quality as a Norman Rockwell Satruday Evening Post cover, but they nevertheless carry great nostalgia and significance, which makes them ripe for the collectible market.

These posters came from a day when illustrators were abundant and worked cheap. It was not huge cost to have original art created for each game poster. Mike and Andy have worked diligently to turn this sideline into a thriving print business. They have secured a professional distribution company and gone about getting proper licensing for each image. This in itself was a huge undertaking. You can see the result of their efforts on their site: www.historicfootballposters.com.

The business continues to grow and I predict it will be a cash cow for them for years to come. When you think about it, it is a near mortal lock type of business. There is a constantly replenished built-in audience of sports fans who love their college football teams — show this work to some of them and they are going to have to own it. What is great is there is no competition. The images are vintage, the licenses from the universities involved is very hard to achieve, so there will be no knockoffs of this art. I wish them good luck, but am convinced they have already earned it.

As another example of seizing this type of opportunity, I have another friend who has secured the artwork for hundreds of garden and flower seed packets, all vintage. I predict he won't do as well as Mike and Andy, but he's got a potential for doing his own licensing and creating a print catalog that still will be timeless.

Keep your own mind open to opportunity. You might just find a great blog topic. Or if you are really lucky and truly paying attention, you might just find a fun lucrative side business of your own that will help take the pressure off having your art sales carrying your entire overhead.

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Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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