I have a couple pieces in my portfolio that might get overlooked as small jobs but really started it all. The trust of these early clients allowed me to build a portfolio at all. When interested artists engage me about painting murals professionally, I tell them all about this part of the process. You’re going to have to lean on friends and family to find opportunities and room to grow as an artist. From there, you make your own future by doing your best work and following through on your commitments.
We all start with residential projects. No one jumps straight to Public Art Murals without ruining some carpets and haggling with homeowners. Of course, look around your house and if you’re lucky enough to own, you have canvases at hand. If not, you’re going to have to work out with your landlord how these walls get restored to white/eggshell when your lease terminates. That can take sanding down and multiple coats, based on your color choices. Besides my fantastic parents, who raised and support this artist, I have two other people to thank.
So, when a coworker at your property management, real estate gig asks you to finish off her totally awesome craftsman, Rose Garden area home with a mural, you take it seriously. Mr. and Mrs. Pennington used awesome, bright colors in throughout their rooms and really handcrafted their craftsman. The orange breakfast nook took my head clean off at first. Coupled with yellow kitchen, it settled down for me after a day or two. With the incorporation of purple into their light fixture sun, I would never think about color the same way again. This made tied their home together. A clean white outline tied the mural into the white trim. The asymmetrical, organic lines were what the client wanted. The light fixture into the center of this was far too creative for me to have conceived this early in my career. This project really helped me feel confident about my own appreciation of color and line. I’m only this cool now because I allowed cool people into my life and to truly inspire me. Guys, this lady did awesome teal in her hair before y’all were on to pink. Trendsetter. And she’s my first paying client. How lucky am I?
Now, there was a time when I didn’t have a construction job and sold hand drawn shoes out of Starbucks. This was an awesome grass roots marketing strategy and I didn’t even know it. I would also take the odd job making balloon animals and face painting in restaurants for tips. This is where the next client entered.
I met this family eating dinner out who had just purchased their dream home. I wore my favorite of my own shoes so I could talk about my Art naturally in conversations at each table. I had cards in each pockets, one for balloon twisting and one for my artwork. They took a chance on this artist, who used her side job to talk about her aspirations.
The parents’ first concerns were making their boys feel at home. We signed a Time and Materials Contract, because I honestly had no idea how long it would take. After working in construction, I love a good contract and it feels really professional for those who have and haven’t used artists around their home. I was to copy a Beatles’ album cover with little customizations. We agreed on my hourly rate and the project began acquiring add-ons, such as the record. As happy clients, they kept me working around their house for a few more weeks. Unfortunately, there was no way to photograph this straight on, but I swear that record is circular and that album is rectangular. I executed this in less them than imagined. My father, an avid Beatles’ maniac, was so proud of my work, he became one of my best promoters.
A couple jobs really change the scope of your possibilities. Chaboya Middle School allowed me to use function and Montgomery Elementary School really changed the how I viewed my role in the Community. Falafel’s Drive In changed my artistic voice.
Without these early clients, however, those other opportunities aren’t possible. Love up your clients. Allow them to inspire you. Enjoy their friendship long after.