Hi! My name is Mike Bregel, the absent-minded visual wizard behind Subconscious Sketches. I’m a 28 year old dude who lives in the tundra of Minnesota with my gorgeous wife Mary and our baby girl Nyla.
So, I love my current full-time job. I work as an in-house graphic designer (real title is Communications and Marketing Specialist, oofta) that has the honor of making my company and all our affiliates look dang good! But it’s not quite cutting it for me. What truly inspires me is drawing and painting landscapes & crazy abstract worlds, so I created Subconscious Sketches (subsketches.com) to further explore my visual art.
My grand plan is to be able to quit my lovely job and work for myself. With this blog, I am going to document my journey from Graphic Design Employee to Artist Entrepreneur. But wait, it isn’t realistic to try to make selling art into your full time career is it?
Over the last year or two, I have been researching prolific artists and creative business owners. As it turns out, despite what I believed growing up, there is an enormous amount of financially successful artists of many varieties out in the world! There is Sakimi Chan, who is this girl that paints fantasy portraits in Adobe Photoshop and brings in roughly $60,000 a month making digital painting tutorials through a crowdfunding-type website called Patreon. I found an artist named Owen Garratt who draws black and white pencil drawings and has a million dollar art business called The Pencilneck. There is Natasha Wescoat, who has been independently selling her fantasy & pop surrealism art online and making over 6 figures a year since she was 22. She now teaches other artists how to do the same (I have actually been doing some coaching with her; thanks Natasha, you are awesome!).
Do we chalk up these successful artists to being the exception to the rule? Or is there a pattern to their success that any regular creative townsfolk can follow to create an abundant life for themselves? To my surprise, there are a lot of unique kinds of art careers out there, but no clear roadmap. When I was younger I believed that it wasn’t realistic to be a fine artist, so I went to school for graphic design and never really tried to sell my art. I gave up before I even began. Now, as I grimace my way towards 30, I need to begin.
“If you have the urge to create and don’t, you are committing a slow suicide.” – Linzy Arnott
I Need to Do My Own Thing
A couple years ago I thought that what I really wanted to do was be a freelance illustrator. I was craving freedom in a job that had me in chains. Now that I have a great job with a lot of freedom, I realize that what I truly need is to work for myself – to completely do my own thing. I don’t only want freedom, but I want the freedom to personally impact revenue, to establish relationships with a fanbase, to sell a product and not a service, and to provide value to people in an area of my utmost interest. Ok great! Looks like I need to start a business.. But…
Is Visual Art Even a Viable Business?
I emailed Derek Sivers, author, founder and former President of CD Baby, and the guy behind the hilarious viral video featured in his TED talk “How to start a movement,” about this very question; to my surprise, he actually replied and said bluntly that “Art doesn’t solve a problem.” He quotes Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, “Art is useless, by definition.” Derek went on to say:
“When it becomes useful we call it something else. Industrial design, music therapy, etc. Andy Warhol said that’s why he went into commercial art: advertising companies paying him to make art. Now it’s useful art, solving a problem of selling products. (And then we call it advertising, not art.)”
At first that answer seemed quite brutal to me – but it makes sense, after all, successful business’ all solve a problem. One could argue that the reason many fine artists don’t make it is because they don’t act like a business. Now I’m sitting here asking, “how does my fine art, crazy abstract drawings, solve a problem?”
Selling Art Sucks
Artist Ann Rea says that selling art sucks, you shouldn’t try to sell your art but sell your mission through your art. Again, it sounds like my art really needs a purpose, to solve a problem, to offer value to this world. Is solving the problem of beautifully filling a space on someone’s wall a good enough problem?
When I was in college my painting professor Ryuta Nakajima (one of the most influential art professors I’ve ever had!) stressed that we figure out our “concept.” What is our why? What is the meaning or purpose of this painting? I struggled big-time with this. I just liked to draw things that looked cool! I tried to convince myself that I just wanted to be an illustrator so that I could avoid the fine art “concept” thing. Years later I’m finally trying to figure it out. Honestly, I don’t have it completely nailed down. But (yes, I believe in starting sentences with conjunctions!) I’m going to continue to explore, tailor and improve upon my mission/purpose/concept. Therefore, I will write in-depth in one of my next blog posts about what exactly that is; in the meantime you can take a look at my home page and try to catch a glimpse of where my concept is going.
My Goal with Subconscious Sketches
My goal with Subsketches.com is:
- to explore the purpose and mission of my art
- to bring value to younger creatives and help inspire them to do something awesome with their artistic talents
- to get better at writing
- to learn more about quantum physics, the spiritual and the power of our subconscious mind
- to build a business that will support my family and I full time
All in all, I’m starting this as a sort of journal to document my artistic journey and a learning tool for myself. I personally learn better by writing things down, and studies show that the best way to learn something is to teach it. If others can scrape a wee bit of value out of this public smattering of words and decide to come along for the ride, great! Thanks for taking the time.
I will start off with the goal of blogging every two weeks. If you enjoyed this, stay tuned for bi-weekly posts and feel more than welcome to subscribe to my email list below for updates on new artwork coming into my shop, insights on my process and God only knows what else!