The art of reconciling creativity and business

Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specializing in lead generation and content marketing.

OPINION: In the past, there was a choice. Be creative and poor or choose something else. (Except of course, for the privileged few who miraculously managed to make money). I’m incredibly grateful that we now live in a world where pursuing a life as an artist or creator, while being able to support yourself, is now a very viable idea.

I think you still have to really believe in the importance of leaving space for your creative and artistic life if you want to succeed in making a career out of it, but that’s not enough. While in some ways it’s never been easier to get your name out there and work in front of your ideal audience, in other ways there’s so much marketing and branding to do, as well as all that boring stuff.

Earlier this year, I worked with artist Greg Straight and his wife Hannah on his marketing strategy. There’s always something fun about working with a small business owner who works in a company focused on their creative talents. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed working with Straight has been seeing how he’s managed to build a business that blends his passion for fine art with his work in the commercial space and the art space. accessible art (meaning at a lower cost). I was thrilled when he agreed to be on the MAP IT Marketing podcast

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Even if his name may not be familiar to you, his art probably is. In addition to the fine art prints he sells online and from his studio in Birkenhead, Auckland, Straight is a much sought-after commercial artist who has created artwork for a wide range of well-known brands and international companies. . You may have seen his work on tote bags, reusable coffee mugs, drink labels, billboards, and magazine covers. I was thrilled to find that my two favorite coffee mugs in our kitchen had his designs on them. (They have always been my favorite).

Straight started his career as a graphic designer, which created an income, but it wasn’t a career he particularly enjoyed. “I always thought I wouldn’t go into graphic design. I wanted to be a painter, but I turned to graphic design because I needed a job. And then it turned into 20 odd years of graphic design. It’s only really been eight years since I’ve been able to focus more on creating artwork and commercial illustration.

Straight’s journey into freelancing and working on his art began with work created in snatched moments when his daughter was young. “I decided to create art and started drawing when she was sleeping. I was trying to do something more creative for myself, like a personal project. I created art prints , I sold some to friends and worked out how to frame them, and then a few galleries got interested and it grew from there, sort of organically.

Part of her success has been balancing her need to explore her artistic curiosity and pragmatically work on projects that will pay the bills. At first this often meant taking on whatever paid off, but as he developed an enviable reputation and catalog of work for campaigns, installations and corporate design, Straight was able to work on larger projects that are particularly suited to his style.

With all the artists I’ve worked with or interviewed over the years, having a pragmatic view of their work has been key to growth. Sometimes that means a heavy focus on low-cost prints, or for others it’s spent a large portion of their week working on commercial projects. If you’re an artist, focusing on commercial work can sometimes feel like a step away from your own art, a feeling that Straight can relate to. He explains, “I used to think the word was commercial, commercial art or commercial music, like stuff on the radio you heard you really didn’t like. I like alternative music and punk rock. I didn’t want to be commissioned and just wanted to do what everyone else was doing. But people say my job is commercial. And I now think that’s a positive thing because I have a product that I can sell. I don’t want to be an artist who has canvas after canvas in his garage that no one sees or really appreciates.

Part of that change was in Straight trying to find the balance between his art and the support of his family. “If you want to make a living and support your family, you have to market what you do. It can be different products or working with different people. If you’re going to do it and want to sell it, you have to ask yourself if it’s going to make money. And being a commercial artist turned out to be a good thing because either I do that or I try to get a job doing something else, but I’m not good at anything else.

I'm incredibly grateful that we now live in a world where pursuing a life as an artist or creator, while being able to support yourself, is now a very viable idea, says marketing strategist Rachel Klaver.

Provided

I’m incredibly grateful that we now live in a world where pursuing a life as an artist or creator, while being able to support yourself, is now a very viable idea, says marketing strategist Rachel Klaver.

Straight recently collaborated with Blunt to create an umbrella, a collaboration he particularly enjoyed.

“It was one of my favorite projects because the team allowed me to create something myself and wanted few changes to the completed work. It was nice to be able to take on projects that allowed me to working with my own style, rather than having to follow tight specifications, now I’ve become more established,” he explained.

In addition to commercial work, Straight sells prints which has allowed it to create an income stream that is not so dependent on contract work. “If you have a product that you’re proud of and enjoy making and then selling it, you can sell art while you sleep. I have been able to send my work overseas and some people come back for more. Having both income options has been very good for us and for the company. »

For Straight, the chance to share his perspective on Kiwi summers, beaches, birds and life has been a huge joy. “We used to have a pop-up motorhome when we were kids, whether we took it to Shipwreck Bay near Ahipara, or all the way to New Plymouth, everywhere. My art draws on my childhood memories in New Zealand. All of these simple things are part of a simpler life. That’s what I try to capture in my work.

Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specializing in lead generation and content marketing. She owns Identity Marketing, which works with businesses to create the strategy they need to better tell their story to the right people. Listen to his weekly MAP IT Marketing podcast – created to help small business owners learn more about marketing.

Identify Marketing is a content partner with Stuff for specialized small business information. Find Rachel’s events here.

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