Garry Perrone | http://www.perronestudio.com
Art biography and story
I am Gary Perrone. I am an artist who dedicates his life to creativity each and every day. I am a painter. I sculpt and carve. I draw, sketch and depict things and ideas. I am a graphic designer and an abstract thinker. I have been a professional art director and graphic designer for thirty years of my life. That began in New York City and has extended my range to Dallas, where I work and have lived for decades.
Although I attended "art school" at the University of Hartford I cannot say I figured out what my art was at that time. I learned about art from the past. I learned about other peoples' art. I focused on being a graphic designer and how to be an art director. That carried me a very long way. Occasionally my work has won an award, or been lauded in some way, but I am not a well-known person in my field. I suppose that is because there is a part of my psyche that sees the banality of advertising. It was very difficult to realize the industry I held as an ideal and based a career upon I no longer felt was worthy of my devotion. It became necessary to create something original from my mind that had nothing to do with any pre-conceived notion and had no external influences of any kind.
Sometime around 1999 I began experimenting with my own art. My paintings evolved from my desire to create a visualization of thought. I began painting my stream-of-consciousness in row upon row of overlapping and seemingly infinite brushstrokes. Painting like this gave me a new perspective on color and discipline. I was able to apply the aspects of art direction and design that were relevant to it and that I most appreciate. And so, I have continued to expound on my original idea and develop what I believe is an exciting body of work.
Since 2005 I exhibited many of my paintings in and around Dallas, and in many cases, sold my work, which was just about the greatest thing I have experienced. The demands of life and my full-time career, however, made it nearly impossible to maintain the production schedule needed to build back up a suitable body of work. I stayed in my career for another decade.
In the spring of 2017 I took a stand.
I wanted to paint. I needed time. I needed solitude. I knew no employer would ever give me that. I took the leap – quit my position, save one freelance design project I had already in the works. It was terrifying. I had been going to an office to work forever – and getting a paycheck. Suddenly I was on my own. I have had to be very resourceful and thoughtful in the way I approach my daily life. My art is back on track and I can see the completion of a painting that is very important to me as an artist. I made many sacrifices over the past year to prepare for this creative time. Simply allowing myself to go forward with this idea was like plunging into an abyss and now it has become my personal mission to live the rest of my days as a working fine artist. The next weeks will be spent rounding out my latest body of paintings. This fall I hope to exhibit new paintings online as well as at a physical location. After several weeks of painting, I will turn my attention to carving and graphic projects.
Can you live from your art? Do you consider yourself already a professional artist?
Yes but modestly. Until I have developed a suitable body of work to sell, my time will be dedicated to producing. I am spending many hours in the studio now, with a self-imposed deadline of this October. My goal is to have ten paintings done. Financially, I have chosen to live frugally and focus my resources on painting during this time. The alternative was to stay in my job and try to complete the body of work in my spare time. I made this decision for my art, and most of all for my happiness.
What steps did you take to generate income with your art? And what was the most important one, your breakthrough?
The biggest step towards generating income was the creation of my website, perronestudio.com. It was a breakthrough for me because it was created by me, exactly as I had envisioned. I have always believed my art sells itself. It was very important to me to have a site that properly conveyed my attitude and level of quality. I want my site to be a visual tracking of my career as an artist. I want to show the world all the different aspects of my creativity and offer ways to bring the beauty I create into your life. The art is the product, however and the most important step is creating it.
What steps do you plan to take to become a professional artist able to live from art? And how do you plan to grow and achieve new goals?
As I complete a set of new paintings for this fall I will be contacting many people whom I know both professionally and socially. Some of those people have purchased art from me and others are simply people who have expressed an interest in my art. My reason for contacting them is to get me to top of mind and open the lines of discussion that could lead to opportunities. Once completed, the new paintings will be professionally photographed for use on the website and in promotional material. I will continue posting blog entries relevant to my art and call out ideas and things that inspire me. In this manner, and along with other methods (social media) I hope to generate a following that will lead to an intent to purchase my artistic creations. In the past I have proven my paintings are commercially viable with the sale of many of the largest and more expensive pieces. I believe that will be true again in the near future. I find it is helpful to have a physical location where people congregate. In this way, they can spend time around the art, which also leads to sales. I will be working to find such a location.
Physical portfolios are very important and I plan to create one that will be sent out to selected galleries, juried exhibition opportunities, etc. In addition to my paintings, I am currently developing projects in my other areas of interest. For example, a graphic art project that is underway as well as planned stone carvings have the potential to generate income. And of course, freelance design and art direction projects continue to arise from time-to-time.
Gary, what are the biggest dangers/threats/challenges on the way to become a professional artist, able to live from art? What can others learn from your experience?
The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that being an artist is not considered a serious occupation. People nowadays do not go to college to be painters and sculptors. The establishment does not understand artists, nor does it encourage them. I have found that the odds are stacked against the artist. There is no salary. There is no health insurance. There is no retirement package. All the things it could be said lead one to the American dream do not apply to the artist. The artist will be on his own.
If the artist is not independently wealthy he or she will have to take on other occupations in order to survive until the time comes when the artist has created a body of commercially-viable art. This could take years. It may never happen. I myself found it very difficult to ditch my well-paid career – that is until my art became more important to me. Of course, there are people who have made a big, splashy success of their artistic efforts. They are uncommon. They are elite. The rest of us strive in obscurity hoping for a glimpse of that kind of success. I think it is interesting to note today's society would encourage one to be creative before being an artist. Being creative and being an artist are two different things. For me, being an artist means standing in front of a large canvas with a very small brush for many hours at a time. I already had the idea, now it is time to execute the idea. It means sacrificing food, relationships, careers and sunny days to stay in the studio and paint. I can be creative anytime, anyplace. I have had many of my best creative thought processes and ideas while out riding my bicycle.
What are the most effective tools and/or services, to promote/market yourself? Which ones helped you and which ones were a waste of time?
As an artist, I am the most effective promotion. As a veteran of the advertising and marketing profession I cannot say any promotional effort would be a waste of time. I might be more prudent regarding spending large amounts of money on certain ad placements, but I feel all promotion efforts are valid. Among the more effective tools, social media, email kits like Constant Contact, a robust and engaging website, mail pieces, event listings and word-of-mouth. My most successful show was one I produced myself several years ago. Through my own concentrated efforts, I located and secured a site (a great coffee shop/hangout in Dallas' Victory Park), hung nearly a dozen paintings, and invited people. Opening night was awesome. Over the next few weeks six of the paintings were sold. I have had less successful shows as well. It has to do with the location and the type of people who hang out there.
How important do you think is the traditional art-market (galleries, shows, fairs, museums, critics, curators) in becoming a professional artist being able to live from art?
I think it is somewhat important, only from the standpoint that some people need that kind of support structure. It is not conducive to being an artist to deal with 40% commissions. I understand the function a gallery provides to both its clients and artists. I also think the gallery has its own best interests at heart. It seems to me, many galleries only show a particular kind of art. I am not saying this is good or bad, just lacking diversity. Also, it is notoriously difficult, as an artist, to get in a gallery. If an artist wants to pursue this course, then it is important to enter juried exhibitions, attend fairs, etc., if only to establish one's level of commitment. I will enter my work in certain venues. Getting work accepted in one can bolster one's self esteem.
How important is online/social-media, e-commerce etc. in becoming a career artist, and why do you think that?
My art is for people. I enjoy creating it and living with it, but I am equally happy when other people enjoy it and want to live with it. The art itself creates sociability. Today, our culture permits anyone with access to exhibit and discuss their interests to a vast global audience. People can exchange thought on any topic they conceive. Some are just there and others are there to take full advantage. In any case, there are millions upon millions of lookers and seekers around the world and this is the greatest opportunity to speak to them about my art. In my opinion, ART is at its best when it is the source of discussion. I do not know whether or not the art I am currently making is important to the world. All I can do is show it and talk about it. In that way can I determine what other people have to say about it and about me. As an artist, I must spend a good part of my time in a metaphorical bubble. It is where Gary the Artist can be insulated from judgement, criticism and self-doubt. As a businessperson, I POP the bubble the moment I get online. For me, it is a reality check. I currently maintain a website, which is an anthology of my creative work from the past thirty years. It covers my career as an Art Director as well as my paintings and graphic art. My social network includes, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. The website was a big accomplishment and is ongoing. Last year I posted several entries to a blog I had created. I realized from the responses what an important tool this was. My new website has a blog in which I plan to talk about my art, the art of others and social issues that relate to my art. I feel it is important to engage the audience with narratives that may provide a different perspective.
I do not expect people to understand my art nor do intend to attempt to explain my art. Rather, what I do is find an aspect of life that has a tangent to the art I am creating and expound on that. It seems to me, when I am working on something real there is a lot to talk about. I like the fact that I can get on Facebook and describe an accomplishment or direct attention to something thought-provoking. Then, although briefly, I am "top of mind".
The next phase of my website will be adding ways to purchase my art directly. I feel there is a global audience I can tap into to find potential owners.
Is it possible to live from art only through online art-sales nowadays?
Up to now I have not fully explored the potential of online sales. I do not know anyone who is currently engaged in online art sales. However, I feel it is possible and I intend to try. I have had an online presence for many years. My previous site had links to allow for the purchase of any painting. Several of those paintings were sold, although the owners contacted me directly and any transactions made were not done online. My new website may be a better platform from which to display my artwork. Along with the ongoing blog discussions and continually updated images, I feel it will certainly be engaging. The final piece will be promoting the website/myself. The website will require robust SEO and a plan to attract visitors. Having said that, it is still important to me to show my art in real time, that is on walls in a physical setting. My art has certain surface qualities that appear very different in person.
What advice do you have for artists that aim to make a full-time living from art?
Mainly, the artist must have a great idea. There is a lot of art that looks the same. Being original is a most difficult thing to achieve. Some might say that cannot be done, but it can. It takes real thought and a certain deconstruction of oneself. If an artist has that determination and a passion to spend endless hours in the studio he may succeed. However, unless the artist has the financial means it will be very difficult for he/she to survive. If it takes six months to create ten medium-size paintings for showing, the artist has to be able to meet living expenses for that time period. This is the part I have found most troubling.
In my own experience, any job I have held, whether full or part-time OWNED me. I worked as an Art Director for 30 years. All my paintings were done at night, after work, for about 10 years. I had very little time to manage the promotion of my art, yet I had showings, entered competitions, and carried on. The last position I held for over four years allowed none of that, causing me great frustration. I stashed whatever money I could from my salary and when I had six months of living expenses saved up, I quit that job. It has been a challenging experience for me and it would not have happened were it not for a client I had found last November who requested my art direction skills for her projects. These modest freelance assignments gave me the confidence to move forward with my plan to be an Artist and only partially have they impeded my progress.
Where/How should artists start when they aim to become professionals and build their career? What are/were your first steps?
My career began over 30 years ago as a professional Graphic Designer. I worked my way up through many different companies and ad agencies, under many different Creative Directors and Marketing Directors. I was full-time for most of it and sometimes freelance. My last career position was titled, Senior Art Director.
It can be the same for a fine artist. Equally challenging. For instance, an artist with a particular bent, say, ceramics could go to RISD for a four-year education and art degree. If that artist is GOOD, he/she could potentially become a studio assistant to a commercially-successful artist. Someone like Jeff Koonts, who has a massive studio operation, employing many artists of all types.
The artist would not be creating anything of his/her own, except on his/her own time. If the artist has the drive, he will gain experience from the studio position and, when the time is right, advance to a better position, one perhaps with slightly more creative freedom. Probably not. During this time, the artist must continue to develop his art independently and with drive. He must continue to explore possibilities and seek opportunities. He must always strive to break free and afford his own studio and develop his own clients. Above all, he must make art.
What initial steps should artists definitely avoid, in your experience and opinion?
From my own experience, nothing could be worse than rushing a painting to market. Now, I only will exhibit work I feel is fully completed. Also, I will not attempt to schedule an art show or approach a potential exhibitor before I have a body of work to present. A friend, who works for a local gallery once said to me, you have to have a body of work, ready to sell.
Do you have any advise about Selling art? Or maybe a sales experience you can share?
My best sales experience came about as a result of an exhibit I arranged several years ago. After visiting a coffee house I liked to talk to the owner about cookies, I ended up hanging ten paintings in the shop. In the following two months half of the paintings were sold out of the shop. That location worked well because it was located in an area where many professionals work and live. People had time to be with the paintings. The best days were when the shop called me to say someone was interested in becoming an owner. Likewise, over the past four years I sold several paintings that were displayed on my website. These were not official online sales as the new owners contacted me directly.
The take-away is find places to display your art.
What do you think the people expect from art nowadays? What would they like to see? Do you care?
No. I do not care what people expect to see. I want to show people things they do NOT expect to see. My art is mine. Anyone who does not like it can turn away. Otherwise, I believe my art has a great deal to offer, if one is willing to stop and look. If the art is arresting, it will cause them to stop and look.
I know, from a long career as an art director, that most people do not understand art. They have initial reactions to art that may change as they learn more about the art and themselves. In order for that to happen, it is up to the artist to present his art and ideas.
What is your view on today’s art-world and/or art-market? What would you like to see different? Do you think it’s more easy for artists nowadays?
I think the art world is terribly elitist. It would cost several thousand dollars to buy a quarter-page ad in an art publication, like ARTFORUM, so those channels are out of the question for unknown artists. Galleries take a substantial commission on the artist's work and it is often difficult to get on a gallery's roster, due to capacity. My hope is, with a suitable body of work and assertive promotion I will achieve my success.
Anything else you would like to say to our community of artists and art-lovers worldwide, any final advice?
I am at my happiest right now, being an artist and being ME. My advice to all the artistic souls out there: create as much as you can, as beautifully as you can.