“Artist Painters” is not your ordinary painting company. Founded by 38-year-old artist Gene Pellegrene, the Chicago-based firm employs area artists from all creative fields to execute high-quality interior/exterior painting projects for their customers.
The artists earn a decent wage while subtly raising awareness about the benefits of art, one project at a time. As the artists work in a client’s home, they influence people’s perceptions about art and what art can do.
In addition, the artists often feel inspired to create a gift that reflects their experience during the painting project.
According to Pellegrene, “Almost every painting job has a piece of art that is created from that particular experience and given to the customer as a surprise gift.” Previous clients have received paintings, work journals, collages, or furniture.
For example, during one interior painting project, the clients’ four-year-old son charmed Pellegrene with his humor, questions about painting, and love of making art. Although the son said he would like bright yellow walls in his bedroom, his mother had other ideas. So Pellegrene crafted and left behind a small oak art table and stool finished with bright yellow accents.
“The art table was a functional piece that on another level demonstrated a very personal, relationship-based piece of art,” says Pellegrene. “It was an example of the power of art to spawn memories, relationships and appreciation for those relationships.”
Artist Painters embraces the philosophy of the “local living economy” by taking an ethical and socially responsible approach to business and its artists. The goal is to serve the common good in the community, rather than simply focus on increasing profits. Pellegrene hopes the company can remain “small” in its ideology while helping to support as many artists as possible.
“This ideal only works under the conditions with the highest quality of workmanship,” he says. Artist Painters provides free quotes in the Chicagoland area on projects such as interior and exterior walls, murals, deck refinishing, wrought-iron fencing, and more.
To see examples of how artists have enhanced home painting projects, visit Artist Painters on Facebook or their website.
Brian T. O’Rourke is a Chicago artist whose paintings have been sold through Macy’s department stores, to interior designers, and to private collectors throughout the U.S. Now, he is selling some of his best-selling designs on a line of limited-edition handbags and accessories.
The collection of fashion accessories includes work totes, shoulder bags, satchels, clutches, petite wallets, framed wallets, diaper bags, and other styles decorated with an assortment of O’Rourke’s designs. Some designs are subdued and elegant; others are vibrant and wild. Prices range from $95 and $555 and each piece comes with a numbered certificate signed by O’Rourke.
The seven styles in the collection vary greatly in size and shape, but each has luxurious leather accents and soft microfiber-printed designs that are both durable and cleanable. A sublimation process was used to “bake” the art into the fabric or leather. The embedded images are extremely clear and will not fade, crack or peel.
“I’m thrilled at the response that my new line has received,” says O’Rourke. “While I’ve always been proud of my artwork, I’m especially excited about this new venture and the opportunity for people to be able to wear my artwork.”
You don’t have to live in a major metropolis to build a rewarding life as a successful
entrepreneur or supporter of the arts. In small towns and suburbs throughout the U.S., creative entrepreneurs such as John and Valerie Becker are using their knowledge of online marketing to expand the reach of their community-centered arts businesses.
Since opening a custom-framing shop in the small, historic Mississippi River town of Red Wing, Minnesota ten years ago, John and Valerie Becker have continuously tested
different methods of broadening their customer base. They set a goal of developing two additional revenue streams that could carry them through the months when demand for conventional framing slacked off.
While the core of their business remains custom framing, they also use their imaging expertise and two HP Designjet 6200 wide-format printers to produce high-quality visuals, signage, and decorative art for retailers and other local businesses. At one time, John promoted fine-art reproduction services to artists, but quickly recognized that most of the demand for large prints was coming from passionate photography enthusiasts and
local photography studios.
John, who is an avid photographer himself, was more than happy to help local photographers produce great-looking enlargements of their favorite images.
Online Store for Panel Prints
The Beckers’ newest venture, Red Wing Digital, is an online storefront through which they sell Panel Prints. The panel prints give photographers an affordable, attractive, glass-free, frame-free method of displaying large photographs in all of their glory.
John Becker regards Red Wing Digital as a way to serve photographers who can’t come into their shop for face-to-face advice on printmaking and framing. After each
photograph is printed with HP Vivera pigment inks on an HP Designjet Z6100 large-format inkjet printer, it is mounted to an ultra-stiff art board that is backed with a hanging system that makes the panel appear to “float” in front of the wall. The Panel Prints are sturdy, easy-to-care-for and create a pleasing drop-shadow effect on the wall.
Because Panel Prints cost far less than traditional framing and glazing, they provide a cost-effective way for photographers to display their favorite images.
The Panel Prints have also proven to be popular with restaurant owners who want to “localize their décor” by showcasing images from area photographers. Because no glass is
involved, there is less risk of injury to restaurant patrons if the print should happen to get knocked off the wall.
John and Valerie Becker came up with the panel-print idea more than two years ago when they got involved in the photography competition sponsored by a local radio station. Red
Wing Digital was asked to come up with a way to display the winning images in the radio station’s offices. The display product they designed was a big hit—both with photographers and radio-station visitors.
For the past two years, Red Wing Digital has experimented with different combinations of
materials to workflows to ensure that when they started accepting online orders for Panel Prints they would be able to efficiently produce and deliver a quality product.
Becker, who is an active member of the 100-member RedWingPhotographyClub, turned to fellow members of the club for feedback. He says, “They were very supportive in helping us develop the Panel Print before we launched the online storefront. It has been like having a
private test audience.”
“Anybody who can take a digital photo can have it made into a Panel Print,” Becker emphasizes. The workflow he developed includes ways to enlarge images from consumer-grade cameras without visual compromise. If any quality issues do arise, Becker will reach out to the customer to figure out ways to resolve them.
Red Wing Digital plans to develop other types of photography-display products that can be
ordered either in their framing shop or through their new online store.
John Becker credits his knowledge of SEO (search-engine optimization) for helping Red Wing Framing get a call from the producers of the PBS show Home Time. Red Wing gladly supplied images that were used during a townhouse-remodeling project on the show. Every time the show is rebroadcast in syndication, Red Wing gets an influx of new business.
Support for Grapefruit Moon Gallery
While knowledge of online marketing is important, the Beckers also welcome the chance to host live events for their many friends who share their passion for the visual arts.
Last year, the gallery at Red Wing Framing showcased some of the vintage illustration art in the collection of Dan Murphy. Murphy, who achieved national fame as the founder
of the band Soul Asylum, now operates the online gallery Grapefruit Moon which
specializes in original paintings, photographs, and prints from the “Grand Age
of American Illustration.”
The Grapefruit Moon collection includes pin-up and glamour art, vintage advertising art, and pulp and men’s magazine cover designs. When some of the pulp-magazine cover prints were shown at Red Wing’s gallery, the event was featured on two Minneapolis TV stations.
“Despite all the technology that’s out there,” says Becker. “Business still boils down to people doing business with other people. It’s all about relationships.”
Becker adds: “Creating an online creative business has been a challenge and a significant
investment. But it has allowed us lifestyle choices that are important to us, such as living close to family and friends and living in a remarkably beautiful and uncrowded part of the
country. But if you are determined to make it work and you have that entrepreneurial ‘fire in your belly’, it is possible. Work with experts, listen to your customers, learn from your mistakes, don’t be afraid of mistakes and provide a unique and quality product.”