We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Deron Cohen a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Deron, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Have you been able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen? Was it like that from day one? If not, what were some of the major steps and milestones and do you think you could have sped up the process somehow knowing what you know now?
I have somehow scraped up enough money together each month to be able to say I earn a full-time living from my creative work. I am able to do this by diversifying what I do. I wish I could say that I make my living solely from selling paintings and prints, but that hasn’t been the case for me. I have branched out in a few different ways. I started putting my images on all sorts of products from clothing to bedspreads to shoes and these items, along with my prints, help supplement my income. A big portion of my earnings come from teaching others how to express themselves creatively through visual art. I am lucky to have this skill set and am able to share what I know with people of all ages and walks of life. I teach children in schools all over San Diego as well as adults, both individually and in groups. I have worked with people on the autism spectrum and people with physical injuries. In fact, I work with injured military personnel at the Naval Medical Hospital in Balboa Park. One of my private students is a quadriplegic mouth-painter! Making art is healing for everyone, but especially these students with injuries and disabilities. Getting to where I am now has been a 25 year journey. Making the jump into teaching was the best thing I could’ve done. It is difficult to make enough on art, especially when I was just starting out. My first real teaching gig was at an art studio in North Park called The Art Department. I taught there for 10 years and was able to hone my teaching ability and made me a better artist, too. That teaching job led to many others and teaching soon became another main source of income that still allowed me to be creative.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
My art career has been one of the most challenging and rewarding passions of my life. I pursued art from a very young age, and my intention has never wavered. For over 25 years, I have cultivated and exhibited my own art, inspired people of all ages and abilities to find their own creative voices, managed/curated gallery spaces, and designed events that gave people opportunities to make art. While I appreciate creative freedom, I am always looking for ways to improve. In 1997, a colleague and I co-founded Paint Night Group, a loose “dis-organization” of artists. We started as two individuals committed to weekly art making and have grown into a network of nearly 30 artists with a desire for community, mutual support, and honest critique. Over the years, we have brought collaborative art projects to schools, festivals and gallery events in which hundreds of people have participated. Through these associations, my own artwork has evolved. I have continued to explore new ways of applying paint and different oil media. I squirt, spray and splatter my canvases. My paintings are eruptions of organic chaos that I wrangle into form and image with my paintbrush. My themes always touch on the human condition and what it means to be alive. Through my own art and teaching others, I have come to understand that making art is a healing act. We can heal ourselves and others through creative self-expression. My most recent artwork touches on themes of inspiration and the healing act of creation.
: Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
There are two main components of my creative journey: the artwork that I make and the artists that my students become. In both components, my mission is to Inspire. I want to inspire those who view my paintings to pursue their own dreams. I hope to inspire my students to at least continue making art throughout their lives. At most, I would hope to inspire them to become artists themselves who, in turn, will inspire a new generation. It’s a beautiful ripple through time and space.
What can society do to ensure an environment that’s helpful to artists and creatives?
Society can best support artists, creative and a thriving creative ecosystem by actually patronizing local artists! There are many artists out there who are trying to do good things within their communities, but they don’t have financial support. Buy a small piece of original art or a print. You will make someone’s day! Feel-good chemicals are actually released in the brain when looking at a pleasing piece of art and you can completely change the mood of a room, so there are real benefits to owning art.