We caught up with the brilliant and insightful John Pototschnik a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, John thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Are you 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?
I have been a professional artist for 50 years. For the first 10 years I worked as a freelance illustrator with all of the major advertising agencies and designers in Dallas. By 1982, I noticed many name illustrators were leaving the field and turning to fine art. I was tiring of the illustration business by then, so seeing them do it gave me the courage to make the leap also. I thought the switch would be easy, I would just begin painting the things I was most interested in, and charge the same price I was receiving for illustration work. I discovered very quickly that plan was not working. Also, I was being told by galleries I approached that my work looked too illustrative. An artist friend, who had previously left illustration for the fine arts, told me to start painting outside, on location, and that would solve the problem. Immediately, the color and look of the paintings changed. To solve the selling problem, I cut my prices in half…and then in half again…before I began selling just about everything I painted. I also began to do small, very affordable paintings…and a lot of them. I showed my work in outdoor festivals, a couple of local galleries, became active in a Dallas art organization, and did a lot of direct mail advertising. It took seven years to build the fine art business back to where the illustration business was when I left it.
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?
Many people believe that we artists have known from a very young age that we were going to become artists…and that a good deal of our childhood was spent drawing. That’s far from the case with me. I recall having little exposure to the arts while growing up. It wasn’t until college that I had any awareness art could actually be a career. I was born in St. Ives, Cornwall, England at the end of WWII. My mother was a British war bride who brought me to America aboard the Queen Mary. We were reunited with my father in Wichita, KS, where he’d gone upon discharge from the service to set up a home for us. I did draw some as a child but mostly I liked to build things, in particular model cars and airplanes. There was always the sound of fine music playing in our home. This encouraged me to take up an instrument-the trumpet. I played my trumpet in bands beginning in elementary school continuing through high school. It wasn’t until as a junior in college that I became serious about art (drawing and painting). At this time I began to be absorbed in the work of famous illustrators. It was virtually impossible to find comprehensive art instruction in the 1960’s in colleges. Thus, I graduated with very little trained ability. Having gone through the Air Force ROTC program in college, I was assigned to the Space and Missile Systems Organization in El Segundo, CA as an information officer upon graduation. At night I took classes at the Art Center College, studying under David Negron and Sam McKim. Newly married when discharged from the Air Force in 1972, I moved to Dallas where I worked as a freelance illustrator for ten years. Even as a young student in college I was told “you can’t make a living in fine art.” Despite this, in 1982 I made the decision to try. Since that time, I have been blessed with many collectors buying my works, both public and private. In addition I am frequently invited to judge art shows, to teach, and to speak to various art organizations. In 1992, I was awarded the John Steven Jones Fellowship and studied human anatomy under Deane Keller, and painting with Dan Gheno at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. My artistic influences are diverse. They range from the Barbizon painters of Corot, Daubigny and Millet, to the American tonalist, George Inness. It is my belief that all I need to know of the principles of art are to be found in the works of the Masters. My paintings are not flamboyant, not mysterious, not trendy, nor are they shocking. I am interested in depicting the truth about life, as I see it, in a naturalistic way – free of frills and bravado. I enjoy painting simple, common, everyday life and objects as things of beauty and worth. Through continued hard work, I strive to show the dignity and value of the subjects I paint. I hope to give to society paintings that transcend the culture and its ever changing tastes…paintings that speak to the heart. My paintings today depict images of “The America We All Love”. They reflect back to the days of my youth when things seemed simpler, more innocent, less driven, antagonistic, materialistic, and politically motivated.
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
Being able to begin each day with enthusiasm to create…to bring the vision/idea for a painting to fruition…is a great blessing that many working people do not enjoy. As an artist, I’m in a profession that I love, and with every painting there are new challenges, that when resolved, creates great satisfaction. Additionally, I am rewarded every time a painting sells, not only financially but especially because of the positive effect my work has on the people who purchased it. Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to go places, meet people, and enter homes, that never would have happened if it wasn’t for art.
Any insights you can share with us about how you built up your social media presence?
Coming from the advertising world, I’ve always been aware of the importance of promotion. If people are not aware of who we are and the work we do, there is little chance of making a living as a creative person. From the beginning of my professional career as an illustrator, I consistently marketed my work via direct mail. When I switched to fine art, I continued the practice but also produced a monthly newsletter. When social media came on the scene I was slow to enter. Initially, I just had a website, then I added a weekly blog, then a monthly newsletter, then Facebook, then YouTube, and finally Instagram. The life span of an image on Facebook seems to be about three days. The audience has been built on both Facebook and Instagram through posting regularly. I post on each three times a week. Painting images that are posted to Facebook always are accompanied by a short paragraph related to the piece. I have found this to be really important as it makes an immediate connection with the audience, and surprisingly, generates more comments.
- Website: www.pototschnik.com
- Instagram: johnpototschnik
- Facebook: John Pototschnik Fine Art
- Youtube: John Pototschnik