Back in the fall of last year, I met talented Nashville artist Brad Blackman at a local conference. I discovered that he’s a graphic designer, blogger, painter, and a parent. He was also born deaf and wears hearing aids (more on how this impacted his art later in the post).
Since then, we’ve run into each other a few other times at workshops around town and keep up with each other on social media. I’m blown away at the intention and passion he puts towards so many areas of his life. His constant pursuit for knowledge and connection is truly inspiring, so be sure to read our interview below!
1. Both family and art seem to be extremely important to you. How do you prioritize your schedule to include quality time for both on a consistent basis, especially while working a day job?
It takes a lot of planning and commitment to make things happen instead of letting things happen. We have a big dry-erase calendar on the wall where everyone can see it. My wife and I regularly sit down at the kitchen table after the kids have gone to bed and we go over calendars and make sure we are in sync with each other. I’ve learned you have to treat your family like a business, and in a sense it really is a business. There is money to be made and spent and projects that need to be accomplished and moved along and things to communicate about.
One thing I try to do is go on a date with each member of the family each month. A lot of months it is a struggle to get one-on-one time with each person but you have to schedule it and make it a priority. Since there are five of us, I shoot for a special on-on-one outing with one kid a week, then my wife and I get a date, and then we might have a big family outing if there is a fifth weekend that month. Sometimes the schedules get so busy that you have to do a one-on-one date Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And it’s different for each child. A few weeks ago I took my daughter to the Daddy-Daughter Night at Chick-fil-A and they had the Disney Princesses there. CFA isn’t exactly fine dining but they make it special. Afterward we went to Starbucks and my daughter got a hot chocolate. My daughter (8) is still talking about it.
The boys are usually content to go to the park and climb on stuff, or go to Adventure Science Center. As a family, we might go to Cheekwood for the evening. The tree houses exhibit last summer was amazing.
2. How did you get into painting? WHY do you paint?
Around the time my family discovered I couldn’t hear, I learned how to express myself visually by drawing. When I was about 2 years old, I was getting fitted for hearing aids at Bill Wilkerson. While we were in the waiting room, my mother gave me a piece of paper to draw on. There was a toy fish nearby, so I drew the fish. My family was amazed that not only did I draw a decent likeness of the fish, I gave it an expression, a personality.
I spent the next dozen or so years drawing cartoons. I thought for a long time I’d become a cartoonist or comic book artist. But when I took Painting I for my graphic design major in college I fell in love with the physicality of paint and the way it goes down on the canvas.
As for why I paint, that gets more complicated. Part of it is it is just how I make sense of the world and myself. I paint more than what I see and try to paint some spiritual aspect of it. Or I try to paint a mood or a feeling or a song. The number one thing I want to do is move people.
3. You’re pretty involved in the Nashville art scene. How has networking impacted your creativity?
I’ve been able to learn from some pretty fantastic people. It’s imperative to surround yourself with like-minded people who encourage you and make you think more clearly. Since I’m not around creatives all day it has a tremendous impact on my ability to keep going. Sometimes all you need is that “Good job!” from someone else who is doing the same thing.
4. What marketing efforts have you found to be most effective for selling your artwork?
Putting works-in-progress on Instagram with a dollar amount and asking people if they want to buy it seems to be most effective right now. It sounds so simple, but I grew up not asking for things, so I have to make myself ask people for money for my art.
5. Do you have any pricing tips for other artists who are starting to share their work online and trying to make money?
Pricing is the big bugbear for all creative work! It’s hard to price things because you’ve poured an important part of yourself into this thing you’ve made. But the things I can say is to look around and see how similar works are priced. Similar sizes, similar mediums, similar subject matter, similar career stages. From there you can start to get a grasp on how much to charge for your work. Right now I’m doing a bunch of work at the same size so everything is the same price. If something is particularly spectacular I might charge more for it. There are no hard and fast rules.
That said, I tend to price by the linear inch. Add width and height and multiply that by a set multiplier. I find this helpful since prices don’t change exponentially based on size.
6. Do you have any favorite podcasts or books that you turn to for inspiration and motivation?
Some books I keep returning to are The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield, Cory Huff’s How to Sell Your Art Online, I’d Rather Be in the Studio by Alyson Stanfield, and The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. A book I re-read every now and then is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s not about Zen Buddhism, or motorcycles, or art, but it is about life and dealing with people who are different from you. And the quest for truth and that elusive thing called Quality.
As for podcasts, I enjoy Cory Huff’s podcast The Abundant Artist, as well as Jeff Goins’ The Portfolio Life which is about building a body of work both in your creative output and your every day life. Art NXT Level with Sergio Gomez and Art Biz Podcast by Alyson Stanfield give some practical art-business advice. Artsy has a great podcast that keeps you up to date with the big money art world, and Stuff You Should Know is fun to have on in the background. I’ve long enjoyed Michael Hyatt’s podcast, but it is currently on hiatus.
Be sure to follow Brad over on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. (Brad recently wiped out his website in a freak incident, but I’ll update this post with a link once it is up and running again.) Do yourself a favor and check out his work!