Surviving And Thriving As An Artist
Doing what you love and getting paid to do it—for many creative types finding that right balance can feel like an impossible challenge. For one Charlotte transplant being an artist isn’t just a hobby it’s how he makes a living. So what does it take to be a full time artist and survive?
From the start, 29-year-old Kyle Mosher knew that whatever he did with his life, a typical 9 to 5 job wasn’t going to cut it. For a while he thought hockey was going to be his career—he grew up in Canada and New Hampshire after all.
"It's like playing football in the south," Mosher says.
Moser says he attended Southern New Hampshire University expecting to play hockey there. It never happened. Injuries cut his hockey career short and into the world of art, one his sports driven family wasn’t supportive of.
"I'm playing hockey with some friends and freak accident. I blew out my shoulder...so I was faced with go to Canada or go live in Charlotte with my mom who I hadn't seen in five years," Moser explains.
He wasn't looking forward to the move, but he says it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to him.
He landed in Charlotte about a year and a half ago. He immediately started to network, and from that came working on commissions, then showing in galleries, and now he has a packed studio space in NoDa. He quickly moved out of his mom’s house and now rents a place. He’s been so busy he’s even put off the surgery he moved down here for.
Mosher says his work falls into the pop art genre. His subject matters include hip hop icons and vintage logos. A canvas with a bold Cheerwine logo hangs in his studio, priced at $3,000.
He starts each piece by applying old cut-up newspapers to the canvas, kind of like a collage. The newspaper print he picks for a particular canvas relates in some way to the subject matter of the piece, or the person who commissioned it. What comes next is a combination of screen printing and painting by hand.
Mosher’s figured out a way to be a full-time artist and support himself. It’s a combination of selling his work in galleries, working commissions, and licensing his work.
“Licensing your artwork is huge it allows you to retain the physical piece but then they make multiple copies of it ... then you get royalty checks every month, so it's a great way to subsidize your income," says Mosher.
Mosher says he works with three different companies who bring copies of his work into stores like Marshalls or TJ MAXX. They're less-expensive copies for the masses that range from $10-$15. Mosher says a typical original piece by him sells for about $800.
He enjoys the extra income, but Mosher says licensing can have some drawbacks.
"I come face to face with it almost on a daily basis. Somebody [saying] 'You're a sell out.' Signing a licensing deal is like signing a record deal. You're mass-producing your artwork and getting royalty checks. It’s like a pop hit on the radio," says Mosher.
For some, Mosher says, making your art more accessible makes you less legit as an artist. He thinks the exact opposite—more people take notice of his work because he has more exposure.
Mosher says he’s learned to treat his art like an entrepreneur would a start-up business.
"You have to generate leads, you have to find people who want to buy your art work you have to find licensing deals, you have to find commercial companies who want to use your work for a marketing campaign. You have to do whatever it takes."
And it’s paying off—he’s currently working on a piece for a client that’s selling for $4,500. His most expensive canvas yet. The client is Andrew Ference—a professional hockey player from Canada.
He says he’ll eventually get the surgery he came to Charlotte for. But he doesn’t expect that to be any time soon. After all, he’d have to stop working, and he’s just got too momentum right now.