BLOG*January 19, 2011

Mel Odom


I am presenting an AAB Workshop at the NYC Society of Illustrators this weekend with a group of talented art professionals and college students. I want to share some of the artist’s BEFORE feelings about the workshop. The amazing Mel Odom, Matthew Wachnicki a recent graduate of SVA,  illustrator Kari Christensen, and FIT student, Ramomar answer some questions about what they expect from this weekend. Next week we will hear the AFTER workshop feedback.

Matthew Wachnicki

The art world is changing all around us at a rapid rate of speed. How do you see these changes affecting you?

Mel: Clearly I have to function within the current art world.  Currently I’m dealing with a gallery in London and working on a toy project that I think would be huge in Japan.  One must now think in an international scope for one thing.  Also new media constantly expands the limits of how art can be used and misused.

Matthew: I hear many scary things about the state of the illustration business today.  Our field is shrinking, paint and canvas are being replaced by a stylus and Cintiq tablet, stock illustration is the devil, and the current economy is making it harder for Art Directors to spend money on illustrations.  I’ve had a very hard time finding work up to this point and I can only assume that all of these factors are contributing to scarce opportunities.

Kari: Digital tools have changed the way I create my work. These tools are helpful but they are also sometimes limited compared to traditional tools. Also there many outlets online for showing work. That is great until I find myself working on social media or fixing my website- when I would rather be painting and improving my work.

Ramomar: The changes I see in the art World is similar to what I see happening to the music industry, you can’t depend on the Record labels anymore, you have to go digital meaning CD sales are down. Most musicians make their money on tours now. It would be same for artists, you can no longer depend on a gallery, you have to put your self on tour to sell yourself. You have to have a online following as well as people you meet that support your work.

Kari Christensen

You are about to embark on the Artist As Brand Workshop this coming weekend. What do you feel the workshop is about and what do you expect from it?

Mel: I’m hoping it’ll give me a better sense of how to function within this new, expanding (exploding) art world.  I’m very good at the creative, right brain part of it all, just not so good at the other side.

Matthew: I learned about this workshop on the Society of Illustrators website and I’m very eager to experience it first hand.  I’m hoping to be able to set specific realistic goals for myself as far as which markets I should be targeting and the ways in which I should be approaching art directors.  Also any advice regarding my painting and the development of an individual look would be extremely helpful.

Kari: I feel like the workshop is about focusing my vision and business plan and I hope to learn how to do that.

Ramomar: I feel the workshop is a great way to listen to someone who had a long run in their art career with the ups and downs they experienced, and how they got out of it so you can prepare yourself for your own ups and downs too.


Do you have any specific goals you feel the workshop will help accomplish?

Mel: Perhaps look at my body of work from a different, broader perspective.  Sometimes seeing one’s self and one’s strengths is difficult.

Kari: Hopefully it will really help the struggle of focusing my vision. The workshop would be worth gold to me if I can discover a path that can bring these different artistic visions together or at least prioritize them in some way.  From there I want to map out a business plan for that vision.

Matthew: I graduated from the School of Visual Arts last May.  Since then the majority of clients I’ve worked with have wanted me to emulate very specific styles and I’ve found myself trying to replicate specific looks (Edward Gorey, Frank Frazetta, etc.)  which don’t necessarily look anything like my ‘normal’ work.  Like most young illustrators I’m very ‘style conscious’ and while I don’t feel that my work has a definitive look or style to it yet I’m confident that I’ll find my true voice eventually.  What I’m really hoping to get out of this workshop is a better idea of how to define myself to potential clients in the mean time.

Were you familiar with Greg Spalenka before the workshop? Why do you believe he is qualified to teach anything?!

Mel: I know of your name and work and I’m just taking a chance in an effort to expand myself.

Matthew: I was first exposed to Greg’s work my freshman year of college while flipping through one of the Spectrum books.  What immediately stood out to me was the vibrancy of the colors.  I also very much enjoy the subtle layering in the work which in some cases reminds me of collage.  I have absolutely no reason to think he wouldn’t be qualified to teach, and the stellar reviews on the artist as brand website seem to back up that assumption.

Kari: I have always enjoyed Spalenka’s illustration work and I have heard from others that he is an inspiring teacher. He has made a career out of a unique mystical and personal vision and that by itself is inspiring to me.

Ramomar: I really didn’t know about Greg Spalenka until my mentor Karen Santry mentioned him and I check out his works and liked them, so it’s good to listen to someone who has long experience selling their artwork.

Did you face resistance from anyone about taking the workshop? Was it a tough decision? Did you confront any of your own fears before committing to it?

Mel: No tough decision, snap decision.

Matthew: There was absolutely no resistance in deciding to take this workshop.  After researching it a bit and reading the reviews on the website it seemed like it would be a great opportunity and I didn’t hesitate.

Kari: The workshop was recommended to me so I felt I would be missing out if I didn’t take it. Now that I have read Greg’s bio online, I realize he knows what I’m thinking about and I could have used this years ago. I am really excited.

Ramomar: I was advised to take this workshop. This would be the first time I took one.

Thank you Mel, Matthew, Kari and Ramomar for your responses! We will see you soon! I will return next week with the AFTER feedback.

To peace, art, prosperity,