BLOG*November 7, 2012

Drew and Maria Brophy are a team. I met them both at the Find Art Gallery in Newport Beach, CA two years ago and have since then enjoyed tuning into their lives of adventure and creativity.

Drew has been “making things look cool since 1971.” He has made his mark as a creative designer, illustrator and painter. An Avid surfer and adventurist he imbues his art with the natural world. Check out his site here.

Maria is also a force of nature as a licensing/marketing consultant, art agent (to Drew), wife, and devoted mother to their son Dylan. She helps “creative people design the career and lifestyle of their dreams…” Her amazing blog is filled with insightful and educational information.

They have been traveling around the US recently fulfilling art commissions and speaking engagements. They were kind enough to answer some questions about their empowered artful lifestyle. Maria will be speaking at my Artist As Brand Workshop at Kendall College of Art and Design this weekend.

©Drew Brophy

Greg: Drew, you have been a professional surf lifestyle artist for over 25 years. On your website it says, “Its my job to make things look cool.” What does cool mean to you?

Drew: Though everything I paint is in my own artistic style, I listen to the client and discuss who they are trying to reach with the art. And the art is not necessarily what I think is going to look cool, but what their target market thinks is cool.

What I would paint for a company trying to reach 10-14 year old boys would be different than for women age 20-30. It’s my job to listen, and make a design for a product that a specific target group of people is going to think is cool!

G: Why do you love what you do?

D: Every day I get to watch a customer light up because my art has reached them in some way. That never gets old!

And, I love that I get to work with my wife and have been able to walk my son to school every day of his life.

Greg: Maria, tell me about how/why you decided to rep Drew.

Maria: When we met in 1996 I saw great potential in Drew. At the time I was very successful, yet bored, working in the corporate world. Drew was 25 and was a full-time artist, but I could see bigger things for him. I started helping him with PR and growing his business.

I found that I loved the business of art, and so eventually quit my corporate job and joined Drew full time.

G: You share a tremendous amount of your marketing knowledge with others on your website You also offer one on one consulting services. Why do you love what you do?

M: I feel like I’m unlocking the key to a great mystery with each challenge in the business of art. It’s exciting, trying different things, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Once I have something figured out, I’m excited to share it with others, and hopefully save them time. I love people, and so I am happy when I can help them.


G: I love people too, and one of the reasons I started presenting the AAB workshops. How would you both define artist empowerment?

D: An empowered artist is confident and has a message or style and isn’t afraid to put it out there.

M: Empowerment is being in control of yourself enough to be able to design your life as you desire. Add the word artist to that and you’ve got an artist who can design their life and career to become one with their art. I love that concept!

G: It has been my experience teaching at colleges that the business of art is neglected. Most higher education teach art making skill sets with an eye on preparing artists for entering the gallery world, or publishing and entertainment industries.What would be your suggestions for artists graduating with this mind set and do you feel it’s sustainable?

M: Art is a business, just like any other profession. A business has to make a profit to keep it’s doors open. As my accountant once said, “If you aren’t making a profit, then what you’ve got is a hobby.” The problem is that business skills are not usually taught in art programs, and it’s certainly not taught at home.

For any artist wishing to have a career in art, rather than a hobby, I suggest that they first understand that business skills are as necessary as art skills. If they don’t have the knowledge, that’s okay, they can learn. All artists in school should take business courses; there are many online classes you can take, books to read, and blogs to learn from.

G:  Can you share a few licensing pointers?

M: To be able to license your artwork, you need to:

1 – Own the copyrights to your artwork
2 – Have a distinctive style, look, or theme
3 – Have a large number of art pieces in a variety of collections
4 – Have artwork that will look great on a variety of products

Anyone interested in licensing their art can learn more about it from my blog.

©Drew Brophy

G: Drew, since you are married to Maria does working a business together present any challenges? Do you always agree with each other when it comes to contracts and projects?

D: We constantly have to discuss the direction of our business and how we want to handle specific projects. And of course, we don’t always agree on everything! There was a time when we argued a lot over issues. Now, after years of working together, we’ve learned to compromise.

One thing we always agree on is this; that we are on the same team. And it feels great to know that I’ve got Maria looking out for me; someone I can trust.

G: What do you find is the most fun and lucrative part of your business: your illustration/art commissions or
your personal projects?

My personal projects are my best work. In the end, they are the most lucrative. I’ve earned more money off of my personal paintings than anything else.

For example, my two most popular images that I’ve made the most money off of in licensing and prints, are PURE JOY and SUNRISE. Both were personal paintings inspired by surfing, painted for myself.

G: Do you feel there is a separation between the two or are they one and the same?

D: It’s always more difficult to listen to a client who wants specific elements in a painting. It’s my job to simplify it as much as I can and try to get to the core of the idea. It’s difficult. I want the end result to look good; it’s my job to drag it out of them what they want, and then convince them that some things they want need to be left out.

I think it’s a true gift of an artist to understand what they are trying to get at. It’s something that’s come naturally to me. And then, it’s so great when a client sees their finished artwork and says “that’s exactly what I had in mind!”

G: Your love of nature is reflected in your art. Tell me more about this connection with the earth.

I love to travel to remote places and I live to surf. When you have an authentic connection like this, it comes through in the art.

G: Maria, tell us about the book you wrote with Tara Reed, “How To Understand Art Licensing Contracts”

M: Imagine this; A large company falls in love with your art and asks if they can license your artwork to print on their products. You are excited, and wow, this is your dream come true! But, now, you are faced with a big, scary Licensing Agreement. You read through it, but don’t understand the implications of agreeing to things like “exclusive” and “sell-off period” and “territories”.

I have seen too many bad contracts in my life. I have seen artists sign their rights away for nothing in return, because they didn’t know what they were signing. I’ve also known of artists who have turned down really great opportunities, because they feared the contract so much.

This is why Tara and I wrote the book; to help artists understand key terms in license agreements and how it all works, so that they can get the best deal for themselves without signing away their life!

G: Yes! Sounds like more empowerment. You are both very generous in giving back and inspiring other artists to excel and succeed. Do you have any last pearls of wisdom?

D: I want people to understand that they are going to be happiest doing the things that they are good at. They will feel confident and respected and that they are contributing to society, and that will bring them joy. The trick is finding the thing that you love and what you’re good at.

I love to surf and travel. And I’m good at creating art and connecting with people. Somehow I’ve been able to put all that together. I wish everyone could so that they could be happy.

M: Enjoy your time working, making steady progress. Savor all the small successes along with the big ones.

And don’t wait for success to feel good. Feel good NOW about what you’re doing!

G: I love the positive and loving vibe. Thank you both for your inspiration and knowledge! You are true spirits of the artful life. 

I encourage everyone to check out Drew and Maria’s sites. Drew has a new product called the Aerial 7 DIY (paint your own) Headphones for artists. Check them out here.