26: Defining Your Style(s) with Humm.ngbirdArt

26: Defining Your Style(s) with Humm.ngbirdArt

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

Stephen Brown, more locally known as Humm.ngbirdArt, joins me for a deep conversation about having two main areas of focus in your art business- one that is emotionally rewarding and one that pays the bills.

You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:

A Conversation with Humm.ngbirdArt

Chain Assembly: Hello again everyone and this week I am excited to have on the podcast with me Stephen Brown, locally known as Hummingbird Art. Stephen thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time. 

Humm.ngBird Art: You got it Nick, still a lot man. 

CA: Not much at this point, just kind of prepping to go down to Miami for a week, work on an estate sale. Not looking forward to that because I feel like I got like a million things I got to work on and so I'm trying to shove them.

HBA: Going down to Miami as an artist, I was getting excited. But the state does not sound like. 

CA: Well, yeah, I mean, I went to Art Basel a lot when I was in high school. We'd go every year as like a field trip because I went to an art high school in Miami and it was always a fun time. But yeah, I haven't done it in a long time. 

HBA: I've heard so many mixed reviews that I don't feel like taking a week out of my life and all that money is what I want to do. But some people have had so much success down there. But It's like it's like a gamble. So I do you want to go to the art casino? 

CA: Yeah. Well, I never went down there as an artist. I only ever went down there as a, I guess, a high school student tourist, you could say. 

HBA: Yeah. 

CA: Lots of underage drinking happens at Art Basel. Because, you know, it's so busy. No one has time to check if you're old enough to drink wine. So as long as you have a nice shirt on. 

HBA: Right. 

CA: For all the listeners who want that, go have very bad wine, you know, without your ID. So this is actually the first time I've ever met Steven, ever met. Do you prefer to be go by Steven or Hummingbird Art? 

HBA: I go by Hummingbird in the art spaces. Obviously, my name is Steven and on Instagram I have both going. Instagram wants to know that you're a real human being and not, which I don't like. I wish they would just take your business name, run with it, but it wants to know your real name. So my real name is Stephen Brown. I've been going by that as an artist for years. And about two years ago, I made the change just to go by Hummingbird and introduce myself as Hummingbird in art spaces. If I'm at Publix or something, I'm not going to say how many is Hummingbird. But I do try to say, hey, I'm Hummingbird. Nice to meet you. And that builds a brand, builds a identity. And all I paint is really hummingbirds for the most part anyway. So the whole thing is trying to become a universe, you know? 

CA: So, yeah, like I was saying, this is the first time I've ever spoke to you in person. We both did the art crawl two weeks ago, and I was there alone, so I didn't really have time to walk around. But when I did finish setting up, I did walk around, talk to a few artists about the podcast. You weren't at your booth or your car, I guess. When I was there when I was walking around but Ash came up to me who I know from the Tampa Bay Society photographic arts meetings every month and she handed me her card and said that I need to have you on and So in the meantime between then and now Turns out you used to live like two blocks from me in the Kenwood neighborhood. I believe and now you're-

HBA: Yeah, towards Jungle Prada with all the peacocks. And it's just, the suburbs are so nice for what they are. I've lived downtown quote unquote for a while and having a backyard is just nice. It's just been nice to like have space and a porch and a place to park my cars. All those things are really nice as much as I love it. A good downtown tiny little studio apartment, having a backyard and a place with my cat actually enjoys living is it's where I want to be at the moment. 

CA: So it's just weird that we never crossed paths before now. But I know I've always seen your name listed at like Mize exhibits and stuff like that. 

HBA: Mm hmm. Yeah. Me, I try my best to get out to the things. I really like the way St. Pete has something going on every single week, art wise. However, I don't think I should be a part of each thing. I have friends who go to two events, they have art in, they're making art for three different specific art gallery shows a month. And it's just, it's a lot of work to like get out of your comfort zone so much. I kind of want to be in my comfort zone, which is where I make the best art. You know, when Chad Mize has, you know, they're doing, he's doing flowers of, you know, of Florida. That's not my thing. But he was doing, like a dark portrait series. I was like, oh, that's my thing. You know, so I really like being in the right things for my art and maybe your things and my things were not in the right spots. 

CA: No, I get that. I get that. I mean, I also like I, I don't really. I mean, this is something that comes up a lot on the podcast is I always feel like do I need the traditional art world's validation for me? I don't feel like I do, but then I still try and chase it like a jilted lover, you know, so it doesn't. But so like that being said, they're like, it's like a mother's love. It's like, I don't need it. But once they're like, oh, yes, yes, absolutely, absolutely. It is absolutely not the source of my income is local shit. Local markets, vending at local events absolutely is. But local art museums, local galleries, it's like it's never been worth the effort I put in financially. And I don't know how to calculate emotional reward. So that's I guess my problem. 

HBA: Yeah. So like there are certain a lot of them are just hangouts for artists, you know, like I'll go to shows. I'll have a piece hanging in the show. I get free entry, which is better than ten dollars or fifteen dollars for some of them. They go, OK. And then I was hanging out with artists and drinking beer and just like, all right, this was like we all could have just made this an email and all hung out at a brewery. But we're all just there. It's nice to show off, you're gonna call people and I'll tell them the story. But the, the selling aspect is not like, like a market where people come in and you can sell a $10 piece. I'm like, this is my $600 three foot by three foot painting. And it's like, it's a hard sell. So it's, it's a really nice way to hang out and be a part of the art scene. But to take up a whole Saturday night, you know, I'd really like to make a little bit of money if I'm doing such a thing or do something a little bit more grandiose than try it than talking my goods to people. You know, I'd rather I'd rather just like go to an art show and just hang out instead of having that anxiety. Oh, I go, God, I want to sell my piece. 

CA: Yeah. No, that that's a good way to think of it is like not thinking of it as a selling environment, just thinking of it as a social environment, which maybe sounds like a failure of the go hang up my phone. I'm sorry. I think that maybe makes it sound like like it's a failure of the venue then- if it is a hangout environment, not a selling environment. But I don't know. 

HBA: Well, the I am calling in probably six months, but when you're hanging in a in a gallery setting where people come and they quietly move from piece to piece, I think that the pieces that really strike people, the artists are going to know that it's going to strike people and the price is going to be there. And I think it's a really good date idea to go to an art show. I think it's a really good way to interact with the community that builds the things you love. I mean, I've met so many artists that I admired and they're just hanging out there. And I get to go up and be like, huge fan, love what you did here. I love the, you know, like, it's just wonderful way of churning the art scene, but it's not growing the art scene really because it's I can't say for every gallery show because some of them feel like a forward momentum uh Chad Mize just did because he has space now uh the last one I went to was his uh say gay or that was the last one but he went he did a uh a large day exhibit which is say gay and that one was powerful that was like in June I think holy crap I was every single piece was powerful and full of hatred for the Santas and love for the community and admiration for the people who came before us and what we can do in the future. It just that one hit. But sometimes they're just like, oh, it's the Neem is butterflies. And I'm like, all right, this is nice. But you know, just didn't have that like punch where you're like, I went to that. I went to this really cool thing. You know, a lot of it just goes on every month. Once a month there is an art show that people go to. And then another question you have to think too is does powerful translate to sales? Like in my case, maybe not so much, I don't know. Uh, well, making art is not easy. Coming up with the art ideas is, in my opinion, pretty easy. Everyone can think of, oh, this would be a really cool painting or, you know, like see somebody else's take on a classic piece. Like, what would I take beyond this classic piece? Those are easy to make art. To make the art that sells, I feel like is super easy to make art. So when I make art, I'm like, okay, this thing is like really pretty. And I think it's really nice, but there's, it has to be a certain weirdo that wants to have it. When you're making something that is very consumable, I feel like it tastes less out of you to make a consumable piece of art. And when people are making that less consumable piece that is for them personally, or for the exact weirdo who's walking past, those are the ones that strike people and stop them. I keep on bringing back to Chad Mize, but he did one that was... One of his galleries was, you take an old piece that you love that no one bought and then reimagine it and he hung both at the same time, which is a great idea. So I did that. I had one that I hung for him in like a, it was like a portrait thing he wanted to do. He had a portrait that never sold. I loved it. I kept on knocking money off of it every single time I brought it out of the room where no one bought it. So I re-imagined it and put them both for dirt cheap. And it was my just like, fuck it. I just want to get rid of them. They both, one of them sold the new one that I'd made for it sold, but it was, it was nice to see every artist like, I love this piece, but no one buys it. Pieces, you know, you get to go and love you like, wow, like, what was the reason why it didn't sell? Was it too? A lot of them were too weird. A lot of them were, you know, had a controversial thing on it. But some I'm just thinking, like, probably just price this like a crazy person. You're just like, thousand dollars. You're like, dude, this is a goodwill frame that you bought. 

CA: Well, it's a good thing you bring up - the question about whether or not and why things don't sell. Like it's fascinating to like. So I do every now and then I will do some like woodblock prints with oil based ink, and then I watercolor each print differently because I can't decide on the colors. But I've noticed that if I am proud of the color arrangement I've done on one of the prints, I think it's got nice harmony to it. It feels like a good, solid idea with the color wheel, I guess, whatever, whatever colors I've added to it. If I'm proud of it, it's not going to sell as well as one that's just gaudy as hell. But maybe that's just the nature of watercolors specifically, or it's just the nature of like, we're burdened with the art education we've had or we've developed over time while people were selling to don't have that burden. 

HBA: You're working with people's shitty color scheme inside their house also. 

CA: That's true. 

HBA: So, I mean, I'm trying really, I mean, like I said, I'm with this suburbia. We're renting, but renting a very beautiful house, not attached to anybody, has a backyard and everything. So, we're painting the inside. We're painting it this dark teal as the main color and then black as all the accents, like warm orange lighting. That's me badass. That's like kind of what you see behind me. It's like we're doing this green and black and gold. It's going to be gorgeous. Like I just stopped painting. I'm painting the kitchen at the moment. But people want to like match that aesthetic. So now if I see a painting I like that's already framed, me and my girlfriend were like...They have to be gold frame. So that's gonna be the look. Everything is gold frame, which is easy. Gold is probably the thing you find the most, but everything's gold frame. So I see something's framed, I'm like, I gotta go reframe it, or if it doesn't match the green and gold and black feel. Like, all right, I gotta go find something else, or. It's tough. I'm in the green aspects, where my house is gonna be green. A lot of people are just working in whites and eggshell and taupe and pink. And I had kind of caught on to that and I make everything like gold and blue and that looks really good against white. That's like my new thing is I'm trying really hard to throw some gold and some blues heavy into everything because everyone wants that as their aesthetic. 

CA: Well, I'm glad you actually brought that up the idea of selling something that is already framed because when it comes to doing markets and events, I over time discovered that if a piece has a mat on it, it's going to be way more likely to sell. So if a print has a mat on it, to me, a lot more likely to sell than if it doesn't have one. If it had frames, in theory, following that logic, I would be able to sell framed pieces better. But I haven't done that experiment because I don't want to carry framed pieces with me when I go to a market. But I know you're doing these canvas prints.

HBA: Yeah. 

CA: So tell me about your your kind of, I guess, history of discovering when you're selling a print, when you're selling a canvas print, when you're selling a flat print. What's your experience with all that? 

HBA: Well, yeah, it's it's been as I'm sure any artist who's listening now. And you know, every single sale is a learning experience. Literally, it's it's you get a young person that comes up and they go, I like that. I think only if I for the $10 print on paper, I had a textured paper. Um, I get from, is it PrintKeg.com? They charge an extra $2 and that's flat across the entire shipping. So if I get 50 at a time, it's just $2 added to the 50 prints I'm going to get. So you get like a textured paper that looks really nice. So I get a textured paper. I buy them in bulk. I buy the entire line I'm going to do 50 or a hundred at a time. And so they cost me around a dollar, maybe a dollar 50 at the most. And I sell them for 10. So that markup is great. 

CA: What sizes are those? 

HBA: When and those are five by seven. 

CA: Oh, OK, five by seven. That makes sense. 

HBA: Yeah. 

CA: Yeah. 

HBA: Those are really nice sellers for people who are just walking by and they like the piece and it's I I try to sign the front of it with like a nice paint pen, some kind of acrylic paint and it's like gold. Makes it look really nice. Gives it like, like, you know, an artist touching. 

CA: Let me quickly interject with that because Similarly, I always sign my digital prints with like a metallic marker pen or something like that, or black Sharpie if it makes sense. But I know traditionally with photography, you're supposed to sign the mat in pencil or pen. And I'm thinking I might be signing my mats now because I usually do a black mat and I think silver Sharpie on a black mat. Because I don't like when I sign the print and then I'm at it and now my signature is hidden. So I think I'm just going to be starts. I'm going to start. I know this isn't important to the conversation, but I think I'm just going to start signing my mats instead of my prints. 

HBA: That's been a big thing for me, like when I bought prints from somebody, I'll just call her out now. Chris Mehan, who I'm a huge fan of her art, Chris with a K.K.R.I.S. Mehan, the way you think you spell it. She has a bunch of prints and I love her. I love your art. At the time I couldn't afford her original, but I got a print and I went to her and I go, do you have a Sharpie? She goes, yes. I'm like, can you sign the front? She was like, what? And like, in my opinion, when someone walks into your house and you're showing the art, to have the actual signature of the artist, whether it's a print or not, shows that you met the artist, you gave a shit, you got the first run of print, something that the artist had a hand in doing so. Not just the artist was the only one that had a high quality image of this piece of art. And so I took that and I said, I'm gonna do that for everybody. I'm gonna number everything. I'm going to, I have a little stamp with my hummingbird image. You know, I want to, I want to write as much as possible on each print. So if I'm making a markup of $9, I can spend an hour signing everything. And that's, and then they're done. And I really like them on the front. I think that when people have a piece of your art in your heart, their house, they want to show it off. They want to show that they found the art, they met the artist, you know? And prints, obviously, are the lowest form, quote unquote, of you giving your art to somebody. And so I think that giving that extra K as signs, everything's a little different, it's numbered, you know, you only have a certain limited line, all that stuff, for me makes a difference. You know, there's artists that I have found Um, from across the world who I've gotten prints from and I will, I made sure I'm like, is this signed by hand? And one guy was like, no, and I was like, can I pay extra to get a sign by hand? He's like, you're the first person to ask me that like no extra cost. I will. Yeah. I'll go get it to my house, sign it and send it back out to you because I don't use you to like, like a print to demand service where you order it from you. I'm sorry. Yeah. And I hit them up. I was like, I love your art is it signed? And he's like, if it's not signed, are you going to not buy it? I remember him saying, are you old? And I was like, nah, I like it, but I just really want to sign. And he's like, dude, that's really awesome. And he's like, yeah, I will do it. That's all right. So I think that makes a difference. So for my normal prints, I try to really give somebody something extra with the signature. I also frame as much as I can. And for $5 extra on any of my markets, I will frame up any of my flat prints because I just bought a million frames that are five by seven, look really nice and they're wood grain or black or gold or silver. It's only a mass of decor. And then you put your print right in there because I had that textured extra $2 I spent. It looks like something made some kind of linen or cotton or something. It has that like really good feel. And I make sure to sign where even if you put it in a frame, the signature is still there, pretty prominent. And those sell quick. I will put up something framed in front and people go, is that only $15? I go, yeah. Like, holy crap, I hate it. Oh my God, I can't believe that's $15. But my cost for all that was 250, you know? But the frame sells it. They just want somebody to put right into their house. They don't want to they don't want to think like, I got this print and I got to get a frame and then I got to like, I want to give you everything. And I want to benefit monetarily from it. And I want to make sure you can hang it up because who knows if your rich aunt sees your print and just loves it and follows me and, you know, buy something crazy, which has happened. 

CA: I like I like what you're saying about making it easier for the customer to place it in their house because it's already framed. So. 

HBA: And that's what my printout canvas does. You just put the canvas right on the wall and it looks great. So these frames that you got, a whole bunch of them bulk, do they have that, I don't know what you call it, like the little fold out kickstand thing to put on a table? Or are they just like wall ones? I wanna make sure it has, I wanna make sure it has both because at the market, you want the kickstand to show it off on a table and then when people get home, they wanna put it on the wall. Um, so going to Goodwill, you find a lot that are damaged, but they're really beautiful frames and we'll sell them to you for three, four dollars now because Goodwill is expensive now, which is insane. I bought a $7 shirt from Goodwill a couple of days ago. I'm like, you're Goodwill. Like I hate to be an asshole because this is $7. But yeah, I try to do both so you can see it and it looks really nice and it's pointed up a frame piece of art, 15 bucks, 20 bucks, that's awesome. But then when they get home, they can just put it right onto a nail. And with the circuits I have for the print on canvas, they all come with little command strips on the back. So you just stick them right to the wall. 

CA: So with those print on canvas things, just from reading the comments on your Instagram, it looks like those are moving pretty quickly.

HBA: Yeah. 

CA: So what's your...How are you getting those in front of customers? Is it just online or is it just in person? Is it a mix? 

CA: Well, it is the season to do markets. So I'm doing as many markets as I can. I took this weekend off for a wedding. Other than that, every weekend I got a market. So I'm just selling through markets at the moment. Clothes are selling well. Thankfully, I have a good friend group who want my art and this is been the way that most of those have come out of the woodwork. I've had friends that have bought originals but putting that, I'm sure you saw, I put like one video about my canvases on Instagram. I put that also on my personal Facebook which I try to like hide and it's just for me and my friends and my family. But I put that out and we had multiple people come through and be like, hey, I want this and that and this and that, you know, and I don't charge them shipping because they're my friends. I'm not trying to...make a ton of money, but it's really, it feels official. It feels like, cause I, I get on them, I signed the front in metallic marker. I try to do like this shadow signature. I don't know if where you put like a black shadow behind your signature. Cause mine, mine is just hummingbird with the first I being a period. And I have my own like handwriting I do with it, but it's really easy. It's a lot of like vertical lines. So you can make it look really shadowy. When I do that, gives it that awesome feeling. And then the back, I put all the information, you know, like what the name of it is, what the date it was done. Well, my actual name, Stephen Brown. I ripped off Sebastian Coolidge's signature. If anyone knows that goat of St. B, where you put one part normal size and my last name is upside down. And so I just I give them like a real signature that I use for a lot of my personal pieces. And then I give them a date. I give them the name of it. I try to write as much by hand on all of my pieces without taking away from the art. You have digital stuff, so you can make custom stuff easy, right? 

CA: Yeah, yeah, I do. But one thing that I was really curious about is I have a website. So people see the stuff there. They buy the stuff there. I, it didn't seem like you have a dedicated website. You have your Etsy, your eBay, and then your Instagram, which moves a lot of sales. So when people want to buy one of those canvas prints, are they just reaching out to you and saying, Hey, can I do the one from that thing? Or are you saying here's a piece that's available and people comment on that?

HBA: It's, I mean, like everybody, it's really nice to have. You know, you go through monster, like, man, I just need some money, you know, you're like, you're begging me like, I need some money. And that's what I'm going to like push the original art out to Instagram. But I don't have a dedicated website that does that because personally, I don't go to a lot of like actual websites, you know, like. And I I kind of took a poll of all my friends and family and age groups and backgrounds and everyone just kind of stays on their social media. They stay on their apps. If they're not a lot of people use their computers really anymore, if they're on their computers, they're still in the websites that they normally go to. Interesting. So to have my website be a daily hit of the thousands of people I want to reach or need to reach to sell anything, it's probably not going to happen. So I just said, I'm just going to dedicate to Instagram, I'm going to dedicate to YouTube. These things are where my customers live. And if I'm like, Hey, I need some money or I have some old pieces that aren't moving. Yeah, I'll get on my stories and I'll put them up and I'll, I'll generate some, some DMs. But other than that, it's, people will reach out and be like, Hey, I saw this piece or, um, what do you have to sale? I have $50. What does that give me? Give me what I really love. I really love those things where people want to talk to me. And that's like, you know, through markets or if you're at an art show and you're stuck hanging, that's what sells. I mean, you might have different success, but it's really people love art. Sure. But you can go on some of these stupid websites where you just get like a Velcro piece that you put on your wall and you bought that for $50 off of some Chinese website. If someone wants real art, they want to know the real artist. That's my opinion. People want to know the St. Pete kid that has been making art in St. Pete for 10 years. That is like, oh, I'm St. Pete as fuck. This person is St. Pete as fuck. I want to support it. My money's going directly into their bank account to go buy groceries. And when you're even like, at some point...He hasn't hit me up in a while. I had some guys from Germany who just love my stuff. And he found me through Instagram and he just like, what's this $200 getting me? You know, and I was like, Oh, it gets you this. And I made him a piece and he's like, Oh, I love that piece. What does three of you always get? And I made him that piece. And it was like, but it was like. It was the the the interaction is, I think, what sold. As much as he loved my stuff, it was like that interaction is what sells. And I had a guy that it, the, the, the deal didn't go through. And he had some money issues after like a week of us talking, which might be what my style is not working because it's not immediate. Um, the commission pieces are amazing when people want to like, Hey, I like your work. Have you ever done this? You know, can you do a tat? Can you do a dog? you know, because I do a lot of birds and it's the talks that we have that like it makes art art, you know, prints and printing on demand is a great revenue stream. But when you have someone go, hey, like, like for me, I do a lot of hummingbirds. Someone was like, hey, my grandmother loves hummingbirds. When she died, this was her favorite hummingbird piece. Can you like recreate it in your style? Like that was like, holy shit, like, yeah, of course, that sounds awesome. You know, and those are things that I think sell really well through my Instagram, as well as which we haven't talked about, and I don't know if you want to get into the magic art stuff. Um, but that is where a lot of people are seeing a lot of my art and whether they buy through Instagram, it still gets in their head that I'm putting out so much art of this style. And in. I don't know if I should explain what I'm talking about. 

CA: Yeah, I mean, I was going to get to there, but before we do that, I had another question. So if this is kind of the model that is working for you, where you are basically. I don't know, you're selling your time. It's hard to say that, I guess, but like you're not you're not hidden behind a wall of product, I guess I could say. You are doing that one-on-one engagement to make the sale happen. Do you think at a certain point that becomes untenable with the growth that you're seeing in your art business? Do you think you'll be forced to go behind a wall?

HBA: I mean, my prices just get more expensive. 

CA: I guess it's true. That's a good point. 

HBA: You know, like, but I get to the point pretty quick. But I'm not trying to spend. I'm not trying to make a fucking tent out as much as I love it. I love my art. Like you are my person. If someone's like, I want to buy your art. You are my you are in my tribe. You are my favorite human being ever. There are so many things that happen. So many other people. Someone has my art in their house. I will protect you. I will die for you. I'm not saying I don't want to, but I get to the point of what they want. I'm like, hey, what you're looking for? You know, I get to that really quick and just, you know, you you suck out of someone real. You know, you always kind of do. 

CA: Well, I think that says a lot about me that I always forget you can raise prices. I instead only think about increasing volume. Quality over quantity is the great battle that all businesses have to come through.

HBA: Yeah, sometimes you just got to tell somebody like, no, that's not $100. That is $300. And I had to do that at the art crawl. I had one big original that I never bring out. I just put a sticker that said, make me an offer. And some family came up and loved my piece. And I know Dad was the decision maker. Everyone was talking, but Dad was like real pensive, like just looking at the piece, not looking at me, not really talking. Everyone else was talking. He goes, so it's more than a hundred. I was like, it's definitely more than hundreds. Okay. And like, I don't have, I really don't have a number in my head, but I know what's not right. You know, I know what's not the right number. He's like 200. I was like, no, he's like, what's the number? And this is not my number, but I just said it. I was like, I would love to get like 600. Cause I want him to bounce in the middle. You know, I wanted 400 for that piece. And he was like, can't do six. And I was like, what can you do? He's like 200. I was like, all right, done. I don't want to, I don't want to, I'm not going to sell to you. I understand where you're at. I thought he was going to bounce back and forth, but I don't know what that piece really costs. Like I really don't have a number I want to put on it. If someone came up with $300 bills in their hand, I may have taken it. But 200 was too little. Because I know the level of, I spent a lot of time on that piece. I just know the level of artist I am now. I'm not selling 200 pieces that are that big and that nice. You know, I caught fire making that painting and it's just worth more to me because I know it's good. 

CA: Well, a funny thing related to that is I had John Gascot on recently and one thing we talked about was we both agree that if a piece has prints available of that piece, it doesn't lower the value of the original piece. If anything, it makes the original piece more valuable because more people have seen it, but still only one person has an original and more people can identify that there is that original. That being said, if I'm thinking about me in your situation there, in my mind, I'd be like, well, I already made $600 selling prints off of that image. So I'd be more likely to have it go lower, which is, I guess, me doing the opposite of what I said on that other episode, which is a very strange place to be in. 

HBA: I don't know, D- Well, it's also, my girlfriend really likes that piece, so I'm just like, I can't come back and be like, I sold your piece, honey. No, no, no, I know, I know. That's the third one I really want to do. Well, yeah, I mean, that's... But it's also, and I was talking to somebody at the art crawl, because she was like, I wanna do this next year, I wanna start in 2024 doing art stuff. I'm an artist, I follow her, she's really good. She doesn't know how to start. She doesn't know how much like, she's like, I want to put all this money into it. I'm like, well, if little by little, but I told her, I'm like, you have this piece that's really amazing. I went on Instagram and I was like, I like this piece a lot. She's like, yeah, you know, but I think it's too expensive. I'm just like, it might be, but I've made so much money off of one piece I sold for $300, which is the right amount. One of my really, really good, I just went to the wedding a couple of days ago. He's the one who bought this piece. And...I made so many prints and stickers and buttons of this thing. Man, that $300 is like not even what I'm considering. I am making so much money off of that. It's, and I told her that I was like, look around, there's one image. I have four different versions of this image and I'm selling them all day long. So it's a, I understand what you're saying. It's, would that extra $200 be really nice in my pocket? Sure. But I know the right person is going to need 600 or it's going to hang above my fireplace, which is where my girlfriend told me this morning and she wants it. And I get to look at it every single day. And it was like the piece that changed my artistic expression. Like, it was a huge growth moment was this piece. And that grant, maybe I'm putting an extra hundred couple hundred dollars on it because of that, but it didn't mean something. Yeah, it really does to me. Well, I think I've seen a lot of it on stuff. He's been being a lot to him to, you know.

CA: Well, I feel like I just kind of recognized my own business failures with the way I would have approached that situation. So thank you for talking this out with me. I don't know if I'm right. I know I'm right because I think you are right. And again, that ties back to what John and I were saying that because there are prints the original becomes more valuable. And my issue is I'm not thinking about individual sales and individual pieces. I'm thinking about the lifetime of an image as an IP. So it's kind of just a different way to approach it, which has me ended up, I guess, losing money in the long run in that situation. But I guess another thing it comes down to is I don't have originals because I'm all digital art. Well, I mean, my water colors, but you know.

HBA: So I it then becomes a conversation that I don't even need to be a part of, I guess. But, you know, these originals mean something to you. And I feel like that right person who knows walking around now in three months is going to see at a market, who's going to say, this is the piece. I gave that family line is like, hey, if you want to come up to my level, put a couple extra hundred bucks on it, let me know. It's going to hit the right spot. And if it doesn't, for me, I feel like I'm going to get that amount of enjoyment out of seeing it every day. When I walk past it to go up to my office to work on more art. I'm gonna see the piece that changed me as an artist. Like really, it was exactly one year ago. It was Hurricane Ian, I lost power, I scrapped a headlamp to my head and I finished this piece in a day and a half. And it's better than any other art I've made since then. And I knew why it was better and what I did and I replicated, not replicated, but I kept that feeling the entire way through. And now I feel like I'm a better artist. And $200 is not what I swear. You know, and someone will know that and someone will give me my $600, which I still think is too low, but you know, what kind of name do I have? All that stuff factors in, but someone's going to give that to me or I'm going to see it in my house and be proud of it every single day. Um, I'm not the kind of artist I do have stacks of originals. I need to get rid of at some point, but I'm not the other sense. Sad about that. You know, I have stacks of original men. Love them. I'm like, yeah, look at all this. They are. 

CA: So let's talk a bit about, I guess, in service of that person you met who wanted to know how to start, can you describe your booth setup at your typical market and how is it different at Artcrawl and why? 

HBA: So for art crawl, I bought a second six foot table. So now I have two six foot tables. I have those stretchy table cloths, which I think look really clean and nice. They don't blow in the wind because I think it looks stupid. Whenever I go to any events, any market, there's always one booth that I'm just like, they look put together and cool. And if I were walking by, I'd go that. For me, I try to find that every time, if I can ever leave. It's normally I do all these things by myself, I can never leave because I have a very, I'm clocking in to work, you know, art crawl was very lucrative for me. I'm just like, I'm just gonna stay here, you know, if I lose out on $50, I'll left my booth, that's not worth it. But at other events, I have seen people do a lot of pull you into their 10 by 10 tent where you walk in and it's a little U-shape, and you come in and you're surrounded by their art, it seems really nice. I don't like that as a consumer. I don't wanna come in, look at your art, and be like, I don't like it, and then have to leave. I feel like that's like you're putting this weird pressure on people. So what I did at Art Crawl was I had, cause I had like a kind of a corner, I had an L where all of my table were to push the way out into like, where people are walking by. So as you're walking by, you can't, you can just, you can just have a nice cadence and just walk by and say, no, I don't like that or something stops you. And then I'm right there. The second you stop moving your little feet, I'm like, Hey, what caught your eye? Oh, you like this one? Oh, this one's awesome. Let me tell you about it. This one's called checkmate. Can I put a little smiley face in it? Can you see it? People will lose it. If you interact with them that way. But if someone just comes into your 10 by 10 and there's like, no, it's not really messed out, which a lot of my stuff is it your stuff, you know, it's a certain person that people feel like weirded out or rude or, you know, I don't want that feeling. I want to be an aisle in Walmart where you can just walk by and be like, Oh, I'm in the right place. I just need to find the exact thing. You know, you're in the sports, the sports out goods store. I'm just looking for a water bottle. You're like, trying to find that cool sticker, that cool print, instead they're not into my stuff and knowing and then just I feel like I'm ruining that for the rest of the market. So for a lot of markets, I have a 10 by 10 to six foot tables and I try to position the tables as front facing as possible or it's like out in front of you. Well, I have a bunch of space behind me. Which is not being used this kind of stocks, but, you know, it is what it is. 

CA: I mean, emotionally, it feels nice to have your own like private space back there. 

HBA: I can practice my and when people come up to it, then I engage them and I bring them in and I show them all the things and I try to lead them down because I have so many different expressions in my art. I have the canvas prints, which I'm trying to double my money on the big ones, maybe triple my money on the small ones, if not more. I am like sticker area where I try to like position It's like a standing grid that I bought at Goodwill and I put all my stickers on it. So it's kind of like positioned up. I want someone to walk by and see my art come to me, not have everything be flat where everyone can like, they have to come up to me and then look down. I want them to see it presented to them as they're walking by. So if I'm their kind of artist, they will come over to me. Or just an advertiser that I might be that kind of artists or if you go to some kind of other market where people are selling candles and stuff, you're like, I'm the artist, you know? So they come through, I have sticker section, it's all my stickers, all my pins. And then I made a bunch of tiny little canvases with a lot of birds, the hard black outlines, so like really stands out. And the whole canvas is totally painted, you know, on all sides people come up to those. I have the winds got me a little bit. It sucks working in paper products. So I have small canvases. I have canvas prints. I have regular prints that I have just like standing up in a gigantic like library display piece that was kind of on the corner. And if you go around the other side, this is a secret that now that we're 43 minutes and only the real diehards are gonna know about I have this recycled cotton that I found on Amazon. And there are little four by six, five by seven, pieces of recycled cotton that were ripped really nice. So they look really good mounted into a frame. And I just doodled whatever the hell I wanted on acrylic with acrylic paint. I just doodled whatever the hell, it's a face, it's a bird, it's a demon. I do a lot of weird demons. And I make sure I tell myself, don't spend more than 15 minutes on this. It's more than 15 minutes, it's not worth it. And I sell those for $15. They're original pieces, $15, one of ones on really cool paper. And those do very well for me. Some people get it. Some people are just like, wow, I'm getting original art for $15. That's a great price. And some pieces sell, some pieces don't. Obviously, I can be on a great streak of a night and make it really good. You know, art, sometimes you don't feel it. You're trying your best. 

CA: So you are making those live while you're at the booth, too? 

HBA: No, sometimes I do. Depends on market. Now, nowadays, I don't have so much product, but at other markets, I would do that live and kind of like put them out wet. And if you will buy them like, hey, it's wet, you know, but it's like a really I could feed the machine while you get out while at a market to give me something myself, something to do. But now I try to have them done and put them out. And then I do the frame trick where behind everything around the entire, all the tables are just framed pieces, frames, prints, frames, recycled cotton originals, and those are all positioned up. So again, when someone comes through, they see all those little framed pieces. And then something that I found that worked incredibly well for me is to price everything put a little price sticker on literally everything. When people at these markets, I know for me, if I'm walking around, I'm burnt out immediately. The second the sun hits me and then I have a beer and then I have some weird popcorn and a hot dog, like I feel strange. So to have the price there, someone goes like that, price is there, money's in their pocket, versus me having to say, oh, this is 15, this is 10, this is 12, like. It gets in their head like, why is that so? Like that didn't make any sense. So it's. That's the setup that I found has worked really well. 

CA: Well, to add to the pricing thing, I've noticed this probably hundreds of dollars that I've made from people who are have terrible social anxiety and wouldn't give me money if I didn't have the price on the piece. Like, you know, you've had people walk up to you that like, don't even look you in the eye, they hand you ten dollars, show you whatever they want to buy and then just walk away. That's a sale you wouldn't make if they had to ask you how much it cost. 

HBA: And those people are the most precious, adorable babies. But you want to just like, oh, my God, is a free pen. 

CA: You know, they're going to go home and covet whatever it is they got. They'll be like, wow, I made a friend. 

HBA: Those people are the best. Yes, the the social anxiety, neuro, atypical people who are at this maybe is the first event they've gone to in a while. So it's so hard for the summer, all this stuff. I mean, I have a big soft spot in my heart for people like that. And yes, it's very easy to give them the easy sale. And again, we're all condition for that. We're all conditioned for the easy sale. I got burnt down on Facebook marketplace yesterday and said, F it, I'm just going to go on Amazon and buy it new and have it delivered to me. So I'll have to haggle or go and find it or deliver it to myself, you know, like, some people just want the easy click, I want this now. And at markets, you got to identify that, like, that's going to be a good amount of your sales is just like, someone goes, that's 15. I want it. Thank you. Goodbye. Right. Like that's it's easy for me to use for them. Everybody's happy. So with with, with my setup, I have like a wall that I hang prints on.

CA: I rarely ever bring originals, but I have a wall, which is just like a, I got a step and repeat custom vinyl banner made. Then I did a grid of grommets on it. So I bungee corded to the wall of the tent and I just hang things in the grommets. But I, the big prints I use as a way to get people to come in, look closer. And then now that they're in my tent, they're more comfortable looking around at the other things. So I don't necessarily expect to sell a large print, but it will get people curious about what's on that image. The prints that do still the best, my smaller ones, those I have in a little folding thing on the end of the table, like right at the entrance to the tent. So if people are uncomfortable entering my space, they still have something to interact with that's more or less outside the space. But yeah, you really, just like you're saying, you really need to think about where people feel comfortable coming into your area and then try and meet them as close to their side of comfort level as possible.

HBA: Yeah, I mean, I would love to have people come in and be surrounded by art. I mean, I'm sure it feels amazing for you when people come in and they're like, Oh, this and that you get to interact with me and talk to them. Does your setup does it have like a flow like you come in the left side, you come out the right side or is it just kind of-

CA: So I have too much. I have too much shit for one table, so I have two tables. One of them I put on. PVC pipes just to elevate it so I can sit higher. It adds like levels to the area, the space, and I can tuck one in kind of at the other, but I do it at an L shape and I'm in the back of the tent. So when people come in on the right side, they have all my tarot decks and my prints. On the left are the large prints hanging on the wall, but straight in front of them are my coloring books, my miniature role playing games, my pins, my stickers. So. 

HBA: Very cool.

CA: I can't really say like why I have things in what area, but it's just worked for me and that's just kind of been what I've been repeating. But right. ArtCrawl was more of an artsy event, more, I guess, of a traditional art event than things I usually do. So I did actually have framed pieces this time because I thought if they're going to sell anywhere, it'll be here. They didn't. But it's just such a hassle to bring heavy.

HBA: But it's also finding your people. And those were like, people were there to buy art. 

CA: Yeah. 

HBA: You know, I sold it. And I had some guy came up, you were drunk and he was just like, I love this. I'm like, he's like, dude, I never buy art for myself. He's just because they're that brewery. He was just like, dude, I never buy art for myself. I want that. That's cool as shit. I'm just like, dude, you're the right kind of person. You just came for like a nice, nice night out, you know, and you just like wandered around and like, that's what hit me. And those people the art call were like, they understood what was in front of them. You know what I mean? Like they're like, oh, this is all art. I just have to find the right art for me. And I'm really happy that that was like, because I do so many markets with like, I'm next to, you know, a t-shirt company and a plant lady and stuff. Like that was the right place to bring as much big stuff as possible. For sure.

CA: Well, let's now shift over to the Magic the Gathering stuff you do. You you've it seems like does really well for you on Instagram. The videos of you expanding the paintings on Magic the Gathering cards. How do you get into that? How have you been nursing that and how has that been working for you? 

HBA: So I've been playing since I was seven. So I was a player first. 

What set did you start? What was the first set you bought? 

HBA: Ice Age.

CA: OK, 

HBA: I'm old. 

CA: Yeah, you're a little bit older than me. My first set was Tempest. And then after that, I collected homelands because that was still around. I tried to get everything in homelands, but I was like, just you might be like one year older than me, I'm guessing, or two years old. Just based on magic. 

HBA: Yeah. 

CA: Yeah, yeah, that's a good. That's a good barometer. Blar. 

HBA: So I played forever. Like most adult males, I stopped once I realized girls existed and then pick it back up when I was like 20, 21. Just as a way to like, you know, just have something to do. You know, it's, it's a great like social. It's a whole universe that you get into, especially playing it and collecting it. It's a huge part of the friend groups I have and you know, what gives me my nice downtime to like watch a video on or collect all that stuff is really fun. So I've been a player for a long time and it's called altering cards is what we call it, altering. So I knew that it was a part of the community was that you can get an alterer card. You can get in with a very thin acrylic paint. I use a wet palette. So it's a, say a hard surface thing of like a Tupperware top with a thin, thin sponge on the bottom. I cut up a t-shirt on top of that and I soaked the whole thing with water until it's really saturated. And then I put a piece of parchment paper, like a Reynolds parchment paper, I cut to size and put on top of that. So the water seeps through very, very slowly. And it keeps your acrylic paints nice and thin and lasts for a long time. So it's a really thin application of a lot of layers of acrylic paint that you are going to match the art that's on it. So in a Magic Card, it's only a small frame of art that describes or is a representation of what the card does. And then there's a frame around it. There's a hard black frame. And there's also a colored border that's around it. And I paint the image that's in the middle as big as possible, all the way out to the ends. And I do that for profit. I try to make about $50 a card profit. So that is after eBay or Etsy takes its cut. It's after I buy the original art. It's after the original card. And it's after I ship it. I'm trying to make 45 to $50 at the end of it. And that has been something I dedicated myself to right when the pandemic hit. So I was doing it for fun before the pandemic. And I was telling all my friends who I played magic with, I'm like, you get one 3B, I just want to test it. So people give me their favorite card or card that I like or whatever. And I would just do it as an act of love for my friends. I'm like, yeah, I want to practice and give you something cool. So I just did it. I always knew how to paint. So I was like, this should be easy. And I got better and better and better. And I was working as a bartender at the time. So the pandemic hit, my money's gone. You know, I kind of I kind of paint originals at the time. But nothing that I'm looking to sell or had an audience for it. And I just said, all right, let's, let's go at it. And I took ice high quality stands of all the ones that I had in my possession. And I built a library from there and put them up on eBay and Etsy TCG player. Uh, I just moved into Mercari, um, which is kind of working. It's a Japanese, uh, website that does only Japan and USA. And they do a lot of collectibles and my prices are high, my prices start at like $60 across the board, but I put out a lot of quantity of it. I talked to another artist who does them very infrequently and tries to make 100, 150, 200 dollars per piece when I'm trying to make 50, and they will be able to spend a day, two days out of piece. Me, I'm trying to spend an hour, two hours out of piece. Um, and that is where I'm finding a nice revenue stream. It certainly pays my rent every month to have something. I can sit down at my desk, put in my, my headphones and just listen to a podcast and just paint something that I don't know if you can hear that. Yeah. I like how the light hit you. But when I do these things, it's like. I get to just Zen out, paint something that I've probably painted five, 10 times already. My girlfriend's sitting next to me. She works at nine to five. We have a really nice time just I'm painting and setting up, you know, shipping back to people. And it's that's the way where I don't get I don't really interact with a lot of people. Someone buys it off of eBay. eBay sends me an email. I order the card, paint it, send it to a person, never have to talk to somebody. But I went crazy painting them. That was my full, I still consider it my full time job. I try to do it five to six days a week. My original paintings are taking a huge hit because this thing is something I'm trying to spend a lot of time on. And it is a way for me to make a. Like a It's not great money, but make money at my desk, nine to five, quietly, and feel like I'm, I'm doing so with a paintbrush, which is very hard to do. You know, it's, it's been a community of people who are extremely passionate about those things too. I'll paint a character that people lose their minds. Today I just painted Sauron. 

CA: I saw that one.

HBA: Yeah, and it's doing really well. It feeds the social media. It gets people talking. And I have turned someone who bought two of my altered magic cards into buying an original. Doesn't happen a lot. I mean, it was literally only one person, but it was like, every painting, every altar I make for someone, I always slip in an original sticker that has my ass on it. So they'll follow me on Instagram and YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, all that. And maybe they'll just follow me for magic stuff, but I'm still getting that follow. And then I get another person who might see my stories or might see everything. It's just, it binds it all together to have, just fricking Sauron reference. It binds them in darkness. It takes the nerd-dom that's still painting and the original paintings and puts them together into a nice community that I can talk to all at once, which is, it's hard to do to blend to communities. And I think Instagram is the glue. I mean, that sounds like you're living the dream there. I mean, I know it's not your ultimate destination, but you're having a wonderful journey getting to that destination. I mean, money is money. Everyone needs it. And I enjoy doing this, you know, it's not a I enjoy doing, I enjoy this being my business. And, you know, it's not a ton of money, but it's money with the paintbrush, which is always appreciated. 

CA: So how often are you keeping like inventory just on stock or are they all custom orders? 

HBA: So for the magic cards, I try really hard to for all the stuff that costs 10 cents, 15 cents, I try to buy as much as possible. Not in much possible, I try to keep five, 10 of each. And they're a dime, you know, you can, I can buy 10 of them for a dollar, it's not a big deal. Try to have those in reserves, but when someone orders something, I paint it. I keep it, I put it on my commission list pretty much. And I paint it and try to get them out to them in probably two weeks time. However, a lot of cards are $5, $10, and those I have to just custom buy from the internet and sent to me. And then once I open up my mail, then I have to paint them pretty quickly because people are waiting. I know you buy stuff on the internet. If you buy something for $60, $70, and it doesn't ship in a week, you're like, eh. And then it takes two weeks to get to you once they say it's shipped. Some people have a problem with it. Sure. You know, cause people are so used to, I put in my order, it should be a two day shipping. You know? So I don't really have a huge amount of inventory for that, but I kind of fake it till somebody complains on Etsy or eBay. And if someone complains like, hey, this is the deal. I buy the raw card, I paint it, I send it out to you. You're at the top of my list. I probably, like I always say they're at the top of my list because by the time they email me, they are at the top of my list. It's not, it's the mail that's not coming quick enough, not me. It's getting it out to them. But when someone complains, nobody ever returns something. No one ever says, oh, that, you know, like I want to cancel. You tell them it's original art. I'm painting this with my hands, you know? And people normally calm down pretty well and are very happy too. 

CA: So if you were, if you were thinking about, I guess, if you were planning on growing the revenue for this side of the business, would it be a matter of you increasing volume, increasing price, or increasing the locations in which people are buying those? Like, for example, doing a whole bunch up front and then putting them in a store, like a gaming store or something like that. Have you thought about what the next steps for growing that element of the business would be?

HBA: I have theories. I don't know. That part of the business is... So do you still play Magic? 

CA: Ummm... not really. I mean, I play the hell out of board games, but no. Not Magic, but... 

HBA: The people who create Magic the Gathering are kind of doing what I'm doing. Like, they're making borderless cards. Pretty quickly. Pretty reliably. My niche was...I can get the super duper version. You can only get the super duper version from me. So that was really nice like cornering that market, giving them something that they can never have, what they already love. They already love this one card. So I can make the super duper version for 60 bucks. Which for most people are like, yeah, that's, what a great deal. Now the people, as new cards are coming out, most of them that people are gonna want to have without a border painted all the way to the side is now already printed all the way to the side. So it's really hard for me to find my niche and also expect them to spend that kind of money. Granted, people are still doing so the way for me to beat that, to outperform the company who's trying to put the unauthorized artists of their IP out of business is to grow into a giant. Like I need to, I need to up my, I think my prices are never gonna lower, but I think I need to just pump out way more product. I know I can do it if I don't focus on originals or forego my, you know, responsibility as a friend and, you know, partner. You know, like, there's ways for me to do it. It's being really smart about where you put your time and having and hitting people at the right. The right card needs to be painted at the right time.

CA: What would you feed the whole viral on? Would it defeat the whole purpose of the altering if you did a high quality scan, printed it larger, like 11 by 14, and then did the painting on top of that for a higher price? Because it's not on the actual card anymore be a problem? 

HBA: They want them on game pieces. My stuff tournament legal. You can take my painted card, which I painted on top of, bring it into a tournament worth money that you paid money into that goes on your permanent record of being a magic professional and my cards will pass the test. 

CA: Like that is what the promise I'm giving you is that it doesn't add any thickness to it. Your your paint is so thin that doesn't add any thickness to the card. 

HBA: If it's if it's anything you can't tell once it's in a sleeve. The people you protect. Oh, that's right. Yeah. So if it's anything, it's nothing. It's like. They test it in a way not like they weigh the grams of every card they go. Hey, if you can, if you have your deck just laying flat, can we tell which ones are painted and you cannot. So that passes a lot of tests. So it's, I know right now, this part of my business is not how, and you, I think you said it, it's not what's going to propel me into legendary status. Like I said, I'm not going to become a famous artist because of these magic cards. However, they are paying my rent, my bills, and that is something I will, I will, I will cling to for a while. You know, that's it's hard to get rid of that. But you stream. 

CA: In your head, can I submit my ideas, can I submit an idea? OK, instead of making the cards bigger again, they would need to frame it in this situation. But what if you got like three or four cards laid them next to each other and then you painted it into a landscape where they're all interacting with each other? 

HBA: Yeah, that's I've done it before. Oh, yeah, it's really cool. Yeah, it's super cool. It's. But it's this sweet spot of how much I'm charging someone. I feel like I'm right on the edge of talking too much. Sure. So I selling three or four at the same time, you know, now I'm charging somebody two hundred and fifty dollars. You know, I mean, that's always the balance like, you know, that's kind of the fun of being in an art business, figuring out what's true, what doesn't work and then tweaking it every every time. Something's a little bit different. Yeah, it's it's a beautiful community of nerds and like you were saying with someone who is you know possibly very socially anxiety ridden these people this is their way of like peacocking is by getting a painted card versus everybody else has got a regular version. Look at me they don't have to interact or do anything with me so it's it's nice to be a part of that community give give to this community that I love this game that I love I love magic I think it's the best game ever made. But I love giving myself to this. And I don't have a good answer for you as to how to grow that side of business. I think I like, if I just stay really smart and really disciplined, I think the money will just stay there. But I actively have the owners of this game doing what I do at a huge professional level that they just, like, it was like five years ago they started doing it. Like they started out finding me three years ago they saw what painters were doing and said, oh, we can do that. Just make art a little bigger. And they just did it. And now it's like getting harder. But they're getting like internationally acclaimed fancy artists to do it, you know? 

CA: Have you tried to vend at gaming conventions, even if it's just a matter of a way to take on commissions and like, oh, I'll work on them when I get back home kind of a thing.

HBA: A little bit. The booth prices are out of control. I'm trying to find different ways to get into markets. Right now, I'm doing a lot of random Saturday or Sunday markets that a lot of people go to, but they'll take everybody. They'll take someone making pottery or someone selling doll clothes. A really good one that I was told by one of my friends who does a lot of markets is to like go to like a bird convention because I make a lot of birds. I was like, oh, that's smart. Like just go to a bird and then you like, oh, surreal hummingbirds. I'm definitely down. They would just they grab them all up. That's so smart. 

CA: Well, not even that, just like even if you just went to the great Florida birding trail and just set up somewhere on that trail. 

HBA: Right. 

CA: I mean, birding is huge in Florida. So there's lots of groups that get together for birding. Yeah, these are all these are all things that like they take. They take me getting out of my comfort zone to do. And it's hard for anybody to be like, well, I'm paying my bills. You know, it's I got a schedule. It's like, no, you got to go on to a birdie trail. No, I know what you mean. 

CA: Like I feel like I've luckily gotten to a place where I can be a lot. I guess the money I make from markets is so much less important to my overall business health than it was pre-pandemic, I guess. So I can be a lot more judicious about where I go. So like I have a spreadsheet where I track my return on investment for every market I've been to. I track the vending fees and you know, how much was cash, how much was card. And based on that, I can like look at my history and see if it's worth me going to that event again. So I only give myself room to experiment maybe twice a year now an event that I don't already know I'm going to be making tons of money at. Tons of money is a relative term, but I mean, tons of money for me. 

HBA: Right. 

CA: So I love that. But that being said, there are those really big markets like, for example, like you were saying, going to a birding event when I vend at a metaphysical or or witchcraft market, I'm going to do really well because not a lot of people there have original tarot decks. You know, so it's that's the same experience you would get if you went to a birding event or something like that. 

HBA: Yeah, it's definitely, it was only a couple of weeks ago that he told me that. It's like it in my head. I'm like, how do we even find these things? Well, it's like not a part of my Facebook events that get into my, into my feed. So I got to start getting in there. 

CA: Yeah. I mean, there's plenty of like also just. I mean, even if you just had some type of little setup at like Bok tower gardens where there's tons of birds and birds are part of the the atmosphere, thematically it could work. I don't know. 

HBA: Yeah. These are really good ideas. These are I know that and my girlfriend says all the time she's been a wonderful muse, half manager of my things. She's like, you're these things are good and I'm gonna do well, you know, like I know I need to focus on getting right in front of the right people. Um, and it's just, it's easier said than done by a long shot. You know, it's all footwork and there's only so many hours in the day. 

CA: Yeah. Well, on that note, uh, I mean, I could probably talk to you for another three hours, but, uh, getting kind of long in the doodoo, we start wrapping it up. So everyone, uh, everyone can follow your work. Uh, the quickest way to find your stuff is instagram.com/Humm.ngbird with the first I is a period so that is H-U-M-M period N-G-B-I-R-D. I know you also have a subscription thing you just started. Do you want to talk a bit about that? 

HBA: Yeah, it's um, I'm heavily tattooed so I watch a lot of tattoo artists do their thing. That was a part of that art that I never went through with. I got offered an apprenticeship, just didn't do it. But there was a tattoo artist that had this idea for subscription service that I loved and I stole it was that it's $5. Everyone who's in it will get sticker packs or prints or whatever I feel like liquidating and mailing out to everybody. At the end of the month, so everyone just gets something for sure, stickers, whatever, $3, $5. But I take all that $5, however many people are in the subscription, and I bundle it all together and put that into one big piece of art. And I raffle, not raffle, I randomly give that to one person. So if five people are in, that's $5. $25 that I get to play with. I'll take a piece that's worth $25 and I will pick one person at random and that person gets in the mail a big piece. So I'm still making my $25. I am selling quote unquote, selling a piece of art. I'm making people who will probably spend that $5 for a good amount of months. And then I'm getting stickers out and building a community of people. And it's not really to make profit. It's something just that keep your community engaged. People want to feel like they're giving money to something cool. And I think that's really cool that like, say I catch fire and I will be able to get rid of, not get rid of, be able to sell and push out a bunch of big originals. And that'd be a really good way to do it, you know? Or I'd start making original for the subscription service knowing that I have, you know, a hundred dollar piece coming every month I'd have to start making. 

CA: So how would people want to subscribe to that or find more information on that? That's all on Instagram. 

HBA: Go on my Instagram and there'll be a button next to follow. Let's just say subscribe and it is $5. You get in there and we have a chat and we have a lot of fun and everyone going to get some stickers and I try to talk to my subscribers as much as possible about what I should do with my business. So what's the next sticker you want to see? What kind of prints? You know, do you want to be made of the canvas, things like that? 

CA: That's really cool. I didn't know you could have subscriptions on Instagram. 

HBA: Yeah. 

CA: Wow. I think I don't even know how to make stories. 

HBA: Yeah. So Instagram does it right. I think as far as all platforms, it's just hard to kind of make work for you. TikTok seems to really want to work for you. Facebook has a million options. Instagram's got the most to give and the most like substantial stuff in there, but once you hit settings or edit profile, it's overwhelming sometimes. So like navigate to where you need to be.

CA: Awesome. Well, once again, thank you so much, Stephen. You have been a wonderful font of knowledge. I've learned a lot and this has been a really fun conversation. 

HBA: Yeah, Nick, you're a really easy person to talk to, and I really enjoyed your art, even though we've never actually met or I've never seen it in person. I'm sure we'll run into each other again soon. Are you going to be doing the Bradenton Punk Rock Flea Market? 

CA: Yes, I am. 

HBA: All right. I'll see you down there then. 

CA: Awesome, man. I'll see you there. 

HBA: All right. 

CA: See you. Bye, Stephen.


Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.

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