Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pull Together

     I thought you might find it interesting to get another perspective on what it’s like to be on the inside of an artist’s life and career.  So I’ve asked my wife, Pam, to write a guest post from her vantage point.  I think it will give you food for thought.

     Thanks for tuning in today to hear what I have to say.  When Mark asked me to write this blog post, my first thought was “What could I offer the readers that would contribute to their art career?”
     So forgive me if I can’t address the intricacies of painting a shadow, or give you advice on improving your drawing skills.  But if you are the spouse or partner of an artist, I do believe I can offer some counsel on supporting the creative process.
     First of all, everything I have to say is merely my opinion, and may not apply to you.  But since Mark and I did not originally envision that our life together would include an art career, I’ve learned a few things during this journey that qualify as experience and they’ve worked for us.
     When Mark came to me 16 years ago and said he was unhappy in his work and wanted to pursue art as a profession full-time, I have to admit that it scared me to death.  But I didn’t hesitate to give my approval.  I knew his talent was a gift, and I had watched him struggle to fit his right-brained creativity into a left-brained and structured business world.  I didn’t want him to be 70 years old and say, “I wish I would have tried….”, so we agreed to give it a shot.
     The fear of going from two guaranteed paychecks to one was ever-present, but I knew if Mark was ever to succeed in the art business, we had to pull together as a team.
     And I believe this is one of the most important factors in the success of any artist.  For us, I think it helped that pulling together was something we valued in our marriage from the start.  And I have witnessed other artists’ careers suffer because their spouse isn’t involved in helping them to realize their dream and to follow their passion.
     I’ve had friends who thought I was subjugating my desires and needs in order to let Mark fulfill his.  But I guess I don’t view Mark Kohler Studio as “his” business, but “our” business.  We each have a role in its success.  And Mark is quick to give me credit for my contribution and to encourage my own creative writing skills.  So the best advice I can give an artist’s spouse is to check your ego at the door.
     The successful “artist marriages” work because the spouse is usually detail-oriented, and can “take care of business”, which allows the artist to concentrate on his craft and frees him up to produce.
      Within just a few years of starting his career, it became clear that Mark couldn’t concentrate on painting and producing AND handling all the details of a growing business.  So it was time for me to “go all in” and give up my full-time job, take over the day-to-day management, which would allow him to advance to the next level of his career.
     If I’m being honest here, the man can portray a horse’s soul in the reflection of its eye, but he can’t balance a checkbook!  And responding to all the emails, inquiries and applications would take forever with his one-finger typing method.
     So our roles are pretty well defined.  He paints and frames and I do everything else:  website design and maintenance, advertising and marketing, order framing supplies, make travel arrangements, book-keeping, prepare tax returns, and handle the mountains of paperwork that are involved in keeping up with show schedules, applications, UPS shipments of paintings, and consignments to galleries.
     It is a full-time job; six days a week, 10+ hour days.  But it is so rewarding!  We love our independent lifestyle and being our own boss (and if I’m going to continue being honest, neither of us were very good at working for other people).
     So if you are someone who likes to be part of a team, are detail-oriented, and likes the challenge of working together to achieve a goal, then take that leap of faith and go for it!
     Not only will you sharpen what skills you possess, but also you will discover new ones, along with a profound appreciation of what you can accomplish together.

P. S.  I was writing this piece the same time that Mark wrote his post yesterday, and it surprised me that we expressed some of the same thoughts.  Being on the same wavelength is what makes our team work!  

All content © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. "Check your ego at the door" - words to live by. Great post Pam!

  2. Pam I imagine it is difficult at times being in the sidelines, not receiving a lot of the lime light, you are a blessing to the business, hope he pays you well, good benefits, paid vacation..........
    Seriously, so good to hear of a marriage that is a true partnership, instead of the negativity you hear so much of, thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you for posting, Pam. I really appreciated hearing your point of view on this one. I liked what you said about the rewards of working as a team and that you view the business as being both of yours. That is so true. Loved hearing your wisdom on this. Thanks Pam.