Fine Art Today: How did you get started and then develop your career?
Dustin Van Wechel: I first started my career by talking to other full-time professional artists. They were generous enough to give me some direction regarding shows to apply for, galleries to approach, and various other career-oriented information such as, furthering my education, operating an art business, entering competitions, etc. I was fortunate in that I had worked in advertising before I decided to pursue fine art, and that experience provided me a wealth of expertise I could apply to my career as an artist.
In February of 2002, I decided to leave my position as Art Director with a Phoenix-area design firm. I had worked to establish a strong financial foundation that I could leverage to ease the transition into self-employment. I had no debt, and had saved about a year’s worth of income that would allow me to take time to develop a body of work I was proud of. I also had the benefit of an extremely supportive wife who was willing to risk everything to help me find success as an artist. All of these systems of support helped keep us afloat financially until I was able to sell my paintings.
Within the first six months of working in my studio putting together a portfolio of work, I landed a one-man show with a local gallery. That gave me a goal and a deadline to produce paintings, and it was then that things began to move forward. Success didn’t come quickly. It was a long process of continuing to better my work, combined with getting into shows, cultivating a small base of collectors, and working with reputable galleries. Eventually in 2011, I was invited by a major western gallery into a show as a guest artist. Upon delivering my two paintings for their show, they immediately asked if they could represent my work. It was then that things really took off.
Looking back, I can’t stress enough a few very important points. First is the value of persistence and discipline in your career. It may take a while to achieve success, but have the discipline to continue to produce better work and the persistence to keep going even when things are difficult. Second is to meet your commitments. As you begin to see some success, you may find it tempting to accept as many invitations to supply work for various venues as you can. Be careful not to overextend yourself. The quality of your work will suffer and you’ll likely miss deadlines. And finally, network. Make every attempt to attend shows and events you’d like to be a part of. Meet the artists, show organizers, collectors, and magazine editors. Never underestimate the value of getting your face in front of those in the art industry who can help you find success.
How do you describe success?
For me, success is two-fold. First: Can I look back at my body of work and see real, tangible growth? And second: Can I afford to continue painting? If I can answer yes to those two questions, I have achieved success.
How do you find inspiration?
I’m a painter whose focus is North American wildlife and landscapes. I find inspiration by spending as much time in the wilds of North America as I can.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
There are so many, it’s difficult to narrow down. If I had to choose one, it’s the sense of fulfillment that comes from creating.
Who do you collect?
I’m as much an art lover as I am an artist, so I enjoy lots of different art. Currently, my collection includes works by Ray Brown, Joseph Lorusso, Frank Serrano, Lindsey Kustusch, Bill Cramer, Whitney Hall, Nicole Gustafsson and Tim Shinabarger.
To see more of Dustin’s work, visit: www.dustinvanwechel.com