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Life and Work with Adam Street

Today we’d like to introduce you to Adam Street.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I used to be a full-time comic book artist. Most of the work I did was coloring comic books for Marvel Comics. I worked with SotoColor Studio and we had an exclusive contract with Marvel. When Disney purchased Marvel, I wanted to have a backup plan in case I was let go. I technically was a freelancer so I had no guarantees, but I wanted to keep my eyes open.

I had always considered pursuing pinup art and character design as career paths. Drawing pinups is a little straight forward but I knew I had to apply for character design jobs. At the time, I used to read Stephen Silver’s blog. Silver is a veteran character designer, known for his work on Kim Possible, Danny Phantom, and Clerks. I stumbled upon an old podcast he created on how to become a character designer. It was about a five minute long and he recommended anyone who wants to be a character designer should draw caricatures first. Honestly, his advice sounded nuts. What in the world did caricature have to do with character design? Had my mom or a lesser artist told me this there’s NO way I would have done it, but since I trusted and respected Silver I moved on the idea.

I didn’t know where to begin so I went to a shopping mall a few miles from my house. I went there with no appointment or anything. I figured I could get a quote on renting a kiosk. The leasing agent explained to me how she worked with a caricature artist in another state and she explained how I could get going. The whole thing was a miracle because I had no idea what I was doing and her guidance moved me forward.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road has definitely not been smooth. In comics, you are a freelancer so you are self-employed. But being a freelancer is really more like having a better paying job than it is running an actual business. When I left Marvel to focus on caricature, it was totally different. In my coloring days, e-mail requests for my work just kinda rolled in. I had colored for many years and made a good name for myself. However, in the caricature world, I was a nobody. I have always focused on the creative end of art but for the first time in my life, I also had to focus on the business side and learn sales and marketing.

If you want to follow your passion and freelance or be a business owner, the best thing you can do for yourself is getting good at sales and marketing. I have a theory that I call The 15% Rule for Artists. Of all working artists, roughly 15% are at the top of our field. These artists work for the top companies, you see them in magazines, trade journals, and popular websites. Because these artists are so skilled their phone rings off the hook with people who want to hire them.

As for the rest (the 85%) of us, we’re not that visible or that skilled yet. Especially at the beginning of your art career. This is why most artists give up. They don’t think they’re good enough or just can’t afford to keep moving forward with their art. And I just don’t mean people in the fine arts, I’m talking about actors, hairdressers, singers, etc.

I think every artist’s goal should be to work on your art skills and become part of the 15%. The problem that I faced is it can take a long time. There’s nothing wrong with straddling a job while working on your art but my goal was to be ALL IN. That means I studied (and continue to study) sales and marketing to develop the chops needed to get a constant flow of business. The really cool thing is once you learn how to get more business you can help other artists too.

Following your dreams should not be about sacrifice. Learn business. Learn to manage your money better. Read books like Rich Dad Poor Dad. Learn how to invest and create more opportunities for yourself.

Please tell us about Sketch My Wedding & Sketch My Biz.
I still do comics, pinups, and studio illustrations but today I’m most known for my live caricature drawing at events. I draw caricatures at weddings, corporate parties, birthday parties, etc. What makes me different is I specialize in caricatures that make you look amazing. Most people think caricature is about accentuating flaws and giving people huge noses. Even most caricature artists feel the art form is about exaggeration and not making people “cute”. My goal with every caricature is what I call, Facial Rejuvenation. I lift what sags, take away wrinkles, and excess pounds and make everyone look and feel like VIPs. Kids require less rejuvenation but they should feel good about their drawings too.

When I draw people in a fun and flattering way, people have more fun. When they show the caricature to other people, they have fun too. This literally seemed like alchemy to me until I read about a study in the Telegraph. The article said when people look at art they like, blood flow can increase to the brain by as much as 10% – the equivalent to gazing at a loved one. Flattering caricatures also increase endorphins.

On the second party I ever drew at, I learned my most valuable lesson. I drew a handicapped girl in a wheelchair. She didn’t sit still, drooled, and all I could think about was poor me and the problems I experienced trying to draw her. Then, I thought about something I heard the late Wayne Dyer say and at that moment, I realized the drawing wasn’t about me, it was about her. When I finished, her dad told me she loved the picture (she was non-verbal) and he thought what I did was really special. From then on caricature to me was not just about composition and draftsmanship, it was about trying my best to give you a drawing you’ll like and enjoy. Not every single person I draw loves their caricature, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

Who have you been inspired by?
For me, it really started at home with my mother. She never stopped learning and she was always brave, courageous, and was not afraid to go against the grain. I didn’t understand it as much as a child but I see it crystal clear as an adult. For example, my mother is an ordained minister. Even as a child, I remembered people, usually men, who didn’t take her seriously. Or they might give her an opportunity with a glass ceiling. And when my mother went back to college in her 40s to finish her bachelor’s degree, she changed her view on organized religion a bit and focused more on the acts of Jesus and less on Christianity. She focused on her beliefs and what is right, not what people thought of her. As she did things like taught poor people life skills and fed the homeless, she attracted more people who wanted to do and be more like her.

To a lesser degree Harriet Tubman. When I read about Tubman in high school, she was so inspirational to me. Making the decision to be free and help free other slaves just blew me away. The amount of courage, vision, and personal power she had rivaled any president, general, king or queen, in history. Her story is more popular now, and she has a movie coming out soon too. I’m glad because I think she deserves it.

My daughter Jazmen turned me on to the Harry Potter books. I’m a big comic book reader but I don’t read very much fiction. When I read the Harry Potter books, I was blown away. JK Rowling cemented herself as my favorite author but she also pushed my boundaries with my writing. Her imagination and skill makes me work harder on my writing, but I also want to write my own novel. I never imagined writing a book with no pictures in it. Albert Einstein talked about imagination and reading fiction to get better ideas. Before reading Harry Potter I read nearly all non-fiction books. Now that I’ve read the Harry Potter series, I can honestly say Einstein was right (as if I should have ever doubted him).

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