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No Plan B

by Jack White on 10/31/2012 7:34:42 AM

This post is by Jack White, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  Jack has enjoyed a forty-one year career as a successful fulltime artist and author. He has written for Professional Artist Magazine for 14 years and has six art marketing books published. In 1976 Jack was named the Official Artist of Texas. He has mentored hundreds of artists around the world.  Jack authored seven Art Marketing books. The first, “Mystery of Making It”, describes how he taught Mikki to paint and has sold over six million dollars worth of her art. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. 


Recently, I heard from an artist with better than average skills explaining - in depth - his Plan B, just in the event he couldn’t make it in art. He has been painting full-time for about ten years. To be honest, his correspondence stunned me. I thought his confidence and past successes would have left him believing he couldn’t fail.

 

People with a Plan B are those who don’t really believe in what they are doing. They are planning to fail, why else would they have a second option? He got me to thinking. How many of those reading my columns have a Plan B? How many of you have a contingency plan to fall back on in case your art career fails? I’d probably be shocked to learn the number. I hear the voices say, “I can always go back to nursing”, “construction”, “teaching”, “truck driving”, “being a cop” or “cutting lawns”.

 

I’ve mentioned my personal story of some success and a myriad of failures a few times before in my articles, but since we have added several thousand new readers, I feel it’s important to restate some things (Big applause to FASO for the growth). After college, I drifted toward the construction business and by the time I was 36, my personal net worth was over a million dollars. A million dollars in 1964 was a lot of money; WikiAnswers says close to a billion dollars today.  I was building in Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma City.

 

As one reader suggested, there is a big difference between earning a lot of money and wealth. I had wealth back then, later I earned a lot of money as an artist. I owned two miles of property across the highway from Lakeway on Lake Travis. Today, that property is worth at least a couple of billion dollars. I was in the process of constructing a 600 unit apartment complex when the Insurance Company paying the bills folded and stopped paying me. I made the mistake of continuing to carry key people on my payroll and even sold that valuable property just to keep going, but eventually ended up totally broke. My heart was bigger than my brain.

 

Flat broke and dejected, I visited my very first art gallery on Christmas Eve in 1969. After an hour or so looking at art, I decided to become an artist. My wife almost had a heart attack when I told her.  I sold my first piece of art for $10 on Valentine’s Day 1970 and quickly realized my oils were not going to sell. They were worse than pathetic. A few nights later I dreamed about how to make gold leaf art on the backside of glass. The next day I invented the process and coined a name for my new technique. Using my Greek Lexicon, I invented a word to go with my art technique. Ek means 'out of'. Crus is 'gold'. Ous means 'having been done.' So literally the word  Echruseos  means, 'Out of gold having been done.' It’s pronounced Ek-Cru-soos.

 

I ended up earning over $48,000 with the gold leaf my first full year as an artist. In six years, I was selling over $500,000 a year of the gold leaf on glass and was named the Official Artist of Texas. Very few artists were better known in Texas than Jack White in 1976. That’s because I’d sold the gold leaf art to gift shops, galleries, furniture stores and retail business in every town in Texas, large or small. There is no way of knowing how many thousands of gold leaf pieces I sold in those eight years. A conservative estimate is over 20,000 pieces. More realistic would be 35,000 gold leaf paintings, not counting the serigraphs I did with the same process. They were my print version done on Plexiglas. I purchased a silk-screen machine to crank out a volume of serigraphs. Remember, with the help of a couple of assistants, I could produce one hundred 8” x 10” Echruseos in a day. The gold leaf was better than printing money; it was legal.

 

My passion to learn to paint with oils was so deep I decided to give up making the gold leaf art and force myself to master the medium. Think about walking away from an art process that was bringing in half a million dollars a year to learn to paint with oils - a technique I knew nothing about. Would you have the passion to do that?

 

My last year making and selling the gold leaf art I brought in almost $750,000, which in 1978 was a mind blowing amount of money. With no Plan B, my bedroom became a studio and I began the process of learning to mix colors with oil paint. I can promise you I never had any doubt I’d find a way to learn to paint and earn a nice living with my oils. It’s a good thing I didn’t know how bad my oils were or how much I needed to learn. I was greener than alfalfa hay in the spring. After two and a half years of throwing all I painted in the dumpster, I was forced to begin selling my oils. My bank account was running on fumes and I had kids in college. I either had to sell the oils or break my pledge and go back to making gold leaf art again. In Texas, we don’t renege on our word.

 

My desire to learn to paint kept me in the studio 14 to 16 hours a day. That’s my definition of passion to paint. I removed the telephone so no one could interrupt and spent several months just mixing colors. I purchased every tube of color I could find. I remember getting a fixation on Davy’s Gray and Mars Orange. I asked Rush Art in Dallas to order a box of each color. I hounded them for weeks until they got these colors. The moment I squeezed them from the tube, I knew they were worthless to my learning to paint. Had I not given up the gold leaf process I possibly could have become almost as well known as Kinkade. I see no reason there would have been anything slowing down the gold leaf sales. I just needed to expand my base from the Southwest to an International market.

 

As if by a miracle, the gold leaf idea came to me in a dream. There was nothing brilliant on my part in thinking out the idea. I literally dreamed how the paintings would be made. The process is astoundingly simple. It took no genius, just someone willing to put the ideas together. One thing to keep in mind, I was 38 when I first began selling my art. After I switched to oils in 1979, I earned a nice living, but no year came close to the last one selling the Echruseos. If I had only been interested in money, I’d still be cranking out the gold leaf art.

 

I remember I told my wife I was going to be an artist shortly after I had read the life story of Alexander the Great. I recalled him attacking Persia, which had a greater army than that of the young leader. Twenty-five year old Alexander gave his Generals an order to burn their ships. It’s said he told his men, “We will sail home on Persian ships or we will die.” I had that mindset when I decided to become an artist. Alexander had no Plan B and neither did I. The thought of failing as an artist never entered my mind. Even after three days on the road with no sales, I still didn’t come up with a Plan B. When I set aside the gold leaf I never had any thought of failing to earn a living with oil paintings. Failure is not an option in my thinking.

 

In Braveheart, William Wallace gave a stirring speech. He boldly proclaimed, “I see the whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny! You have come to fight as free men and free men you are. Will you fight? It will be two thousand against their ten thousand.”

A voice shouted, “No! We will run and live!”

 

Wallace shot back, “Yes! Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least a while, dying in your bed years from now. Would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just a chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom?” William Wallace had no Plan B. Can you be like William Wallace, “It’s win or die.”

 

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin knew when their capsule settled on the moon they might get left on the barren planet. There was no Plan B. They didn’t know if their capsule would carry them off the moon. They were willing to chance death in order to walk on the moon. Can you be that dedicated to your art career?

 

Very recently, 42 year-old Felix Baumgartner stepped off the ledge of a helium balloon into space 128,100 feet above the earth. That’s twenty-four miles high. In his free fall, he traveled at a top speed of 833.9 miles per hour, breaking the sound barrier at 690 miles per hour. Once his first foot moved outward gravity took control, sucking him into the emptiness of space. His only option was to continue the downward spiral until he could safely open his chute. There was no Plan B; he would land alive or flat as a pancake. There were no rescue planes to swoop in to pick him up and it’s said returning in the balloon was not an option. The capsule was released from the balloon and floated down with a parachute. It hit the ground at 55 mph. The impact would have killed him.  His choice was jump or die.

 

You know you have true passion when you take the same unprotected risks as Alexander, Armstrong, Aldrin and Baumgartner. They had to win or die. The true stars in any field are those with no Plan B.

 

Sometimes we give our best when there seems to be no hope. If we burn the boats, we find an extra gear to produce and excel past our normal level. The moment the bank account drops very low I seem to take a step up. Selling oils was entirely different than the gold leaf. I had to sell the oils; the gold leaf drew people in like flies to sugar water.

 

I’m certain some of you are thinking as you read about no Plan B, “Do we need to be that focused. Why not be more adaptable and have a backup plan in case this doesn’t work?”

 

My question back is, “When does working two plans serve a purpose?” The Bible says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” I think that means plan your work and work your plan. Follow your plan because without it how will you know you are there if you don’t know where you are going? To succeed, become laser focused on your goal. Establish yourself a Plan A and then etch those directions in stone.

 

The reason most artists don’t succeed is their failure to focus on what works. They burn through pages writing down goals only to cave at the first bad turn in the road. Look back over your successes, expand on them and you will find more. You can be adaptable within your plan, adjusting your sails to catch the best breezes. Burn the bridges of Plan B behind you and go for it. You can reach your goals.

 


 

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Topics: Art Business | FineArtViews | inspiration | Jack White | sell art | selling art online | selling fine art online 

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 28 Comments

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Jack -- Defeat happens. We all experience it to some degree. The wise person learns from it... and builds from there. Having a Plan B though... well, that is kind of like accepting the ultimate defeat before it happens. If an artist is overly focused on Plan B... he or she will likely experience the ultimate defeat. Think of it as being bogged down by negativity.

We all know that we could do other things if needed. I know, as a writer, that if need be I could hack factory work again OR serve within the mental health industry as I did in the past. BUT I don't focus on that. Those jobs will be there when and if I need them -- they are not going away. I focus on doing good with what I do now. I treat those other options as an afterthought.

By the way, did I ever tell you that I'm fairly certain my grandfather had some of your gold leaf works? I remember them as a child. They were either works by you -- or knock offs. Ha. I remember the radiance that 'popped' as they reflected light from his fireplace.

He was a fairly successful farmer in Illinois... used to receive gifts from other farmers / ranchers as far as Texas. Small world.

Maria Brophy
via faso.com
When I left my high-paying position in insurance many years ago to work as manager to my artist husband, I never looked back.

Even though I went from a six figure income to a zero income (true!), I knew I'd build it back up again.

I believed in my new venture so much that I let my insurance license lapse without renewal.

There was no Plan B - I had to figure out how to make it work.

Though it's had it's ups and downs, and it's not always easy, I love what I do now and I have never regretted burning that bridge behind me.

No Plan B!

Michelle Morris
via faso.com
Jack;
I've been reading FASO blogs for over a year now. Your stuff resonates so much that I even bought your first book. Thanks so much for your insights. I continue prayers for your health.

Jill Banks
via faso.com
This career of creating art (and marketing it) is all-consuming. It requires all the energy, passion, and time available and that's exactly where I want to invest them.

I've never looked back since taking the plunge ... and am so thankful for the wonderful adventure that has ensued.

Can't (and don't want to) imagine life under Plan B.

Always go for it, wholeheartedly.


Phil Kendall
via faso.com
Life has no plan B. It's a simple journey [yes simple] from start to finish and in between you pay taxes and do your best to please just about every other person who puts their take on your time or usually your money.

Life has those big T junctions. Not X cross-roads..just go away and think about it you can only do one thing or it's opposite.

The big satisfactions in life depend on making the right choice at every T junction!

OK after six years my art is not commercial enough but what the hell! I still paint, I'm still retired, I'm still alive, I'm still married to The Memsahib, I still paint and I have virtual friends from just about every country where people paint and connect via the internet.

I just hope that you guys over in Eastern USA soon get up and running again. Here in The UK living just 5 metres above sea level it happened back in 1947 and its only the pumps and barriers that stop it today. Best wishes to you all

John French
via faso.com
Thanks, Mr. White. I really needed this article today!

John

Joyce Wynes
via faso.com
As one of my best professors used to say, "It is 98 percent determination and 2 percent talent". There are a lot of talented artists out there but it will only be the ones who are determined to make art their career who make it. And as in any profession, the determined rise up the ladder because they are always focused and finding new ways to get there.

Tom Weinkle
via faso.com
Beautiful message, as usual. It made me think about life being as others have said, about choices, to make the ones that lead to happiness without causing undue harm to others.

To me, Plan B may just be another path to Plan A... a longer journey, maybe with more hurdles.

I like your encouragement that we must see our dream and happiness as the only choice if we want to make it come true. It;s gotta be more efficient than if we have another outcome in mind.

I love your writings.

tom

stephen cobleigh
via faso.com
You are a very shrwed (marked by clever discerning awareness and hardheaded acumen)man Jack. This quality above all I admire in you and success is surely a thing second nature to you. Good Show, very well written, one of your best.

Stephen Cobleigh

Trent Gudmundsen
via faso.com
Jack, I couldn't agree more. 15 years ago, I dropped out of my second year of college knowing that if I had another option to fall back on, I would ultimately take that option. I decided then an there that I was an artist, and that was that. Dropping out and burning those bridges is still one of the best things I've done for my art career.

Karen Burnette Garner
via faso.com
Jack, when I see your name on the daily blog, I know I'll see something of worth. You did not disappoint. You really do see things as they are, and your practical advice is worth so much! I struggle with the demands of life versus the demands of my art all the time. I can't imagine a life that I don't create art..it just isn't in the equation. I can see myself doing all kinds of things outside that focus, but art remains at the heart of it. I have a show this weekend...and I will be carrying your thoughts with me. No plan B for me.

Delilah
via faso.com
I started reading Art Calendar Magazine years ago because I was drawn to your article then and as I read today I still find them loaded with all the right stuff, the stuff it takes to make it in this world of art.

I have a plan B it is always how can I do it better, is there a better way to market my work, how can I improve on what I am doing.

Thanks for all the help

Jim
via faso.com
Jack,
Once again and outstanding article. I heard the same thing from a wise man in college when I was preparing for my first career. I had no plan B then and have none now. Downsized two years ago I decided it was time to earn a living as an artist like I'd always dreamed. With the support of my best friend, my wife, I've not looked back. I'm not where I want to be, but I will get there. Thanks for all you do for fellow artists.

Marian Fortunati
via faso.com
Passion... That's what makes you tick!

Personally I'd rather live to enjoy my art than die because of it. But I have no plan B either.

JIm Springett
via faso.com
This is a very timely story, thanks Jack, I did not hear these stories before but having a single plan has helped me too. I loved art all my life from first being introduced at a young age in Toledo,OHio at the Toledo Museum Of Art but going through high school and college I did not expand upon my love of art, rather sketched and used colored pencils over the years and it took some tough love to spur me many years later to pursue painting. I continued to work in my job another 16 years before realizing enough was enough so Marge and I retired early in 2006-2007, sold everything and moved to the wilderness in NW WI. Our friends thought we were not thinking clearly,because we were both at the apex of our careers and money wise couldn't have asked for more, yet since retiring and becoming a full time artists has been the real highlight of my work days and i'm so excited each day to rise up and paint, some days i paint 10-12 hours and never tire and then get up the next day and do this again. Jack and Mikki have gotten me past page 1, onto page 2 with many more pages to go, but the past 4 years of art education has been the very best, andwith Jack and Mikki's suggestion,I started in August of 2008 I listed my art on eBay and I have been selling steadily each year, with approximately 230 originals oil paintings being sold. It has been a wonderful process, painting the wildlife that I love so dearly, and learning with each painting. My duck stamps are great to paint too, and this is my goal to master and to succeed, that is the plan. I have a lot of very wonderful experiences that I have lived since being a full time artist, and i'm grateful that I took a moment to write to Jack and that he was willing to help a green horn like me learn some of the keys to fine art and painting well. Jack is also one of my best friends, and last year Marge and I attended Jack and Mikki's art workshop in Santa Fe, wow what a wonderful trip we had, sure looking forward to seeing them once again in Santa Fe. Thank you kind sir and madame.I thank FASO too, for the great help in showing my work each day and how they work to make our world a better place, helping all our artists. Thanks Clint and your whole Tech Staff, a great team.
Jimmy Springett-wildlife painter

Bobbi Baltzer-Jacobo
via faso.com
Jack,

There couln't be better comments than those you put down today! It hit me exactly where I am, in the process of eliminating the Plan B out of my life so that I can truly hit my A Plan with full force!
I totally agree with what you have said, and I compare it to when I heard that Thomas Edison had invented something like 5000 lightbulbs before he had ONE that worked correctly...THAT is passion for ones goals and work! No Plan B there!
Thank you so much Jack, you are truly an "inspiration"!
Bobbi Baltzer-Jacobo

Kathy Chin
via faso.com
Jack,

Very timely post!!! Got a request to do some part-time work which is horrible fit. But I was thinking, I need to earn some money for "this, this, and that." Should I do it? After careful consideration decided against it determined to make changes in my selling, branding, and marketing in order to make more money.

You're right Jack, we're dedicated to what we're doing and have to stop giving ourselves excuses for not making it! Thanks for the reminder!

kc



crystal Rassi
via faso.com
I think your bible quote could be interpreted another way. "A double minded man.." could also mean two-faced: say one thing, do another. We can have as many or as few plans as we like, but if it does not follow the Lord's plan, all plans will be less than stellar. I think we have to first meditate on the word and pray about our Plan A before moving forward. Having more than one plan to take care of your family is considerate and thoughtful, not two-faced or "double minded" and should not be frowned upon. I believe the Lord smiles upon those who put others before themselves and if you're able to have plan A line up with the Lord's plan and support others around you, then that's fabulous.

If there's others out there who have preschoolers and are making it with plan A, tell us your story, your strategies, your inspiring tales.

jack white
via faso.com
crystal Rassi

Actually the bible says double minded man. It doesn't say two faced.

There is plenty places where the bible deals with being two faced, but this is not one.

Jack

jack white
via faso.com
Jim Springett,

The thing holding you back is the lack of single minded focus. Every now and then you get the urge to chase rabbits.

I'm proud of the progress you have made and if and when you become laser focused your growth will be amazing.

Thank MJ for the hawk release photo. The next time you do a hawk in profile use her head shot. I's amazing.

Jack

jack white
via faso.com
Delilah

You do go a long way back. As you know Art Calendar is now Professional Artist.

Thanks for your support. Its folks like you who have been my encouragement to continue to try to write wiser and better.

Hugs, Jack

jack white
via faso.com
Karen Burnette Garner

If you sign your three word signature consider cutting back to two. Do that on the front of your painting and the full three names on the back.

We block off an area in Kilz on the back of the canvas. It's a white paint you can get at Lowes, Ace or Home Depot. Put on two coats then you can use a sharpie to write the information.

Mothers have a harder time staying focused because of the pressure of the family. I admire mothers who are also artist.

West Coast Jennifer has five young boys and manages to take care of them, plus have a thriving art career. It can be done.
Jack

Sharon Weaver
via faso.com
Jack, you are so right, and I speak from experience. Being single minded has always been a characteristic of mine. Some call me stubborn but I like to think of it as knowing my goals and sticking to them. Even in 7th grade I knew what I wanted to do and could see it in my mind. I imagined it to be true and it became my reality. I have reinvented myself three times since my first manifestation, taking on different creative careers and I give a lot of credit to my "can't fail" attitude.

Jim Springett
via faso.com
Most of my work, not all, has been in oils however my watercolors I have advanced too. The essence of painting for me has been the message not so much on my technique. Painting wildlife keeps me improving, a close wood duck is not going to be very representative, unless the finite details are there. Since I do my own photography that helps me create my painting my needs have grown a lot and now my images from photo gave to improve if my painting is going to the next level, I can paint only as good as I can see.

Next year I probably won't sell 75 paintings on eBay, but my emphasis on my dynamic work is the plan. The eBay collectors have been good to help teach me about wildlife art and that has been a blessing, and for that I am very grateful. Thank you!

I'd recommend Jack White's book on how to sell on eBay, might help to jump start and extend your art career and market. There are a lot of very good collectors on eBay, so think about joining the art group, it's big over 250,000 pieces of new art are presented per day, that is a very fruitful gallery. Since we have no art gallery or way to sell in NW WI, eBay has been a God send.

Have a good day and say hi to Clint when you speak to him, faso is a great home for my art blogs and portfolio.

Jim Springett-wildlife painter

PS: thanks JandM

crystal Rassi
via faso.com
Thanks Jack, I over analyze and triple question the use of bible references whenever anyone uses them to justify their work. In this case, you're right. In many other cases, the bible can be twisted and misused to justify the means.

Thanks for the article though. It is a thought provoking one.

Tammi Vaughan
via faso.com
What a Fantastic and Inspirational article! Thank you so much Jack!

margene parker
via faso.com
Thank you Mr. Jack White good words, but how to focus on one when everything interests me, and I have to try to do it all. but it has been a great journey. thank you again for these words of wisdom. Margene

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
I was thinking back on this article... and it hit me that I've known artists who have a Plan B, C, D... and so on. It just goes to show that artists need to focus on Plan A... instead of exhausting themselves by thinking of other options. If you can't focus on Plan A -- perhaps art marketing -- (art as business) is not for you.










 

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