We had the good fortune of connecting with fnnch and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi fnnch, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I didn’t intend to start a business — I was just looking for an outlet because I felt creatively stifled at my work. I started going out at night and creating street art in San Francisco, and it took about 4 years from that point until I was able to take my art practice full time. Two of those years I did it as a hobby, and two of those years it was my primary focus. There are advantages and disadvantages to starting a business accidentally. The advantage is that you cannot fail — if the business fails, you aren’t even aware there was a business, so it’s as if you didn’t start it at all, which in some sense you didn’t. The disadvantage is that, if you are looking to get out of your current job, it’s a lot harder to do that when you don’t make a conscious effort to start a business. The most useful learning I can share from my personal experience is that the business model of my art practice — selling paintings from editions direct-to-collector from my own website — did not become clear for many years. The traditional business model of selling one-off paintings through a gallery did not work for me, and I tried that and many other things before stumbling across something that did, and I slowly got better at doing that thing until I could support myself from my art.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I call my art “contemporary pop art”, and I paint objects from everyday life and nature using stencils and spray paint. What sets my work apart aesthetically is that I have a background in digital illustration, which this lets me design stencils that look different from those designed using other, more common, techniques. Becoming a professional artist is incredibly difficult. The reason is simple — the market for fine art is tiny. Every artist in the world put together makes less than a company like Nike. Only about 1% of artists are able to earn enough from their practice to live with any comfort in a city like San Francisco. Contrast that to a profession like nursing where I would bet 100% of people can live with basic comfort in this city. I got to the point where I am through the most traditional way possible — working hard and making intelligent decisions, day in day out, for years.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Francisco has an incredibly culinary scene that extends from street tacos up to Michelin 3-Star restaurants. Two great sub-categories are ice cream and coffee. I would take someone to BiRite, Garden Creamery, Smitten, and Humphry Slocombe for ice cream, and to Four Barrel, Ritual, Sightglass, Cafe Reveille, Blue Bottle, and Sightglass for coffee. San Francisco is also a great city for quirky shops. I find it fun to walk Valencia Street in the Mission from 14th to 24th. Highlights include Paxton Gate — home of oddities like carnivorous plants and taxidermy — 826 Valencia, a pirate store that fronts for a non-profit that teaches children and adults how to write. Finally, San Francisco is a great city for public art. The easiest place to go are the alleys between 24th and 25th such as Balmy, Cypress, Osage, and Lilac. The larger murals are scattered all over the city, but any walk through the Mission or Tenderloin should yield quite a few.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Stephen Bauer of Baumar Finishing. I met Stephen on the street while he was painting a mural on his business, and when he gave a me a tour, I saw a paint booth for the first time. I asked him if I could rent time in the booth from him, and he graciously let me use it for free on nights and weekends. Prior to this I had been painting my fine art wherever I could — on a balcony, in a parking lot, in a shower, and in a burned out house. Having access to a safe and stable painting environment let me take my art practice to the next level. Stephen had no reason to trust me — just a random guy off the street — but he is a kind and generous person, and he saw something in me and my art that led him to help me.