Maria Brophy


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Success Formula From Live Painting Artist Michael Pukac

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I do a lot of research on other artists.”  Michael Pukac, successful Los Angeles artist.

One of the best ways to create your own success is to emulate someone else who’s already done it. Study them and their formula.  Then put it to work for yourself.

I’m going to share with you an inspirational story and formula of an artist who started with nothing and now is quickly rising to the top.

If you want the basic formula for success as a creative person, keep reading. The indented colored text is my take on the success principles that this artist has employed.

(I first wrote this article for FIND ART Magazine last summer.  This is the long version, before FIND ART edited it.)

If you haven’t heard of Live Painting Artist Michael Pukac yet, trust me, you will.  His art is striking, but it’s his fearlessness that’s sealed the deal on his success.  Fear of failure has never stopped Pukac from going for his dream.

Pukac (pronounced “Poo-Khash) had me at “hello” and it wasn’t because he is Slavic (me too), or that he is part 1 of 2 parts of a power couple (me too), or that he would rather travel the world than have money in the bank (me too);

I am smitten with Pukac because he never gave up on his art career, even when he failed his first go around.  Now he is quickly becoming the hot new darling of the Los Angeles art scene.

And that’s a message I give to every artist who ever asks me about finding success in art.  Don’t let failure make you quit.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.

Pukac made the big, scary move from Alabama to Los Angeles the first time in 2005.  Things didn’t quite work out for him, though.  He endured a year of hardship before returning back to the East Coast.  He wasn’t yet ready for the big city- he needed more money and time.  But he didn’t give up on the dream.

Never give up on what you want.

Two years later a deal to create illustrations for a children’s book series came to him.  This earned him enough money to return to Los Angeles and give it a second try.  This time, he was armed with his right-brained girlfriend and manager Dicapria.

If you fall down, dust yourself off and try it again.

Living in Los Angeles has been a whirlwind for Pukac.  With Dicapria’s help, he evolved from struggling artist to having his art fully support both of them in just three years.    Each week he not only performs “live paintings” two or three times, but he also averages two new exhibit openings as well.  He’s a busy guy.

Do the hard work it takes to be successful.

From the very beginning, Pukac made sure that no matter what he did for money, it involved painting.  He explained, “My rule was to live by the paintbrush.  You can’t ever think ‘I’m too good for that.”

Pucak would accept any job that involved painting, even sign painting.  Now, he has the stature to be able to paint what he chooses.

Commit to your craft.  Do what you want to be doing.  It’s what you do each day that defines who you are.

Finding his footing in Los Angeles took planning and a lot of work.

Pukac said “In Los Angeles you have to have your game plan together to be able to live off of your art.”

He knew that he wanted to hit the gallery scene hard, but there was a catch.  He needed a platform to allow him to do it.

This is a problem that most creative people struggle with; figuring out “HOW”.  There’s no one perfect roadmap to success for art.

But there’s also a common mistake that many artists make.  They turn away opportunity when it’s presented to them. This is because they don’t see that their prayers are being answered, because often opportunity doesn’t show up looking like they imagined it would.  It comes disguised as something else.

But Pukac was open to the unexpected.  The answer to his problem of HOW to tap into the LA art scene came to him by accident when he discovered “live painting”.

He said that once he started doing live paintings, he realized that he was born to do this.  “It was the best thing that ever happened to my career.

Be open to new ideas; you might just figure out something you should have been doing all along.

Another reason for the strong interest in his work is that Pukac’s style is fresh on the West Coast.  Los Angeles is known for having too many artists painting that ‘doe-eyed’ look and curators are tiring of it.

I came out here and realized that no one’s work looks like mine.  Here in Los Angeles, they LOVE different.  That’s why I feel so at home in the gallery scene here.”

Have your own thing.  Do something different from everyone else.

Pukac is a visionary.  Ask him what his plans are for the next 15 years and he’ll tell you, broken down in three-year increments.  He plans on spending three more years in Los Angeles and then moving to New York for five years.  After that, he’ll move to Prague.  He has been planning his life out from the beginning. And it’s worked for him.

Plan what you want to do for the year, five years, ten years, and your life.

Extremely prolific, Michael finishes more paintings in a week than most artists do in a year. “I’ll do three paintings in four hours,” Michael says of his live painting performances.

He’s dedicated, working six days a week and often seven.   He will work on 25 paintings at a time, spending 15 minutes on each before methodically moving onto the next.  “It’s very, very efficient,” he explained.  “I have to keep that momentum up.

Volume is substance.  Pump out the work.

Pukac’s paintings defy logic.  He gets a kick out of painting flawed scenarios, such as a woman suspended by hot air balloons which are supported by candles.  Pukac laughs, “it’s going to be a short trip!”

He borrows from serious classical pieces then adds his own humorous, clever twist.  His artists’ statement describes his paintings as “…playful – heartfelt yet irrational.  They are like romantic absurdities or well-spoken riddles with no answer…” He’s well-read and brilliant, and his paintings reflect his intellect.

I asked Pukac if he paints fast.  He answered, “Mother Nature doesn’t spend time testing before a release.  I paint the way that nature works, fast and without worry.  Quality is inevitable.”

Pukac listens to books on tape while painting.  “You can’t always listen to music,” he explains.  “I do a lot of research on other artists.”  He just finished listening to THE HISTORY OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL and now is onto lighter subjects with ONLY COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES by Tom Robbins.

Keep educating yourself

Here are a few revealing questions I asked Pukac:

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU COULD MAKE MONEY FROM YOUR ART?  “As a kid, in fourth grade, I sold drawings of nudies for .50 cents to the older kids on the school bus.”  (He was a born entrepreneur!)

DID YOUR PARENTS SUPPORT YOUR DESIRE TO BE AN ARTIST?  “It kind of was always there.  One way my parents kept me busy was by just giving me a pencil.  I was obsessed.  When I got out of college, they asked ‘what are you gonna do?’  ‘What do you mean what am I gonna do?’ I said.  There was no other option.  They fully supported it.”

HOW DO YOU START YOUR DAY?  “My first hour of waking up is devoted drawing sketches – bizarre, evil lollipops and vaginas, things that have nothing to do with my work.”

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE TROUBLE EARNING A FULL TIME LIVING FROM ART?  “They have to go through a stage of doing it even though they hate it.  I don’t think a lot of artists are willing to go through the starving period.  It took me two years.”

WHAT’S THE WORST ADVICE YOU EVER GOT?  “If you just put more dogs in your paintings, you’ll sell more!”

DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE LAW OF ATTRACTION?  “It happens again and again and again.  My whole career has been just the right person showing up at just the right time.”

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR DREAM?  “Yeah.  Every day I wake up so stoked.  To work for myself is awesome.   Some days I complain that I haven’t had a day off in two months.  But then I remember that I’m lucky.”

ARE YOU SUCCESSFUL?  “Yes. (pause)  No.  I’m happy, but I have a goal in mind and I’m on that path.”

“I’m still running that marathon.”

Please, share in the comments below what you get out of Michael Pukac’s story!

Maria xxoo


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24 Comments Success Formula From Live Painting Artist Michael Pukac

  1. Maria Brophy

    Bill, thanks for commenting on my blog post literally 3 minutes after I hit “Publish”! I appreciate it!

    And Michael: You are such an inspiration – I was fortunate to have had a couple hours getting to know you. Thanks for being so open and sharing!

  2. Lindsay Dianne

    I love reading these types of articles they always inspire me to just KEEP going. Sometimes I guess we all want to give up, but those who persevere are certainly more likely to make it than those who stop trying!

  3. Robin Sagara

    Thank you Michael and Maria for sharing the realities of being a full time artist. This is so inspiring. For people with families (and/or full time jobs) who have limited time to devote to their art, but who would like their art to support them, is it realistic for them to expect success without full-time effort and starving?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Robin, to answer your question: I think that anything done part time will garner part time results. And that’s okay for many people – I know artists who are completely happy with working a full time job and doing their art in their spare time.

      However, to earn a living from it, where you are supporting yourself and others, you really have to commit fully to it. This is what I’ve seen over the years – I have yet to meet someone who has pulled off full time income from part time work in the arts.

      However, that’s not to say it’s impossible. I do believe anything’s possible – I just haven’t seen it with my own eyes yet….

  4. Robin Sagara

    Thanks Maria, makes sense. I too believe that anything is possible, but so far what I’ve seen is that part time effort yields part-time results, which is fine if that’s what an artist (or any business person) wants.

  5. kara rane

    brilliant Michael Pukac & Maria!
    Live painting was the key to our successful biz in the Caribbean.
    i painted & people appeared,,it is so much fun*
    Interesting perspective on planning,, I have ideas,,I wonder what the Himalayas really look like and then I plan….letting nothing! (least of all money) stand in my way.
    I, too, live by my passions and often times it has been the paintbrush.

  6. Franziska San Pedro

    I so relate to Michael! I believe that most people give up too soon or don’t want it bad enough. Speaking from experience… I’ve made my way up to Executive Chef cooking for the richest people in the world starting from the potwash, many tears and much sweat and many years later, sharing rooms with strangers and literally no salary. In the end, I could have chosen a career on TV with my own chef’s show, my own restaurant but I have achieved everything I wanted and it was never about fame… can’t put a wild bird into a cage!

    Now, I am at the beginning again as an artist and I can do it again… If you have a goal in your life, you will get there. Just never rest, never get tired of learning, never stop setting new goals, life is amazing and I love the journey!!

    Good luck to all those ambitious souls out there: enjoy the ride!

    Franziska San Pedro

  7. Alex Mitchell

    Great article, and I love Franziska’s reply. It made me run to my office to get the book I have been reading: “Creativity for Life” by Eric Maisel. Here is a quote: “…Artists, in order to be creative, are challenged to love enough, to know enough, and to do enough, and these tasks are as real and challenging as any human endeavor can be.”
    Loving, knowing, and doing… is to keep our passion for our medium alive, to continue learning and exploring, and to DO the work.

  8. Jennie Rosenbaum

    wonderful inspiring article thankyou! so much of it resonated with me and with how I want to continue to build my career. my new studio will allow me to have more artworks on the go at once which I think will make huge difference. the one stand out feature I’ve seen historically and currently of artists who are successful is producing a large volume of work, getting it out there and continuing on. it’s hard work and I agree that seems to scare a lot of people off!

    do you mind if I use part of this post in my friday nude quotes?

  9. Pete Dooley

    Best quote i have read in centuries. No I am not (quite) that old, I read a lot. Your blog is now on my A list. Thanks Maria.

    ” I asked Pukac if he paints fast. He answered,

    “Mother Nature doesn’t spend time testing before a release. I paint the way that nature works, fast and without worry. Quality is inevitable.”

  10. Michael Nauert

    This is a great story! I love hearing others’ stories and taking hope and vision for myself. How things intertwine together is always so unexpected – these stories help me to recognize what to keep my eye out for. Thanks for sharing!

  11. William Tyler

    I have been sitting here reading everthing on your site. I have to say this is the best advice out there. I had to quit my job due to medical problems with my daughter ( ADHD and OCD) My wife and I talked about doing my art fulltime and I have been for the last 3 months. In that three months I have done a live painting and meet anf greet. It was in a small eatery in Cocoa Beach. Not a lot of people came out, but I sold three peices, commision to do work in the Eatery, and another commision for 3 wood carvings. I am even looking toward being in the Boards and Waves Expo in 2012. It is hard to stay focus on the future of becoming a full time artist but if you just keep on networking and be persisted things do work out in the end. In the past I was just doing Craft fairs and New Years parties. I am now going out of my way to find other means to get my art and name out there. And the support I get from my wife is major. SHe is constantly telling me not to give up. My little girl is my inspiration also. Thank you for your support also.

    1. mariabrophy

      William, thank you so much for the kind words. I’m glad that my blog is helping you. And you are so fortunate to have a wife that is supportive. That is so important to have someone on the same team as you!


  12. Lorenzo

    Great article and interview Maria! Although I have a small group of great people who have liked my Facebook art page I choose to continue what I enjoy doing as if I have 50,000 fans; in the past, I would be discouraged. It’s something I learned watching an opening band play at a recent concert I attended; I went to the gig specifically to watch them and not necessarily the headliners. The crowd size is always the smallest for the opening band, but they played as if they were in front of 50,000 fans. They went balls out, put out the energy and committed to playing great even though the crowd was more on the lackluster side. That taught me something huge: To give it all you got because YOU love what you’re doing!

    I also learned from climbing Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, that if I want to do something bad enough I’ll feel the fear and do it anyway…

  13. Lorenzo

    I don’t like what I wrote before. I feel the need to correct myself. What I really learned from the opening band that played their hearts out to the smaller crowd is that they gave it all they had to those who were there to support them or lend an ear. They wanted to give us their best whether we were a group of ten or a crowd of thousands. It didn’t matter. What did matter was the shared experience! It’s having the mindset of loving what they do and being grateful for any support they have. That’s more accurate as to how I feel.

    I don’t like that I had eluded to not feeling content without a large group of people who like what I do. That’s not even close to how it is for me. I had misspoke..

  14. himeezembi

    It was amazingly story I loved it…
    I learn a lot in it,we need some teaching like this as young artist…

  15. Mark Hilsden

    Hi Maria,
    At this moment in time we are struggling but in a four to six weeks I should be able to afford a consultation with you.
    On and off for over twenty years I’ve been creating art and for the first few years did hundreds of pen and ink drawings of houses in the UK and in the end became dissatisfied with the whole thing as I ended chasing the next commission and money and paying staff but stopped creating for myself. Eventually everything collapsed in a heap including myself. Then for myself I drew and drew things that I wanted to create, buildings that I knew would challenge me and a whole range of things.
    After that I became a bus driver and for some ten years had a lot of fun driving big vehicles. During that period, management policy changed and I met my wife – my number one fan – around 2013 many things were changing within our bus company that I wasn’t happy with.
    My wife encouraged me to return to art. I got a couple of commissioned house portraits but I struggled to find them in the volume that I closed them some 15 years earlier.
    In 2013 I got an opportunity to hold my first exhibition based around the theme of Napoleons Bonaparte’s brother Lucien. Once we got over the euphoria and started looking at reality we realised it was going to be expensive to put on as they needed around 30 pictures. After thinking things through with my wife we realised we had to do something pretty radical. We made the decision that if we were going to do we wanted to have impact.
    We decided to live in the car, this way we would save the rent money, using it to make and promote the exhibition. During the mornings we went to the library to create artwork and my wife doing research for it, followed by a full shift on the buses.
    With the help of a innovative direct and social marketing campaign we got the attention of several major art collectors, an international interior designer, sold several of the drawings and had several clients who were happy to pay £1,000 for a commission. With the of the press we had over a thousand visitors during the three week show.
    We purchased a caravan and happily lived in that for six months before it was stolen.
    The interest created by the exhibition attracted the attention of a former colleague who offered to help. During the following 15 months he stole artworks, sent up a fraudulent company and did everything imaginable to destroy us. My wife ended up in hospital coming close to dying over Christmas.
    Over the New Year we decided to work towards being professional artists and since the new year decided to teach myself acrylics and over the last few months have reached a stage where I have started selling a few.
    Would you be able to help us to help as develop ways of achieve our goals?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dear Mark,

      Yes, I can help. When you are ready to get started, refer to my “work with me” page on and choose which consultation you want. The one hour option is going to be best – and in one hour we will devise a plan to move you forward and closer to your goals!


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