“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
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!