You might know David Bromstad for his home designs, but he is an artist at heart.
When the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin were released during the height of the hand-drawn era for Disney, Bromstad was in high school and knew instantly that he wanted to become an animator. So he began chasing his dream to become an artist.
Bromstad attended the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, because that was one of the top schools that Disney recruited from at the time. But when he started animation classes, he found them to be, well, boring. "Drawing the same thing over, and over, and over again I thought, 'I don't think this is for me,' " Bromstad said of the experience. Instead he decided to build up his drawing and painting skills to open up his options.
While he did achieve his dream of working for Disney, eventually Bromstad found himself evolving as an artist and doing mural paintings in kid's rooms saying, " I don't know why I'm doing this, but I know it's going to lead to somewhere." And it sure did. It led him to eventually try out for Design Star where he wowed fans with his artwork and his career catapulted to success. But even as his design business grows, he still goes back to his first love of art, doing both custom paintings and affordable stretch canvases.
He was able to turn his art into a successful career, and we were able to snag his tips for lessons he learned along the way.
Bromstad: Education is definitely key. You get your basic principles when you're in school, which are incredibly important to develop a nice structure to who you are as an artist, but other than that? You're on your own.
I would never take away my education, but the school of life is where you get your hard knocks; it's where you pay your dues and that's really where you learn so much as an artist and a person.
Bromstad: I was only trained in painting and drawing while in school. I taught myself through necessity of "I need to have a paycheck" on how to do the sculpting, the 3-dimensional art, the furniture making, the prop styling that all came from project needs. When I was out of work and someone asked me "Hey, can you work with wood?" I said "YES!" And then I ran home and asked my dad what to do since he did minor woodworking.
Bromstad: Oh that's easy, I'm constantly on the internet every single day researching. Are you on Pinterest yet? Addicting. You surround yourself with amazing images and everything that is going on in the world instead of just your region. The inspiration used to be so regional before the internet came out, but now there is inspiration at your fingertips.
I also get inspired by just being by myself. Laying on the beach, relaxing and letting my mind unwind. I'll listen to music and my mind will get clouded with great ideas. That's where I get most of my really great ideas.
Bromstad: To me, the number one thing you can do as an artist to make money is to be versatile. This is one of the things we didn't learn in college. In college they're like "you need to have style. You need to be unique. When people look at your artwork they should know who you are." But the one person in school who was an average artist, but able to apply all the lessons he'd learn in school, got seven job offers. I was in the top 10 of my class and didn't get any job offers. That was my first lesson in being versatile.
I took that very quick lesson and applied it to the rest of my career and became versatile in everything. I started doing murals, working with wood, working with glass, doing multimedia, doing scenic work outside, working inside.
Do anything you can do that you can tell someone you can do. It's like "Hey David, what you do? Well, I'm a painter. Oh. That's great." Versus, "What you do? Well, I'm a painter, I'm a sculptor, I'm a builder. I can do art." If you're great in photography, if you're great at drawing — anything that has to do with the art field, then hone those skills, and you'll get more work out of it.
If you say, "I'm just a painter," well that's great, but you're limiting yourself to all the other jobs out there that can make you some cash. Learning as many techniques as you can and staying as versatile as possible is the only way to make money as an artist these days.
Bromstad: A lot of artists are not business people and that's me. I'm not a great business man. I know what I need to do, but the motivation behind actually setting up a business plan and putting yourself out there is really tough.
What I did before Design Star is putting myself out there. We used to have "Arty Parties" in Orlando once a month, and I'd create a few pieces of art to showcase. Some cities have a gallery walk. We have one down here every second Saturday of the month in the Wynwood District, which is the artist district, and literally tens of thousands of people come down. Just really getting into the art scene is super important because once you can get into the art scene you are going to meet the right people that are going to catapult your career.
Bromstad: Get yourself out there. Sometimes artists tend to be very introverted and they express themselves through their art — that's why they're artists — so it's hard for them to get out there, but that would be my biggest advice. Try to be as well-connected as possible. Reach outside your comfort zone and try to make connections that you would have never made before. And if you're not good at it? Find a friend that can help you do it.
Bromstad: I think it is important to have a workspace.Whether it's inspiring or not is a different story. I think having a workspace is a huge luxury for an artist. I've always been very lucky that I've always had a space. Were they always inspiring? No. But it gave me the ability to walk out and start working.
Setting up is 90 percent of the work. You have to lay down your parts, set up your easel, and then when you're done you have to put it all away. So if you're inspired to work and it takes you an hour and a half to set up, by that time the inspiration could be gone. So if you can have any type of workspace, that to me is an inspiration in itself.
Of course any workspace you have should be stocked with whatever supplies you need for the current project at hand so you don't have to break in the middle of a project for a trip to the store. And Bromstad says "You gotta have good lighting," but for him his absolute studio must-have is climate control. He lives in Florida where air-conditioning is key to keeping your cool and staying focused on the task at hand without melting away.
Bromstad's workspaces has evolved with his career. His first studio was a small attached room and looked like a spa out of the '70s with cedar planks on the wall. It was only about a 10 by 10-foot space. His favorite space was a 12,000 square foot studio. It didn't have any air-conditioning, but it was all his, and he could spread out and do wood working and painting. That's where he created the majority of his kid's rooms when he first started diving into design. When he got too hot, he used to go into his old car and turn on the AC to cool down. Ah, what sacrifices are made in the name of art.
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