Welcome to our series of interviews with some of our favorite member artists on Imagekind. They may be best sellers or up-and-coming artists. We hope that you can learn from these members and find some great new artists to love!
John Kraft joined Imagekind in 2008. His bright and bold work is a favorite on Imagekind and he has helped many members by continually giving great advice on artistic techniques and marketing. In addition to answering a few questions, John is also offering one of his best-selling pieces, “Racing the Moon,” at a special price this week. Be sure to check it out, and get this deal while the price lasts.
San Francisco based artist John Kraft was born in Los Angeles in 1967. He was selected as a Featured Artist by Apple, and his art has been included in Dwell Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, ARTnews and in Modern Painters.
1. How and when did you get started making art? What has been your journey as an artist?
My journey as an artist arguably started at birth, but my work, in tangible form, has been in development for just over twenty years. Fourteen years ago I found what I consider to be my voice and my vocabulary as an artist. With a consistent palette and use of both strong color and line, this vocabulary has freed me to focus more on the story I wish to tell and less on the words I use in the telling of that story.
2. What was the turning point that gave your art a “voice and vocabulary?” Was it a trial and error process or a brilliant epiphany?
The turning point in finding my current style as an artist was development of the piece “Priorities”. I began the piece by creating relatively abstract color fields and then for no particular reason I wondered what impact strong black lines would have on the various shapes and the composition as a whole. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Keith Haring and that I consider him a major influence, but at that moment it truly was an innocent experimentation with something new. Of course, this was a turning point in terms of style, but the vocabulary itself developed over time as more and more pieces were created.
Wine and Song by John Kraft
3. What is your process when creating a piece? What medium do you use? What is your inspiration?
My process has evolved over the years from the use of acrylics and pastels on wood panel or canvas to what is now a true composite of both traditional and digital painting techniques. This includes the creation of key elements with acrylics and pastels, digitization of those elements, and finally refinement of composition, color and scale within the digital space. I love the flexibility of working digitally and the myriad of “what-if” scenarios that I can explore. The added benefit of this approach is that the work can then be expressed in various media, whether it is paper, canvas, or more durable materials – all from the same source composition. Inspiration comes from everything around me, but most significantly from my wife Nikki and my daughter Sienna and from the beautiful city of San Francisco.
4. What does your work area look like? Are you messy or meticulous when creating?
I’d like to say I have a roof top studio that overlooks all of San Francisco, but in reality, like many artists, my studio consists of a spare room in our home where I have a combination of easel, paints and computer equipment. The final composition for every single piece is completed on a now somewhat dated G4 Powerbook. I’d say I’m fairly meticulous when creating, especially when doing the work on the computer. I can spend hours on details that will never be seen in the online version of the piece. There was a MacWorld UK interview I did years ago that went into greater detail on my process at the time: http://www.johnkraft.com/jk_mw_uk.pdf
Soulmates by John Kraft
5. There are a lot of recurring themes, symbols, icons and color choices in your pieces. I’d love to know more about them.
In earlier pieces, like “Priorities” the recurring figures represented either lonely or lost souls fighting against excess and inner conflict, but now, in pieces like “Soulmates” or “One More Makes Three” these same figures are exclusively celebratory, loving and joyful – a direct reflection of the happiness and joy I’ve found in my own life with my wife and my daughter. The recurring use of wine bottles and bowls of fruit represent abundance and celebration, and the recurring use of a guitar represents my other life as a singer/songwriter. In terms of the palette… what can I say? I love color and the impact of using the strong black lines to define the objects and shapes.
6. For the recurring imagery in your pieces, (like your wine bottles) do you create them for every new piece, or do you reuse imagery from previous works?
It’s a bit of both, I definitely make use of previous imagery. It’s really the visual analog for sampling in music. Only in this instance I’m purely “sampling” from my own catalog of work. Having said that, when I embark on a new piece that has new elements, like “Eden Before Apple”, much of that content is created fresh specifically for the new piece.
7. How often do you make new pieces?
It varies, but typically I’ll create one new piece every two to three weeks.
Eden Before Apple by John Kraft
8. How do you promote and market your work?
My current efforts include a personal website , a Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, and of course my online gallery on Imagekind
In terms of promotion and driving traffic to these sites, I’ve used print advertising, targeted Facebook display ads, Google Adwords, PR Newswire and PRWeb Press Releases, and Email Marketing. The ‘craziest’ thing I ever did to promote my art was to stand on the center divider on the street in San Francisco during rush hour handing out “Lombard Street” postcards, which eventually turned into being featured as an “Artist You Should Know” on About.com. A few years ago, I was also fortunate enough to be selected as a featured artist by Apple, which led to a lot of great exposure as well.
One recent promotional experiment of mine was a virtual online art reception via YouTube that I produced to coincide with a private exhibition at Intel’s worldwide headquarters. In total, that video has been viewed over 1300 times in 38 countries and has led to several sales.
9. Which promotion and marketing methods have proven most successful for you?
Without question, it has been the targeted Facebook ads that drive to my Facebook Fan page. It has been successful in terms of resulting sales, but as importantly, as a means of raising the general awareness of my art and my brand as an artist. Those IK artists that frequent the forums have heard me “speak” extensively about the benefits of Facebook. Creating a lasting career as an artist is not about the quick sale, it’s about the relationships you develop over time with people who appreciate your style and the way you engage with them on a personal level. I should stress this includes fellow artists. It is not always about the sale. It’s about being connected to the world around you in a way that enables you to share your gifts.
I do have a tip or best practice to share with other artists that see artist ads on Facebook and want to learn more about that artist. Whenever possible, try Googling the artist or searching for them in some other way besides clicking on the ad itself. Typically every time you click on a Facebook ad the artist is paying for that click. So I always try to avoid clicking on artist ads – and I try to find them through other channels after seeing their ad pop up on Facebook.
Carried Away by John Kraft
10. Who is your target audience? What do you do to market to them specifically?
The short answer is: anyone who loves my work, whether or not they can afford my work right at that moment in time. Target markets do not exclusively refer to people one expects to sell to today, but those that you wish to build a relationship with over the long term. Developing your brand (and sales pipeline) as an artist during tough times will result in more sales during the good times. Having said all that, the majority of my sales have been to people in their 30s and 40s that have an interest in modern, contemporary colorful art.
11. You have mentioned that you don’t usually sell originals. Why?
It’s purely an emotional decision. I’d like to say there is a grand strategy behind it, but I really just don’t want to let them go. Of course the definition of original becomes somewhat blurred when one enters the realm of digital art. For example, “Lombard Street” exists as a real acrylic on wood panel painting, hanging in our living room – with pastels that still come off the surface when touched, but newer pieces like “Racing the Moon” or “Sausalito” are digital composites from the beginning, so the giclee is in essence the ‘original’ and the first tangible manifestation of the digital piece.
12. Who is your favorite Imagekind artist? (Besides yourself, of course!)
This is indeed a difficult one to answer, because I believe both artistically and personally in so many of the artists here on Imagekind. So, if I’m allowed to “cheat” a bit I would answer like this: “My favorite artists on IK are the ones that wake up every morning thankful that they are artists, the ones that feel alive when they create regardless of medium, the ones that genuinely want to do all they can to share their gifts with those around them.”