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Wynn Creasy isn’t an artist aiming to be the next big gallery hotshot.She’ll settle for selling enough paintings to get her out of the city and into the mountains.
The 50-year-old landscape painter dreams of moving from her Alexandria duplex to the Blue Ridge, where she hopes to paint while running a bed and breakfast. For someone who started painting seriously only 18 months ago, she’s made surprising progress toward that goal. Her success, she is the first to admit, has more to do with marketing than artistic talent.
“For every hour I paint, it’s several hours of marketing time,” she says.
Creasy’s dedication to the business end of art—and her straddling of the divide between art and craft—sometimes wins her the derision of more “serious artists.” “People look down their nose,” she says. “They say, ‘Oh, you sell out on the street—you must not be any good.’ There is a fine-art snobbery. Everyone who is involved in the art world knows that.”
But Creasy sees her focus on the bottom line as common sense: “If you are just going to paint in your attic and wait for someone to discover you, it’s not going to happen.”
Creasy spends between six and 10 hours every day searching for customers for her Virginia countryside landscapes, which range in price from $5.95 for a greeting card to $2,400 for her largest pieces. She hands out business cards, mails off brochures—most recently to 300 real-estate agents—and she monitors her eBay account, where she often sells 10 pieces a month.
“I seem to attract a wide range of people, anyone from college students to collectors,” she says of her customer base. “If there is any kind of type, they are usually…people who want a moment of peacefulness, an image that gives them quiet reflective time. They are not looking for in-your-face art.…Peaceful, serene sells to middle America.”
Creasy, who can wake up and crank out between one and 10 pieces before 11 a.m., posts a new painting each day on her blog, wynncreasyfineart.blogspot.com. At her fastest, she can complete a painting in an hour.
“To some people, that may seem like production line, but it’s not,” she says. “Each one is completely individual.”
In Creasy’s earlier career, she worked as a freelance singer and actress. Since 1989, she’s made her living teaching music and voice lessons. She started painting between lessons and when students didn’t show up.
“It was just something to play with,” she says, but the response from friends kept her at it.
Before long, Creasy ventured onto the craft circuit, selling at Eastern Market in Capitol Hill and Western Market in Adams Morgan. Her first commissions came from Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse on 17th Street NW. The two landscapes sold for $500 each.
Creasy’s work has hung in local galleries, including Gallery West in Alexandria and Studio Gallery in D.C. But she has little nice to say about gallery owners who have taken for themselves 40 to 60 percent of the selling price.
“They treat artists like dirt,” she says. “They don’t pay on time. And most of them don’t spend time marketing or bringing in clients.”
And what’s more, she says, the galleries aren’t going to get her to the Blue Ridge. Currently, she’s making about 30 percent of her income from her paintings. By the end of the year, she hopes it will be 50 percent.
“I’m an optimist,” she says. “I’m going to be selling like crazy.”