Chad Schoon introduced me to KenT Youngstrom's art on Instagram, and I'm so glad he did! Just reading an email or blog post from KenT can't help but make you feel fired up to keep pursuing a creative dream.He has a great perspective on keeping it real, putting in the time to do the hard work, raising kids, and not buying into the tortured artist myth. He also wrote a book on this topic which was released this week! We are so excited for him and can't wait to see what he does next. If you need a push in the right direction - definitely check out KenT's links and his new book. Thank you, KenT!
Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
i’m kenT and i’m an artist. but not the tortured kind. i create on of a kind paintings + images. no two are exactly the same. some are big. some are small. some have words. some have none. but what i really do is make people feel happy and free, because happy and free is a great place to be
my wife nicole and i have two children, ages 15 + 13
you can find me at:
- Website: experience.kentyoungtrom.com
- Instagram @kentyoungstrom
- Twitter @kentyoungstrom
- New Book: be something. if you want to make something. (available on Amazon.com)
and in 2015 i continued to paint editions limited pieces for cb2, running my total to over 2,000 original paintings; brushed, boxed + shipped to their warehouse since 2012. i made new partnerships with vendors like minted, icanvas, bezar, and jace lipstein of grungygentleman. i continued to work with great people at gilt, deny designs, apartment 2b and lulu+georgia.
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
i am at a different stage than i was when the children were small. i spent many late hours getting work in and had limited time to experiment and try new things. as my children have grown and matured i have been able to develop a consistent schedule for work + play and can still dedicate time at home to the things that really matter.
Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
i am constantly asked by other artists how i’m able to make art a full time gig. generally my answer is not taken well. it is not pretty + it’s not easy. i didn’t start with a business plan, a studio, fancy business cards or an art blog.
i don’t really know when i started. but it was slow. i have a family so i couldn’t just jump ship and announce i was an artist. i looked for clients during the day, took phone orders for unfortunate pleated khaki’s by evening and if i could stay awake would paint a little after that – then do it all over again the next day. honestly – not the peek of my artistic career – but i was part of the journey.
if i had only known then…
actually – you do. you know it now + you can feel it – so do it. do what you love – now. do it at night. wake up two hours early. make it your second job. replace your television schedule with a making stuff schedule. whatever you have to do. do it. now.
don’t figure it out – because you won’t. i still haven’t, no one has. don’t wait for clients, don’t wait to be debt free, don’t wait for the right situation, for things to settle down, for your kids to go to school, leave the house or get out of diapers. don’t wait for less hours at work, don’t wait for summer, don’t wait for winter, don’t wait to settle down – don’t wait.
everyday you wait is a day you won’t get back.
+ and for goodness sake – don’t be an artist.
what? #@! artists are notoriously hard to work with. they don’t make deadlines, are late to meetings, change their minds and don’t communicate. artists wear ripped jeans and have paint on all their clothes. – because, they are so cool and different than anyone else. [ever notice if you put them all in a room no one really stands out]. so surprise someone – show up on time. get your head out of the clouds, use real words, put on something clean and and ironed – and deliver what you said you would deliver, when you said you would deliver it – surprise someone!
reveal yourself. what makes your abstract different than my abstract?
the world is full of people and corporations who claim to be authentic, creative, game-changing, innovative, inspiring and paradigm-shifting. sounds great – but that’s not good enough… i want to be with/ work with/ collect the work of someone who shows fall down, crazy stupid love for their work and want to be surrounded by people who are alluring, beguiling, blazing, bursting, epic, frenzied, ravenous and volcanic. i want passion to erupt.
How does being an artist make you a better parent to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you?
i am not so concerned with them seeing that i am an artist as i am at having them take note of the effort and dedication i have to doing what i do. i want them to see that i am what i say i am. that i work passionately and give my best effort at every aspect of what i do - not just the fun parts.
plus i make them pack boxes and help with some of the dirty parts of the job.
Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
small garage + 1200 paintings in 5 years = need for new space… i now have a 2000 sq ft. warehouse facility which contains an office, a gallery and a working studio. rolling working spaces. large walls to stretch canvas. room for 20 people at painting classes. gallery openings. holiday and corporate event parties. grateful.
i do create with both riley (15) + jackson (13). they both have unique gifts and i encourage them by making sure they have some great supplies to work with. however i let them try things out + figure it out on their own with as little direction as possible.
Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?
great question. no answer. i had no idea what i was doing or what direction i was headed when i started and the kids were young. i’m actually not exactly sure when i started to be honest. i think it was and continues to be a blessing that i fumble around like a new dad trying to look cool in the diaper section at target.
plus as a family we make them pitch in by packing boxes or helping out with some of the dirty parts of the job. i may be the artist but all four of us are the team.
find a schedule that works + stick to it. keep doing it.
enjoy it. enjoy the journey.
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
dreams are easy.
i have lots of them.
unfortunately i didn’t put in the time to learn to hit the curve ball, no one wants to hear me sing or see my dance, and i’ve been told i’m too nice to be on reality tv. i could work on those things over and over again, but churning that type of cream repeatedly would never produce any butter. to be honest, all the quotes on hard work and hustling look great on your wall or in your social media feed, but they will not make you a pop star either. i know a lot of hard working people that struggle mightily. you may be one of them. at times, i am too.
as i stood and chatted with folks at those first art shows about what i paint, why i paint, and how i paint, i realized something. if i wanted to be an artist, i needed to be an artist. it was about be-ing. not just do-ing.
is there a difference?
i think so. i can “do things” all day long. i can make lists. i can do invoicing. i can do packing and shipping. i can do the laundry. that, however, does not make me an organizer, an accountant, a shipper, or a dry cleaner.
if you want to be an artist, a maker, a creator, or a fill in the blank, you have to be one with everything you have. it is not a job. it is who and what you are. it is your obsession. if you want people to be so obsessed with what you do that they are willing to pay anything for it, you sure as heck had better be over the edge, strung out on exhilaration, and obsessed with what you do.
so you want to be an artist? me too. i’m kenT, and i’m an artist.