Billy and I were exploring a new part of town one dreary Seattle Saturday and we walked in for a late lunch at Bing’s in Madison Park. Before we were even seated and had menus in our hand, I noticed the art on the walls. I was instantly struck by an abstract Seattle skyline piece and when i pointed it out to Billy, he loved it too. We decided to look up the artist, Brooke Westlund. I immediately sent her an email asking for a custom piece just like it.
Art does that, it makes you stop and notice it and when you connect with it something inside you sparks. Brooke’s work is jaw-dropping and deserves to be noticed.
I stopped by Brooke’s studio near Pike Place Market to pick up our skyline piece and when i walked into her creative space, I was awestruck. I got completely lost in her studio and her work. As I got to know Brooke a bit, I just knew i had to interview her for this series. She’s one spunky gal oozing with ambition, who is not afraid to share her talent and art. Brooke has taken advantage of so many resources in the city to show her work. Through her efforts and passion, she has made a name for herself and is currently killin’ it in the Seattle art world. If you’re in Seattle, be sure to head to her studio just below Pike Place Market at 1516 Western Ave. Believe me when I say this girl is the real deal.
Name of studio, Year established, Services offered, Studio address, etc.
Brooke Westlund Studio + Gallery. I got my first (tiny) space in the market in 2011 on the 3rd floor “downunder.” I was there for about a year and a half and then I moved to a bigger space down the hall that I shared with 4 other artists as a co-op space. Then in July of 2014, I moved to my current space by myself. I am definitely planning on staying here for a while. I love the windows and being part of the market even though I’m on Western Avenue at the base of the market. I can’t imagine being anywhere else at this point in time. Someday, however, I dream of having my own home studio, as well.
Why and when did you decide to become a full time artist?
It’s just way too much fun with tons of freedom and opportunities. It’s official, I love what I do. I was bartending, painting, doing shows, selling my stuff. On top of that, I had my first studio in the market. There was a certain point when I had a few big projects and my expenses were minimal so I decided it was the time to give things a try. Every moment I spent away from my art were moments when I would think, ‘I should be in my own shop and painting my own work.’
How has your art changed since you started? How would you like to see it grow?
That’s a hard question….. when I look at my older work, it’s fun to think about the time of my life that I created it. I think that my work has developed and is always changing- I go through phases where it is all colorful and abstract and wild, and then I’ll change gears and start a series of Seattle mixed media work that is more thought out and repetitive. I also have an ongoing series of black and white rough sketches of fruits and veggies that are super fun and simple. I have been fortunate enough to display some of these pieces in a few restaurants around town and I just continue to rotate them out as they sell. I think my work will always continue to change and grow as I develop my style. I have a million ideas in my head that haven’t even been brought to life yet!
Becoming a full time artist can be a huge risk financially. How have you handled this hurdle? What advice do you have for others who are trying to overcome the financial aspect of becoming an artist full time?
It definitely can! Personally, I was on the very cautious side of things. It was not a leap of faith thing like “I’m quitting my job and becoming an artist” on a whim. I was working and starting my art business for maybe 3 years before I even got my first studio space. Studio space requires a good chunk of change. I was painting in my apartment and even lived with my folks for a little bit. I painted in their basement while I was bartending on the side and trying to save some money. I finally quit my job after being able to consistently sell some art each month. Art sales can be completely inconsistent so i wanted to make sure I had enough savings to cover a few bad months.
Where can we find your art to buy in addition to your studio?
The studio is where you’ll find my newest work/in process paintings. Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery in Bellevue has a selection of my paintings all the time. I also have a few rotating shows around Seattle at restaurants, cafes, salons etc. Currently, you can find my work at:
Paragon Restaurant, Queen Anne,
Annie Fisher Salon, Madison Valley
ReClaim Decor, furniture store on Western Avenue
Bing’s, Madison Park
What advice can you offer other aspiring artists?
Everyone has their own path, but my advice is to JUST KEEP CREATING – whatever that means to you! It ain’t easy, you gotta hustle! It’s also important to constantly come up with new ideas on how to get your stuff out there. Don’t be afraid if the hustle isn’t for you. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone. I personally love the excitement of it all – every day is new, challenging and different.
How has being a full time artist affected you personally?
I think it has let me find myself and learn about myself a lot. Each day, I have the choice to do anything I want to do and I’m so lucky to have the freedom to do that.
How did you attract a client base? Was it marketing or more word of mouth?
Word of mouth has been the most effective tool for me. Clients display my art in their homes and when guests ask about it, I’ll have a new client. Clients also find me through facebook, instagram and my website but hardly anyone buys art online. My experience is that when a person sees my art in person, they can get a sense of the colors, mediums and size of the piece.
Who is your ideal client?
Anyone with big empty walls and a little extra cash :)
Best moment of your career so far?
I think I’m in the middle of it right now! I’m currently in the middle of an awesome project that will put my work in the rooms of a popular hotel here in Seattle. Wow!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Just keep creating and exploring.
What is the most rewarding part of being a full time artist?
Selling paintings, knowing that it connected with someone enough to want to have it in their home and look at it every day! Every time I sell something I am so grateful.
Do you have employees? If not, would you like to someday?
No I don’t have any employees. One day I would love to hire my best friend, Tania, to be my assistant and handle a good amount of the business side of things. It’s hard as an artist because I feel like I need to be involved in every decision. I need to make sure things represent me in the best light. Its hard to trust someone else with your business but I know it will be necessary to pass on some responsibilities in the near future.
What does a typical day look like?
I wake up, have coffee, make breakfast, head to the studio. Then usually I go to yoga and head home. A few days a week I am usually running around, going to the art store, meeting with people, hanging art at shows, taking down shows etc…. so my schedule each week is so random and different.
What’s your immediate next step or next goal for the biz? next milestone?
I would love to work on some more big projects & corporate commissions. I’d also love to create and sell more big abstracts. They’re my favorite :)
Describe your artistic style.
Free, abstract, mixed media, exploratory.
How do you get in the zone? Do you commonly listen to music or turn to other inspirations when you’re creating?
I always have music playing in the studio. And it always depends – sometimes I go to the studio and I don’t even paint. Other days I just HAVE to paint. Sometimes I’ll paint for an hour or sometimes I’ll paint for 6 hours and start 20 paintings at once. Because I can!
What artists have greatly influenced your work through the years?
Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Warhol, a lot of the abstract expressionists. I love the freedom and exploration of that period.