Wet Stuff : The Art of Painting a Business

Guest Starring David Nakabayashi

Wet Stuff: The Art of Painting a Business
Episode 8
Guest-Starring Independent Visual Artist David Nakabayashi

visit www.davidnakabayashi.com 


KD Neeley, “I’m here with David Nakabayashi from El Paso Texas who is a working artist in New York, he’s an independent visual artist. Thank you for coming onto the podcast David.”

David Nakabayashi, “Thank you, Katie, it’s nice of you to ask me.”

KD Neeley, “So David, what’s life like as an independent visual artist?”

David Nakabayashi, “Life is it’s a little bit uncertain, and there’s no pattern that I can follow, and I think because of that it’s really exciting and unpredictable, and interesting. It’s always interesting.”

KD Neeley, “So you’ve been a visual artist your whole life you’ve never had to question it never had to think about it.”

David Nakabayashi, “No and then when people have asked me that I think back to what is the moment where I decided to be an artist and I always remember that I was always making art and mostly I just decided not to stop making art was really the decision I made was just not to give it up.”

KD Neeley, “Is there any way that you can express how it is that the art gives you a sense of purpose drives you and makes you never want to quit?”

David Nakabayashi, “Well it seems almost like a curse, an obsession, maybe even a kind of illness that I have. I don’t know that I could quit if I wanted to and even when I don’t want to do it I end up thinking about making art even when I try to just do something else or take a break I need to take a break I will just sit around thinking about all the pieces that I would like to make, so I really believe it’s just the way I look at the world what I see around me inspires me my mind in whatever however the synapsis are put together I see artwork that I want to make no matter what so mostly I just give in and make it.”

KD Neeley, “How do you manage to sustain yourself as a visual artist?”

David Nakabayashi, “Ah monetarily?”

KD Neeley, “Yes.”

David Nakabayashi, “Well I’ve had numerous jobs there’s a whole list of jobs I used to work I’ve worked printing photos art sales, selling art supplies I was in advertising for a long time about eight years I worked for an ad agency doing ads for a grocery store sales and you name it taking pictures of beef ya know for an ad 69 cents a pound and that kind of stuff and I ended up I did all kinds of free lance illustration I’ve illustrated all kinds of people have asked me for commissioned work I would do that any number of things but all of that translated into making I really liked maps things I really liked maps, and so I was making maps, and I learned PhotoShop sometime in the 90s and I started putting photos together and I got a job basically based on the map making and the advertising I got a job at city hall in the planning department and then I started using this PhotoShop to make renderings of redevelopment projects like take for example a rail yard downtown it’s gonna close and here’s a big vacant lot what would you build there? Well i could take piece together images from other cities or around El Paso put those buildings into a vacant lot arrange them in a nice way put trees and show what it might look like if you did say put a shopping center there or put a transit hub there or if you made a park there and I would render that in PhotoShop that became a job that I did for a long time and then I did freelance for a long time. And then all of that turned into a job for the mayor I worked as the assistant to Mayor Ray Caballero for years in the highest levels of city hall which is interesting except I didn’t get to school for art I’ve just been doing it all this time and just working always at it, and I ended up working in the city hall top floor assistant to the mayor, and it’s so amazing and I think that just happened ya know I don’t wanna say it was I was owed that or deserved that I think it was really just luck and always choosing to follow the artwork wherever it led.”

KD Neeley, “And your creativity has followed you in all your different endeavors that you’ve taken.”

David Nakabayashi, “I’ve tried to yes I try to let my creativity be the determining factor of what I did or how I might have done that job sometimes it didn’t work out I didn’t do all these things some of them for not very long I got felt depressed or undervalued and I would move on but all throughout this we mustn’t forget I’ve been making art and trying to sell art as an artist all this whole time I’ve been doing art shows in all the venues in El Paso and all around the region and up here in Albuquerque and I started showing in Santa Fe it’s not like I sold a ton of artwork but I would sell enough to sustain myself and actually you know doing this freelance art related type jobs like architectural rendering coupled with art sales I bought a house in El Paso with my wife at the time so you know it was I was not going to be a super famous rich guy but I could sustain myself like a regular person doing these art endeavors it’s been nice I went to Santa Fe, and I finally moved to New York about four years ago, and I’m trying to do the same thing there.”

KD Neeley, “Fantastic are you still showing in El Paso?”

David Nakabayashi, “Occasionally there’s not a large gallery scene there but I have done some pop up shows there, and I have some collectors there that love to see what I’ve done while I’ve been away.”

KD Neeley, “How do you decide where you’re going to do a show?”

David Nakabayashi, “Mostly I have taken the opportunities that have been presented me I’ve taken what I could get I don’t really I’m not really in a position to pick and choose I’m not a sought after famous person I’m just a regular guy I’m a hard working artist I don’t have a large following or anything like that so I kind of take what I can get when it comes to a gallery I mean I’ve picked galleries and then pursued them and then talked to them and showed them my work and then that’s worked a couple of times, but for the most part I’m just rejected.”

KD Neeley, “So you’ve dealt with a lot of rejection?”

David Nakabayashi, “Oh a lot yes mostly rejection 90 percent rejection.”

KD Neeley, “Oh wow so it’s not the rejection that matters it’s the acceptance that matters?”

David Nakabayashi, “Well I don’t let the rejection deter me from asking again or keeping or still doing my work I just keep doing my work and I’ve accepted that I think you know what it is I’ve come to a place where I don’t really care if I get a gallery or make any money I’m just going to accept what comes I’m going to make the art that I make I’m going to make it the way I’m going to make it and then I will put it out there and I will take steps to show it to people and I will try to speak to people but I really can’t control what they do I can’t make them like me I don’t have some magic sales formula that I use to get them to buy my work or show me in a gallery or include me in a show I’m just putting it out there and accepting what comes and I have enough success that I can sustain myself and what else do we need? That’s kind of what I need that’s kind of all I want.”

KD Neeley, “Where have you experienced the most financial success?”

David Nakabayashi, “Well I would have to say it was at the Box Gallery in Santa Fe I had a really good relationship with Michelle Ouelette who owned the gallery, and I had a big show in 2010 I moved to Santa Fe in 2006 and I was really scrounging I had left my comfort zone, and I lived in a garage and left all the people that knew and loved me and came to a new town, and I didn’t know anybody and I had no connections I mean I had a few connections in art, but I didn’t have a gallery to represent me, and nobody knew me there I was a stranger who showed up kind of an interloper tourist who came in to try to become part of the scene and it took a while I remember see it was 2007 I’ll never forget I was at Whole foods it was new and Whole Foods was expensive to me and I had no money I had a few dollars in my pocket but I was like I’m gonna go to Whole Foods and be with the people the cool people and I was walking up and down all the aisles and I couldn’t afford much of anything there but I found a can of corn it was 89 cents I remember, and so then I had my can of corn, and I was like at least I’ll buy a can of corn from Whole Foods. So then I was over in the deli section, and this lady had two kids with her she was pushing a cart it was heaped over the top with food items. And I just looked at this cart it was so full of food, and there were wheeling down by the sushi isle, and I had been just looking at this sushi, and it was fairly expensive, and there was a piece of tuna that was cut and I remember it cost 10.71 for this little piece of tuna that was wrapped in there and I had been looking at it and this woman’s little son who couldn’t have been more than five or six was walking along and he was looking at this sushi and the mom absent mindedly said, oh you want some sushi? And he was like yeah, and he just reached over there and he got that piece of tuna, and he handed it up, and she just tossed it up on the top of the heap of food, and they wheeled on, and I just looked at my can of corn and I thought Oh My God what have I done? I left everything that I know, all of my people who support me and I’m scrounging around with my can of corn, and I really thought that I had made a mistake, but I think that was just what I had to do that’s how I had to survive until I got in a gallery later that year at Box she came over, Michelle came over I got in the gallery and then we started showing my work she didn’t sell anything for a while it was probably about six months before she sold a piece and she sold one or two and then the next year she started selling more and then I had a show in 2010 and I got on the front page of the Pasatiempo. And everybody came to the opening, and she sold about 3/4 of the show and then after the show I was walking down Canyon road, and everybody knew me, and they were like David how are you and coming to give me hugs and I was like wow that was really it was really hard there were many opportunities for me to give up I could have looked at the corn and just put it back on the shelf and just gone back home you know or given up or just said no I’ll just go and try to find a job at city hall or do something else or give up and not do it but I didn’t and I it paid off, and so that was a really good year 2010.”

KD Neeley, “So you moved from El Paso to New York, and from New York, you got into a gallery in Santa Fe?”

David Nakabayashi, “No I moved to Santa Fe from El Paso so then the depression came the great recession which started about 2008, and it affected things slowly, and the Box closed, and I move down to Utero County for a while to take care of my mom. And then I switched over to Zane Bennet for a while there in Santa Fe, and then I took a trip with my girlfriend in 2012 to New York, and we went over to Bushwick, and we were at Bushwick open studios and I had always thought New York was this inaccessible place that you had to be rich to move there and everything was too expensive, and there was no way a guy like me could just go over and move to New York and that was the myth that I had and we went to Bushwick open studio and it was just a giant open studio event hundreds of studios all throughout Bushwick galleries open special pop up shows performance art and it was just all people that I know it could have been any one of my friends in El Paso artists that I know in Santa Fe Albuquerque it’s just like us living in New York altogether and trying to make it happen and making incredible art and showing it and it was like yeah sure rents are expensive but salaries are higher and there’s a lot of opportunities there’s if you need a job you can find a job you if you need to try to make money you can do that so it became a place that I felt that it was accessible and artists dream of moving to New York and being in that scene and I had that dream when I was in my 20’s I thought well I just move to New York I was about 20 when I decided that’s what I would do and I just never did it I didn’t do it. And so I went I was already 51 when I went I’m 55 now I went at 51 It’s pretty intense it’s a big change from living out in the desert or living in Utero County up in the woods with some elk walking around it’s a huge change it’s a little overwhelming at times I have my moments of self-doubt coupled with the intensity of New York City but you know I think I’ve come to that place where I don’t really care what happens I’m not worried about the outcome I just want to have the experience, so I make my art I’m making it there I’ve got a part time job that sustains my at least my bills, and I’ve actually started to sell a little bit of art I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I feel comfortable about being able to stay there, so I don’t know what’s going to happen but somehow I’ve lucked out and maybe it’s through serendipity or pure chance I’ve attracted the means by which I can at least stay there for now, so that’s what I’m going to do I’m just going to keep on doing it, and I love coming back out here to NM and seeing friends and being out in the landscape and it just you know what it did it makes me look at New York differently maybe it gets a little overwhelming when you’re right in it but then when you step out you see that everybody ’s got the same issues, everyone, just trying to make art trying to make art trying to be creative and it doesn’t seem so overwhelming that’s what I feel today anyway hanging out with all you guys.”

KD Neeley, “That’s amazing, and you’re still traveling.”

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