By Carolyn Edlund
Times change, and selling art presents new challenges and new opportunities. Artist Antar Dayal shares an intriguing story of success, disaster and rising from the ashes.
Antar Dayal has always worked for himself. He’s actually never had a “regular” job. As a child prodigy in Germany, with an artist mother who encouraged him, he was earning money from regular clients who bought his illustrations as early as the age of twelve.
His charmed life continued as he migrated to the U.S. and built his illustration business into a powerhouse. He was able to catch a wave that brought him enormous good fortune.
The artist introduced scratchboard as a hot medium for corporate advertisers, beginning with what he calls his “big break” in 1989. Dayal was hired to work on an ongoing advertising campaign to launch Lexus automobiles in North America. This exposure played a major part in acquiring more corporate work, attracting clients as diverse as Absolut, American Express, Glenlivet, and even Barack Obama’s political campaign, which used his distinctive illustrative style to sell their candidate.
Business got so brisk that he built a corporate office in California, and hired a team of assistants. Ranked as one of the top 5% of illustrators in the United States, Dayal negotiated his own contracts, and was able to command top prices for his vision and work product. His income was at a high level. Life was good.
Then, in 2008, his house burned down. At about the same time, the U.S. economy also burned down. And everything changed. As he struggled to rebuild his home and deal with the economic downturn, competitors moved in and took some of his accounts. Other clients did not renew their contracts.
The market was not only in “correction” but the way the business of art was being done was going through a major transition. Artists of all types have experienced this, many of them at a loss to explain why opportunities declined and income fell.
“This is the story of a lot of artists,” says Dayal, “they are always on fire. But I am like a phoenix rising from the ashes.”
He began to adjust to the new realities of the marketplace, developing a plan that would focus on fine art, which has always been his greatest passion. But he also planned a new venture to create products using his graphic skills, using the income to support himself.
Ink & Milk Designs is his new brand – visit his website here. He is kicking it off with t-shirts on a Shopify store, and has other products in mind. “This is an outlet for all the crazy ideas I have that need to be circulated on this planet,” Dayal explains, “That may even evolve into fine art.”
“As an artist in the 21st century, you must have other streams of income, so you have a financial base that frees up your time. You need to ask yourself, how can I pay the rent tomorrow?” he asks. “Running a studio can be $5,000 to $10,000 per month. You need an additional income on the side to be able to make it.”
It has been an uphill trek to enter the market for his paintings, starting with spending this summer in Berlin so that he can be more active in the European art markets, and planning to exhibit at an upcoming art fair there.
Antar Dayal is not disheartened by the dramatic swings in fortune that he has experienced in his life. He simply moves on to the next phase. And he offers a bit of advice for other artists in transition.
“You are always a creator,” he says. “Make a market for yourself, your own niche, and make something better than the mass-produced crap that is out there.”