Low pay, late nights, and tough times are pretty common for people striving to be artists. The life isn’t for everyone, according to Shelton native and painter Dave Choate.
After completing more than 200 pieces and having his work purchased by celebrity collectors such as hip-hop icon Swizz Beatz and actor/comedian George Lopez, and being featured in the adult magazine Playboy, Choate, surprisingly, said the feeling he described as a “high” is short-lived.
“If you were to have told me 10 years ago that I would be featured in Playboy and have my work shown on ESPN, I would’ve thought I would have been rich, happy and excited, but the truth is the feeling wears off in a day or two.”
He said the feeling he gets from gaining exposure for his work is like no other, but he actually wasn’t an artist his whole life. Choate said he’s worked several corporate jobs, ranging from doing data entry to higher positions. He was a sports photographer for MaxPreps.com and a reporter/photographer for the Valley Independent, where he covered the Gales’ baseball team, he’s done construction, and he was also a full-time Realtor.
“The only way I could make it through the night after doing those jobs was telling myself that I would be giving my two-weeks’ notice in the morning,” said Choate.
Choate explained that although his true love is photographing and covering sports, it just wouldn’t pay the bills. Choate clarified that painting at times means not being able to pay the bills, but he prefers that struggle over working a desk job.
He recalls in his early 20s chasing fame, but now, at the age of 47, he works to make himself happy.
After visiting several galleries and observing work that goes for more than $250,000, he found that he wasn’t as impressed as he thought he would be.
“It’s no longer why I do it, although it’s a thrill when it does happen,” said Choate in reference to receiving recognition for his work, or what he calls “glimpses of fame.” “I don’t love painting, but I do love that I don’t have to do what I hate.”
“I am gaining a pretty good following between Instagram and Twitter,” said Choate. “I couldn’t do this without it. I love and appreciate the people who simply retweet and share all of the work that I do, but I have learned that it’s not always about how many people see your work, but who sees it.”
With his work ranging in price from $500 to $5,000 and his spending anywhere from days to weeks on pieces, Choate admitted that business can be slow at times, but he said that as an artist, he knows what the time spent on a piece of work is worth to him.
“The problem was in the beginning I wasn’t selling anything,” said Choate. “It wasn’t until I started going down to SoHo that I started to get some commissions and make some sales. I was making below minimum wage, it was really tough. There were months I couldn’t pay my cell phone bill.”
Since shifting the purpose of his creating art from fame to maintaining his modest lifestyle, Choate said, he has learned to live with a very low “overhead.”
“The only real valuable thing I have is a 5-year-old Mac laptop. I don’t have a fancy wardrobe or car. In fact, I have hit two deer, a light pole, and three people have hit me, including a snowplow,” said Choate. “At first it was kind of embarrassing, but now it’s normal. I’ve just never been into those flashy things, which I think is necessary for a starting artist.”
Choate said he feels he has been able to succeed as an artist only because he dedicates himself to his craft. He said he feels as though it is nearly impossible to be a starting artist with kids because the art demands constant attention.
With a style of his own that he has developed through embracing his mistakes, Choate described the transformation he underwent as an artist.
“I used to love and be attached to all of my paintings, but now I love them for maybe an hour and then I don’t look at it twice before I UPS it to the buyer,” said Choate. “It’s like watching a movie over and over again. It can be great, but once you spend that much time with it, judging it it can get old. Sometimes I work on 10 or 12 paintings at a time just so I can look at all of the pieces with fresh eyes.”
Choate said he typically paints what there is a demand for but is always available to do commission work, and all of his pieces can be seen or purchased on his website, DaveChoate.com.
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