Golden Classics – Jack Pumphrey
Jack is a self-taught artist who provides portraits of classic and custom cars out of his studio in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He works nationally with customers, prospects, and referrals.
Being on Jack’s mailing list, we have always been impressed by the way he balances his newsletters with various marketing, informational, and humorous messages. Readers quickly see that he is not only a great artist, but also a great communicator.
We got in touch with Jack to ask him about his artwork and business.
AA: You have hundreds if not thousands of pieces of artwork on your website, what is your favorite automotive decade and why?
JP: The golden classics of the 1930’s. The orphaned cars; Duesenbergs, Packards, Stutzs, Auburns and the early Lincolns & Cadillacs, too. These cars were the first with the powerful v-8’s and V-16’s., front wheel drive & turbochargers.
AA: How many pieces do you average in a year?
JP: I complete 30 to 40 new client commissions every year, of those about half are from repeat customers.
In addition to the commission work I’ll try for another 40-50 new pieces for inventory from which prints are made. Often, I’ll do a study in pen & ink and if it “Rings my bell” I’ll do it again in watercolor.
Altogether, about 80 to 90 new works every year in addition to a few outright design jobs or architectural renderings. I try to stay busy.
AA: On one of your newsletters you said you were going to take more time on commissions and would be raising your fees. How did raising your fees affect your business?
JP: It has not changed the flow of work but the added attention is paying off with more referrals.
The personal satisfaction is rewarding, too. As I grow older I’m assuming my last delivery will be what I’m judged on by my peers.
AA: What are your thoughts on conventional and digital prints? Which do you use?
JP: There was a time before the advent of decent high quality digital prints when print artists like myself would buy a run of prints, usually lithographs, bring them home & take over the dining room table where I’d inspect each one, sign & number them in pencil, fill out the certificate of authenticities and put them on a shelf in the studio hoping they would sell. This represented a huge investment in inventory and my time. Add to this the accounting, keeping ledgers of buyers and the extra cost of insurance and marketing to let the world know your s/n prints are available.
Just printing a catalog of prints was tough to justify let alone pay for the cost of mailing & fulfillment, I don’t know how I afforded it the way I did it then compared to the way prints are sold today.
Today, sales of prints off of my web sites are guaranteed for 30 days and are more affordable than the previous signed & numbered I still offer unique prints that I either embellish or do a re-marque in miniature but these prints are sold out of my studio, not from the web sites.
AA: You offer your artwork on a number of items such as canvas prints, framed prints, metal prints, greeting cards, throw pillows and a few other items. What do most customers choose?
JP: The most popular prints are on museum-grade paper shipped rolled in a tube. Next are large stretched canvas prints, ready to hang. Then comes the images printed on metal & acrylic. Following these are unusual personal use items like digitally printed throw pillows, tote bags and leading the pack, smart phone/iPhone cases.
AA: In May, the book Where The Old Highway Had Run by Chuck Klein came out. The book consist of great stories, each with an image next to their title. Your artwork is on the cover and also with some of the stories. How were you approached to do the book? What is your relationship with the author?
JP: I was recommended to Chuck by a referral from Angelo VanBogart, editor of Old Cars Weekly. My relationship with Chuck is friendly & professional. I respect his skills as a writer and how he merges his experiences with law enforcement, training new recruits, and his love of cars into stories that are hard to put down once you start. I hope I’m called upon to do more collaboration with my art & his writing in the future.
AA: This year in your newsletter you included comments made to an artist who didn’t have nice things to say about your work. You handled the situation with class, never going down to their level. How did you keep your composure? Was it your experience working with clients?
JP: I chalk that up to simple jealousy on the heckler’s part. He objected to the way I prepare my art but, after he was enlightened to how I’m able to produce high quality & accurate renderings, quickly and profitable, he came around. We are now friends and share ideas. I admire his old fashioned & “pure” approach to his work as a pen & ink artist but not how he gets it done. If he worked in my studio he wouldn’t last very long because he couldn’t keep up!
My approach to art is as a business, not a self-gratification or, showing off of my abilities at a “Friday morning coffee-klatch of local retired people who are good at bitching & criticizing but not at selling their art”.
Rather, my time is money and If I’m to sell my art in a very competitive environment, I’d better be accepted as an artist who produces automotive art people want to buy, # 1 & it better deliver on time, guaranteed and be affordable # 2.
AA: What would be your advice to someone getting into the automotive art business?
JP: First off, know if your art is good enough to compete in a tough market. Art sales, worldwide are soft so, don’t rely on just your automotive art to survive. Be versatile, not only in your art mediums but in your subjects. become proficient in the home rendering & yacht/marine markets.
Get a proper education in the arts, it’ll give you networking experiences. Pick a large market that will support more than a few car artists. Start early and put together a winning portfolio, something you can show to prospective buyers. Top off everything with a web site or, sites where prospective buyers will find you.
Or, concentrate on welding or running a wrench……….whichever you find most rewarding!
I started out in sales of printing presses and lithographic supplies, doing my art on the side because it was rewarding & fun. Then, I went into sales of high quality advertising sales brochures and other printing concentrating on advertising agencies, calling on their production managers. It was during one of these sales calls that I noticed they were having trouble locating a production artist who could do an illustration of a garbage truck……..in pen & ink………by tomorrow……….I held up my hand and said “Pick me!…Pick ME!” ……….that was 50 years ago, wish I had started sooner. I’ll be 80 soon and still draw & paint every day. Couldn’t be doing that if I was a professional ditch digger or a high-iron guy.