Studio Arts

Studio Arts

Interview with Arthur Morehead, Landscape Painter & Muralist

When you grow up surrounded by corn fields like Arthur Morehead, it doesn’t seem like too far a leap to a career as a landscape artist. Morehead found his love for art at a young age when he used to play with everything from crayons to mud, and he hasn’t really stopped embracing art since. While Morehead has been able to market and sell his landscapes successfully, he still doesn’t consider his artistry as a career. He is working on turning it into a career, but he also understands that you can’t learn to make a living off your art overnight, it takes hard work and perseverance.

Some of our interview subjects are interesting because of their line of work, others are interesting because of the way they have been able to market their business, but Morehead’s story is particularly interesting thanks to the detail and personal stories he included in the re-telling of his background as an artist. The man who started out painting houses for work has become adept on painting realistic, colorful, and emotional landscapes.

He has also learned how to effectively brand his work using the Internet and his blog in particular. Morehead’s unique view is that he isn’t competing with other artists because artists are all about their individuality, so he uses knowledge about search engine marketing, social media, and social networking to create name recognition for himself and help expand his customer base. Find out how he did that and more in this terrific interview. Enjoy!


How did you first become interested in Landscape Painting?

I grew up in a steel town in the Midwest and was always surrounded by cornfields and steel. There wasn’t really a whole lot to be desired when it came to art because there really wasn’t that much of it around in a community that was focused mainly on steel. It was my first art class in school (kindergarten) at an early age that I knew where I wanted to be. Even before then I was the terror of the neighborhood with anything I could get my hands on from crayons to mud. I really had no artistic direction at that point of course, but boy I knew I wasn’t happy if I wasn’t drawing on something somewhere. My friends and family all thought I was weird but my Mom knew it was passion. I think I was always interested in landscape painting because painting anything without it just didn’t make sense to me. I always thought that it was the starting point to becoming an artist and it just seemed natural to start there.


At what point did you first realize that you could make a career out of your art?

Hehehe, a career? As far as I know I am still working on it….I guess you could say that art has chosen me because it’s something that I couldn’t help but to surround myself with or get away from. Every time I tried to do something non-creative and different I hated it. My mother has always taught me that you must choose to do what makes you happy in life and my father has always said that if you don’t love what you do you will never be good at it. I really didn’t expect that it would turn into a career because when I was young chances of being successful artist were slim to none, so I started painting houses as a career.

My mother has always taught me that you must choose to do what makes you happy in life and my father has always said that if you don’t love what you do you will never be good at it.

What type of education or training helped you develop your skill set?

Believe it or not it was building model cars, planes, boats, ships, and everything I could get my hands on as a child. I have probably built every one of them that were available and after I would put them all together and paint them in all their detail. I would tear them apart and build my own designs and would come up with some pretty bizarre looking things. I had boxes and boxes of pieces and parts and would glue them together and if that didn’t work I would use a candle and melt them together Then there were books, didn’t matter what kind of art, if they were art related I had to have it. Most of them I couldn’t even read yet let alone understand them, but looking at the pictures I would try to copy them and I learned a lot, after all I was very young. Then as I got older I started taking art classes, subscribing to art related magazines, reading books and practiced even more, lots of practice.


How did you break into the art industry?

Great question, I would say when I started transforming my house painting career into the decorative arts is when I really started to concentrate on building an existence into the art world professionally. Although I have always had a reputation as an artist by my customers and the local community from my painting business, it’s when I started painting decoratively that people realized how versatile I had become through all those prior years of my youth of consistently practicing and studying came to light. When I started painting large murals and landscapes most thought that this was something that I just learned over night. In fact it was the many week long decorative arts classes that I paid for that helped me refine my skills that I learned from my art and shop classes in school and my house painting career that had helped improve a lot of my landscape painting. Like I said I surrounded myself with art my whole life.


What creative and technical skills have been played the largest role in your success?

Ahh another great question, I would have to say learning correct perspective from my shop classes in school. You see as I grew older and started to reach my teens I really started expanding my art into realism. I was just getting into color theory and learning about color value and how light and shadow affects how we see things when it comes to shape, form and distance. Painting stick people drove me nuts and I needed to learn realism and when it came to studying planes of view. I could not understand exactly what that meant which was very frustrating for me. So I signed up for drafting and blue print reading which is where my fascination for Architecture started to develop. In order to understand more of what I was painting I knew I had to learn more of how to look at things. I was very obsessed when I was a child and I would become very angry with myself if I could not understand or
accomplish something that I knew in my mind I could do. I knew I had to start from square one which was learning the basics of perspective and why I entered into drafting classes. You must remember I wasn’t even in my teens yet.


Please describe your process when you start an art piece. How do you choose a landscape to work with?

I try to use my art to teach others of what I have learned over the years and my blog posts pertain to a lot of this. Of course I sell my art as well but I mainly sell my murals.

To choose a landscape to paint is purely instinct and what I find inspiring. I paint certain landscapes, sunrises, sunsets, seascapes whatever the case may be based on how it hits me on an instant. Sounds strange but if it doesn’t excite me instantly and I have to search for something interesting within it then that bores me because I know there’s something going on elsewhere that I am missing. I want people to be astonished when they see something I painted at first glance. I want to hear “Oh wow” not “that’s nice”. “Oh wow!” pops open the check book “that’s nice” doesn’t. This is one reason why I like to paint from photographs both professional and amateur but never do I combine the two. Of course Plein Aire is the ultimate, but when painting landscapes and murals it takes a combination of one to sometimes many to paint a great composition. A photographer can capture that perfect time or moment in an instant which is why I rely a lot on my own photographs.


What are the most important marketing and business building strategies you have focused on?

Hands down I would say blogging and networking. Being that I do many different things to market myself it all revolves around my blog. A blog can set you apart from everyone as an individual to which there is no competition. I know what you’re thinking that I must be nuts or been sniffing to much paint thinner over the years. But its true and the internet is the future of doing business. I don’t believe in competition amongst artists for the fact that it’s all about an artist’s individuality and if you brand yourself online through SEM (search engine marketing) and proper keyword usage you don’t need to rely on “gallery sites”. Although some gallery sites do work for some it puts artists in a competitive venue where you have hundreds of like kind businesses competing for the same web traffic. It’s not rocket science to figure this out that you are putting yourself in a totally different kind of market in the first place called “internet marketing” and in the second place, if you’re trying to brand yourself online you don’t seat yourself in the middle of stadium of 50,000 same dressed fans at a football stadium screaming “Hi Mom!” and expect to be seen do you? Unless of course you pay the premium price for box office seats then maybe JUST MAYBE you might get a fleeting moment where the camera zooms in and someone who knows you will see you. Otherwise people don’t care who you are because you’re just another fan screaming “Hi Mom”! Remember these sites are in business to sell ad space and the higher the membership the higher the traffic and the higher the traffic the more the ad space is worth.

The traffic I generate with my blog is far less than a membership site of course but it’s my traffic and these are real people who are genuinely interested in my work and not just someone scanning a site saying “that’s nice” and moving on to the next artist where an ad pops up and is giving some kind of discount on product that has nothing to do with your work. I mean C’mon I can almost hear the announcer saying “Attention Wal-Mart shoppers for our blue light special” but hey who am I to say, if it works for you great..

I could write a book on this subject being that I have also studied many kinds of marketing along with SEO, SEM, video, etc, for a number of years. Like I said my days are not a typical 9am-5pm day, It’s more like 9 am to 5am, Yes you counted right 20 hours a day….every day

Hands down I would say blogging and networking. Being that I do many different things to market myself it all revolves around my blog. A blog can set you apart from everyone as an individual to which there is no competition.

How do you attract most of your clientele?

Recently I would say most of them have been coming from my blog and web presence both on and offline. I do a ton of network marketing locally by going to B2B after hours networking events and have joined a couple of networking groups as well. I try to attend charity events and contribute when I can, volunteer for philanthropy projects and basically keep putting my name out there publicly as much as possible. Press releases of course are a good source if you are good at writing your own copy but I would first suggest having a professional writer do that for you. With all that said I would have to say my blog is the main hub of my marketing traffic and everything I do on and off line is directed to it. Like I said I could write a book on this because there is so much to it. I could probably hold 3 day seminars on the subject and have often thought about it but my days are full at 20 hours as it is lol.


What does your average work day look like?

Generally as I said my days are much longer than 9-5 but I will give you a quick breakdown. I am usually out the door by 9 and making my meetings that I have set up from prior conversations with possible clients while taking care of emails between meetings which will last about an hour and a half for each. If I can I will schedule the client meetings earlier so as to not squeeze my morning too much. I like to be in the studio by 10:30 to 11:00 so I can spend an hour on my emails and returning phone calls. The wife takes care of the phones during the day (she does all my screening). At 12:00 pm, if I am in the studio, I am painting and usually don’t stop until I am tired which in some cases will be until 9 or 10 o’clock at night if I am on a roll. Otherwise I will stop at 5:00 pm or so to take on a couple of networking events and socialize publicly and get a few pictures in the local paper from different events that the press loves to publish during the week.

Rarely do I even know the time when I am in the studio because I have no phone or clocks to disturb my thought process when I am painting. If I have a commission in a clients home like wood graining panels, marbling columns, painting murals and trompe loeil, I am usually there between 10-5 and will make one appointment after 5 so I can be home by 7 or 8. My day does not end at this point. This is where I get my second wind and am in front of my computer working on my marketing, eating my dinner, updating my blog and responding to emails. I’ll do some socializing on Face book and other social medias but I only spend about 90 minutes on it just to keep traffic flowing to my blog. By then it’s about 10:30 pm and I start writing my next blog post by researching keywords, after all I want my next post to hit page one in the searches and it generally does. By the time I am through with that it’s about 2am. I will then do a couple of hours of research on a current project and hopefully by 4am I am off to bed for about 3 to 4 hours of sleep. Then of course my day starts all over again and depending on if I have an appointment the next morning determines of weather I get 3 hours sleep or 4.


If you could travel back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?

I would say wait to start a family and achieve your goals first. You see I had to go to work and support a family when I was young which made it very hard for me to follow my dreams and I have had my share of ups and downs and made my share of wrong decisions just as anyone else has but of course my family came first. My father and mother did not have the ability to pay for college which is why all my education is self taught and you would be amazed at the education that I do have as a result of it. School is of course very important but don’t think for one minute that because you don’t have the money or the means to buy it doesn’t mean that you can’t get it. Most everything I have learned has been self taught which these days is available everywhere on the internet. But that’s only as a last resort and it does take much more time to learn what your after especially when you are working and raising a family remember, I was a painter and later a painting contractor while studying my art.

So I would say study as hard and learn as much as you can while you’re young. Reach out to mentors, teachers, coaches, craftsmen, artists because they are truly passionate about teaching and love what they do because they are sure as heck not in it for the money. Put the word “can’t” completely out of your vocabulary there’s no room for it because if you want something bad enough you WILL succeed but there is no room for doubt or second guessing.


What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Paint from your heart and include a variety of music. Music and color are connected and it has been proven many times over. Since I paint in many different styles and forms I found out just how important one is with the other. Music is so connected with art that it’s how I found that landscape painting is a favorite especially when I include trompe loeil. Music will help you get into what is known as the “zone” and it is a place like none other that only artists can understand. It is a place where you become one with your art, a place of creative freedom, a place when once understood will give you the feeling and the power of positive thinking that you can do anything. I believe I can paint and do anything because of what I have learned from being an artist. I am in my 50’s now and I still feel very strongly about what I am telling you here. I truly believe that this is only the beginning of where I am going with my art. Learning is forever and it never ends and having the passion for it is truly the gift. Art is taught and learned and yes there is some talent involved but the real gift comes from the passion within you to want it so bad that you will stop at nothing to learn it and that my friend comes with everything in life and I feel that everything is an art form no matter what it is you do.

I really hope this will encourage and/or help those who are struggling with their art, just remember the key is learning color and once you have gained the knowledge of color you can paint anything.

Arthur’s Tweets at @artmorehead. Like him on Facebook. Read his feed.

  • Tammi Edwards
    Tammi Edwards

    Author, Journalist & Art Enthusiast | Tammi Edwards is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) where she earned two Bachelor's Degrees, and later a Juris Doctor (JD). Her interest in an artistic career took root while an undergraduate at UCSB when the LaBelle Modeling Agency contracted her as a model & voiceover talent.