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Meet Christine Brand of Nature + Pigment in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine May Brand.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Christine. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve always enjoyed art, so when it was time to leave high school and pursue college, I knew I was interested in a creative path. I discovered the world of oil painting while earning my B.A. in Studio Art and I fell in love with it. I would spend weeks or months on one piece. At the time I only liked to use my own photographs for reference, so my subject matter usually came from tide pools, nature walks and travels to Yosemite or Lake Tahoe.

Out of college, I continued on the oil painting path along with a side job at the Santa Barbara Zoo. The Zoo added quite the variety to my life. Eventually, part-time turned into full time and I wasn’t picking up the paint brush as much. But, I was still doing some pretty creative and awesome things! Besides my position in fundraising, I was able to sneak in some work at the new art gallery set to open at the Zoo. In the first year, we opened four shows. One of them was a true highlight! I worked with the Animal Care team and we put together a show with over 100 paintings… all created by the animals!

After six years at the zoo, the urge to pursue my own art was still there, so I took a leap and left the Zoo to launch my own small business. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I knew I didn’t want to spend weeks or months on one piece to hang on a gallery wall. I wanted to create art that would be used or enjoyed in every environment… along came Surface Design. Going into my fourth year of business, I’ve created hundreds of pieces in watercolor, ink, and block-print, using my surroundings as inspiration, along with lots of imagination. Most of my art is found in the form of greeting cards, waterproof stickers, phone cases, textiles, totes and more… with a few fine art pieces mixed in for some special shows, I’ve been a part of. I couldn’t be happier with this path. It allows for flexibility in my art and it has opened up my creativity like I never imagined. Every year my business transforms a bit as I learn what it’s like to make a living as an artist/designer/workshop teacher, you name it!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My first reaction to this question is no, wait, yes, well, no! This is a hard one because there have definitely been plenty of times where I wanted to give up a little bit. Whether it’s starting the day thinking that I’m the most creative person ever and then getting to work only to find out, I can’t paint the way I want to that day and nothing seems to be working. Or putting a lot of time into creating for a market, only to have it turn out not to be profitable. Then there’s rejection letters or freelance jobs that sound exciting but don’t end up working out. It can be a little tough when there’s no “team” to fall back on, it’s just me! But, I have never wanted to abandon it all, so while there are bumps in the road, the benefits out weight the struggles. I feel like I’m pretty lucky to have the freedom to transform my business with every new opportunity.

Nature + Pigment – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Since I did start out without a defined path, my business has transformed every year as I learn what makes it work. The first couple of years, I relied a lot on handmade markets and creating for those markets. I would have limited run tea towels, one of kind hand-printed cards, or painted beach stones (which I would say I’m still known for), along with placing my art on print-on-demand sites. My focus now is less markets and more wholesale, which means I still get to create greeting cards, I’m just more consistent with the designs I’m putting out in the world and I’m building relationships with shops and retailers who carry my art. One of my most popular products is vinyl waterproof stickers! Everyone loves stickers and I love designing them! I only participate in two or three markets a year now, one of them being a huge two-day festival, the Santa Barbara Sea Glass & Ocean Arts Festival. It’s great because I get to meet a lot of the people who support my business and so many Instagram friends in real life!

One thing that is very different from year one is I’m teaching workshops! I never imagined I would be in a position where I have 25 people in a room learning my techniques, but it’s pretty awesome. I love the connections made through workshops, plus it’s just so fun to come up with the theme and game plan! Also, I love art supplies, so workshops help feed the need to buy ALL the supplies! I still have my art on print-on-demand sites and next up is exploring the world of art licensing. I would love to think I’m known for creating colorful art for every day enjoyment. I think every day on this job I’m working towards that goal and it will be an ever-evolving finish line.

I’m proud of making art that I love and having found a community who enjoys it as well!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment comes in lots of little moments. Every time someone sends me a photo of a sticker they have on their water bottle or tells me, they gave one of my cards to their mom for Mother’s Day, those are proud moments. When someone purchases one of my phone cases and they see it and use it every day, or they have my art hanging in their house, or one of my retail partners places another order because they sold all of my greeting cards to their customers, those are all proud moments. When someone tells me they love my art via social media or at a festival, those are proud moments. It really doesn’t get better!

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