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Award Winning Artist Mike Davies: There’s No Reason to Wait Anymore

Award Winning Artist Mike Davies: There’s No Reason to Wait Anymore
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By Elisabeth Daniels

Mike Davies has a dream job. He’s a special effects guy for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, handling things like fog and lighting. He does all the cool projection stuff that makes Cirque productions mystical and otherworldly.

But after 22 years, Mike is ready to bow out of Cirque and focus on his first love: art.

“I’ve done this my whole life,” Mike says. “I’ve had different jobs, but this is the common thread. I’ve always produced artwork.”

Something for Everyone

That artwork is incredibly varied. Take a gander at Slo-Motion Arts, his online portfolio, and you’ll find something for every taste. Portraits of famous musicians are painted in vibrant, broad strokes. Original, hand-pressed linocuts are available in virtually any color paper and ink. There’s a ‘Dark Gadgets’ line of mixed media steampunk sculptures, created from found objects. Giclée prints of charmingly rendered animals appeal to kids, and Mike has just added custom pet portraits to his catalogue.

Initially, Mike did a lot of colored pencil work and some paintings. Then, in 2006, a serious motorcycle accident confined him to a wheelchair for a couple of months. He had time to think – and try out new methods and techniques.

“The sculpture thing…,” Mike pauses, laughing. “I was building guitars and painting them, and I ended up with a whole bunch of guitar parts. People began giving me stuff, and I made a seven-foot guitar sculpture.”

Mike’s prolific and powerful work has earned him local honors. In 2014, he won the Nevada Recycled Art contest. In 2015, he won Las Vegas RAW. As gratifying as the accolades are, the awards haven’t translated into financial success.

As the home he shares with his wife Doreen has filled up, Mike has sought various ways to market his creations.

He experimented with a “parlor style” art gallery, where people would come to his home to browse and shop. After two years and lackluster sales, he closed it down. Each month, he sets up a booth in downtown Vegas for First Friday, which is billed as an art celebration. People seem to be more interested in the food trucks than buying art. He has taken small freelance jobs, like a live painting event for a local writers group. Unfortunately, nothing has generated more than a few hundred bucks. Not nearly enough to sustain him and Doreen.

Mike Davies with sculptures

The Show Will Go On

“I like to put together art shows,” says Mike. “That’s what I really want to do.” But shows are hit or miss for artists and often very expensive. The events offer exposure with the possibility of commissions, but they don’t pay the bills. “Every show charges you to enter and sometimes even for each piece,” he says. “So if you don’t sell anything, you’ve lost money.”

“That hard part for me,” Mike notes, “is that the only way to make any money in art has been to make it off of other artists. I’d rather be helping them.”

Experience has shown that he can’t do it in Vegas. And he can’t do it through the typical sales channels. That’s why he and Doreen are looking at relocating and developing a new sales model. “I’m going to shake up the way artists are scouted and the pay structure.”

Changing of the Seasons

He plans to focus on seasoned artists because newbies have more opportunities. “A lot of the younger artists are dramatic,” Mike points out, “but they’re not as skilled.” There’s very little for mid-level artists: people who’ve done a lot of shows but still haven’t hit that place where they’re comfortable. These artists are usually older. “They could be retired,” Mike says. “They’ve done artwork their entire working life, and they want to bring in some extra money.”

“The older artists are good because they’re experienced.”

Mike’s idea centers on a ticket-selling model with raffles and maybe even contests. It’s a way to have a guaranteed crowd – and not get killed financially doing the show.

Mike’s been researching locations, and he’s come to the conclusion that central California is a great place to launch. Central Cal has very little in the way of shows, so there’s a void to be filled. To make sure he and Doreen can handle the ebbs and flows of a new business, they’re getting bills paid and debt taken care of.

After years of putting his art on the back burner and treating it like a side hustle, Mike is ready to make the leap into a new career. And he wants to take care of his fellow artists along the way: as a curator, rather than a promoter.

“As you get older, your perspective changes a little bit,” Mike says. “There’s no reason to wait anymore.”

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