True Beauty – Behind The Business and Art of Malinda Prud’homme
We’ve been fans of Malinda Prud’homme for a while now, even before she answered our 20 Questions back in 2013.
With the news that she would be exhibiting in her first solo show here in Toronto, we thought it would be a great time to dive a little deeper with Malinda and find out more about her life and work.
Behind the Businessis a feature that usually focuses on small business owners and entrepreneurs trying to get a commercial venture up and running, but if you think that might not apply to a fine artist, read on and be surprised.
Hi Malinda! So tell us – who are you and what do you do?
I’m a mixed media and portrait artist working full time from my cozy little studio in Toronto’s Art & Design district. I started off my career purely as a mixed media artist since I had a knack for any medium I picked up. I could create stunning artworks using charcoal, pastels, pencils, coloured pencils, pen, acrylic paint, oil paint, and even encaustic wax paint. But as my career progressed it became clear that my true passion and greatest talent was creating realistic portraiture using oil and acrylic paint. Most of my time is spent creating true to life portraits of women in order to express not only their outer beauty but inner spirit as well.
There really is nothing more fulfilling to me than creating a beautiful piece of art with extreme attention to detail knowing it will be cherished for many years to come.
What made you choose this path?
Being an artist was never something I considered for my future. I grew up in Sudbury and although things are starting to improve, there was really no art community or celebration of the arts in our city. It led me to believe, even as a child, that being an artist was a part time job or a dream that wasn’t achievable. When I was 12 years old I decided instead to become a teacher. I wanted to be a kind-hearted teacher that teens could come to with their problems. I wanted to be the teacher I needed when I was in secondary school. But after 6 years of University, volunteering, and multiple extra qualifications, it seemed it just wasn’t meant to be.
I taught in a private school setting and I really enjoyed my students but it was contract work and unfortunately it didn’t last. It truly broke my heart but as they say “everything happens for a reason”. I had started my art career as a part time gig while teaching and it seemed like there was potential to make it into a real career. My hubby-to-be Darren and I discussed it and it seemed like this was the time to give it a real go! I’m thankful I took that leap every day of my life.
Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer?
Artistic talent definitely runs in our family. My father is a very successful Wildfowl Woodcarver having achieved a 3rd place on the world stage. For those who aren’t familiar with the art form, he uses little tools to carve highly realistic birds out of wood. It’s incredibly impressive and I’ve always admired his ability to achieve realism which is probably why my work took that direction. You can see his artwork here if you’re interested -> www.GillesPrudhomme.com
Your dad’s stuff is amazing – there’s talent in them genes! But you must’ve had formal training?
I’ve been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember but I did learn a lot about proper use of mediums while getting my Visual Art Minor at Nipissing University. I took a condensed two year minor in one year so that I could add a Visual Arts teachable to my portfolio; little did I know this experience would pave the way for my future career as an artist. But of course, no one is perfect! I like to think that life is about learning and growing so I’m constantly trying to think of new techniques and ways to improve my work.
So why else do you paint? Why do you love what you do?
I just do! I love capturing people in paint. Their beauty, their kindness, their character; I feel painting a person is like celebrating them and we need to celebrate each other more.
My ability to capture people’s expressions, particularly in the eyes, has impressed quite a few fans worldwide and has led to many amazing custom art projects.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate, so share what drives you every day.
I totally agree with that! I wake up in the morning (yes, even on weekends) bright and early around 6am bursting with energy and excitement to get painting! There is nothing like putting the finishing touches on a painting, stepping back, taking it all in, and being overwhelmed with how much nicer it looks than I had planned. When you spend days, weeks, sometimes even months, on a painting, seeing it finished is an emotional experience. It’s that feeling that drives me.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you you are?
I don’t think “smooth sailing” could be applied to any artist trying to make a living. At the beginning it was challenging to find paid work and of course at this early stage in my career I still have “down times” where custom work requests start to dwindle but instead of focusing on the lack of income I try to tell myself that this opens up time to make more original work and utilize social media to spread the word about my art.
Another issue I encountered as a portrait artist just starting out was a lack of “real life” muses willing to be featured in my work. My greatest passion is portraying all women as beautiful so it has always been important to me to capture a range of women. But it only makes sense that, while I had lots of confidence in myself, I was yet untested so it was rare having women volunteer to be in my work. Instead I resorted to the occasional model or actress whom I felt to be personally inspiring or unique in their beauty. Thankfully as the years went by and my skills became known, women have been more confident in my ability to portray them accurately and have been offering their images to be painted. This is truly one of the most exciting developments in my career as I absolutely love to capture “real women”. Not to say that models and actresses are not real, or that I will stop depicting them all together, but it is great to be able to capture a wider variety of beauty.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
I’ve been fortunate in that regard as the majority of my clients have been incredibly kind, understanding, and appreciative. I think the craziest and probably most frustrating thing is when someone online expresses how much they love my work by saying they are going to “print them out and hang them on the wall”.
I remain patient and gracious of course because I do appreciate that they enjoy my work but I always explain how this is very unfair and damaging to artists. I had one fellow react to this in a very angry way exclaiming that I should be thankful that he wanted to put my work up because his friends would see it.
But in the overall scheme of things this is just a minor annoyance and I think pretty much any artist could relate.
The concept that artists should have no issue working for free, absolutely boggles my mind. No one would justify asking a dentist to whiten their teeth for free by saying “I’ll show my friends”, right?
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
Ha! I am familiar with it but not as much as others I’m sure. I find a common misconception that people have about artists is that we’re all avant-garde lazy people who just paint pictures all day and have a lack of discipline. While I definitely don’t consider myself a “normal” person (who is though, really?) I am in no way lazy – I’m highly disciplined, and while I do paint pretty pictures there is SO much more that goes into being a successful artist. I begin my day earlier than most at 6 am and will often work late into the evening.
Weekends contain relaxation but I generally spend my mornings working. Depending on my work load I may work from the time I get up to the time I go to sleep 7 days a week. Yet you’ll never hear me complain because I absolutely LOVE my work and working towards furthering my career has to be one of the most exciting things in my life.
When I’m not working I like to relax with my fiancé Darren Edward and our fur baby, a big 20 pound cat named Maverick. Darren and I enjoy a simple life. We like to watch TV shows together like Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, and many more. We also like to read the same novels so we can discuss them together. Good conversation, lots of laughs, delicious food, and lots of cuddling with the cat makes for a very happy life.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Social media is extremely important to the success of my business. Fewer and fewer people are leaving the comfort of their homes to see artwork so, although gallery shows are still important, it is extremely important to utilize free social media sites as much as possible. I spend at least a couple of hours a day going through all of the sites I manage in order to makes posts and respond to comments. This is very important because it builds true friendships with your audience and I’ve seen some of these relationships last years and years. It’s truly something to treasure and it wouldn’t be possible without social media. What sites do I use? I’ve found Facebook and Twitter to be really beneficial. I also use Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. And I have a blog on Blogger, an Etsy shop, an FAA (Fine Art America) print shop, and a DeviantArt profile. I’ve found the more active I am on these sites the more my work is recognized, featured, published, and purchased. I would absolutely recommend that any artist utilize these sites to the best of their ability.
How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
I’ll be the first to admit, I am very much a hermit. I love my studio and my home and I don’t tend to leave it often. However, I try my best to attend my fellow artists’ shows and certainly take part in as many as I can myself. One of the local festivals that I really love is Big on Bloor, when Bloor West is shut down and becomes a pedestrian street. One of my other favourites is the Queen West Art Crawl in the Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Other than that I love to give social media shout outs to the local businesses I use such as Curry’s Art Supplies Store or Poutini’s (a favourite of mine on Queen West). I think it’s great that social media allows you to feel connected to your community even if you’re not someone who likes to be out and about often.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Who knows what the future holds? I’ve been fortunate to have experienced some amazing things so far and I can only hope things continue to progress as they have. For me, being an artist is not about becoming famous or having my name in the art history books; it’s not about making millions. My goal is to make a decent living doing the thing I love doing and the thing I do best. Once that’s achieved then I’ll start reaching for bigger goals. I definitely dream of having exhibitions around the world or that my work will be in high demand. Dreaming big is great but I think setting realistic goals and focusing on achieving one at a time is the best way to stay excited and inspired by your own journey rather than feeling unfulfilled because the BIG dream hasn’t happened yet. Life is a journey and every stop along the way is worth cherishing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
My advice to anyone trying to make a career out of their artistic talent is to give it all you’ve got and utilize every free opportunity possible to get your work out there. I truly believe that using social media on a regular basis and making real connections with your followers is integral in our current society. Let your audience see who you really are by sharing personal stories and photos. A lot of times people want to get to know the artist behind the artwork. When people know more about you they tend to be more inspired by your journey and support you along the way.