A family of artists, by Todd Messinger and Calvin Messinger

Thanks, Karen, for asking us to guest blog about what it’s like to have two artists in the family.

First, we need to preface this with a question: If you write, but your books are never published, does that mean you’re not a writer? If you play a musical instrument, but you never play professionally, does that mean you’re not a musician? We are artists, though you won’t find our works in a gallery catalog. We were both accepted into a nationally juried art show at a local gallery in December, 2010, and we are constantly improving our skills, talents and craft.

However, what we feel is art may not be the “marketable art” that people are searching for. Historically there are many successful portrait artists, success being defined as: they made money with their craft; but their work will not be found in galleries. Very often those artists we consider to be famous, and whose art we admire in galleries, never made much money with their art. There is a difference between monetary success and being a successful artist. Sometimes the most moving art, the art that means the most to us, will never be sold in an art gallery, or be found in a museum. We have found that we can use our skills in more marketable ways, while still creating the art that moves us.

Depression, Todd Messinger

Second, we are a family of artists.
Todd:As a father, I think it’s like the master and apprentice relationship. I am teaching Calvin and supplementing his high school and college instruction with what I know, to help him become a master artist. I am giving him an advantage I never had, which is a parent who knows the business and the craft of art, and who understands that sometimes art keeps you up all hours of the night, demanding to be painted. Having art materials around the house has given him an advantage, and because I know how to use those materials, and I teach him how to use them, he has an advantage over kids who don’t have that kind of support at home. I believe in him, in his abilities, and in his potential. I push him to be a better artist by challenging him to do his best. I critique his work, and give him suggestions to improve. We challenge each other to paint the same still-life within 30 minutes. Then we compare and critique each other’s paintings. We both grow in our artistic skills with these exercises, and Calvin learns how to see his work objectively, and how to improve. Calvin also sees that my work is not perfect, that I am still growing and improving my skills. My primary goal is for my son to be a better artist than I am, and my secondary goal is to make sure that I continue to improve so that never happens.

Catalyst, Calvin Messinger

Calvin: Bring it on Dad! It’s a blessing and a curse. Yes, I do get that “jump” forward, you know, that advantage of someone who knows about art and can teach me at a young age. But it’s a curse because sometimes I feel that I have an unfair advantage over others, and that I’m not discovering it on my own, that I have someone to tell me what to do
and to make those decisions for me rather than learning by experience and failure on my own.

Overeating, Todd Messinger

Where does inspiration come from?
Todd:I know it sounds trite, but my inspiration comes from everything. My mind takes situations from life, or observations, and pushes them to explore emotions and contradictions and conflicts within the psyche. Most of my art has a back story, a moral or a message I’m trying to get the viewer to see and to understand. Sometimes the artwork ferments inside me, building up until it explodes out, only to have 3 more take its place. That’s why I always have many more sketches and ideas than I can paint fully.

Calvin:My inspiration comes from other artists, books, movies, music, video games, board games, things that happen to me, and basically everything around me.

Dark Ritual, Calvin Messinger

Do we sell our artwork?
Todd: Most of my artwork is not pretty pictures or landscapes and things that most people buy, so it’s not readily marketable. The artwork that people buy from me is my commercial photography and graphic design – which is a watered down sense of art. I use my artistic abilities and skills to ensure quality pictures and outstanding designs, but I would not call that “fine art.” Sometimes an artist has to use their skills in a different way in order to make money so that they can pursue what they consider “real art” or the true expression of art. My graphic design and advertising business is how I make money. It is frustrating to be limited to the customer’s idea of what is good design, but sometimes I have to sacrifice what I think is better design to make the customer happy. My photography sells, but only in the venue of portraits: family portraits, senior portraits, sports team portraits. I have never sold a photograph of flowers, buildings, or landscapes – the photographs that sell because they are more marketable.
Calvin: Do I sell it? If someone wants to buy it sure! I have been commissioned to do one portrait, but I used to do little drawings in middle school and high school that I’d sell to friends for a dollar.

Vasectomy, Todd Messinger

How do you market?

Todd: I market through websites and word of mouth. For commercial things, I use direct mailing, sales calls, trade shows and advertising.
Calvin: Word of mouth, and Dad and I were both in a juried art show at a local gallery this past December.

Where do you market?
Todd: Throughout the North East.
Calvin: Locally, although I do try to enter online competitions. I received a college scholarship based on the submission of art work and essays.

Who buys?
Todd: Campgrounds make up the largest part. For photography mostly families and wedding couples.
Calvin:Friends and family generally.

Time, Calvin Messinger

Do you work in publishing?
Todd: Yes. I publish hundreds of campground brochures and an annual camping directory for the Campground Owners of New York. I am illustrating a children’s book for my wife. But in today’s age, anyone can self-publish.
Calvin: No.

Why should you hire me?
Todd: If you’re hiring for graphic design, I bring an artistic eye to the design process. My design is sound. I have 15 years of experience. I know the printing process thoroughly. I can do all phases of the project: photography, writing, designing, illustrating and printing.
Calvin: Because I bring a more dynamic feel to things.

What do you feel is the biggest advantage or what do you love most about being two artists in the same family?
Todd: Having someone who is as passionate about something as you are. Calvin and I can go to an art gallery and stay there for days, while everyone else wants to skip through the place in hours. Calvin understands my frustration when I have so many ideas in my head commanding attention, yet I have only a little time to spend drawing them out. He understands how aggravating it is to have so many ideas you want to explore fully, but there just isn’t enough time to do more than one. Seeing Calvin succeed makes me proud.
Calvin: We give each other something to strive for. We compete, help, and critique each other. We build each other up. I have another person to teach me and to encourage me to better myself.

Todd Messinger

Todd Messinger received his BFA in painting and drawing from Binghamton University. He has served as curator at BU’s Rosefsky Gallery. He has exhibited in National juried shows in Idaho and New York. Todd operates his own photography and graphic design business. He enjoys spending time with his wife and four children.

Calvin Messinger, Self Portrait

Calvin Messinger received his High School diploma from Harpursville High School. He has exhibited in the “Young at Art” show, and the “da Vinci” show, also in Binghamton. He is currently enrolled as a student of Broome Community College. He has exhibited in a National juried show in New York. Calvin enjoys spending his time drawing, playing sports, playing video games, and reading comics and other books.





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