With cardboard, sugar packets and paper napkins as a canvas, Gus Fink sketched punk-inspired portraits of ethereal creatures and eerie characters, then sold them for a few dollars. It was a nice little sideline to his monster oddball shop, where he sold all sorts of must-have merchandise like fake poop, skateboards, comic books and old Star Wars figures. When business was slow, he'd list his items on eBay—and often made more than he'd make selling it in the store. So when he closed the shop and went all in on his artistic venture, he skipped gallery shows in favor of eBay bidding wars. On average he actively lists 255 pieces. Here, he talks about quirky inspirations and business models.
It fully hit me, that I could earn a living as an artist when I sold a tiny painting on cardboard to another artist whose work I respected. Davmo paid me $76 for it. I was 22 years old and so happy that I was able to make that much money for a painting I put about 12 minutes into. I wanted to celebrate. I drove a 1985 Plymouth Horizon back then, which was fully painted up with my characters, so I drove it to Walmart and bought some Pop-Tarts. But during that drive I had this strong feeling that I knew I would do this for the rest of my life.
At first, all I sold was original artwork. I didn't even think to make prints of the work. I had this lazy attitude back then. It was easier for me to find an original work of art and ship it out then to find a place to make prints and do that sort of thing. Eventually, I grew out of that laziness.
My work comes from a place within myself, where I tap into the creative energy that surrounds us all. I'm usually connected to it 80 percent of the day. It's the stuff of good and bad dreams. When art isn't pulled from that special place, well, you can see that it's a facsimile of someone else's work—someone who does pull from that creative place. And that's why so much of what we see in life is dull and boring. It's a copy of a copy.
I grew up loving Star Wars, the Muppets, Garbage Pail Kids and Nintendo games. I guess that influences me somewhat. The energy was cool then, unlike the '90s when New Kids on the Block and Power Rangers took over. By 2000, I already had my own style—a mix of comic/cartoon-ish/odd expressionism—that any punk-rock, monster-loving, death-metal kid would make. As I define my style, I do things to be unique, to attack the things I don't like and to embrace the things I love.
I once read that every artist has about 3,000 bad drawings inside of them and that they need to get them out before they start to get good. I'd say it's at least that amount. As a child, I'd fill books with sketches of the characters I saw in my head. As an 11 year old, I started copying existing things, like the California Raisins, to please people. By 14, I was back to the creatures in my head and I didn't care if people liked them. Ten thousand drawings and paintings later, my style keeps getting better and better.
My process is very much like my personality; it has no solid method but captures the moment. I might just splash paint down on canvas and see where it takes me. Other times I see an idea in my head and want to get it out. I like to surprise myself. It's like live entertainment; I don't know where it's taking me but I enjoy the whole show.
Life is hectic. Especially when doing shows. Take NYC Comic Con. I was painting live during the show, then doing a gallery show at an after party at some club in NYC—which had live artist battles. At the same time I've been answering emails about new business deals, working on toy designs for a current deal and working on projects for stuff that will be out in about four months.
My day-to-day changes all the time. eBay is now primarily a way for me to sell limited-edition prints rather then a way of getting paid for originals. Sometimes I list originals and you can hit the "buy it now" button, put I set the price on those.
To make it, you've got to decide what you want for yourself and do what it takes to get yourself there. Consider this truth: If you think it, it's already happening, even if it's just in your own mind. It exists; all you have to do is line yourself up with it. Follow the story that is you.See Gus' Profile