Sarah Hudock makes some of the most colorful and whimsical chicken art I’ve seen! She is a regular in my Facebook feed, and it’s clear she treats her art as a business while still having a lot of fun doing it. Below is an email interview we worked on after I started this blog.
How did you first get interested in chickens?
My interest in painting chickens didn’t happen until later in life. We kept chickens when I was growing up, so it was easy to make the decision as an adult to keep them myself, but my experience the second time around is much different. As a child, chickens were a noisy, entertaining, ubiquitous backdrop to the hundreds of chores required on a farm – they just seemed part of the landscape back then. I didn’t paint them at all, but instead was obsessed with drawing horses.
Do you keep chickens?
I keep a layer flock of about 25 birds, and I get to know some of my own birds as individuals. I have discovered them to be such sweet, entertaining, curious creatures! It also turns out there IS a way to raise roosters without them becoming aggressive and hostile. I call them “my little dinosaurs.”
What is your artistic process like?
Most of my life I have painted in a specific way: mostly detailed florals and botanicals, watercolor with a lot of pen-and-ink over it, in a very linear style. I have had almost no formal training, I didn’t paint often, and I believe this is why I didn’t progress in my painting skills until I finally began to devote full time to it. Around mid 2011, when I made the decision to become a full time artist, one day I painted four roosters caroling because I thought it would be funny as a Christmas card. That was my first foray into painting chickens, but it took me another year of practice before I really got better.
I experienced a profound change in my skill level and my style in 2012. Thanks to my husband, for the first time in my life I had the space, the time, and the support to really sit down and paint every day; to experiment and play, to discover what I was capable of. I ditched the pen-and-ink linear style and began using the paint itself to create the detail that I wanted. Whether it was the flock of chickens outside my window, or the crowing every morning I don’t know, but the first time I painted a chicken that way it turned out really well, and I had surprised myself. (Below, “Daisies”)
Another giant leap in my skills took place later in 2012 when I began learning to use Photoshop, which I had always been a little afraid of. Even having been a computer tech in my previous career, Photoshop had always been very intimidating in its complexity. Even now after a couple of years of using it, I am sure I only use about a tenth of it’s capability, but it has also revolutionized what and how I can create. Being able to warp, edit colors, change relationships, resize and re-proportion my artwork has been a fascinating discovery. Unless I am commissioned to paint something specific, I rarely paint an entire image all at once now, but rather hand-paint elements individually and scan them into separate digital files to be layered.
What can you tell us about your marketing methods?
In early 2013 I signed with agent Carol White from Artworks! Licensing, who has been working hard to license my work to manufacturers for mass-market products. At the same time I have been building my own business selling my images that I get made on outdoor tin signs, door hangers, ceramic tiles, prints, posters, and cards. I do a LOT of promotion of my Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/sarahhudock), partnering with some of the larger chicken enthusiast pages to do monthly art giveaways in exchange for a whole lot of attention from their thousands of chicken-loving fans.
It has been surprising just how many people are interested in chickens, and in keeping chickens themselves. I place advertisements on popular chicken and gardening blogs, and also a traditional print ad in Backyard Poultry Magazine, all of which drives traffic to my website and my online store.
Many people ask the question of how much time I spend on Facebook to do all of this. I actually spend most of my time creating new art, whether it’s hand painting a new image or working in Photoshop, but I have somehow managed to get the knack of responding on Facebook periodically throughout the day, without letting it take too much time. Facebook is “up” all day for me on my computer, I can talk to fans, my customer orders, agent requests and supplier discussions come in through email, and I usually respond to everything as it happens. Then I drop it and go right back to creating. I often play Netflix movies on it at the same time as well, which I find helps me focus. Perhaps the real secret is that I also rarely talk to close personal friends on social media! THAT is entirely distracting and derails me.
I subscribe to the belief that in order to build something, whether it’s a painting or a career or a brand, it is important to throw the idea of a “balanced” life out the window. Quite the opposite in fact: it requires extreme focus and single-mindedness. Some days are more productive online, some are more productive in paint, but it’s also all I do: I focus all day every day on my artwork and it’s promotion. In short, I am not trying to do anything else! (I can show you a photo of the four-foot tall weeds in my garden too!) — Sarah Hudock, August 2014
Thank you very much Sarah, for doing this interview and supplying a great selection of images to go with it!
See more of Sarah’s work on her website: http://chickenart.com/
(I very much identify with Sarah’s last paragraph, about extreme focus. Though overall there may be balance, there can also be long stretches of time for me where I want to focus on making art or a particular piece, without distraction. Other days, I am more attuned to the requirements of writing, networking, marketing, editing my sites, or even cleaning and organizing my studio. I’ve learned to go with my instinct, as that’s when I’m most productive regardless what task it is. –C. Schnackel)
Images of Sara’s artwork and her words are © Sarah Hudock and used with her permission. Remainder of content is © Cindy Schnackel except where noted.