Artist Brendan Coudal's “when I grow up...” always included the words “illustrator” or “painter.”
“Fast forward 35, 40 years and here I am,” says Coudal. “And I realize I am actually doing what I wanted to do in fourth grade.”
Coudal, based in Nokomis in south Sarasota County, is the owner and artist of a thriving original art, graphic design and print-on-demand business named Ballyhoo Designs. The subject of his sketches and paintings include marine-life, mid-century modern retro girl posters and cartoon-like illustrations of his cats Max and Phoebe.
Coudal's creative and entrepreneurial nature means ideas are plentiful. But unlike the starving artist myth, Coudal looks at each opportunity and asks: “Do I love doing it and can I make money doing it?”
This helps him and his wife, Nicole Coudal, who handles administrative tasks, determine which projects align with his passion and meet their fiscal needs. They balance this with pro-bono work for favorite causes and charities.
Coudal's workflow is organic. He moves freely from piece to piece, most times not yet completing one project before moving on to the next. This system helps him to take advantage of multiple platforms and create multiple revenue streams, which is vital to modern-day artist success. “The old model of hanging a painting in a gallery and then waiting for it to sell and then getting your check is kind of dead,” he says.
Ballyhoo digitizes and copyrights each original painting upon completion and the Coudals assess the best product or products for the image. That could mean prints, postcards, note cards, mini-prints, canvas prints or apparel. They also sell wholesale and license the art to manufacturers and fishing tournaments. One of Coudal's original paintings has the potential to provide years of royalties if leveraged correctly. Ballyhoo's fluid business model preserves the value of the original art, which can cost from $5,000 to $10,000, while making it accessible to customers at a variety of price points.
“They may not even want the canvas print for a few hundred dollars, but they will get a $20 print or a $10 pack of postcards so they can still enjoy the image without breaking the bank.” says Nicole Coudal.
The model works: When Coudal first began his career as a fulltime artist in 2001, all his revenues came from original work. Now at least 80% of sales come from licensing agreements, wholesale sales and reproductions, with the other 20% from commissioned and original paintings.
In an arts-infused town like Sarasota, there can be heavy competition for sales. But that's OK with Coudal. “I've found most artists are really giving and supportive because nobody else can do what we each do individually: Nobody paints like me and nobody paints like you,” he says. “It's groovy.”
Originally from Chicago and one of five kids, Coudal attributes his creative nature to his upbringing. “My parents encouraged silliness and creativity,” he says. “We put on variety shows and there was always a rock band in the basement.”
Coudal graduated from the Academy of the Arts in Chicago, and then went to college for business administration. He held a host of hospitality jobs prior to becoming a full-time artist, but always maintained his creative itch.
Coudal made his first small art commission, $50, in 2001. Back then he was a resort manager on Casey Key. In 2002, he opened a small beachside gallery in a house among a cluster of small hotels. The Coudals moved the operation to their home in 2005. That allowed them to leverage the art in established galleries and lower overhead costs.
Coudal's paintings and other Ballyhoo products can be found in a host of fine retail and restaurant locations from Longboat Key to Boca Grande. The next big move for them is a custom private label apparel line.
Says Coudal: “My tagline these days when somebody buys something from me - whether it's a commission or whatever - I say 'Thanks for supporting a living artist; the dead ones don't need it.'”
By Randi Donahue | Contributing writer