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ArtI’m an artist who made $50,000 from a piece of toast. AMA!

Oct 22nd 2017 by erinrothstein • 18 Questions • 71 Points

My story:

6 years ago I quit my job at a high-end design firm and started painting full time. My boyfriend (now husband) suggested I paint food portraits on stark white backgrounds because I love food, and I had trained in photorealism.

A few months in, I painted toast on a 4x4 canvas. I loved the simplicity and quirkiness of the subject matter.

I sold the original, I started a series of limited edition (100) prints of the original (which is nearly sold out), and I sold a few toast commissions based on the first.

I’ve painted many different foods over the last 6 years, but I am proud of the toast and all it has accomplished (sounds weird when I say it like that, but you get the idea).

Ask me anything!

Proof: Instagram

EDIT: Here's the video of me painting the toast

Q:

I'll ask the question that all Redditors are wondering.

Where's the avocado?

A:

Similar to the toast, it was a very popular painting that has done very well for me! The original painting sold through a gallery in Toronto, and since then I've probably painted over 100 avocados (not counting prints).


Q:

How do you find so many people with more money than sense? Who buys paintings of toast for 100's or 1000's of dollars?

I don't mean this as an attack on your skill or success. I just can't ever imagine myself spending so much money on a (admittedly good) painting.

A:

It's really a matter of taste, and truth be told, they often find me. Still-life painting is a timeless art, and this is simply the updated version. It's clean, quirky, and it has a sense of humor. It's relatable, and it's a conversation-starter, and the fact that it's painted adds an element of seriousness to the piece. Definitely not for everyone, but I think this is the sort of art a lot of people are looking for right now. I think you asked a great question -- and I think the audacity of buying a painting of toast is a big part of the reason people do it.


Q:

But why is it burnt?

A:

It's burnt because I felt like it would be edgier that way... toast with attitude.


Q:

It's a great painting, was a bit suspicious until magnified. How long does it take to do a piece like this?

A:

Thank you! This painting took about 2 weeks, painting all day, every day. I was obsessed with capturing the detail, and I mostly ate toast for the entire 2 weeks, just to put myself in the toast-spirit.


Q:

I like the toast-spirit approach. This might have serious repercussions if if you ever do garlic!

A:

I've done garlic! Live on the edge, I like to say.


Q:

I was obsessed with capturing the detail,

This is how I know I'll never be an artist... looking at the vid, the toast looked done days ago... then, you kept going... and it kept looking better.

A:

Thanks! It differently takes an obsessive personality to be in this business. It's the small details that interest me.


Q:

What inspired you to put a clock into your video? It's a brilliant addition.

A:

Thank you! It puts into perspective the amount of time I spent on the painting (and also, it looks cool).


Q:

what is the most difficult part of capturing the essence of toast in a way that a photograph wouldn't?

A:

Painting the toast really forced me to look closely at the details, which are actually quite beautiful. When do we ever look at commonplace objects that closely? I think a framed photo of toast would send a similar message, but the fact that it's painted really takes it to another level, making us look much more closely.


Q:

What kind of details do you decide to keep in and embellish over other details which might be there in the actual toast but aren't very toasty?

A:

I try to keep all of the detail, and I even try to amplify some of the detail for dramatic effect (the border of the toast is a little blurry from steam coming off the hot toast, which I love). Basically, I do my best to help the image pop, and to make the audience want to pick up the food and eat It!


Q:

Would you say that minimalists are a huge part of the demographic your art is appealing to?

A:

I would! My work definitely draws from minimalism, surrealism, pop art, hyperrealism, and traditional still-life painting. I think we're definitely part of an aesthetic movement that borrows from here and there, but minimalism is everywhere right now, and I think it works for the aesthetic I'm trying to convey. I aim for my work to look super clean, and to pop at the same time.


Q:

I like to paint but don't know how to sell them. How would you suggest I do that?

A:

Great question. There are a few ways to go: you can open an online shop and see if there's any interest, or approach galleries and ask about their application process. You can apply for tradeshows, or hang your work in event spaces or restaurants. I think the most important thing is to scope out what kind of demand there is for your work. You can consult a gallery about pricing, and raise prices over time as the demand increases. Don't be discouraged by rejection, and by nay-sayers. You just have to find the right audience for your work. And of course, make sure you believe in the work you're doing. I hope this helps!


Q:

What did you do with the money?

A:

I bought a lot of bread! In all seriousness, I did what most people do with the money they earn from their work -- I have 2 young kids and one on the way, a mortgage, and a business to run. I feel lucky to be able to support my family by selling paintings of food, and doing what I love.


Q:

Are all the toasts the same?

A:

Every original painting is slightly different, because they are all hand-done, and I like all of my paintings to have their own unique character. But the limited edition of prints is all based on the original toast painting, so they are all the same (but they each have their own number).


Q:

are you in contact with the artist who specializes in pancakes?

A:

No, I'm not! Great minds.


Q:

[deleted]

A:

love it! Same to you!


Q:

With your trained artist's eye can you see why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?

A:

doesn't everyone?


Q:

Canadian born artist....why not French Toast :D?

A:

I should do french toast! a tower of it, drizzled with maple syrup. Thanks for the suggestion!


Q:

Anyway, how's your sex life?

A:

Toasty.