Carlyle Upson worked in the world of business but her creative side kept her in art classes at night. After college graduation she taught English in Asia for six months earning enough to backpack abroad for another six months. She came back to New York City and became a sales rep for silks made in China. She even got a business degree and worked as a statistician analyzing census data for micro markets. But her love of art and continued night classes kept her fulfilled and she even served as a volunteer in the Education Department at the MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Carlyle found herself in Egypt working on a Y2K project and was able to tour the world’s oldest Christian monastery where she says she was immensely inspired artistically. Shortly thereafter when September 11th happened, Carlyle says, “I had a watershed moment when I came to a difficult decision. I wanted to devote all my time to my art.” She had recently become engaged and asked her fiancé to support her in her pursuits. He agreed. “I knew it was a leap of faith for my future husband but he supported me 100%. I painted all day every day; it was my year of incubation and development.”
Carlyle honed her talents and developed a body of work. “After that year I pounded the pavement with my portfolio and approached cafes and stores asking them to hang my work.” Carlyle’s first sale came from pieces that were hanging in a restaurant, “This was huge. I had invested $5,000 in my work and if I couldn’t make a profit with that investment…. well who knows. I even invested in the stock market to make capital to support my art.”
She went back to Columbia University where she had gotten her business degree to ask for an exhibition. They agreed and this was her first real show, “The lighting in restaurants and stores is not idea, so to have a gallery show my work was great and a validation of my appeal.”
Carlyle is a realist, “You have this romantic notion that people will track you down to buy your art but you are really a sole proprietor and you have to work the business angle.” Carlyle reached out to galleries that had the esthetic that she thought aligned with her work. One gallery she contacted ten years ago initially rejected her, but she was persistent and now they show her work every two years.
Carlyle also helps families buy art for their homes. She garnered these clients by first offering consultations at charity silent auctions. Her first client was a working mom with a new house, “I had no idea how to charge her so I set an hourly rate and word of mouth grew this part of my business.”
Carlyle’s current show at the Ceres Gallery in New York City on September 17th will feature beetles. “These bugs, represented in Egypt as jewel scarabs, are things of beauty often overlooked here but are revered there. I’ve been interested in them since I was a child because my father said beetles would rule the world one day because they live off of dung.” Ok, that’s a thought.
Carlyle has two young school age children, “They think my art is a big mystery and I love showing them how I work.” With a studio in her home, Carlyle loves the ability to work from home and feels very lucky to be able to continue to explore her creativity.
Tap your business acumen to promote your art.