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Artist Cody DeLong has come into his own
Courtesy photo by Ron Chilston
Cody DeLong is an oil painter who owns his own studio and gallery in Jerome. His studio is located at 300 Hull Ave. His gallery is located inside The Merchants Gathering.
Balances the business of art with the art of business
8/7/2012 6:50:00 PM
By Philip Wright
JEROME - It isn't uncommon to see a talented artist who doesn't do so well in the business of selling art. It's easy to write that off as artists being more right brained than most business people.
But Jerome oil painter Cody DeLong doesn't buy that.
"There is a myth about artists being very right brained," Cody said. "In the creative process itself there is a lot of switching back and forth between right brain and left brain."
He explains that a when a scene catches the attention of his right brain, before he starts painting he has to work things out in his left brain. He also puts in a lot of left-brain time in running his combination gallery and studio located at 300 Hull Ave. in Jerome.
"I'm very regimented in my business," Cody said. "It's a balance. I try to paint five days a week and market two days."
Much effort is required for Cody to strike this balance. To build the gallery business, Cody maintains a website, uses a mailing list, puts out a monthly newsletter and spends many hours in the gallery, although he will often be busy painting while in the gallery.
"I try to create opportunities," he said. "I investigate different shows."
He also looks for advertising opportunities, as well as teaching workshops and attending plein air and other painting events.
"It's a lot of hard work," Cody said, "But you're getting your name out there. You're building your brand."
He said that artists must become known or a gallery won't do much for them.
His years of hard work both in developing his painting ability and his business knowledge have been paying off for Cody. He is certainly becoming known.
Cody has been featured in a growing number of magazines, including a feature - My World -- in the June 2012 issue of Southwest Art Magazine. In addition, he has been featured on the cover of Sedona Magazine with a three-page color feature inside. He and his work have been featured in Western Art Collector, American Artist Workshop Magazine, Arizona Highways, Sedona Monthly, Phoenix Magazine and Mountain Living Magazine.
A life-long student of art, Cody has been earning an increasing number of accolades. In 2004 he was selected by the Oil Painters of America as that year's Shirl Smithson Scholarship winner. In the fall of 2006, one of Cody's paintings was selected for inclusion in a coffee-table style book titled Plein Air New Mexico, The Jack Richeson Series. Three more of Cody's paintings were included in The Richeson 75 International-Landscape and Exteriors 2007.
Cody won the Artists Choice Award in 2007 at the Plein Air New Mexico event in Santa Fe. Then in 2008, he won a Vasari Award at the Sedona Plein Air Festival. He also won the Best in Show Award at the Plein Air Painters Annual Members Show in 2009.
He took first place in 2010 at the Paint the Aspens plein air event, and he was listed in the top 100 during the 2010 Paint the Parks competition.
Cody was invited to take part in the Plein Air on the Rim portion of the inaugural Celebration of Art at the Grand Canyon in Sept. 2009, one of only 20 artists in the United States invited to participate. He was a top seller, and that led to his being invited back each year since. During the 2010 event, he won first place and sold 17 painting.
Cody also sold a dozen paintings during the Zion Plein Air event in 2010. Then in 2011, he sold 18 paintings during the Grand Canyon event.
Clearly, Cody has struck a very successful balance between the business of art and the art of business. But it has taken a lot of time and a lot of work.
"Business is a learning curve, just like the art," Cody said.
He says he is proud of the fact that he wasn't born with a silver spoon.
"I have really clawed my way up," he said. He said that he and wife, Sara, and their newest family addition, Koya, a 7-month-old beagle, live modestly so that he can pursue his career. "I didn't have a new car till I was 46."
Cody was born and educated in Lowell, Mich. He started work while still in high school. He took a class in advertising art, and that led to him working at the Grand Rapids Press his senior year doing mock-up advertisements.
"That was part of my school day," Cody explained. "But it was an unpaid job."
For a hobby, Cody raced motorcycles, and that often put him in need of money for parts. Fortunately, his girlfriend's brother-in-law owned a business. He knew that Cody had taken drawing in school, and he offered Cody a job.
"I started sweeping the floor and cleaning up," Cody said. But the owner knew that Cody could read blueprints. "He taught me to be a machinist."
Cody spent four years as a machinist doing prototype tooling. He even picked up some experience designing tools.
After being laid off as a machinist, Cody started doing airbrushing at swap meets. That led to him buying a travel trailer and traveling around airbrushing T-shirts. That, in turn, led him to Las Vegas where he worked running a booth offering airbrushing. Eventually, he started doing custom work airbrushing motorcycles and trucks. He ended up starting his own business doing custom work.
"But I didn't like doing other people's lame ideas," he said. So he bought a motor home and set off traveling for four years.
"That's when I started oil painting," he said. "I painted outdoors exclusively for three or four years."
He installed a drafting table inside the motor home so he could continue airbrushing and doing product illustrations. That provided enough income to keep Cody traveling with his adopted dog and painting.
Although Cody has attended art workshops and spent time studying at the Loveland Academy of Fine Arts as well as the Scottsdale Artists School, he is mostly self-taught.
"I have almost no formal training," he said.
He admits there were a lot of failures in the beginning. "But when you come up that way, you learn what is essential."
"I studied books and videos," he said. "But you still have to figure out what works for you. Painting is a process of solving problems."
Now Cody earns some of his income by teaching classes and workshops. He has a lot of experience and knowledge to pass along to his students.
"I try to teach a thought process that they can use to work their way through their painting," he said.
Cody sees the future of his work as being more than plein air. "The future of my work is in studio work," he said.
He explained that he sometimes creates dozens of small plein air paintings during a river trip. Then he may use those studies and photographs to create a large studio painting.
"Plein air is great for your base level of understanding," Cody said. "I'm taking nature as a jumping off point." But he says he would become bored if he only painted what he sees.
Although his primary focus is landscape, Cody does still life and figurative painting. He occasionally creates an abstract painting, and he just had his first bronze sculpture cast.
"I try really hard not to become a formulaic painter," he said. "I still experiment widely.
"That keeps my love for it alive."
You can check out Cody's work at his gallery in Jerome or go online to CodyDeLong.com.
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