The artist feature has quickly become one of my favorite things we do. Though I’ve worked with some of these artists for years I’m finding that I’m gaining insight into and understanding of their work that I never had before.
This week we are featuring painter Adam Hurst. Adam is a full time firefighter who also happens to be an artist. While much of his work is firefighting centric, he also ventures into portraiture. Adam has found a way to have a full time job yet not neglect his need to create. As Adam puts it, he’s been able to take painting “from a hobby to a second job”.
Here is our interview with Adam:
You’re a painter, but more specifically what type of paints do you prefer (watercolor, oil, acrylic, etc.)?
I have not touched anything except watercolors in almost 15 years. I used oil a bit back in college, and i like the flexibility of it, but it also find it to be a hassle and it’s way more expensive. On the other side, I really like the challenges created by the limitations of watercolors.
It’s easy to understand your subject matter since in addition to painting you are also a firefighter. Did you start out creating firefighter themed work or did you paint other subjects first?
I have always liked painting flowers between projects. I find them to be challenging and good practice. For a while, I painted portraits almost exclusively, and that was when I started making money as an artist.
How have other firefighters responded to your work?
A little over a year ago I was looking at some work by Guy Harvey and realized, much like him, I already had a built in niche market. Firefighters love to collect almost anything related to firefighting. We are also a pretty tight-knit group and I quickly found a network of firefighters spreading my name and work around. When I changed my Facebook page to reflect my new direction of firefighter art, I went from 400 followers to over 2000 in three days.
I don’t want to sound arrogant, but at times I get treated like a minor celebrity. I have received many unexpected packages with gifts from fans of my Facebook page. I have also received a bunch of meaningful thank you letters.
From time to time someone (usually a younger fan) will post a drawing of theirs on my Facebook wall. I always ask them to draw something for me in exchange for one of my prints. Not long ago, after one of these interactions, I received this message. “You’re the one that traded Sam artwork, right? I want to thank you. You see I’m a friend of her dad’s and when her dad passed away she almost completely quit painting, drawing, etc. When she told me you had asked her to do a drawing, I hadn’t seen her so happy. Since then she has started doing more artwork and her mom says she’s unpacked most of art supplies. Thank you! God Bless!” This message almost brought tears to my eyes. It means a lot to me that people like my work enough to buy prints or commission a piece. But, it’s way more meaningful to find out I actually touched someones life in some way.
What difference has making prints of your work made for you?
Making prints of my work has easily made one of the biggest impacts for me as an artist. It change painting from a hobby to a second job. It has also allowed me to reach a much larger audience and have my work seen all over the country.
In addition to offering various quality prints of your work you’ve taken it one step further to allow people to order personalized prints. Tell us more about that.
I was a graphic designer for 10 years before becoming a career firefighter. Because of this, I have become pretty good with Photoshop. It’s pretty cool to be able to modify one of my paintings, almost seamlessly, with someone’s custom requests.
I wish I could say I invented the idea but it would be a lie. I have seen other artists out there do this and decided to borrow the idea. My most recent customizable print has been my biggest seller to date.
What advice would you give others who have a full time profession but also a creative side to express?
Whether it be painting, photography or scrap-booking, I believe anyone with a creative itch will always find some time. They may not have a lot of free time but I think they will always find what time they can. My advice would be to never sit stagnant for too long. I don’t really believe in losing an artistic skill but I believe you can really grow it the more time you are able to spend on it.
Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you decide to paint one thing but not another?
It has changed through the years. I keep my eye out for images that I can use to base my paintings on. I tend to lean towards close-up and tightly cropped images. Since starting my series, “The Art of Fire”, I have developed more of a national audience. This has made me change my approach to selecting subject matter. I was painting subjects based around The Charleston Fire Department. From a business perspective, I now try to be more neutral, and appeal to a broader audience.
What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in your artistic career?
My paintings take a while to complete and I tend to get burnt out. I usually take a week or three off after completing a painting. While I love painting, I don’t want to over do it to the point that is no longer enjoyable.
If someone wants to purchase your work for themselves or personalize a print for someone they know in the firefighting profession how can they go about doing that?
Most find me through my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/
Thanks Adam for taking the time to answer our questions. Remember, all the work on this page is © Adam Hurst. Please admire the work, but don’t use it without Adam’s permission.