Steve Merryman, Art Guy.
Short and Sweet
I’m Steve Merryman, and I’m the founder, president, CEO and head janitor of PetArtWorks. It’s a small studio just above my garage, and I wear a lot of hats. That’s not a metaphor: I actually wear a lot of hats because genetics are cruel and took my hair.
- I was born in 1962
- I live in the pacific northwest, just a few miles west of Idaho.
- My design / illustration career spans 35+ years (and still chugging along)
- I’ve run SIGMA, my small home-based design studio for the last 26 years (incorporated as SIGMADOG LLC).
- I’m the winner of over ninety regional and national awards for design and illustration
- I’m the creator of 5 Bloomsday Finisher T-shirt designs / 13 Bloomsday Souvenir Posters
- Apart from creating art, I enjoy hiking with my dogs, writing, minor-league baseball, chopping firewood, hot sauces, cheeseburgers and beer.
The Long Story: Deep Background
I started PetArtWorks in 2018 because I liked painting pet portraits so much I decided to make it a second career.
It’s not the first time I’ve done something unexpected and a little crazy…
Twenty-six years ago, just a few months after we married, I announced to the Missus that I had quit my job and was starting my own design studio, called SIGMA, working from our home. She was a bit disturbed by the idea and was probably re-thinking that whole “marriage” thing.
Six months later, she quit her job and joined me as my salesperson and bookkeeper. In another six months, she brought in enough work to keep me busy for twenty-six years… and counting.
I’ve always loved painting, and was constantly looking for opportunities to incorporate illustration work into my graphic design business.
After my mother died in 2006 I realized life was too short to not do the things you love, so I decided to go full bore into illustration. It didn’t take long before I was winning awards and promoting SIGMA as a Design AND Illustration studio.
A Passion for Pet Portraits
Having increased my professional illustration work, I transitioned from traditional oils to digital art. I did so for a couple reasons: First, the health risks and costs of breathing turpentine fumes all day didn’t seem worth it to me. And Second, digital art made a lot of things easier for print work (no need to photograph and scan finished art; making client changes was easy; and fixing mistakes – yeah, they happen – was also super easy).
As part of my transition to digital, I was frequently painting portraits of my dogs, both as part of my personal training, and also to keep their memory alive once they were gone. Family and friends noticed, and started making portrait requests of their own. I soon realized the potential for a new side-business, but SIGMA was keeping me very busy, so plans were put on hold.
In 2017, I lost a big client. After fifteen years of working with me, they decided to go another direction. Bummer. It happens.
The result was that I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands to not only do more digital painting, but to also start worrying if I was a little too old for the graphic design biz. Losing a client can do that sometimes… fill you with self-doubt and worry.
It’s a fact that graphic design is a young person’s game. In order to succeed, you must have a stake in popular culture and a love and fascination with everything that comes with it. I came to the hard realization that was no longer me. I was a dinosaur, a Designasaurus.
As a Designasaurus, I needed to expand my career horizons in order to avoid extinction. I wanted to find something I could do without having to know who won the last Best Album Grammy, or how to use the latest social media platform. In short, I needed to find the one thing I, as a budding curmudgeon, could do well that would withstand the swirling and unpredictable winds of change in pop culture.
I asked myself one question: “What are you passionate about?”
I knew the answer right then. So in 2018, I started PetArtWorks.
It languished for a year as life intervened, but early in 2019, I re-designed this web site and expanded my portrait offers with a range of prices and options. I’m constantly working on adding new products and improving the ordering process to make it easier for customers (let me know if you spot any problems, by the way).
I’m all in on this venture. At fifty-seven (as I write this), I’m excited by the possibilities, and terrified of the potential consequences of failure.
That’s a good, motivating combination.
It reminds me of that time, long ago, when I announced to my new wife, “Honey! I’ve quit my job! I’m gonna start something new…”