She Works Hard for the Money

The New Year always has me reflecting back in time.  I was thinking about my different careers as an entrepreneur.  I started my first business as an artist rep in 1978.  I knew nothing about nothing and certainly not marketing.  With much determination, I took to the streets with my portfolio in hand.  Let me go on…

When I ventured in to this new career, I started representing my own work.  I met an owner of a bank and he asked me to bring some art to the Wells Fargo Bank in Laguna Beach.  The architecture on the inside of the building is round and had ample space to showcase work both down and upstairs.  I was thrilled!  I took a few pieces in to the bank owner but realized very quickly that I did not have enough art to cover all of the walls.   I  asked him if I could bring in other artisans. ” Wham, Bam!”  I became an art rep overnight.

Sounds simple, huh?  Due to my youth and excitement it all seemed very easy to get started.   I rounded up a half a dozen artists, picked out the most suitable pieces, and hired a carpenter to make a display table for artist’s bios.  It was very corny as I remember now.

It turns out that absolutely nothing sold.  It looked good but the art sat for months.  Oh well!  “Why?, I asked my self.”  Low and behold, a new artist  and mentor came my way.  His name is Larry McAdams.  He now has a very successful marketing firm in Newport Beach and also an amazing painter.   He guided me along the way to represent his work.  He told me that I would make more money in the advertising industry.   This new enlightenment and some additional talented illustrators and photographers created a real career for me.

I miss those days of chummin’ with the artists and the art directors.  Things were more complicated for an art rep back then due to the travel.  I would take a loaded portfolio and hoist it on my back.  It was very heavy!  When I had to take stairs instead of an elevator, I truly groaned.  Lucky for me, I was young and fit.

You see, we did not have fax machines then.  I would travel back and forth up the crowded freeways with sketches in hand to be approved by the agency, take the revisions back to the artist.  I would travel back after a day or so to the artists, pick up the new sketch and back to the agency for second approval.  If that was ok,  I would go back to the artist.  “Oh my goodness, where’s the fax machine or computer scanner?”  One more trip to pick up the final art and then I was done. ” She works hard for the money, says Donna Summer.  I think she would agree that I’m a good example of the song.

Back in the day,  I had a good eye for talent and chose only to work with the pro’s without attitude.  I became a household name as the Orange County Art Rep largely due to their amazing skills.  Little by little I started understanding what marketing was all about.  Other reps started popping up from Los Angeles so we took ads out in the L.A. Workbook.   Eventually, technology stared killing work for artists that worked with their hands and were replaced by computer illustration.  To stay ahead of the game, I selected some local artist’s who were adapting to this new tech tool and I found work once again.  Unfortunately, I saw the writing on the wall and started looking for a new career.  I think there is still a place in the world for art reps as the artist should work and let someone else do the dirty stuff.  Today, I rep my own work and realize the tools are easier but the competition is furious online.   So, I should blog, link in, facebook, twitter….and so on.

Do you think Michaelangelo would have liked the computer?  I think not, but whose to say?


12 thoughts on “She Works Hard for the Money

  1. Hi Michelle, I never knew that info. about your previous career and I found it very interesting. I’ve done something similar with booking bands in the past, we should talk. Happy New Year.

  2. Wow, Michele, I’m impressed. It just goes to show that your enthusiasm, hard work, determination and a positive attitude have made you what you are today. You’re amazing!!!

  3. Shelly Belly, you absolutely amaze me every single day! You are so amazing; I only wish I had half your talent. LOL

    • What are you talking about? You are a very talented designer as well, my dear. Your tote bag line is one of the best out there! Not only are they very cool designs, current and trendy every season, they are made with quality! Anyone looking for totebags? Go to

      • What are you talking about? You are a very talented designer as well, my dear. Your tote bag line is one of the best out there! Not only are they very cool designs, current and trendy every season, they are made with quality! Anyone looking for totebags? Go to

  4. I’m not sure which is better, your art or your writing. Oh wait, then there’s the singing. Thank you for sharing all of your talents with all the world to see. Loved this story and it makes me want to keep my head down and plow through my work today! Nose to the grindstone.

  5. You were an awesome art rep Michele! I remember the days 🙂 Your writing is wonderful and so descriptive. You are talented in many many ways and so glad you are a life long friend friend!

  6. No my dear, Michaelangelo nor Da Vinci would have liked the computer, facebook or the Republican Party! They were gay and only cared about the creative life. They represent humanity’s quest for civilized life. They would have not belonged to our current Judio-Christian culture!

    Love Peyton

  7. Absolutely love the story, Thanks so much for sharing it. I know because of your tenacious spirit you have done all the things you have done in your life. And will continue to endure in what ever you put your mind to. Thanks again for the back story and for a birds eye view of what the ‘Old days” were like, when people really had to bust their asses to make a living!!

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