Professional artist and designer Megan Duncanson is becoming a household name. Megan sold her first painting back in 2002 on eBay, and since then has grown her trademarked name MADART to be one of the most successful brands in the industry.
She has sold thousands of original paintings, has over 8 million dollars in licensed international art sales, and recently launched an eco-friendly luxury handbag brand with her daughter Aroon that's been spotted on the streets of New York Fashion Week and on TV.
Megan Duncanson is a force to be reckoned with in the art & design industry. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to give our readers a special behind the scenes glimpse at how she has created an art empire.
Do you remember your very first sale?
Yes, I do! It was in 2002 and I had noticed other artists were starting to sell original paintings on eBay. So, on a whim, I figured I would post an abstract landscape painting as a 7-day auction and see how it did. There was a little bit of interest over the 7 days, but it was the last five minutes when a bidding war started that made me realize I might be on to something and I then started selling part-time on a regular basis.
Let’s go back to 2007 for a moment. For those who don’t know, eBay was one of the best platforms for artists to sell their artwork back in the early 2000’s. Many artists were making thousands of dollars (even tens of thousands) a month very easily. If you could paint quality artwork very fast and have your own signature style, the bids would pour in. Then eBay pulled the plug. They stopped the Featured Listings option and then Best Match was introduced. The money train ended for many artists. Megan, what did that feel like when eBay made these changes and how did you overcome that?
Initially, I was very frustrated that another entity could so easily control my stream of income. I realized at that moment the importance of having my own standalone website that I could send my collectors and new buyers to. I learned how to create my own website and never looked back. I haven't relied on any other website to sell my original paintings since then and it was very liberating to take total control over my art business and not have to worry about someone else making changes to a site that would negatively impact my business.
Your signature style is immediately recognized. How long did it take you to develop your style?
I had been painting quite a bit for about 5 years, dabbling in abstract, impressionism, realism, surrealism, just about every style there is, until one day I was creating an abstract painting with lots of lines, circles, and details and I felt like I had just come home...it was just this overwhelming feeling that this style of art was ME. I still feel the same way to this day. I look at one of my paintings and see myself reflected back at me.
Tell us about your morning routine. What would you most likely be doing at 6 am?
That's about the time I usually wake up and I have a cup of coffee or tea and check my emails, social media and my to-do list for the day. I try to knock a few things off my never ending to-do list and then I try to fit in some painting time.
Tell us something about yourself that you would like readers to know about you.
Even though I spend a good portion of my time inside painting, I am a very adventurous, outdoorsy person. I LOVE being active outside, whether it's riding my bike, hiking, paddleboarding, running; anything outdoors really makes me feel alive and inspires me to come up with lot's of great ideas for paintings and some of my best business ideas have come while I'm outdoors.
Tell us about your main studio and workspace.
I actually recently moved into a home in the suburbs of Miami in order to have my studio back in my home (and closer to the mountain bike trails, my other passion). I did have a separate studio in South Beach, which was an amazing space, but I'm just much more productive if I can paint at any time of the day or night at the drop of a hat. My home studio is still being organized, I took over the formal living and dining space and it is perfect!
What is on your workspace this very moment?
I'm working on a large abstract painting from my enlightenment collection, featuring symbols that I created to empower and inspire people to live their best lives.
What are your favorite paints?
I love Golden, Grumbacher, Daler Rowney and for the handpainted purses, I use Angelus Shoe Polish. All of these paints create the most vibrant, rich, deep colors.
You have two studios. One in Miami and also Alaska on an island that you recently purchased. What are the challenges of having two studios? Two of everything?
I've had a studio in Alaska in the past where I did actually have two of everything, but this time around I'm going to be more focused on adding to my Alaskan collection of paintings and just the supplies that I will need for that. Although I'm sure over time I will end up with two of everything, I won't be able to help myself, haha!
Tell us more about the little island you purchased! Love it!
I grew up in the tiny fishing village Meyers Chuck in Alaska, and last summer I wanted to own my own little piece of land there. I was fortunate enough that a small island was available and snatched it up as soon as I found out. All of my family still live in the area, so this allows me to visit all of them and also have a place where I can get away from the hectic life of Miami and just refresh and renew out in the wilderness of Alaska. I will be completely off the grid and self-sufficient, just as I lived growing up. I am in the process of building a cabin and also a little art studio for when I am up there, and have christened it MAD Island with some flamboyant pink flamingos...taking a little piece of Florida life with me to Alaska :)
Recently you started a new company offering eco-friendly handpainted handbags with your daughter, Aroon. What is it like working with your daughter?
She is the perfect business partner, we get along so well that it just made sense to work together and combine her PR/Marketing skills with my art business and creative side. We have so much in common and live very similar lifestyles. She has already made great strides in promoting both my art business and our purse brand Livin' the MAD Life.
How long does it take you to create one of your luxury handbags? They are stunning!
It depends on the size of the purse, whether it can be painted on both sides and the complexity of the painting design. It can vary from 2 hours to up to 6 hours.
What is your favorite featured moment?
Having one of my art designed products by Deny Designs in the "O" Oprah Magazine!
Do you ever google yourself?
I do! And I also have google alerts set up so that I get notified of any postings of my name or MADART. I've come across some great mentions/articles about my art that I would never have known about otherwise...along with copyright infringements of my art, the ugly side of today's art world, but at least I have the ability to find and pursue legal action if needed.
Tell us a funny or inspirational story that comes to mind.
One of the most inspiring moments of my entire art career was when a young man reached out to me after purchasing a painting on eBay and told me it was the one thing that was helping him get through the toughest time of his life. He was living by himself in a motel room, barely making ends meet, down on his luck and said he saw one of my paintings and it just spoke to him in a way he couldn't even fully describe. He literally spent his last dollars to purchase the painting and said he put it on the dresser in the motel room, and every time he looked at it inspired him to get up and live his best life, to do better and be better. I always wonder what happened to him and hope he IS living his best life. When I hear stories like this it inspires ME to keep painting and creating art that moves people and creates positive energy in the world.
Tell us what the kindest thing someone has said about your artwork.
I've had so many collectors over the years tell me that my art makes them happy and oftentimes helps them get through a difficult time in their life just by looking at it. My favorite quote from a collector is: "You are the modern day Kandinsky...to look at your art is akin to eating creme brulee, pizza, and Stracciatella Lindt chocolate" ~ Keely W.
If you had to give two pieces of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?
Paint, Paint and Paint some more...practice does make perfect; and learn to be a business person, research how to market, sell, leverage social media, etc...in order to be a successful artist you HAVE to know how to market and sell your work.
Thank you Megan! We will continue to watch your progress. You have truly inspired us.
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Great article .. as one of Megan’s MADART Collectors the experience of embracing her original approach in expressing color, motion, emotion and whimsy all on a canvas makes a good day always the best day. Megan is a precious gift to all of us … please enjoy her !!!!
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October 03, 2018
Thanks MoonShadow House! I’ve been artist friends with Megan for a very long time and I was thrilled that I could give our readers a closer look at how you can grow your art business with hard work and determination. Megan is an inspiration.