It’s not often that people get to do their dream job. Often, there are compromises, subtle stains in the perfect picture you’ve painted of your future self. This is not necessarily a bad thing; often times the things we have to do, make us love the things we get to do even more. I admire the people who make the leap, and put forth the gumption to play their hand at fate. For Lance Jeschke, he’s done it twice. He began touring with his band after high school, and kept up with the non-stop lifestyle for nearly twenty years. This background in the music business gave Jeschke a proficient business sense, which combined with his passion and talent, has launched his career as a visual artist.
Jeschke creates vibrant, colorful works that spawn from a deep, imaginative love within. Coming from a line of artists in the family, Jeschke continues a tradition of expression and fortitude, no longer creating pieces for himself, but to support his own family. Jeschke is a Royal Talens ambassador, and has shown his work in Europe. His career has progressed at such a rate due to his dedication to both his family and his craft, and can serve as inspiration to anyone out there on the verge of making their own leap into the daunting unknown. ~Amy
As we began the interview, Lance led us to his basement, which functions as his studio. Alongside his paintings were vintage bikes in different stages of repair…
[Bikes like these] are worth so much money right now, because guys like me are going through the same midlife crisis, and we have money for the things we couldn’t afford [when we were younger]. Just the frame is like $1,000. Back in the day, the bike was an $800 bike–back in 1984, so you think how the money stretches. It’s just something I do; it’s kind of a side business. I buy them and flip them. I sometimes have to get away from the art. As you guys know, if you’re an artist and being involved in the arts, it is really brain-squeezing sometimes. I get so frustrated when I get into the usual painter’s block, but then there’ll be a big rush and BOOM! I’ll just start making a whole bunch of work.
How do you get your commissions?
I have an agent, but my agent is over in Amsterdam. I go along those lines, plus through my Facebook page and the following that I have aside from other things. There’s a commission going out to Michigan that’s a painting for a guy and his wife who I’m involved with in the bike thing. The other day I sent one out to a guy who is also involved with the bike thing. Usually I hate doing commissions. I hate ‘em, I hate ‘em, I hate ‘em. Sometimes, especially when there’s a special deal or it’s for a buddy of mine, something along those lines, I’ll do it. Usually I just go down and paint and do my thing. A lot of times, especially with my abstract work, I let it create itself. I’ll start a piece without an idea, then it starts morphing. Primarily I work with oils, but I also have fun with acrylics.
A lot of my pieces end up going to Europe. One piece sat in our gallery for six months and no one even gave it a nod. I was asking for $1,400 or something. I sell myself a little bit cheaper here in South Dakota. But over there, I can sell for 5000 Euro.
I like good old-fashioned oil. There’s something about linseed oil that gets me excited. When I first started painting, my mother was an artist and my great-grandfather was an artist. My mother went to school in order to be an art teacher. When I first started painting, the first thing learned was oil paints. So every time I paint with oils it takes me back to painting as a seven-year-old kid. Or going into my mom’s studio and it always smelling like linseed oil or spirits, like turpentine, because back then they didn’t have odorless stuff like they do today. That’s really special to me, so it’s really hard to stray away from oils. The acrylics are for when I’ve got someone beating on my door saying I have to get stuff done for a show. They dry overnight.
I’ve painted my entire life, but I didn’t really get serious about it until four years ago. I was a professional musician. I toured, traveled. I owned a recording studio, record label, the whole thing. When I was 18, graduated from high school, and boom, off to Denver to tour, tour, tour. All those years I did it for myself. I’d paint whenever I’d be home. My own release was to just sit down and create things. I went through the whole rock n’ roll thing, and when I turned 40 I said, I’m done. I’m done with this rock n’ roll thing. I was sleeping in a tent at some creepy festival, and I said, s***, I’m too old for this. I went through a depression for a bit because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I started painting again and everything blew up–blew up big and fast. With my body of work, I started really getting it in August. By March that next year I was already in galleries. And I thought, why do people always complain about this, that it’s so hard to be an artist. But when I think back on it, I knew all the routes to take because of the music business. Because the music business and the art business do have a lot of parallels. It was twenty-plus years of working up towards that.
How were you getting yourself out there when you started?
Facebook. In fact, I had taken pictures of a lot of my old work and the work I was doing, and I sent them to my friend. She suggested making a Facebook page, and I said, no, I don’t want to do it. At that point in time, I still had the mindset of doing it for myself. The only people who ever saw my paintings were those who came over to my house. Then one day, I loaded up my personal profile, I made my page, and the page exploded right off the bat. I was very prolific at that point in time. I’d already made some connections with paint companies. Different paint companies were sending me their products, and then the marketing manager for Royal Talens became a fan of mine because I was putting out some really cool work. He’d say “Hey, I’ve got a bunch of paint colors that we normally don’t sell.” And these were top-of-the-line, expensive brands. So he sent me a ton of these paints, and said I want you to take one of these colors that aren’t major sellers and use them in one of your paintings. I started doing that. He and I are always corresponding. Royal Talens is out of the Netherlands, and they’re one of the most oldest and most respected fine paint companies in the world. Two months later I get a letter. It asks if I want to become an ambassador for their Van Gogh brand. The Rembrandt (another paint brand) stuff is pure pigments. When it says cobalt blue, there’s actual cobalt in there. With Van Gogh there’s not actually cobalt in it. They use some other kind of chemicals, and that’s how they sell a tube for $20, where if it had real cobalt it would have gone for $120.
So, they started talking to me about that–about becoming an ambassador. And I said, yeah, sure. I’d have to wait up until 2 a.m. to get a phone call from the Netherlands, and then sometimes I couldn’t understand them. They spoke really good English, but there’s always some things, like verb conjugation. They asked me to start making videos for them. So, I went and bought a video camera and talked about my inspiration. The whole marketing scheme was to inspire people to paint, especially with Van Gogh since it’s a less expensive brand. I was the only ambassador from the United States. There are four or five other advisers from Europe who I eventually became friends with. That’s where a lot of the clout came from–from painting over in Europe. I couldn’t have gotten half the clout without this whole thing, making videos for them and becoming an ambassador. There was a lot of backlash, though.
Artists. Artists in this town. I’m not naming any names or anything, but there was a lot of backlash for it. Stuff like, “Oh, his stuff sucks. I’m a better painter. Why didn’t I get that kind of deal?” It all comes down to being able to market yourself and being able to deal with ultra-professional companies. In the music business, you learn how to do that really fast. But there was a lot of backlash. That’s why I don’t show up very much in this town. But I was showing all over as just a regular thing, and I was selling lots of work. But when the backlash started I started pulling everything and bringing it home.
What do you think would be good for the Sioux Falls arts scene?
There’s no promotion. I’ll see a Facebook invite to a thing, but that’s about it. When I see a Facebook post, all the art geeks, and I say this with a very loving tone, I don’t ever see them sharing it. There’s not that grassroots excitement. There’s no one saying that it’s not about buying stuff, it’s about coming out to see the work.
Besides hanging posters, what else could be done?
It’s really about getting people excited on social media. You have to spread the product of that show and market it in a different way by looking at how other communities have done it, reaching out to them. And when they’re promoting their art shows, it equates with music. It’s the same model. There may be the best concert coming to town, but if no one hears about it, no one’s going to buy tickets. No one’s going to get excited.
About two years ago, about the time when Exposure [the former 333 S Phillips gallery] was downtown, there was a golden summer of three months where there was so much stuff going on. On a First Friday, Exposure would be just packed. You’d walk down to any gallery, whether Eastbank or Rehfeld’s, they’d have stuff that was just exciting. And then it just died. It just died. I don’t know how to get that excitement back.
I don’t necessarily care about selling a painting in this town. I like seeing local art by local artists, the people love this town, that call this town their home. Getting that scene talked about, buzzed about. I like seeing the work by Kevin Bierbaum. Minimalistic. Different. Not like other South Dakota art. I like looking at it and saying, “Wow. That’s awesome. I’m glad someone in this town is making that kind of work.”
I got a couple of favorite artists in town that I just love to see their work. I can’t afford my own paintings, and I don’t expect people in my income bracket to either. That’s not the point. The point is to get them out there to see it. I find it difficult in this town. There’s not enough wall space. With Cliffhanger’s closing, that puts me in a compromising position as far as showing my work in Sioux Falls. This last December, no Artist’s Against Hunger, and I was jacked. I had a whole bunch of original work ready to go. None of it for sale. It was going to be for exhibition only. Then that hit me. Two days later, I found out Cliffhanger’s had closed. All my work was sitting down there, and no answer to phone calls. Luckily that next Monday all of us artists went in there and got our work.
But for a town this size, there should be a lot more going on. I go up to Aberdeen sometimes. I have a buddy who used to own a gallery up there. Weirdest gallery in the world. Half of it was a mattress store. But it was a nice, big space. It was cool. And the people in that town. They didn’t do First Fridays. They did Last Fridays. You’d go downtown on the last Friday of the month to a little coffee shop and a podunk bar across the street. They’d have live music in there, you know. There’d be hundreds, upon hundreds, upon hundreds of people in that one-block area. This is Aberdeen, the middle of nowhere. I’ve never seen that in Sioux Falls. Never.
Besides music, what inspires your art?
It used to be for me. All these visions, all these color schemes I was seeing inside my head and wanted to put on canvas, it really used to be for me. Then it got to the point where I tried to go public. Then it used to be for me in another type of way. But at that time I started creating art for other people to enjoy. I moved away from doing some of the spookier type of things, getting into more colorful pieces, really trying to throw as much color as I can on the canvas to excite people’s eyes. After the initial honeymoon of that, I think of those as my selfish years. Then, I was halfway through with this painting, and I found out that I was going to have a baby. So as I was finishing this painting, and I found out it was a girl, all I did was paint what I imagined she would look like when she was 18. I couldn’t wait because I was going to have a little girl, and I was getting geeky about it. It was then that all the selfish parts of my work dissipated.
Now, everything I do is 100% for my daughters, which has freed me up too, because now I don’t have to live up to this big stature. And when I say for my girls, I’m painting a piece that’s going to be sold and putting all of my existence into that piece, knowing that it’s going to be sold on the market, and I’ll use the money to buy diapers, to keep a roof over their head, to do the day-to-day real-life things with them. Other paintings, like the Sitting Bull–those paintings that I show and don’t sell I just hang in my house. If I show them and they don’t sell, I eventually become attached to them. And I become attached to them not for me. Knowing that each series represents a different layer of the painting experience, I want my daughters to have that when I am eighty years old and no longer around. I want them to take these paintings and give them something that is irreplaceable. When you talk about inspiration, that’s what it comes down to now, the thought of children enjoying my art. And in turn, it makes me a better artist for the stuff I know I’m going to sell. For me, it doesn’t come down to money except for with my kids.
What advice do you have for parents who want to be creative but feel like they’re stuck in a job or they just can’t take the leap?
It takes more work than anyone could imagine. It takes more work than any day job because I know I’m not going to get that check on Friday. I’ve been lucky that I can get enough money from my paintings when I do sell them that I can sell one painting and pay the rent for the month. Getting back to the question, take a leap of faith. If you believe in yourself, other people are going to believe in you. If you have doubts–I don’t know if I could do it, I’m so scared–then don’t do it. If you don’t have confidence and strength to see it all the way through, keep it a part-time thing. Pulling the rug away from a steady income is very, very scary. I haven’t had a regular job in a long time.
When I owned a recording studio, the goal was to bring bands in and record them and the rest of the time be on the road. But with the art thing, you cannot rely on anything that goes on in a town of this size to sustain yourself full-time. Think globally, not locally, to move yourself into those things. We’re in a new market. One of the last abstract paintings I sold, nearly 200,000 people saw that painting in three days, because it got shared [online]. In three days 200,000 people saw this painting, while if I had gone and hung it up in Exposure, 150 would have seen it. There’s a few artists in Sioux Falls who do this full-time, but all of them do it globally or they have other eggs in their basket.
Being a parent, one of the best things you can show your children is your strength of character and perseverance when pursuing a goal. The worst thing that could possible happen by taking a chance like this is that you have to get another day job. Give yourself a time frame. Say, “I’m going to quit my job and I’m giving myself six months to a year.” You have to be financially prepared to do that, but the worst possible thing that could possibly happen is that you would have to go get another day job. Then you wouldn’t have lost anything, but yet you would have gained all that knowledge and be able to know deep inside yourself where you messed up. Use it as a learning experience.
You can also find other things to do, like this bike stuff. In any given month, I make $500-$1000 just flipping bike parts. If you’re going to make that leap, you have to know how to make money. Where I am, I don’t need to pay for daycare. Daycare, two kids, is what, $200 per week? Every month, right off the bat, I’m saving myself $1000 [because] I take care of my kids all day long. 6:00pm comes, my wife comes home, and she wants more than anything to hang out with the kids. That’s when I come down to do my thing.
So, my best advice would be to prepare, plan and take a chance, but you can’t be a fool about it. If you’re going to be working for yourself, there’s no being lazy. Some people have the wrong idea. Inside their head, they’re thinking, I wish I didn’t have to work that hard and I wish I could work on whatever I wanted. In reality, there’s super, super stressful times–more stressful than you’re going to find in a day job. To answer your question, you’ve got to take a chance on life. You only go eighty times around the sun on this spaceship called Earth. Every time you go around the sun, make sure that you have filled that year with experiences and taking chances and taking things to the edge. That’s the way artists and creative people think.
Are you going to Europe soon?
I travel over there from time to time for shows. I haven’t been there since Willow (his daughter) was born…so for a year and a half.
Does your agent set up shows for you?
Yup. The way they do things there, I drive my pieces up to Minneapolis. There’s a company there that handles a lot of artwork. They crate it up and send it over there. Then they crate it up and send it back. I got paid 6000 Euro just for exhibiting in a spring-based theme show. Usually when I am in the process of finishing a painting, I grab my camera and take some quick shots and then email them to [my agent]. He handles close to seventy-five artists, and half of those are what are called top-tier artists–the “I would love to get to” stage because it seems so fake and so insane. You can be some artist and because you have a certain name take a white canvas and smear it and [get] $150,000. He handles a lot of those artists. If they can do realistic stuff and then do more abstract stuff, that’s not crap. But a lot of those artists are the Justin Biebers of the art world. I’m one of only two from the United States. We’ve been trying to work out a deal, it probably won’t get finalized until late this summer, where he’ll hook me up with an agent in Boston and I’ll be sending work out to him.
I find it funny that most people in this town don’t even know that I exist in this town with that far-reaching global stance, because I don’t talk about it a whole lot. On the whole scheme, a lot of the art crowd knows, but Keloland’s not scrambling for an interview. This is the first face-to-face interview I’ve ever done.
Do you feel it’s important to know what other people are doing? Does it influence your work?
It doesn’t influence my work, but I love knowing what other people are doing, especially those artists that I have an eye for locally. Sioux Falls, I’ve even told this to a lot of my art friends in Europe, is really stacked. There are so many good artists in this area–Brookings people and Brandon people. Primarily Brandon. Of all the local artists, take a look at a list and see how many are from Brandon. It will amaze you. Brandon has also been that suburb. It used to have the reputation of being uppity. With that being passed, there’s a lot kid that are into things that inevitably become artistic. They’ve got a way better skate park there than we do in Sioux Falls. Those skater kids feed on the artists and the music. That’s a good theater for everybody. Sioux Falls and the Sioux Falls area do really have some great painters. All the way from the realistic to the landscape to the ultra-abstract and minimalist. There’s a lot of great people doing really interesting stuff. We just need to get it promoted right.
As far as going and looking at other people’s work and the influence it might have, nine times out of ten it’s the negative influence on me. I have all these different kinds of paintings that I do. I get all these ideas inside my head, and I start planning paintings. And sometimes I see people who are doing paintings with the same idea as mine, and I realize I don’t want to do that. I’m not going to pursue that strain of art, but I do like it. I wish I could go out and see more of it.
What is your dream place to show?
That’s a tough question. You would think it would be the Guggenheim or the Walker. But my dream place to show a painting is whoever’s living room it’s in. The fact that it’s part of their everyday existence makes me more excited than anything. I half-joke with my friends that my job is to make pictures for rich people to hang on the walls. But I’m trying to change some of that. I have some painting and prints that are all framed, and I took paint and painted stuff over the top. One night I painted, “art is not for rich people” over the top of one. Once I did this, my whole thought process was to paint some smaller paintings, which I don’t necessarily like to paint that small. They’re $100 paintings–my “art is not for rich people” series. Someone can buy a painting for $100, go to Hobby Lobby afterwards, buy a pre-made frame at half-off, put staples in the back and hang it on the wall. Perfect! Because they have a piece of original artwork, and because it has my signature, it may someday have intrinsic, not monetary value.
Any big future plans?
I will tell you that my plans for this spring and summer do include another round of expanding my local area, as far as trying to do things in some other towns again. I’ve shown up in Mankato, which is a great city for art. But for the past two years, pretty much since the kids were born, I haven’t done anything in this perimeter. I’m going to be focusing a lot of time on places that normally don’t see art: Mitchell, Brookings Aberdeen, Sioux City. And that’s about it.