Section 8 | Interview #001 Kevin Story Mintern
Updated: Jun 5, 2022
Our first interview for our Section 8 Initiative is with California-based artist, Kevin Story Mintern. When I joined the Paradox team in March, 2022, Kevin had been introduced to me by a sales team member and had already worked on a project for the brand. I soon came to realize that the brand's communication and engagement with this very talented and capable artist was not ideal (something I was familiar with), and it was initially that lack of stellar relations that compelled me to reach out to him.
In Kevin, I found a vibrant and big-hearted individual, with a stand-out style anchored in a strong tradition of both illustrative technique and decorative design.
Kevin presented as the perfect candidate to illustrate the power of story telling. After all, the word 'Story' is in his legal name, so it seemed more than coincidence. I'd like to believe that when the universe speaks, it is often in our best interest to listen. Without further ado, I'm honored to present to you this small but meaningful peek behind the curtain into the mind of an ever-evolving artist. - NyseOne May, 23, 2022
Kevin, its been great working together and we are excited to release our first limited addition art print featuring your work. So we don’t only want to share your art, but here at Paradox, we are commited to sharing your story.
So, when did it become clear to you that this was not going to be just a hobby, but more of a career? I mean many people that end up in the creative arts Probably started when they were kids with crayons, but when did you realize this was your path? Was there a moment when it all made sense to you, the notion of being a working artist? Was there a moment when you accepted that this was your calling?
I definitely have been drawn to making art as long as I can remember, drawing dragons in the margins of my math homework and the like. But choosing it as my career path was not a light decision and it definitely caused some turmoil in my family.
My parents had made it very clear they wanted me to pursue medical or pharmacy school so I’d have a guaranteed career but taking one bio class in college I knew it just was not for me.
The next semester I had an option to take an art class to fulfill some general Ed requirement, and I loved it so much I changed my major. I didn’t care what anyone had to say, it was how I was going to be spending the rest of my working life!
My parents were very angry with me for a while but then I started winning awards at student shows and they eventually came around to it. Seems like a really long time ago now lol
So you're winning awards, and to top that off you leave school with a degree. How long ago was that? And from that point you’re committed to your career as a commercial artist, so do you go work for an agency or do you start out freelancing? Do you remember your first paying design job?
I graduated in 2018 with a degree in traditional drawing and painting, and was working for Fresno County Department of Agriculture just cause a friend worked there and knew they were hiring.
In 2019, I started working for a large chain of dispensaries, and had to teach myself how to do digital art as all my training was in traditional methods.
I tried to learn something new each day at that job and it paid off! When I was working there we did several collaboration projects and I had the opportunity to design a shirt for Raw Garden. I started thinking that if I was doing this then I had a shot of doing it on a much larger scheme.
I have been freelancing for about 10 months and have worked with several huge companies like Shein, Footlocker, and more! I’m about to release a book in April as well. There’s never a dull moment anymore!
So this is probably a hard question to answer, but you know as well as I do that there are a lot of very talented people in this world. A lot of talented designers, many of them more talented than you or myself. Yet the majority of those people never get to work for a big company like Footlocker, especially just a few years out of school.
So how is it that you found yourself in such a position? Hard work, good art… Yeah we know all that stuff, but how did you actually forge that relationship? Was it a connection through your network of friends or family, or was it just dumb luck? What’s the story?
I feel like all those elements are part of the story. I can’t deny I have a great network of people that I can call upon for different things in different industries, but at the same time I have put a lot of time and energy into developing my craft and it’s sort of serendipitous the way it’s worked out. Over last summer I set out to create a zodiac series that I could make prints of and such because that’s always popular, but my work got featured on a page called VintageFantasy that has over a million followers and I got a lot of traffic back to my page. I can trace back a lot of my recent success to that. I was scouted by Shein because of those posts, and because of that, I landed several other bigger jobs. Social Media has been instrumental to my success.
Those images have actually just went viral again on Pinterest my Aries post has like 500k or something crazy. I’m kind of excited because it’s about to be Aries season and that post is links back to my shop.
Social media has certainly changed the game. So, as the manager of a brand myself, in addition to my own personal artistic pursuits (and those of my dog) , I know how much work Social Media can be. That said, which of those SM platforms seem to be the most important for your business success? I know most of my friends that are professionals in the visual arts tend towards Instagram. On another note, others seem to find greater success through Discord and Twitter. What is your preferred platform and how did you land there? In what ways have you been able too use that platform as a tool to reach your audience?
Instagram and Pinterest have been huge. Instagram is my go to platform because of the visual aspect. There is a huge community of artists and people who are looking to hire designers etc. Pinterest is cool because its really the only social media platform that the majority of the users are looking to plan something in the future. People look for decorations, outfits, art, home goods etc. People go to instagram and twitter to show off the now, or what they’ve been up to recently, but go to Pinterest to plan on where they want to spend money later. 🤑
That’s pretty interesting to hear about the power of Pinterest - specifically as it relates to artists and designers that fall into the “culturally relevant today“ standard.
I mean, truth be told, if you’re doing work for some of the big companies you mentioned previously, The majority of commercial artists I know would probably not connect that sort of work or aesthetic to someone who gets traction on Pinterest.
Its safe to say many consider Pinterest as a place housewife’s to share craft projects.
On that note, you mentioned that some of your work has gotten a lot of attention on both IG and Pinterest. Can you share some of that work with us and maybe provide some insight into how it garnered that attention? Were you actively promoting it or did it really take a viral pathway to relevance? And when you get that kind of attention, have you been able to monetize it?
Pinterest definitely has a misconception of being just for housewives sharing crafts. I’d tell any creative that they’re missing out on a ton of opportunities by not participating on Pinterest, and I know several of my peers that have a Pinterest in some capacity, whether to compile references, or to share their work or both.
If there’s an interest in something there is a community of people on Pinterest dedicated to posting about it.
My zodiac drawings have been paying a lot of my bills since July when they went viral. They still sell consistently, even today I had multiple orders.
So it great that you’ve been able to monetize Pinterest and you found traction there just by sharing your images with like-minded people.
As for the zodiac series, what inspired it? did you set out with the predefined goal of monetizing it? One thing I’ve learned as a designer over the years is sometimes my initial motivations and such sort of transmigrate over time into something totally unexpected. Did you start out with some intentions in this regard and did you land where you had hoped for with that series?
The story behind the zodiac series is that, while definitely drawing inspiration from the greats like Milton Glaser and John Alcorn, it was calculated from the start. It’s extremely popular, everyone has a zodiac sign, and it’s always somebody’s birthday season! I’ve released them as prints, birthday cards, and stickers and they make great gifts.
For me it’s all about confidence, and going into it I had the mindset that I needed to create something to make me money, I was broke, just quit my job and took a chance on myself. There was no other option other than to succeed.
It definitely paid off though. Just the Aries piece alone has 500k or something crazy like that on Pinterest, and going on a year later they’re still making sales regularly.
I feel as though I’m on the cusp of something this spring. I have a lot of major projects lined up and can’t wait to drop them all. The release of my collaboration with Yang for Footlocker has been a huge success and I (it results) in a lasting campaign.
I like the strategy of “Everyone has a zodiac sign” – that’s a great example of taking a really strategic approach to art while at the same time being driven by the authenticity of your own inspirations. I think it safe to assume that you pull your inspirations from a lot of places. I also know that we meant through the cannabis industry, so is it safe to assume that one of those inspirations is Cannabis itself?
I feel like I have an interesting relationship between my work and cannabis, and you might hear that a lot from different artists, but cannabis is not only a fuel, but a provider. I have been doing a LOT of cannabis related graphics in the past few years.
Before I went freelance I was in charge of the graphics for 6 dispensaries in the Central Valley, and even since going freelance I have had several opportunities to create logos and branding materials for dispensaries and cannabis brands around California. Cannabis is a unique industry to work in because of the social aspect of being a stoner, and I’m so grateful that my clients wind up sharing my contact info with their friends and colleagues for future jobs.
I think it’s particularly humorous sometimes because I often think about a conversation I had with my concerned parents after I switched majors to art in college, where they remarked that I will never have a successful career as a weed smoking artist but, hey, look mom and dad I’m out here! There’s a lot of us out here doing the damn thing and it’s a great community to be a part of.
Not sure if you have ever listened to the podcast from NPR called How I Built This with Guy Roz - but the question he asks at the end of every interview is basically how did you become so successful was it luck or was it hard work? And, of course, how did cannabis play into that equation?
I think that in order to be successful there needs to be a balance of hard work and luck. I do work extremely hard but I’m also lucky enough to have a network of colleagues and friends that I can work with.
Working in cannabis full time, I met a lot of people in the industry who were upwardly mobile and aspired to be business owners. Business owners are always in need of graphics, so making those connections has helped me down the road, and many of my colleagues have asked me to create logos and branding material for them. Then in turn have referred others to me as well. I think that the social aspect of cannabis lends itself to word of mouth advertising very well.
Their is all kinds of gems up in here! For me the ethereal, over-arching theme is this. Regardless of skills, your network is the foundation on which you can build a successful and fulfilling career. If you make your word your bond and execute as promised, word will spread. And like Kevin, you can find your path ripe with opportunity and filled with unexpected adventure.
If you are interested in Kevin's work, you can be the proud owner of this limited edition archival print, pictured here) only available here, at passtheparadox.com.
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