We had the good fortune of connecting with Sara Bowersock and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sara, how does your business help the community or world?
One of the biggest objectives for Point Blank Art & Design from the very beginning has been to be able to give back in some way. Each quarter, I split 10% of profits between a few different organizations that are important to me. I like to switch it up from year to year, becasue there are just so many awesome non-profits out there doing amazing things. Some of the things I have donated to over the years are mental health programs, animal rescue organizations, and girls art schools. This year the focus shifted a bit, and I’m primarily donating to the BLM movement, and organizations focused on helping those who have been impacted by COVID. I know Point Blank’s donations are only a small drop in the bucket for helping the community, but I’d like to think every drop helps. I started Point Blank back when I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and that community helped me get to where I am at today, so I like to donate to organizations in Oklahoma as well as Colorado.
Please tell us more about your art. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
When I started messing around with painting (while I was in college getting my BFA in Graphic Design), I was heavily influenced and inspired by the works of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Banksy, and Shepard Fairey. I was wanting to do something packed with color, energetic, and bold. I loved (and still love) taking a familiar image and breathing new life into it, giving it a fresh look, and a spontaneous dynamic. If I’m working with a pop culture icon, for example, I want the viewer to recognize the image, and hope that they will bring all of their original associations with the image to my context. I strive to create images that grab people and evoke emotion. Whether through color, composition, or subject matter. As I mentioned above, I was in school for Graphic Design (because that’s the only way I *thought* an artist could make money), I had a lot of drawing classes in high school, and college, but the painting courses never fit in the graphic design schedule. I continued to play with painting throughout college. I did quite a few local showings of my work, but I never thought it would become something that became a full time thing. I got a job right after graduation working for a company that specialized in gift bags (think christmas, birthday, baby shower, etc) for companies like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, TJMaxx and so on. I worked for them for nearly 14 years, while doing my art as a “side hustle”. I “officially” started Point Blank Art & Design LLC in 2008, and didn’t take the leap to make it my full time gig until 2018. There was a constant struggle for years, of really wanting to take the leap to full time art, but not wanting to give up a steady paycheck. But at the same time it was getting harder and harder to work 40 hours at a day job, AND maintain Point Blank Art. Man, a day job can be such a hard thing to walk away from. To leave something that is certain (at least in the moment) for something that is not certain, doesn’t have a guaranteed paycheck and something that will always have it’s ups and downs. Without the support and constant encouragement of my husband to leave my job and focus on my business (and knowing I could hop on his insurance, and knowing he had a steady income), I’m not sure I could have done it (I have HUGE respect for all the artists out there who take the leap without that safety net…they are WAY more brave than I! They are an inspiration to me for sure!) To make a long story short, I ended up having a major mental breakdown, and suicide attempt in 2018, after I had already quit my day job. Thankfully, with the support of my husband, family, friends, and even the folks at the job I had left,I was able to push through back to health. When I did my first show in February of 2019, after taking a few months to get my mental and physical health in check, I felt like I had broken through to the other side. FINALLY having FULLY made the decision to be on the road for 2019, and take on being a full time artist, I had a confidence that I had never had before. Sometimes it’s just ACTUALLY taking the step that leads to the breakthrough. I’m so grateful I was able to push forward. 2019 was an amazing year, and it continued to provide me with the strength and inspiration to know I had made the right decision. 2020 started out being my biggest year yet, but 4 shows into a 23 city tour schedule, COVID hit. Thankfully, I’ve been able to adjust – I’ve taken on a lot of commission work, and freelance from my previous job, but man am I looking forward to being back on the road as soon as possible! After everything I went through physically and mentally in 2018, then having an incredible 2019, I KNOW I can make it through just about anything…including a year of canceled shows due to COVID. Because of all of what I went through in 2018, mental health, and mental health awareness have become very important to me. If you are reading this, and your are suffering, know that you are not alone. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to ask for help. To go to therapy. To get meds if you need them. You should not be ashamed. It breaks my heart that there is such a stigma around mental health. It shouldn’t be this way. I am very open and upfront with my story, because I know a lot of people don’t feel like they can be. And I just want those people to not feel so alone. I can honestly say I am glad I went through that hell though. It gave me a fresh perspective, and I came out on the other side so grateful for so many little things. I know it’s so cliché, but you only live once – you gotta chase your dreams..failure is part of the process, but I think being miserable at a day job your whole life is worse than failing at whatever it is you actually want to pursue. I always say I’m not sure how long being a full time artist/art business owner is going to last, but I’m going to enjoy and be grateful for every second I have doing it no matter what happens in the future. It’s going to have it’s ups and downs of course, and there’s always going to be parts of it that I hate (like, dealing with sales tax in 20 something different states haha), but ultimately, getting to put a smile on people’s faces with my art is always going to outweigh all of the aspects of running a business I don’t like doing.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I don’t do well with itineraries per se, but we’d probably hit as many of these places as possible: Scenery, and sight seeing: St. Mary’s Glacier Garden of the Gods A drive up Mt. Evans Beaver Brook Trail Rocky Mountain National Park Bishop Castle Stanley Hotel There’s so much…I know I’m leaving so much out! Music: I’ve had people come out just to see Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with, so if shows were a thing that were happening, I’d definitely put that on the list! A show at Levitt Pavilion is always a good time, but a show at Red Rocks is a must. Lion’s Lair, Larimer Lounge, Hi-Dive, the Walnut Room – some of my favorite places to see a show. If they drink beer, we’d be hitting a TON of breweries -Blackshirt Brewing (and pizza too!), Mockery, Our Mutual Friend, Vision Quest to name a few… Food: Vital Root, City O’ City, Taqueria las Palmas (mainly to see Ruben, because he’s the best! Ask for a Ruben special Margarita, and you won’t be disappointed), Yak & Yeti (the BEST Indian food, and they brew great beer!) Denver Biscuit company…gotta have a cinnamon roll. Shopping: XO Gift Co., Candelaria, Brass Armadillo Antique Mall, Twist & Shout Records, Black & Read, Ritualcravt And it’s Colorado…so..ya know….puff puff pass haha.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh man, it’s hard to name just one person or one book, etc! So I’m going to have to give a few shoutouts. First and foremost, to my husband, Chris. He has been a constant encouragement in my life – for both my art and otherwise. He helps me get through so many road blocks, and is always there cheering me on as I try to reach my goals. I can honestly say without him “nagging” (haha) me for 8 years to quit my day job, and take a leap of faith to pursue my art full time, I’m not entirely sure I would have had the faith in myself to do it. It was the scariest leap I’ve ever taken, but he had my back all the way. Plus, he travels with me a lot to do shows, and without his tech skills to help me, I’m pretty sure I would have stomped my iPad and Square card reader into a million pieces by now hahaha. I have to give a huge shout out to Black Shirt Brewing in Denver, too. They have given me the privilege of being their “house artist” for a couple of years now, and they have been a driving force in encouraging me to pursue my art full time. And thanks to them letting me “borrow” their walls, I’ve reached so many people with my art, and I couldn’t be more grateful. They really have been truly wonderful to me. Plus, they have amazing brews, and great pizza…can’t really ask for much more than that! Another huge catalyst in my success has been being able to tour with the Oddities & Curiosities Expo (created by my friends Michelle and Tony Cozzaglio). I did my first show with them in Chicago back in 2018 and it was absolutely INSANE. It was on the drive home from that show that I thought “I can do this. I CAN be a full time, traveling artist”…I quit my day job (of almost 14 years) 3 months later, and did almost every show in the Oddities and Curiosities circuit in 2019. It was an incredible year! I can’t thank them enough for having me at their shows, and giving me such a great opportunity. And of course, there’s countless friends and family members who have been encouraging and supporting me, every step of the way, and I could never thank them enough. One last thing. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – A must read for any artist. I call it my Artist’s Bible.